Lisa Merriam

Six factors for a memorable brand

“Make your brand memorable!”  Brand experts earnestly offer this vague advice at every turn.  But what is a  memorable brand?  How can you tell if your brand is or will be memorable?

You can’t spot memorability simply by looking at your brand elements.  I’ve worked on many naming and design projects where perfectly good brand name and logo candidates are rejected out of hand because someone didn’t think they were memorable. When asked what criterion was used to detect memorability, people shrug.  They can’t articulate it.

Memorability can only be detected and proven through execution and testing over time.  A name on its own isn’t memorable.  How is the name used as or with a logo?  What graphics support it?  What story is told in communications like advertising, or brochures?  How is it marketed and sold?  Executing a marketing plan and then testing results with real customers over time is the only way to know that your brand is memorable.

Since memorability is so all-important, getting it right in the beginning is critical.  Who has the time and budget to deploy campaigns and then wait to figure out if they are good or not?  Execution, time and research are the only way of Knowing that you have a provably memorable brand. But you can move forward with reasonable assurance that your brand will be memorable if you consider the following six factors:

1. Unusual.

The more out-of-the-ordinary the brand name, logo, communications, and experience, the more likely the brand is to be remembered.  Surprising is always better than ordinary. Every feature should be distinctive. As you make brand choices, know that unusual is uncomfortable. You will need to take risks. Naming a company “Online Auction Center” probably felt safer than something off the wall like “eBay”.  A safe name that tells something about what the business does is not unusual and is less likely to be memorable.  “Oracle” is stronger than “Computer Associates” and even stronger than the new name “CA”. Risky names like Google and Amazon often turn out to be winners.

2. Consequential.

For your brand to be memorable, it needs to have personal significance to your target market. Take the example of two competing airlines. Jet Blue focuses on a superior flying experience.  Jet travel today can be a harrowing experience, so focusing on making flying easier and more pleasant is relevant and consequential.  Delta has positioned itself around “service to more destinations than any global airline”.  That positioning is not consequential to most flyers. How relevant is the fact that Delta flies to Abidjan when all you want to do is get to Atlanta? Stonyfields yogurt stands out by appealing to people who care about organic food and supporting individual farmers–causes that are consequential to their customers. Dannon, on the other hand, just claims it is “the top-selling yogurt worldwide”.  How is that important to a customer? At most, the fact that Dannon sell six million cups of yogurt a day in almost 100 flavors, styles and sizes is just trivia. Find something important and build your brand on that.

3. Emotional.

Brands that connect to the heart and invite people to have a close relationship are more memorable.  Any brand can have emotional appeal.  Consider the case of Sodexo.  The company provides janitorial and catering services to hospitals. Pretty modest and even boring stuff–not the least bit heart-warming.  Sodexo launched a patient experience program that focused on the quality and comfort that their humble services provide to patients and their families.  They elevated mopping the floors to something with emotional power by telling the specific stories of how their employees have touched individuals in times of need.

4. Vivid.

The more vivid you can make your brand, the more apt people will be to remember it.  A vivid name, possibly one that conveys imagery or personality is makes for a memorable brand.  As for logos, please, please, PLEASE, no swooshes, no globes. Take time to develop a visual style that carries across all your communications from business cards to brochures to your Web site.  In our multimedia age, don’t neglect movement and sound.  The more your brand appeals to all the senses, the more vivid and memorable it becomes.

5. Detailed.

Be specific about your brand claim or you will never stand out.  Take the company ISS:  It says it “provides cutting edge solutions development based on the latest advances in open software design and integration.”  Couldn’t that be said of dozens, if not hundreds of companies?  If ISS is staking its brand on being cutting-edge, it is better to show that fact with details that give that claim dimension and make it come alive.  You can’t simply claim it.  Instead of investing in detailing their cutting edge solutions, ISS piles on vague claims about “understanding customers”, “exceeding expectations”, “consistently growing”, and being “diverse and experienced”.  Such claims blur into the blah-blah-blah babble of millions of other companies.  Ten minutes after reading this article, you probably won’t be able to remember a single ISS brand claim.

6. Repeated.

Repetition is the key to memory.  Unless you are Mozart, you won’t remember how to play a tune by hearing it once.  Most people can’t remember names after hearing them just once.  Yet many people can sing commercial jingles they heard as children and recite from memory favorite stories because these were repeated time and time again.  Repetition creates familiarity, understanding and connection. Make sure your brand story is told frequently and consistently.  Your Web site can’t say something different from your brochures, and you can’t change your brand story every year.  Consistently repeat your brand story for a memorable brand.

Memorability is the key to a strong brand.  Paying attention to these six factors will set you on the right path. After executing and testing, it will come as no surprise that, indeed, your brand is memorable.

Naming How-To:

Naming Mistakes
Six Factors for a Memorable and Motivating Name
History of Best Known Brands
Styles and Types of Brands
Choosing a Name
Try a Recycled Name
Web 2.0 Naming Considerations
What is Brand Architecture
Approaches to Brand Architecture
Brand Architecture and Business Strategy

Companies and Products:

MSNBC vs. and The Bigger Naming Problem
Macy’s Blunder with Marshall Field’s Name Change
Banks and the Name Game from Bank Marketing Magazine
AIG Name Change to AIU
Breaking Up the Motorola Brand
Google’s Speedbook Disaster
Renaming a Small Business
Proxios CEO Talks About Renaming Process
Naming a Green Sportswear Company
Unintentionally Funny Names-BARF
Unintentionally Funny Names-Putzmeister
Unintentionally Funny Names-Bimbo
Renaming a $2 Billion IPG Agency
Renaming Iraqi Freedom
Selected Naming Portfolio