What’s in a Name? Establishing Top Value for your Brand Name

What’s a word’s worth? In the case of a brand name, the answer may be BILLIONS. On the other hand, with a generic name, the answer may be NIL.

Listen closely to this segment’s audio recording from the live lecture series on the Architecture of a Breakthrough Brand, delivered by Chief Architect Bryce Winter, discussion follows lecture on MP3: 20101208.BST-whatawordsworth. Audio WAV: 20101208.BST-whatsawordsworth.

Top 5 Brand Names & Brand Logos 2010 Values

Here is a list of the top 5 brand names, as rated by BRANDZ, online brand quantification experts, followed by their 2010 Brand Value:

Top 5 Brand Name Logos worth $788 B

    For each of those in the top 5 there are many corollary brands, not in the top 5. For instance: #5 Coca-Cola $68 B and #58 Pepsi $13 B. Why? What a difference a name makes!

Establishing Top Value for Your Brand Name is a Deliberate Action

A word about methodology:

Millward Brown Optimor applies an economic use approach to brand valuation for Brandz, using a methodology similar to that employed by analysts and accountants. The brand value published is based on the intrinsic value of the brand – derived from its ability to generate demand. The dollar value of each brand in the ranking is the sum of all future earnings that brand is forecast to generate, discounted to a present-day value. Given the high volatility of financial markets over the past 12 months, the brand value is in some cases high relative to current market capitalization, reflecting true value rather than current market swings.

So how do you move from zero to billions in brand value?

As Dr. Carl Sagan said: “You have to know the past to understand the present.” By thoroughly examining the recent history of brands it is possible to better understand what our most profitable brand decisions will be in the present.

Today, in looking at the 5 top brand names and logos which dominate the world’s brands, we’re able to learn a lot.

One of the 5 was around in the 19th Century with its present name (Coca-Cola). The others were created in the 20th Century, although Google was chartered on the eve of the 21st Century. So the number one brand in the world was found only ten years ago, while the fifth (and former number one) is over 120 years old. Apple Inc, founded in 1976 is now closing on the value of the IBM brand, a century old. What can we learn from this? Age has nothing to do with brand relevancy—or value.

Archetypes of Interest: 21st Century Yields New Possibilities

For those of you who are following the MarkBrand’s 7 Secrets to Branding Success archetype discussion, the archetypes for these five brands are Hotel, Castle, Tower, Castle, and Palace.

Following are the meta promises to the meta questions posed by the brand archetypes occupied by 2010’s top 5 global brands:

  • Google > Theater Brand = Promises Together to Question ‘How?’
  • IBM > Castle Brand = Promises Safety to Question ‘Where?’
  • Apple > Tower Brand = Promises Beauty & Popularity to Question ‘Who?’
  • Microsoft > Castle Brand = Promises Safety to Question ‘Where?’
  • Coca-Cola > Palace Brand = Promises Forever to Question ‘When?’

There may be something to learn here. A look back at the top 100 brands shows us that the Theater brand archetype (answering the fundamental question ‘How?’) is a new one on the list—and is now the number one brand in the world. Until a few years ago, there were few, if any, Theater-type brands on the list at all. Brands that worked in some form as collaborative entities were simply not supported by the business models of the day. The Internet, and society’s collective changes have altered all that today. We can also see that technology brands dominate the top of the list—something relatively new. Perhaps this shows us that the world is in a very rapid state of evolution—and that brands, which deliver on a different set of values—and promises can now succeed.

Specific Qualities of Successful Brand Names

This conversation however, is about brand names—and by focusing on this strategic element we’re able to learn much, much more. By examining the total list of top 100 brands (available in an accompanying link) we’re able to determine a number of qualities about successful brand names.

For instance, of all the brands on the list, only 6 out of 100 have more than one proper name (China Mobile, Bank of America, ICICI Bank, American Express, Red Bull and Standard Chartered). These are the exceptions to the rule, and none is in the top 5. Why is this? We know that shorter is better for names in general, being catchier and easier to remember.

