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The first step to building a brand is having one

One of the most critical elements in marketing a business is its brand. It’s the symbol that identifies and distinguishes a business.

Achieving name recognition in the marketplace usually takes years to establish and big advertising expenditure.

Why then, do businesses not take the time to develop a proper symbol, name or logo to help people to remember them? Here are my top three branding disasters:

The worst mistake you can make is to use an abbreviation. People simply don’t remember names like AIG, GE, JVC, NBS or UBS. You might recognise a few, but it took these businesses years and millions to get remembered.

Another big no-no is regional names — why name a company based on its geographical location?

The dream of most entrepreneurs is to grow their business and with retail stores this translates into opening new stores in more locations. Using the original localised name in a new location is just not optimal. Imagine Parktown Hairdressers in Menlyn Shopping Centre in Pretoria, or Meyerton Jewellers in Cavendish Square in Cape Town.

Creating a new store name for a new location will mean that you receive none of the brand recognition or goodwill from your current successful operations, and therefore it should be avoided from the start.

My favourite blunder is when a business bases their logo on a standard Microsoft Word or PowerPoint template. Unfortunately most people will know it’s from a template and think it’s unoriginal and amateurish.

What’s the solution? Before starting a business:

  • Facilitate some basic brainstorming to come up with a few name suggestions. Lightshere, a name generator, might help
  • Choose a name and stick with it.
  • Get a graphic developer to create a logo for you. You can find a great freelance developer at Freelance Central.
  • This whole exercise should not cost more than a few thousand rand and will pay for itself in the long run.