Thinking out loud in a Quora answer

posted by on 2014.03.18, under Brand Strategy

I recently used a question on Quora as an excuse to think out loud about how we talk about brands and brand strategy. The question was:

How do you create and communicate your brand story?
So your fledgling business is finally taking off and customers are flooding in. But how do you move forward from a good site to a Brand. How do you create and communicate your brand story? What are the things to consider?

There are a few words and ideas in this question that indicate how many think about brands these days—things that I are think are flawed and obscure the objectives, means, and methodology of “branding.” So I tried to answer using words and ideas that are less misleading, although I admit they’re not necessarily simple ideas. For example, I prefer “identity” as a replacement for “brand” in many cases. Unfortunately, “identity” is too often used in our industry to mean “logo,” or the broader visual identity system. But if you look at the definition of “identity,” you’ll find something that speaks quite well to—again—the objectives, means, and methodology of “branding.”

Here’s my complete answer, below. Curious to know what you think.

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Ace Hotel: bold identity, bold voice

posted by on 2014.01.31, under Brand Experiences, Brand Strategy

[This post was originally published on Interbrand's blog.]


Created in 1999 by Alex Calderwood, who passed away last November, Ace Hotel is famous for disrupting the hospitality industry with a fresh identity catering to the “creative class.” Countless books, articles, and blog posts have already extolled the strengths of that identity (and Portlandia has mocked its eccentricities).

For example, according to a 2010 post on this blog, the brand’s approach to co-branding and partnerships is “endlessly creative” and “always perfect.” Gawker quotes the co-founder of review site Mr & Mrs Smith: “I can’t think of another hotel group with such a strong brand and all-pervading identity – everything from the cocktails to the cleaning signs is unmistakeably Ace.” On a recent trip to New York, this author had the pleasure of staying at Ace Hotel.

The room’s artwork (local artist) was impressive, as were the vintage-style furnishings (Smeg fridge, reclaimed mirrors) and carefully selected brand partnerships (Fred bottled water, Pearl+ soap-on-a-rope). But it’s more than art, music, and hipster-friendly ephemera that surrounds the guest at Ace; painted on the walls, printed on signs, handwritten onto the bill, words also permeate one’s stay. And it’s through these words—through the brand’s voice—that the hotel’s personality shines brightest.

It starts with an amusing, reassuring welcome note on the front doormat: “You are here.” Once inside, signs at the elevators remind guests, “If you took the stairs you would be there already.” 

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An unfortunate spelling choice

posted by on 2014.01.10, under Naming

One man’s “spicy mint” is another’s “spic mint.”


Missed portmanteaunity

posted by on 2013.10.18, under Food/Drink, Writing/Grammar


The future of wearables is co-branded

posted by on 2013.10.15, under Brand Strategy

[This post was originally published on Interbrand's blog.]

Last week, Basis Science, maker of fitness tracker Basis, announced an $11.75 million round of Series B financing from investors like Intel Capital and Stanford University. The news serves as one more data point for an increasingly obvious trend: the wearable technology market is in the midst of explosive growth, predicted by some to increase tenfold in the next several years. But whether they’re backed by startups, small businesses, or major brands like Samsung, Google, or (potentially) Apple, wearables face a common challenge: They must successfully bridge the disparate worlds of cutting-edge consumer technology and mainstream fashion.

As pointed out in a recent Fast Company article, the advent of wearable computers demands that technology companies “pay as much attention to the ‘wearable’ as [they do] to the ‘computer.’” Simply offering multiple colors, inviting designers to launch events, or putting their products on models may not be enough to make these devices desirable from a fashion standpoint.

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How Retrace got its name and avoided sounding like a creepy government program

posted by on 2013.08.13, under Naming

What should we name our company?

This question, although faced infrequently by a company’s founders—perhaps only once—has significant implications for how the company is perceived by future investors, partners, and customers. Square, Bitcoin, Snapchat, Ouya—company names vary dramatically in style and meaning (or lack thereof). Equally diverse are companies’ answers to a related question: How should we choose our name?

As a professional namer and strategic writer, I’m especially interested in the answers to these questions. When a name catches my eye, I often try to find out what it means, who came up with it and how, and why it is or isn’t working well. Recently, while researching for an article about San Francisco Bay Area startups with great names, I found Retrace, an app that helps you remember and organize everything about your daily meetings. I like the name because it hints at the core idea behind the product and because it’s a short, real word, which makes it easy to pronounce and spell. But it’s also not a word you hear every day, so it’s more memorable and less likely to cause legal problems.

I spoke with the CEO and cofounder, Austin Marusco, to get the story behind Retrace and discover some tips for others seeking the perfect name. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation. To see Marusco pitch Retrace at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC 2013, check out the video at the bottom.

Click here to continue reading this post on Upstart Business Journal.


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    Rob Meyerson is a brand strategist currently working in San Francisco.

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