Myngle

Learn to speak the language of your brand

Photo by eperales on Flickr When you start a new business, one of the first things on your very long to-do list will be choosing a good brand name for your product or service. Deciding on a brand name often ends up being a very painful process. It's almost as hard as choosing the right name for your newborn, but in some cases, even more complicated than that!

This is especially true if you plan to build your brand internationally.

But first, what is, anyway, a good brand name?

The basic rule of thumb is that your consumers, not just yourself, have to find it pleasant (or, shocking, surprising, attention catching) to the ear and as a result, m-e-m-o-r-a-b-l-e. But  what if your present or future consumers are in France, Australia and Japan? Which ears will the name have to appeal to?  And how to make sure that a brand launched on the French and Japanese markets doesn't have any hidden “surprises” in either of them?

A good rule of thumb is to invest some time and rigor into the choice of your international brand name right from the start. Often, simply being aware of potential differences between how your brand name might be perceived in different countries is a good start. If you keep this in mind, you are likely to avoid a situation of finding out that your brand name has undesirable associations in a language different from your own.

For instance, a German brand of home accessories called Koziol sounds quite remarkable in Russian! Although a direct meaning of “koziol” is “goat”, in familiar Russian this word is often used to refer to someone who is a bit of a … loser. I already mentioned this example in my previous article on brand names, Baboushka Branding or a bit of Russianness in Marketing.

Here are some considerations that might help you navigate through complicated issues of international brand building:

  • First, choose a temporary brand name that sounds good to you. It's easier to think through your business strategy when you have at least some sort of name in place! Don't order any logos or buy URLs associated with this name before you have more clarity about your overall business strategy. I often deal with situations when a company that makes great products with a lot of potential, comes to me for brand strategy advice after already having selected a dubious name, and done all the graphic work around it.
  • Prepare a business plan:  A business plan is an excellent framework that allows you to think through many aspects of your business, including overall business strategy, marketing, financial forecasts, risk scenarios, as well as your company values. Once you have the values clear, they might trigger further ideas for a good name!
  • Think internationally: It's good to have an idea about the international scope of your business from the start. This is especially important to remember for a company that originates in a relatively small market. For European companies which often trade across borders, the question of choosing a brand name that is easily understood across the whole of Europe is essential. The same goes to any e-commerce business that plans to sell goods across many geographies.
  • Build a multilingual team: Once you've established the geographical scope of your main markets, get some help from people who can speak the corresponding languages. You can use the Questions and Answers in LinkedIn, or even experiment with language teaching sites such as busuu.com or myngle.com in order to identify such people and ask their opinions. The aim is simply to get some flavor of how your brand name will sound in the language of your customers across the world!
  • Develop cultural awareness: A somewhat more challenging  task that should nevertheless be on your radar screen is thinking through the cultural associations that your brand name might have in your target markets. Even if you try to introduce your US brand in the UK or Australia, check whether the existing name will be perceived the way you initially intended, even if the language spoken across these countries is the same. Hire good people who have highly developed cultural sensitivity skills -- this investment will be extremely important in your international business development.

This list is not exhaustive, and selecting a good name for your international brand that would sound equally successful in different geographies is a very complex issue. If you want to navigate through this complexity gracefully, don't hesitate to contact SCHMOOZY FOX for advice, and make sure you implement that new year's resolution to learn a new language soon enough!

Celebrating European Entrepreneurship: Funky Brands at Plugg 2009

plugg-logoYesterday, I had a lucky chance to attend the Plugg 2009 conference in Brussels. For those who are not familiar with this annual event, it’s a conference that brings together European Web 2.0 start-ups and gives them a chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists. It’s also an annual celebration of entrepreneurship in Europe. The event was organized by Robin Wauters, a well-known Belgian blogger and serial entrepreneur active on the Web 2.0 scene. The atmosphere of the venue was quite futuristic and incredibly geeky, with most of the attendees photographing the event with their iPhones, their MACs on their laps, with TweetDecks visible on the screens. It was simply cool to be there. Many in the audience attempted to engage in Q&A sessions with presenters via Twitter – that’s how geeky this stuff is! However, Mike Butcher, the UK TechCrunch editor, made sure the interaction within the audience was free-flowing, uninterrupted by Twitter-mediation.

I was there mainly to spot potentially funky online brands amongst the 20 presenting start-ups. Although fascinated by the technology behind some of the presented business ideas, I wanted to see which of the entrepreneurs would be capable of transforming their high-tech ideas into concepts understood by final consumers.

mendeley

And guess what? Although the majority of the 20 semi-finalists dwelled on technological superiority of their business models, the 3 finalists (Jinni, Myngle and Mendeley) were those whose business models:

1) Concentrated on the final customer and clearly explained their value proposition; 2) Didn’t make technology the driving force of their businesses, but simply an element required for strategy implementation; 3) Were either already profitable, or at least had a more or less clear idea about HOW to make money.

jinniFor the rest, it was surprising to see how much irrelevant stuff presenters put into their pitches – techie language, “we’re the best” messages with no supporting arguments. And almost NOBODY ever addressed this: how is my business going to bring value to my customers, and why would anybody care to pay for it? This basic stuff seems amazingly straightforward, but it didn’t come up in many presentations.

And now, the final word about the finalists. Myngle is an online language learning community (I could draw a lot of similarities between Myngle and busuu.com, which I covered in one of the previous posts), Jinni is a recommendation site dedicated to movies and other entertainment, and Mendeley (the winner of Plugg 09), launched by a bunch of PhDs is the platform which can be used for search and exchange of academic papers within the global academic community of researchers and scientists.myngle

Many thanks to Robin Wauters and Veronique Pochet for organizing this inspirational event. What I find most refreshing about the event is this: even in this chilly economic climate, there is still a bunch of enthusiastic individuals in Europe, who care about creating value and changing the world. And this is great news.