Avoiding Identity Crisis

Thomas, Liisa M.; Murray, Nicole M.
May 2004
Marketing Management;May/Jun2004, Vol. 13 Issue 3, p44
This article focuses on the selection of source identifiers for branded products. A brand is a promise to consumers, and that promise is delivered through source identifiers. To be a valuable weapon in the fight for brand value, identifiers must be catchy, memorable, and unique. Companies should, however, beware of a competitor's confusing use of a similar identifier. Such confusing uses can have a devastating effect on brand value. Source identifiers come in many shapes and forms. Although they are frequently words or phrases, they may also be product shapes or packaging, as well as colors, sounds, or even scents. When selecting the type of identifier, companies should keep their overall branding strategy in mind and select an identifier that most expeditiously communicates the brand promise. A source identifier cannot be strong and unique if everyone can use it. To be strong, the identifier must be protected. To select an identifier, it must be therefore determined where it falls on the protectability continuum. Fanciful and arbitrary identifiers are the strongest, and are the most easily protected against copycats. A suggestive identifier is one that implies the nature or characteristics of the product. Descriptive identifiers express the function or characteristics of products. Finally, a generic is exactly what it sounds like: the category name for a type of product or service.


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