There are a number of compound word names in our list. For instance, we have Coca-Cola, right off the top. We also have LouisVuitton, ExxonMobil, l’Oreal, Mercedes-Benz, H&M, SubWay, MasterCard, FedEx, eBay, USBank, and J.P.Morgan.

Often these names have a certain cadence to them that develops a rhythmic, even childish vocal quality when enunciated. For example, Coca-Cola, H&M, SubWay, FedEx and eBay all have a nice rhythm to their sounds. They’re fun to say! Others have an old-world connotation or snob appeal to the metric of their pronunciation. The Daimler Benz company goes by the brand name Mercedes-Benz, for this very reason. It just sounds elegant! Louis Vuitton is another example of this quality in action.

Brand names that describe their category of business are another matter. There’s China Mobile, Bank of China, Bank of America, and USBank. That’s it! You might think this would be exactly the other way around. After all, if you want to be number one in your niche, why not simply name your niche? Simply put, this is just not the way the brain processes information! Most people search (mentally) by category first and then sort by brand. Our natural thought processes look for general solutions and then for specific answers. Therefore, names that over-occupy their category territory run the risk of being mentally bypassed in the search and sort process.

Separating Category (Niche) From Brand Name is Vital

To establish a breakthrough brand effect it is vital to establish clarity of category. First and foremost, people purchase solutions to problems. The ‘problem’ is seen as occupying a niche, or in branding terms, a category of mind-space. To develop conversation, the brand must also have magnetic appeal and natural charisma. These come from resonant proper names, which may, or may not describe the business. Almost all successful breakthrough brands remove meaning from the name in favor of personality: Amazon (on-line books), eBay (on-line auction), Craig’s (List), Starbucks (coffee), McDonald’s (hamburgers), Wal-Mart (low-priced retail merchandise) etc. Why? This is basically because the brain is wired to receive information this way. It is much more memorable to have a separate description and a name than only one or the other.

This may be why years ago International Business Machines changed their name to IBM. Other companies that have gone through a similar evolutionary process (when the times allowed for this sort of evolution) include GE, HP, AT&T, HSBC, BMW as well as H&M, the Swedish fast fashion, clothing retailer. Again, these are exceptions to what works—all of these ‘letter names’ have been developed over significant periods of time—it is not at all clear that the present high speed of market transition would support similar new brands to emerge.

So what we have left are the Googles, the Apples, the McDonald’s, the Marlboros, Visas and Colgates. Of the top 100 brands in the world today, fully 75% (including 4 of the top 5) subscribe to having a full and distinct Proper name, fully separate from their category, and not described by initial letters.

Is this coincidence? With brand values described by the market closing on a trillion dollars, we hardly think so. It’s clear that the market demands—and rewards brands whose names evoke distinct personas. Really, this is no surprise to the student of brands who understands that the brand occupies a special place in today’s culture as a substitute or alter ego. While we may call certain people in our life by their position, (Mother, Doctor), it is far more likely for those we individuate as worthy of a real relationship that we position them as dualities in our mind—my best friend, Terry, my accountant, Bert, Caroline, the girl at the gym, and so on. Brands are not different from people in this regard. When we relegate them to ‘girl at the gym’ status, without according them a name, they fail to land as full relationships—never becoming fully emotionally invested in our lives. Even our parents, so often ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ take on a new resonance when we accord them their given names.

Playing a Bigger Game: Brand CEO Club

If you’re enjoying this conversation and getting value from it, then I’d like to take a moment now to let you know that as a breakthrough branding incubator, The MarkBrand Group is committed to delivering extraordinary value to new and emerging brands. To this end, tonight we are inaugurating our Brand CEO Club and I’d like to personally invite you to Play a Bigger Game!

Becoming a Brand CEO is a matter of learning hands-on how to pilot a brand with global reach, while creating new sales and income concepts that will inspire others to pay a premium for you and your brand. We have found there are certain required skills for a Brand CEO that aren’t taught in school..hence the Brand CEO Club.

In the Brand CEO Club you will learn hands-on how to pilot a brand with global reach, while creating new sales and income concepts that will inspire others to pay a premium for you and your brand.

Why Brand CEO?

