Add a Fresh Twist

This post is part of our series, “Thirteen Tips For Stronger Branding.” See the rest of the series HERE.


Fresh ideas come from looking at old problems from new perspectives. If you are only looking at and thinking about what your competition is doing, chances are you will stay in the same rut and not come up with anything new or exciting. You need to look at old challenges from new angles.

A few years back I was at an airport and saw a 747 with McDonald’s golden arches on the tail fin. I started to imagine what this McDonald’s airline would be like. I imagined it would be a good value, family friendly and most importantly it would have flexible options in terms of how I bought my ticket and any upgrades – allowing me to supersize my experience to a seat with more leg room or special menu options. As it turns out, this airline was just a figment of my imagination. It was the reflection of the neon sign in the food court on the window, and there happened to be a plane parked behind the window on the tarmac. So while it was just imaginary, it led to the very real practice of TWISTING brands in different categories to come up with new ideas. (That’s actually why I named my company BrandTwist.)

Consumers don’t live in a one-category world. For example, they make note of great customer service experiences across airlines, retail stores, dry cleaners, fast food, fine dining, taxi cabs, doctor’s offices, personal trainers…you name it. So as marketers we should constantly be looking at the larger brandscape for inspiration. A great way to leverage lateral thinking for your own brand is to imagine what a beloved brand (in a different category) would do if it took over your business. How would this brand use its brand DNA to innovate in your market?  Twist an inspirational brand (ex. Virgin, Zappos, Starbucks, Apple) with yours and see the impact it can have in creating fresh ideas for your business today.

Check out tip #13 in the series, Commit to Continual Learning.


…After all, that’s what it’s designed to do.

Julie Cottineau, the former VP of Brand for Richard Branson’s Virgin, and entrepreneur and a branding expert responsible for countless small business and personal branding makeovers, has created Brand School, the highly effective, premier program to help you grow your business and perfect your brand at the same time.

Receive more information about the next semester and free brand-building tools and tips when you join the BrandTwist mailing list.

“Brand School was engaging and helpful to me in learning more about myself and my business. Results came amazingly quick. Now, my brand name speaks my message immediately and I’ve expanded my reach.” – Lynn Stull, Owner Arts2Thrive 

Hone Your Elevator Pitch

This post is part of our series, “Thirteen Tips For Stronger Branding.” See the rest of the series HERE.


No matter what category your brand competes in, it’s becoming harder to stand out, since your potential customers are bombarded with so much information every day. That’s why it’s so important to have a really tight elevator pitch. It helps people “get” what you stand for right away and then quickly decide whether they want to learn more about your brand. Write down your pitch in no more than 250 words and continue to practice and perfect it. Start with one headline promise that highlights what your brand enables, not what you offer – and three support points. Rotate and freshen these points depending on your target audience, but be prepared to tell your story in 3 elevator flights, not 10 or even 30. Learn more about honing your elevator pitch here.

Check out tip #11 in the series, Engage In The Conversation.

Brand building doesn’t mean just designing a pretty logo and creating a cool name. It means choosing a bull’s eye target and defining your unique brand promise to connect with your consumers on an emotional level. Bottom line: you need to pay attention to your brand and perfecting your elevator pitch is a huge part of that.

Brand School’s premier branding program will help you zero-in on your brand.  Brand School takes best practices of beloved brands such as Virgin, Apple, and Zappos and brings them to life in engaging videos, interactive exercises and access to an exclusive private community of fellow entrepreneurs. Learn more about Brand School and find out about our special discounts just for social media friends when you sign up for our newsletter.

“I highly recommend tis class to anybody, to both those who have been in business for a long time, and those just starting out because it will put your business on a different level.” – Dr. Marina Kostina, Distance Learning Specialist, CEO of  wired@heart

Build Your Verbal Identity

This post is part of our series, “Thirteen Tips For Stronger Branding.” See the rest of the series HERE.


The right words are key to your brand’s success. As marketers, branders and community managers, we tend to think about branding in terms of images – company logos, photos, a website’s look and feel. It’s important, though, to also pay attention to your verbal identity. Your company’s name, product names and taglines, and the everyday language you use to communicate your brand promise make up your verbal identity. Look at a differentiated brand like Starbucks. It’s no coincidence that the company’s branding has a lexicon all its own; servers are baristas, a large coffee becomes a Venti Blonde, a medium is a Grande, etc. Take some time to define your brand’s tone of voice and look for opportunities to use it to connect with your customer and reinforce what’s special about your brand. Your hard work will pay off.

Check out tip #4 in the series, Get Out and Go On a Brand Safari.


Brand School is the premier program that teaches you how to grow your business with a stronger brand. In our session about how to build your verbal identity, we look at Starbucks, Apple, Nike, and Innocent Drinks for lessons in how to leverage names, taglines and tone of voice, put this knowledge to work immediately to beef up your brand’s verbal identity. In the words of Nike “Just Do it” –  learn more about the next semester of Brand School and receive news of exclusive offers for BrandTwist social media friends when you sign up for the BrandTwist newsletter HERE.

