Brand Naming: A Plum By Any Other Name is Just As Sweet

A number of years ago, I remember catching a TV commercial that announced Sunsweet “Dried Plums”, and the healthy joyful life that they enabled. I mused to myself how Sunsweet had taken the prune, a derided fruit only thought to be suitable for the elderly and the constipated, and reintroduced it to the mainstream with a more descriptive, but less negative, name. I wondered how successful it would be.

Brand Naming

It must have had some degree of success, because it appears Sunsweet has done it again. They’ve recently re-re-introduced the prune, this time cast as Plum Amazins.
The brand name strategy is brilliant, fun, and catchy, but it makes me wonder when it is appropriate to change a product name, especially when the product has essentially not changed at all. Sunsweet of course claims a revolutionary new drying technology that keeps the Amazins fresh, full of fiber, and with a high “glycemic index” (they’re sugary).

Whether or not these prunes are any different from the old prunes, the reality is that the dried fruit has always been tasty, good for you, and multipurpose – so the old rap was just a bad rap. As long as it raises brand awareness for the right product attributes, and results in sales, changing to Plum Amazins seems like a smart marketing decision.

Other food product rebrandings have been less successful, because they were done for the wrong reasons. For example, the change last year to “Corn Sugar” from “High Fructose Corn Syrup” was meant to mask the truth that this ingredient is a contributor to obesity, but it did little to change public opinion.

We’ve helped to rename a number of brands, either product or company, usually because the old name was too restrictive, or inaccurate to the reality of the brand. For example, when Korn Ferry chose “Careerlink” as the name for its new online recruiting tool, we recommended immediate change. Careerlink sounded more like a job supermarket than like a sophisticated tool for finding young executives. The final name, Futurestep, was a far more appropriate and elastic brand that could grow with the sophistication of the service.

For corporations, as well as food products, the key to a successful brand name or identity change is in trying to better reflect your reality, not try to change it. This is where Amazins win and Corn Sugar loses.


Create a New Brand: When is it necessary?

One of the key questions we often hear from our clients is: when is it necessary to create a new brand?

Creating a new brand affects everything within your organization, including products to personnel, marketing and finance. It also affects customer perceptions of your competitive promise.

Creating a new brand is not always the best way to win over your customers. However, here are a few examples of historical cases where it made good sense to create a new brand.


Branding Strategy: Repairing the Shoe Shop

I took a pair of shoes in to be repaired today. Around the corner from our San Francisco office there are two shoe repair stores. One of them, Anthony’s Shoe Service, is an old-school shoe repair shop that has been in business since 1926 – a dying breed in the city. Next door to it is Mak & Co – a relative upstart with one of our favorite signs in San Francisco. “Mak & Co: Shoe Service, Keys Cut, Watch Repair, Shoe Shine, Nails, Facial, Waxing, Massage.” Basically, any service you can cram into 650 square feet.

Branding Strategy

The two stores illustrate two distinct brand challenges.

Anthony’s has a clear identity and brand focus. They offer a highly specialized service, have a loyal clientele, and will continue to repair shoes as long as their customers keep coming in. However, with a singular focus, they have limited alternatives for driving new business or growing revenue.

Mak & Co, on the other hand, is highly entrepreneurial, offering a bewildering array of services with skills that may or may not transfer from one service to the next. As they add more and more services, they face the risk of confusing the market. Mak & Co. is an identity that doesn’t say anything.

brand positioning

We recently helped a client faced with the same brand challenge as Mak & Co. Highly entrepreneurial; they had started as service company with a specific industry expertise in digital media buying. As their capabilities and client list grew, they added more and more individually branded services and proprietary technology tools that they could sell separately. Although revenues continued to grow, their growing sales and account team couldn’t clearly articulate what business they were in or how their offerings added up to a clear value proposition. By being so broad in their offering, they risked losing business to more specialized competitors.

Our recommendation was to develop a new brand positioning that serves as a broad platform, appropriate to the multiple services and technologies they provide, yet establishing ownership of a specific expertise. It also gives them a clear direction for future growth. This new positioning has invigorated the company, clarified their business direction, and reassured their investors. Now, everyone in the company can clearly articulate what the business they’re in and why they matter to their most critical audiences.

The moral of the story: A company with a clear brand positioning has a greater chance of gaining new business and retaining existing customers. Where did I go to get my shoes repaired? I went to Anthony’s.


Brand Story Case Study: Shutterfly Success

Through an excellent brand story, Shutterfly continues to help consumers navigate their own path to personal expression, providing much more than products; they provide the promise of personal creativity, expression and shared experiences.

Since building and communicating their story through all they say and do, Shutterfly has been rewarded with double-digit growth year over year. It is a great example of how a clear, relevant story can help your brand elevate above others in the market.