My first marketing guru was Leo Baron. He taught me the ins and outs of marketing while I was still in my 20s. I was lucky to have access to such a proven marketing genius at such a young age. He had “street cred” from working with some of the top companies in the greater New York area. It was only because he and my dad had been boyhood friends that he decided to do my father a favor and mentor me.
One of the first things Baron taught me about is the power of building a brand. To him, it all started with a great name.
“There are only two times to change your name,” Baron said. “One is a happy announcement, like you’re getting married, and the other is because there’s something you want to distance yourself from, such as a divorce.
“With a good name, you can have the power of marketing at your back and the wind in your sales [it was his idea of a joke by writing it out as a word play on ‘sails’],” he continued. “You can overcome a bad name or neutral name with a ton of money, a ton of time, and a whole lot of wasted effort. I recommend you pick a great name and leverage it with a great look and tag line.”
I asked, “OK, so what are the common pitfalls in choosing a name for a company?”
Baron replied, “The two biggest mistakes when choosing a company name are to either use the family name or name the company after a location, like the name of a city, town, or village.”
The most important purpose of a good company name is that it means something positive to potential customers.
A neutral name can be made better with a good tag line. A bad name can be overcome but only through a huge investment in marketing dollars.
My dad had made this mistake when he used his father’s first name. This was too limiting and confusing. So, I took Baron’s words to heart and shared this with my dad and brothers. We elected to change our company name. My dad was always receptive to Baron’s wisdom, and he also understood that his company was growing beyond just him, his boys, and the original boundaries of the service area where the company started. He, too, wanted the name to mean something to customers.
What I learned about marketing through the years and in particular about the power of a great company name is that the best of names can be leveraged with a great tag line that flows from the name, because it not only tells the customer what we’re all about, but it also tells the staff what customers can expect from us.
One of my long-term clients Mark Paup and I changed his company name from City Rule to Golden Rule® and then incorporated a tag line of “We Obey the Rules to Live By.™” We branded the whole company around this theme. Customers know what they can expect, and the staff knows its obligation to deliver this.
If and when you do decide to change your name, remember to address licensing issues, truck design, letterhead, envelopes, menus, surveys, invoices, advertising and marketing, bank accounts, uniforms, stickers, valve tags, leave behinds, and door tags.
Take Baron’s advice. “Pick a great company name, and feel the power of sales at your back.”
MORE THAN A TAG LINE
There’s still more to branding than even picking a great name and tag line.
It’s a mindset. To me, it also encompasses an eye-catching design that begins with a powerfully attractive truck design, or what I call a head-turning design. You only have the attention of your potential audience for a millisecond, so this isn’t the time to be shy.
You want to pick a bright color that gets the public’s attention. Then, they must know what your company name is and what type of work you do.
Another great company at branding is Gold Medal®. When we worked together, they bought into rebranding. Mike Agugliaro and Rob Zadotti, the founders of Gold Medal, also picked a tag line that builds on the company name, “Award Winning Service”™. They went with a truck wrap in a bright yellow-gold design. You don’t miss them anywhere you drive in their service area. Don’t believe me? Take a ride down the New Jersey Turnpike and look off to the east when you’re heading north before Exit 9. Their corporate headquarters will grab your attention.
Another consideration in our digital world is to own domain names and websites that easily tie to your great company name. Leverage that with a branding-type phone number that incorporates your great name to build momentum.
Ray the Plumber in New York, owned by Ray Gremaux, utilizes the Zamboni® [that’s the machine that attends to the ice at hockey games] wrapped in his great-looking corporate design. There aren’t many places you can go in his territory where the repeated branding efforts of Ray the Plumber aren’t at work. Right down to the phone number he has: 1-877-CALL-RAY.
Remember, employees dressed in the same attention-grabbing colors and designs become walking billboards.
If you want the phone to ring off the hook, you need to go bold, do as Baron suggested, and “Put the wind in your sales with powerful branding.”
Publication date: 10/2/2017