Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Think You're Unique? You're Not Alone

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Think You're Unique? You're Not Alone

Article excerpt

When Edward Perry launched his ready-made food business in 1997 he was, by his own admission, spectacularly naive. He underestimated everything from the amount of funding he needed to the importance of a business plan.

Today, however, with more than 200 staff, 18 shops and a growing online business, Perry has every right to feel that his decisions have eventually been proved correct. Except for one major error he made seven years ago, when he named his brand Cook.

It is a horribly generic name. There are more than 50 instances of the word being registered by other brands as part of their trademark. So, when Marks & Spencer launched a private-label brand called Cook in 2000, Perry was naturally dismayed - but he should not have been surprised.

Perry's Cook is now convinced that the M&S Cook is confusing its customers, who are under the impression that the brand has sold out to big retail.

M&S says it is 'puzzled' by these accusations because it claims to have launched its brand name first - and anyway, no one can have exclusive use of the word 'cook' because it is too generic. Clearly, Perry should have been more original.

When Sir Frank Lowe announced late last year that he was planning to open an agency, everyone expected the legendary creative to be anything but generic when selecting a name for it. Apparently the one he chose, The Red Brick Road, was inspired by a conversation he had with a young teacher about what would have happened had Dorothy opted to take the other road in The Wizard of Oz. Cue lots of advertising-infused crap about making hard choices (that cost millions of pounds) and being creative (at a cost of millions) and ignoring any and all research and testing (that just serve to dull creativity and therefore cost millions).

Had Sir Frank and his team done some naming research they would have learned that another agency had pre-empted their name and the ownership of the redbrickroad.com web address, too. Red Brick Road is a US marketing agency run by Roxie and Eric Yonkie in Goodland, Kansas. The company specialises in local tourism and hunting trips (best line: 'NW Kansas deer hunting is great') and makes branded promotional items and stationery for local businesses. I hope that Roxie and Eric have a big mailbox, because from next month they are going to be getting a lot of confused emails from big British blue-chip clients that will assume they have stumbled on some kind of clever postmodern launch site. …

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