Perception is reality
Like about 50% of Switzerland’s population, you probably own an Apple brand device of some sort, and your iPad, iPhone or iMac is more than likely equipped with a “Retina” screen. But can you tell me the resolution (pixel density) of the Retina screen you swipe day after day? I’m betting you don’t know it. Nor do I. What use, you may ask? They must have the highest possible resolution, so high the human eye can’t detect the slightest pixel! Otherwise, why would they be called Retina? Reality says otherwise. The resolution you get with an iPhone is excellent, yes… but it’s actually no better than Samsung smartphones, for example.
The power of a name
The very act of naming a product feature gives it context, substantiates its quality and makes it more recognisable. In labelling their screens Retina, Apple associated them with the precision of the human eye, making a technical feature (pixel resolution) accessible to all.
In marketing lingo, presenting an individual component or feature of a product (or service) as its own brand is known as “Ingredient Branding”. Two prime examples are Nike’s Dri-FIT clothing and Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy technology. When a product or service has a name, it becomes unique – it makes it different – so using an ingredient branding strategy allows companies to showcase a product feature whether it’s unique or not. After all, Nike isn’t the only clothing brand to produce “sweat-wicking” activewear.
Registering a brand name can be especially valuable for protecting a patented innovation too. While patent rights only last 20 years, a registered trademark can be renewed ad infinitum. Take Gore-Tex fabrics, patented in 1970 and royalty-free for ages already. Anyone today can produce “waterproof, breathable fabric membranes composed of stretched polytetrafluoroethylene”, but one company alone can sell Gore-Tex. A brand name is virtually everlasting.
Differentiating the indifferable
It’s not only high-tech companies and patent holders that can reap the advantages of a naming strategy. A few years ago, cement manufacturer Holcim decided to set their products apart from the competition by giving each one a name based on its intrinsic traits. Robusto, Fortico and Optimo thus replaced the traditional technical letters-and-numbers naming system. Christian Wengi, Holcim’s Head of Marketing for Switzerland and Italy, talks of overturning industry codes: “When we introduced brand names for our cement products in Switzerland, everyone laughed at us because we were the first to do it. But after a few months, even our competitors’ customers started using our brand names when talking about cement types.” Thanks to their smart naming initiative, Holcim ably took charge of the discourse in a product category that seriously lacked differentiation.
Course of action
Dry cleaners, electric motor manufacturers, tax auditors… many a company could benefit from ingredient branding strategies. Start by putting your finger on a feature your customers value. Your accounting firm uses recycled paper. That’s nice, but chances are your clients won’t be willing to pay more for it. A dry cleaner that offers express chemical-free service, on the other hand, could workably use that to create an ingredient brand.
If possible, ingredient brands should have descriptive, evocative names. Nike doesn’t need a descriptive name (in Greek mythology, Nike is the goddess of victory), but Dri-FIT (ingredient brand) suggests a fabric capable of keeping athletes’ bodies dry.
The dry cleaner could come out with an “EcoSpeed” fast and eco-friendly cleaning service. An engine manufacturer could market “Light Pro Technology” certified motors promising exceptional performance at minimum weight.
Once you have found your ingredient brand, work on a recognizable symbol for it. A distinct visual signature increases recognisability in the same way as a name. You should aim for a simple design that can easily coexist with the main brand (if there is one).
All that’s left is to register the name of your ingredient brand with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property. The whole process is very affordable and allows you to claim exclusive rights over your creation, meaning no other dry cleaner can offer “EcoSpeed” services. As for your competition, I guess they’ll keep on advertising “quick cleaning in respect of the environment”.
Now it’s your turn. What will “your Retina” be?
The original version of this article was published on le blog de PME Magazine.