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A TCI Book Review

The OmniPowerful Brand ­ America's #1 Brand Specialist Shares His Secrets for Catapulting Your Brand to Marketing Stardom

Frank Delano
American Management Association, New York, 1999, ISBN 0-8144-0459-6

This is one of those books that is essentially one long pitch for the author's company or product. In this case, it's for Delano & Young, brand naming specialists ­ they've helped name such products as the Ford Taurus, Polaroid's Captiva camera, and Oxford Development's Chambrel senior's housing developments. Most of the examples in the book are of consumer products, and most of these from the automotive industry.

The book is essentially divided into two parts; the first deals with the naming of products (specifically how to find the "omnipowerful" name), and the second contains some rambling advice on how to build the product into a world class brand once this omnipowerful name is chosen.

Early on in the book, Delano explains the concept of the "omnipowerful brand":

"A brand name is no longer shackled to the product that made it famous. It's a free agent, capable of being marketed on a broad range of products that bear no resemblance to the original product. Yes, this may not be news to companies like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, which have learned that their fragrance brands like Polo and Eternity are more powerful than the scents themselves. But it may be the best news ever for thousands of other companies in mostly nonglamorous businesses which never imagined that they could catapult their brands to global marketing stardom. For these companies, this is the next dimension in power brand marketing for the twenty-first century...

The barriers have come down. The face of brand marketing is about to change big time, poised to take a giant leap that's never been seen before in American business history. Any company, regardless of the business that it's in, can make its prized brands transcend the product. The secret to doing this is to find ways to transform the brand's name into a tangible asset that consumers want to own." (p.4)

"Companies that want to reap the benefits of the new dimension in brand name marketing must have the "omnipowerful brand name". (p.6)

(This advice seems directly contrary to the sensible cautions placed on brand name extension that you will find in any book by Al Ries and/or Jack Trout, the gurus of brand name positioning. In particular, the notion that 'any company can make its prized brands transcend the product' seems incredible ­ images of Esso brand cologne or Dr. Scholl's micro-brewed beer come to mind. Nonetheless we press on.)

In the first half of the book, Delano presents seven 'proven principles' (proof is never actually provided) to developing the omnipowerful brand name. These are:

  1. Capture the product's essence, uniqueness or spirit (ideally on one word), with a big idea.
  2. Win the consumer's attention, inspire the imagination.
  3. Insist on a quality of sound that is highly appropriate to the product¹s category.
  4. Keep it simple.
  5. Make it unforgettable by creating a visual image and sound that are recorded in the consumer's mind forever.
  6. Stay targeted on the correct sexual image profile.
  7. Make believable what you claim the product is capable of delivering.

Relating to point #6 above, Delano & Young have developed a proprietary tool called the image map, which consists of a two dimensional grid. Along one axis is a scale from totally feminine at one end, through to 'asexual' in the middle, and totally masculine at the other end. Along the other axis are gradations from premium-priced to bargain priced. By placing potential brand names onto this mapping space, an idea of the brand's appeal to potential target markets can be ascertained. (Delano does not say exactly how potential brand names are placed on this map, other than to say it is done with "careful thought and consideration". Maybe this is part of the proprietary process.)

The process for selecting the omnipowerful brand name described in the book is somewhat vague as well. There is apparently an initial round of name invention, where some 40 to 60 names are developed (some based on intuitive thinking, some based on a direct image association with the product, some based on indirect references, and some on psychological benefits associated with using the product). Next, these names are checked with existing U.S. registered trademarks to determine availability (which will eliminate as many as two thirds of the items on the list). The remaining names are then subjected to this image mapping process, and those that are not perceived to fit the target profile of consumers are dropped. The surviving names are then checked against the seven principles (I guess Delano really means the six remaining principles, since image mapping has already been done), and five names are then selected for presentation to management, who will (of course) select the omnipowerul brand name. Simple! You too can have a name as powerful as Nike!

In this first part of the book, Delano does present some interesting dos and don'ts about naming. Some of the tips that he presents are:

  • beginning and ending a brand name with the same letters can make the product sound and look like it's on the cutting edge (examples: Nissan's Altima, IBM's Aptiva)
  • adding a vowel to the end of certain American English words can transform the word into a proprietary trademark (examples: Humana managed health care products)
  • a created name that ends in the syllable va, which means 'go forward' in Latin-based languages, can have a built-in international appeal (example: Polaroid's Captiva camera, IBM's Aptiva)
  • brand names that start with the letters ch (which begin such warm and familiar words as 'church', ' cheer','children' and 'charity') can bring to mind thoughts of goodness and joy (examples: Cheerios cereal, Chambrel senior citizen communities)
  • a simple way to make a product more masculine is to end it with the letter o (examples: Nissan's Terrano)
  • the letters Q and J can imply that the product is special (examples: the Infiniti car lines Q45 and J30)
  • if you want to say sex in a subliminal message, selecting a name that starts with the letters se can be the answer (examples: Gillette's Sensor razor, Cadillac's Seville car line)
  • brand names that feature or end with the letters um can impart a sense of tranquility, resolution or clarity (example: Tums antacid)
  • to convey the image of advanced technology, scientific breakthrough or superior performance, the letter z can be used in the product's name (examples: Eli Lilly's Prozac, Glaxo's Zantac antiulcer drug)

...and there are many other dos and don'ts provided in the first part of the book.

The second part of the book is devoted to how to build this 'omnipowerful' brand name, once developed, into a world class entity. Drawing upon the lessons from American and European companies, it deals with corporate support of the brand (through things like staying consistent with the brand's image in all corporate activities; hiring people who are passionate about the brand; ensuring product innovation; etc.), and how the brand is advertised. (An interesting side theme here is on the use of advertising slogans and tag lines ­ when they work to enhance the brand, and when they don't. Essentially, Delano says they work when they are memorable and have something unique and specific to say about the brand, and they don't when they are merely generalized platitudes.) A final chapter summarizes the book, and re-states the theme that we are entering into a new era where all people will want is to be associated with an omnipowerful brand image. Hmmm...

The OmniPowerful Brand is not really about building an 'omnipowerful brand' ­ if such a concept is even useful or desirable. Rather it is about naming products (and the book's title should have better conveyed this.) In this area, it does contain some useful tidbits of information.





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