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Strike Up the Brand

Posted on August 16, 2011 @ 1:07 PM in Uncategorized

Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” Argh, Billy. These days, there’s money in a name, that’s what. Businesses are bought and sold on the basis of brand equity.

Multinational companies like Kraft, Nike, Black & Decker, Coca-Cola and an endless list of others spend a fortune on branding. How can you, the small to medium-size business owner, compete?

Big Brands, Big Bucks. Why?

Product brand development is expensive. Agency fees, research, focus groups, creative brainstorming, testing, legal searches all contribute to the cost. It’s not unusual for the process to take a year or longer.

Coining a brand name or developing a corporate slogan starts at about $25K and can easily run into millions for the large companies mentioned above.

However, the potential equity and brand recognition more than offset the expense. Still, how can business owners with shallower pockets get the job done?

If you do an online search for keywords such as product naming, corporate taglines, branding, etc., you’ll get pages of results with the major agencies ranking at the top. Farther along, you’ll find some freelancers who specialize in these areas.

Rates are all over the place, from as low as $197 to $7500 plus. More importantly, samples range from “sucks” to “stellar” and the quality doesn’t necessarily depend on the price.

How to Get More for Less

If you can’t spring for the big name namers, hiring a freelancer can be a very cost-effective way to go. Just make sure you know what you’re paying for. Many clients don’t realize how much has to happen in the background to come up with a single word or phrase result. And not all writers have the kind of experience or innate talent to be effective namers.

Here’s a checklist to help you select the perfect freelancer for your naming project.

Creativity. Look at samples of work done for other clients. Are they memorable? Evocative? Or completely bland and meaningless?

Experience. Does this freelancer even HAVE actual work samples? You’d be surprised how many don’t.

Originality. Be sure that your freelancer is using his or her own imagination and skill, rather than relying on “naming” software that tends to generate lifeless ideas.

Linguistic ability. If your brand name needs to work in more than one language, does this freelancer speak that language or understand your target market’s culture? If not, does he or she have access to qualified linguists to help with this aspect?

Legal availability. Many freelancers submit ideas to their clients without having conducted preliminary trademark searches for availability. While no substitute for appropriate legal counsel, preliminary searches on US and/or Canadian databases can save a lot of time, expense and narrow down the choices.

Domain name searches are also important if there’s any possibility that the brand name will be used as a URL in future.

Process. Competent, experienced freelancers will be happy to outline their process for you. It should include:

Discovery questionnaire or interview
Submission of first draft ideas
Written rationale of proposed names

Guess there’s more to a name than Shakespeare thought, huh? On the other hand, how the heck did he ever come up with “Hamlet” as a handle?

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