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What's in a Brand?

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Brands such as Coca-Cola, Mercedes and Louis Vuitton don't become international icons overnight or indeed by accident.

Often referred to simply as Coke (a registered trademark of The Coca-Cola Company in the United States since March 27, 1944), the drink was originally intended as a patent medicine when it was invented in the late 19th century by John Pemberton. Coca-Cola was bought out by businessman Asa Griggs Candler, whose marketing tactics led Coke to dominate the world's soft-drink market pretty much ever since.

So what makes a brand and why is doing so important? Ask Daimler AG and I expect they will answer that their Mercedes brand is vital to company prosperity and that a lot of effort goes into keeping it in the public eye.

Mercedes Benz can trace its history to Karl Benz's creation of the first petrol-powered car, the Benz Patent Motorwagon, patented in January 1886. The first Mercedes brand name vehicles were produced in 1926. Since the beginning Mercedes has maintained a reputation for its quality and durability.

Mercedes Benz slogan is "Das Beste oder nichts," which in English means "the best or nothing," and it is this phrase that is so revealing as to why after 125 years the brand remains at the pinnacle of luxury motoring.

So if you are about to start a business or already own one, it might be time to look at the way your company is seen by the public. It isn't cheap to create an international brand. For example delivering a new perfume to brand status can cost many millions of dollars and even then may not be successful.

Despite my comments above it is essential, in my opinion, for every entrepreneur to begin the process of developing a brand from the moment they start their business. Separating yourself from your competitors can be a matter of corporate life or death so planning how to promote your business is of vital importance.

The first thing to consider is, who are you? In terms of moving your brand in the right direction, this really is the first question you should ask yourself. Make this the foundation for everything else you do. Ask yourself, what values does your company possess? View your analysis as if it had human traits. Simply put, are you brash, charming or passionate? What makes you different from your friends or people in the street?

It is absolutely vital that you know your audience. You must identify and have a visual and practical take on your prospective customers. Understanding who your customers are is so important it cannot be overstressed because it will affect the look and feel of your company branding. What existing brands are they familiar with? What brands do they trust? Most importantly what are your customer's references and touch points?

Choosing a name for your business might seem an unimportant point but it most certainly isn't. Choose the right name and it can lift your business quickly, just look at Apple! Always try to keep the name of any new business simple and easy to say. Complicated and long names are a no go. The Royal Mail in the UK is commonly referred to as just the Post Office. People remember short names which in turn become brand names such as the Post Office easier than they do names such as The United States Postal Service and generally refer to it simply as the Post Office which is effectively its brand name.

Convey your expertise in whatever you are selling whether that is a service or a product, make sure anyone who reads your company name is either intrigued by it or understand instantly what it is you do.

Sometimes you may want to use your own name as we do at Fear group, but that is a personal thing and can backfire. We get all sorts of comments such as "You don't seem scary," which we're not by the way, and why Fear? Well it's our name so why not? It always creates a talking point that's for sure and leads me onto another angle. If you can't think of a name which describes your product try to come up with one which will create a stir. Another thing to consider is how often the word is used in common vernacular. In other words how many times is the word repeated either on television or in a Sunday Newspaper, or in general conversation.

People who keep reading the word Trump as an example will subconsciously think about Donald Trump whether they want to or not which in turn promotes his brand without any effort on his part.