“The Brand School course gave in-depth actionable tools for real business and cultural development and product innovation… far exceeding all expectation.” – Jamie Freitas, Graphic Design and Social Media Marketing

Considerations for Choosing Your Small Business Name

This is a guest post submitted by Sarah Levy of Merchant Express. Visit the Merchant Express Resource Center for more great small business resources.

What’s in a name? When it’s the name of your small business, there’s a lot riding on getting it right. There was a time when all you had to do was choose a moniker that reflected the products or services your business provides — Ahab’s Fish Shack, for example, or Betty’s Yarn Barn. But today, with the emergence of brands and marketing, the Internet and social media, a little more reflection and homework is in order.

Choosing the Right Name

Ideally, you will choose the name that most closely reflects your brand identity. Brand (derived from branding, as in cattle) is defined as a name, term, design, symbol or other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as being distinct from those of other sellers. Think of your brand as the personality that identifies your business. Your brand identity is the outward expression of your brand.


When choosing a name for your small business, consider not only how it will sound but how it will look on a sign, on the web, in social media and as part of your logo. Obviously, it needs to be long enough to convey your brand but not so long as to become an impediment to the applications listed.

Make sure it reflects your business philosophy and culture, and that it appeals to your target market. Does it truly “fit” your business, or is it too formal (or not formal enough?) It should be unique enough to be memorable and lend itself to being featured in a variety of settings.

Trademark the Name

A trademark is a brand name. Once you’ve settled on a name (or two or three), you must check to make sure it (or a close variation) is not already trademarked. Learn everything you need to know about trademarks on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) website. Not only does it provide basic information about trademarks, but it also allows you to search trademarks, file forms online, check their status and view documents.

“Although not required, most applicants use private trademark attorneys for legal advice regarding use of their trademark, filing an application, and the likelihood of success in the registration process, since not all applications proceed to registration,” according to the USPTO site. “A private trademark attorney (not associated with the USPTO) may help you avoid many potential pitfalls.”

Filing for a trademark costs less than $300. Applications are accepted online through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).

Federal registration of a mark is not mandatory, but it does have its advantages, primary of which is the protection of your rights. Other benefits include:

  • a notice to the public of your claim of ownership of the mark
  • a legal presumption of ownership nationwide
  • the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the registration.

It is important to note that the USPTO does not monitor the use of trademarks, although it does attempt to ensure that no other party receives a federal registration for an identical or similar mark for related goods or services. Consequently, as the owner of the trademark, you are responsible for bringing any legal action to stop a party from using an infringing mark.

Register Your “Doing Business As” Name

When you form a business, the legal name of the business defaults to the name of the person or entity that owns the business. If you choose to call it something else, you should register the new name as a DBA (Doing Business As) name. This is also referred to as a trade name or assumed name.

Registering your DBA lets your state government know that you’re doing business as a name other than your own personal name or the legal name of your partnership or corporation. Registering the legal name of your business is important because it is required on all government forms and applications, including your application for employer tax IDs, licenses and permits.

If your name is also your business name, you can skip DBA registering. A DBA is typically needed by sole proprietors or partnerships and for existing corporations or LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a DBA guide online.

Claim Your Website Address

Your URL is crucial to your web presence, so claim it as soon as possible. You can find out if your business name has already been taken online by doing a simple web search — just type it into a search engine and hit “enter”.

If it’s not already being used, you also need to see whether the domain name is available. Visit the WHOIS data base of domain names and follow the step-by-step instructions.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to set up your social media identity as well, starting with Facebook and Twitter. Note that Facebook requires you to have 25 fans in order to claim a vanity or custom URL. Many businesses reach this milestone quickly by asking friends, family and customers to “like” their FB page.

Whatever name you end up using, really own it — and best of luck in your small business endeavors!


Do Blondes Have More Fun? Starbucks Thinks So

I recently came across this new Blonde coffee variety from Starbucks and I think it’s a great example of a name that’s descriptive without being boring.

Starbucks could have gone with more traditional descriptors like “Light” for this new variety.

But by choosing the name “Blonde” they are both helping the consumer navigate the choice of the many varieties and imparting a bit of personality – part of the strategy of what has made this brand so strong. They understand that it’s about the experience – not just the functionality. And they have always known that the devil is in the details.

Too often brands think the have to make a choice between clear and clever.

Starbucks shows you can have your (coffee) cake and eat it too.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What other great descriptive names have you noticed?

Identifying your specific market niche and honing your brand’s verbal identity takes strategic thinking. Our Brand School program will give you actionable steps and strategies that you can use to grow a strong brand.  Receive more information about the next semester and receive free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

Please also join us on Twitter and Facebook for more insight and discussion on branding.

“Brand School allowed me to get to the essence of my  brand. I was able to hone and tighten up my brand. Thank you, Julie, it’s a great program.” – Jonathan Flaks, President, Jonathan Flaks Coaching Associates