by Karen Post aka the Branding Diva

Cutting through the clutter of sameness gets tougher every day. Message overload and disruptive and many times useless data are all trying to find a little space in the overstimulated, simpleminded brains of our market.

It’s not only a busy place, but the reality is there are a handful of very qualified choices other than you in your category competing for that sacred opportunity.

“Differentiate or die,” claims Jack Trout, one of the godfathers of branding. Tom Peters says, “Be distinct or be extinct” and I contend, “Run like the rest and you too will be road kill.” So what is the deal with all these companies and brands using the same old, tired phrases, vocabulary, and words to communicate to their markets, further confirming their zero degree of brand difference?

This is America, land of the free language, home of the brave. Last I heard, the word police were not writing citations and throwing brand managers in jail (at least not for this activity) and consumers were not boycotting overextreme creativity.

Original naming and adventurous word choice can be two of the most inexpensive and effective ways to brand better. If you believe you are not a commodity, it’s time to leverage your brand language. Yes, this will be scary for you over literary-conditioned, establishment-bound folks, but trust me on this — distinct jargon, unique names, and interesting terms can provide valuable momentum to your branding efforts.

The number one rule of kool wordz in branding is that there are no rules. A kool word can be a brand name, like Google, that becomes so accepted it is now a verb; a branded consulting process like Expertizing that media guru Fern Reiss created for her professional services development company; or a new way to classify a buying segment. Nokia popularizes the term “prosumer,” which distinguishes the professional consumer from the NASCAR moms and soccer dads. A kool word can also be an unclaimed noun like a Wi-Fi hotspot that becomes a device brand name that locates hotspots like Carnary Wireless did with the Digital Hotspotter.

Here’s how to start.
Read your Web site, your brochures, and your new business proposals. Now look at your top three competitors. See some phrase similarities, common sell talk, or exact replicas of “we care more, we are a full-service, multi-disciplinary, a one-stop solution,” or most of all “we are best in our industry”? Please stop! You’re gagging me. Get a thesaurus now.

Customers read stuff like this every day and it means nothing except that you are just as common and brand bland as the next guy. How can you expect them to have brand recall? Let alone want to do business with you?

Explore all the possibilities.
These can include:
• Brand names, product names, services names
• Positioning captions, like in my case: Karen Post, The Branding Diva
• Phrases that pay: frequently repeated taglines, bumper sticker ideas, headlines, or sound bites
• Category-specific jargon

Exploit what’s published.
There are thousands of combinations and unique ways to communicate any concept or selling proposition. Webster’s dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, and the Urban Dictionary are all available online. Don’t stop with English; there are at least 200 other languages that can be good resources. And don’t be a big, lazy copycat!

Kill the common and repeat the fresh stuff. Begin by identifying what you and your competitors are saying that is the same. Now change it. Consider all the words: the nouns, the verbs, and adjectives. Make lists of possibilities — get your staff and peers involved. This exercise is very liberating. Once you create your fresh, distinct brand copy, repurpose it everywhere so it becomes part of your mentally embedded brand story.

Don’t be deterred by conformist resistance.
This is a natural part of the brand betterment (OK, that’s one of my original words) process. Have courage because for the next step, you will really need it.

Make up wordz.
Just like the bodacious chef who mixes up two leftover ingredients and masterfully defines a fresh cuisine called Po’hash, you can do the same thing. Kool wordz not only can differentiate you, but they can be the big hook in getting publicity and word-of-mouth buzz.

Don’t forget subculture slang.
The right slang can not only communicate brand relevance to your market, but can serve as a fine root word for other new kool wordz like the BlingKing, who sells happiness on Ice Boulevard.

Some words are worth protecting, some are unprotectable, and others are just fun for a little brand humor. Check with your intellectual property attorney.

Whether you are a wordsmither or a vocab slinger, keep your idea places diversified, show courage, and have a good time.

Other interesting brand name tongueisms.

PINXAV, “pink salve” is how you pronounce it. Since most people don’t get the pronunciation right, the brand ambassadors say the name a lot and that’s good branding for this baby rash product.

Momints is a liquid-filled breath mint. This made-up name was derived from “moments.” In their branding messages they ask consumers to “take a Momint” or “seize the Momint” or “enjoy the Momint.” Momints has grown from a one-person company, peddling mints from bodega to bodega with his cart, to the No. 1 selling mint at 7-Eleven stores nationwide with $15 million in annual revenue. I guess he now has Momoney.

Have you ever been “Plaxoed”? Plaxo is a free online service that helps people keep their online address books up to date. The name Plaxo was selected because they wanted a short name, with two syllables, and with an “x” in the middle. The “x” signifies connectedness, the basic premise of the Plaxo service.

Before 1995, if you asked for a Frappuccino, you would get a confused stare, not a blend of espresso, ice, cream, and customized flavoring. Today this Starbucks menu item has become an integral part of the U.S. lexicon and one of the company’s most important brands.

Cereality is a new concept in the food service arena. It’s a cereal dining experience. The “Seinfeld-esque” kitchen setting features homey kitchen cabinets stocked with familiar cereals. From morning to night Cereality focuses on the custom-blending and serving of both familiar and proprietary cold and hot cereals. Customers can also take the serving suggestions of the pajama-clad “Cereologists” behind the counter and spout their own milk from the moo machine.

Wordz of caution.
There is fine line of kool word perfection and kool word overdo. If you are introducing a new concept word, make sure you dummy it down because your market may not be as smart as you.

However you spell it, or say it, it boils down to this: Your copy, names, and brand yap are powerful ways to differentiate your offering.

Brand on!