Brand v. Branding | What's in a Name?

The portobello is a popular, highly desired mushroom known for its broad, flat shape.

Because of its thick, chewy texture, the portobello (sometimes spelled portabello) is often used as a meat substitute.

So, what does that have to do with branding? More than you might imagine.

Not so very long ago, this fungus was literally just an overgrown brown mushroom. Sometime in the 1980s, when the name portobello began to be used consistently, it became something else altogether.

Why portobello? Some claim the name was chosen because it evoked the high-end, fashionable Portobello Road in London. Whether or not this is accurate is irrelevant.

With the consistent use of an evocative name, portobellos were branded. And branding gave those overgrown mushrooms a distinct and expensive new identity.

Today, many recipes call for the portobello by name and entire cookbooks are devoted to it. Top-notch restaurants feature unique dishes, where it's grilled, sautéed, stuffed, and featured in hearty soups, exotic appetizers and entrées.

Which brings us to back to branding. The mushroom wasn't reformulated. It wasn't shrouded in expensive new packaging. It wasn't bigger, smaller, faster, better or offered in a new color.

Nothing changed but the name. Why? Because differentiation is the first crucial step in rebranding (Differentiate or Die).

Scrutinize your product and service lineup. What valuable product is burdened by a ho-hum name? What useful service is positioned as a plain brown mushroom? Would a fresh name and targeted branding effort increase visibility? Attract new customers? Increase sales?

Almost every small business has at least one brown mushroom lurking in the dark, waiting to become a portobello. It’s true for my company. What about yours?

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