The Real U: brand authenticity pays dividends

Published January 9, 2011
Categories: Basic Naming Questions | Best Names | Brand Naming | Competitive Names | Differentiators | Featured Article | Naming Strategy | Naming Tips


NoPinnochio“Consumers are not buying based on price alone,” led a recent article from Brandweek. Personally, price is always a factor for me, but only decisive when all other things are equal. I agree – “there is a price-value formula consumers use to calculate brand differences” when deciding which brands to buy. Otherwise Chi straighteners ($100) or Nike running shoes ($150) wouldn’t sell. At some point, cheaper is not better – we all have a degree of price elasticity. Sometimes, people buy certain products simply because they’re better quality and therefore don’t mind paying a bit more for them.

This bolsters the case for building strong brands. Take organic products or products with a vested green interest for example.

Many green products have negative connotations with consumers because the product category is so saturated that consumers can’t distinguish between which products are truly environmentally-friendly and which are not. I tend to be a consumer who tries to actively buy eco-friendly products and support local business, but…surprise! According to a Brandweek article from August 2010, glass actually requires up to nine times as much fossil fuel to transport and takes up to 14 times the amount of space in landfills. Additionally, only about 28% of glass actually gets recycled. Organic products delivered in thin, plastic containers that don’t contain Bisphenol A (which is suspected of impeding infant brain development) are arguably more environmentally-friendly. Consumer misconception one.

Additionally, anytime I forget to take reusable cloth bags with me to the grocery store, I always request paper. My mentality being – paper bags are biodegradable, plastic ones are not. That being said – paper bag creation flattens millions of acres of forests and uses a significant amount of energy and chemicals. Forgotten side effect two.

Popular messages matter. Even false public perceptions can shape a market, or at the very least shape purchasing patterns within it. Seventh Generation’s (the developer of mainstream, eco-friendly cleaning products) co-founder and chairman perpetuates a third misnomer, “Consumers have come to believe that local is always better, but increasing research shows that, in many cases, [it’s not better] because of the energy inefficiencies involved in transporting local food.” I don’t agree with that – how is it less efficient to transport something from 5 miles versus 5,000 miles away?

For consumers, the point is to consider all of these messages in the context of who says them. For marketers, the point is to be forthcoming or risk alienating your target market. Of course a company selling organic baby food in plastic bags is going to “poo poo” glass containers. Obviously, there is a downside to biodegradable paper bags – the trees it takes to make them. Which shortcoming outweighs the other – the plastic bags filling up landfills or replantable trees? Finally, of course Seventh Generation is going to say that local markets are inefficient– those are their competition! The point is, brand messaging matters. From a marketing perspective, it’s the most legitimate way to inform the public about your product or service. From a consumer perspective, take a company’s branding with a grain of salt – it’s going to be biased. The takeaway…?

The brand naming moral: be who you say you are and select a name that authentically conveys that or the benefit you really do deliver. Customers respect authenticity in a brand name, and as Erik Drake, VP of Marketing for Stonyfield farms said “the easiest message is not always the right product.”




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