Weirdly, every entrepreneur wants to be like Jobs but they don’t bother to master the basics.

By Geoffrey James Contributing editor,

In my experience, marketers don’t frequently start their own companies, which is a pity, because most startups from the get-go make these three basic branding errors that hobble their growth:

1. A head-scratcher brand name

brand name that needs to be explained is a liability rather than an asset. Ideally, a brand name should create a positive emotion that ties into the product or service. The classic example here is Apple Computer. (It’s a computer, but it’s small, tasty, and easy to use.)

One of the worst brand names I’ve encountered is Deuce Productions. The term “productions” could mean anything, and the word deuce refers to a playing card with two pips. Turns out, it was an events production company run by a pair of twins. Even when explained, it’s a head-scratcher.

If I were rebranding them and they really thought (for some reason) that being twins was a competitive advantage (I’m not at all sure about this), I’d advise them to go with something that actually has a positive and meaningful twist, like “Twice-as-Good Events.”

2. Launching with multiple brand names

Over the weekend, a friend asked me to look at his branding plan, which included a corporate brand, a product brand, and a personal brand, all of which were different from each other.

It’s very difficult to establish a single brand in the minds and memories of investors and customers. Three brands? Not gonna happen. I told him to focus on one brand and dump the other two.

I learned this one the hard way. When I first launched myself as a writer/speaker/consultant, I tried to promote “Geoffrey James” and “The Institute for Business Wisdom.” I quickly learned that two brands was one too many and rebranded as Geoffrey James LLC.

Startups should ideally launch with a corporate brand that’s also its product brand. Once again, the classic example is Apple Computer, whose first product was … you guessed it … the Apple computer.

3. Adding new brands rather than extending existing brands

Many companies seem to think that the more brands the better. (I think this belief might be a leftover from the “Heinz 57” days.) The worst example of this was General Motors, which was a brand-name salad until the company wised up and dumped half of them.

When expanding your product set, it makes far more sense to extend your existing brand than to launch a new brand name. That way, you take advantage of whatever momentum your current brand has acquired. Again, the classic example is Apple, with the Apple I, Apple II, Apple III, and then Macintosh (still building on the small, tasty, easy meme).

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