  1. Find out what truly motivates you beyond the paycheck—and light a fire under ambition: yours, your partners’ and your brand collaborators.
  2. Find out the potential leverage you have at your summons (hint: it’s far greater than what you may currently see!).
  3. Brand CEO has a fiduciary duty to communicate his/her assets, and must therefore participate in a structured communication process. Brand CEO delivers on exactly this process.

As one of many benefits the Brand CEO Club delivers a Brand Foundation program—a personalized business niche profile worth over $2,400, including:

  • Expert interview and evaluation by MarkBrand Group’s brand advisory team, including one-on-one in-depth consultation with Brand Architect Bryce Winter.
  • Detailed executive analysis of your PEAK Solution* process-role including how it works best with up to 3 (three) specific individuals (i.e. business associates/partners).
  • Development of your ideal brand category, creating a distinction for your target market.
  • Concise report on your brand…the vital importance of having a category for your brand and specific insights including key words and phrases that best describe your brand.

Check out further details about MarkBrand’s new Brand CEO Coach club and click online at markbrandgroup.com/brandceo.html to find our introductory offer of just $887 for a one-year membership in Brand CEO Coach.

5 Essential Qualities of the Top 5 Brand Names

To wrap up our discussion of “What’s in a Leading Brand Name?” Establishing Top Value for your Brand Name…

In conclusion, in learning from the top 5 brand names and brand logos in the world, we are left with five essential qualities that make a great given brand name:

  1. Proper name (i.e. a word that would be naturally capitalized, NOT ‘bank’, for instance)
  2. Singular, or compound words (i.e. no spaces)
  3. Stick in the mind quality as being odd or unusual for category (i.e. Apple) or unique sounding and evocative (i.e. Coca-Cola)
  4. Relatively short (10 letters max., i.e. MasterCard)
  5. Good, hard consonant sounds that are easy to pronounce in various languages (i.e. WalMart, Sony, Zara, Gucci)

Following on the conversation of brand names, in like fashion, it is agreeable to have color, shape, form and words all work together harmonically. This is where alignment using the 7 Secrets to Branding is essential.

Coca-Cola Logo
Iconic Iconography

Using this tool we can see, for instance, that each of the top 5 brands have logo forms that agree with the gender of their archetype. Google, as the most up-to-date, as well as IBM, Microsoft and Coca-Cola all have color schemes completely in alignment with the descriptors of their archetypes as well.

Following this all the way through we will be able to predict with a fair degree of accuracy which promotional offers, and means of attraction will be most successful for these brands, and frequently, which ones will fail.

The same follows through for your brand. For all brands there are fundamentally only seven archetypes available to communicate with. Upon understanding of these, which one applies to your brand, and when to use the appropriate tactics, your power and leverage as a Brand CEO is dramatically increased!

I welcome your comments and questions relative to this content!

Fun and Powerful Brand Links that will Motivate, Inspire, and Inform

Wordy Rappinghood Album Cover
The cover to Wordy Rappinghood’s 1981 Hit: What are word’s worth?

Join the club! Brand CEO Club

Read the blog entry including the audio transcript 10 days after the call: Top 5 Brand Name Logos Worth $788 B

Breakthrough Branding Incubator: MarkBrand Group. Newsletter Archive.

2010 Top 100 Global Brands: Brandz.

Keyword research is site planning. Great keyword tool: WordTracker.

For the audio answer to this post’s question, please open the LINK to hear the Tom Tom Club’s 1981 hit: Wordy Rappinghood.

Trivia: Chris and Tina formed Tom Tom Club while they were members of the Talking Heads. This is a short film about the story behind the song Wordy Rappinghood.

The MarkBrand Group
The MarkBrand Group’s word mark

MarkBrand Group’s Vision: Play a Bigger Game

In the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, we all achieve our highest potential. We promote continual learning, growth and development. Our goal is to improve ourselves and the lives of others. We increase the stakes and improve the odds, as we move towards greater heights of achievement. We are not satisfied with the status quo; we dream big and we achieve greatness! We welcome change and allow ourselves the freedom to make course adjustments. Life is a game to be enjoyed with others. With ease, we create an unlimited and vast array of new agreements. We have fun while the group generates limitless material abundance.

We Build Better Brands by Design