Branding can be wildly fun, but it is tough, tough, tough. I like to compare it to snowboarding — you are either good at it or you realize that it is a sport for people with far more mojo in their boots.
Branding takes time, creative energy, heaps of research, and in most cases, a lot of money. During the time we were picking our company name, the comment was floated, “Hey, you know [name of company] spends upwards of $40,000 just to generate a good name for a new product?”
I was never comfortable spending significant money generating sleek product names — I chose to invest in quality hardware and hoped that customers valued quality over marketing. I think I was right. Time will tell; this strategy is now part of who we are.
I came across a validating point today that I found comforting and quite interesting. My CTO, Earl, was working with a manufacturer building new Linux keyboards. (Background: About a year ago, we pioneered the Ubuntu keyboard, replacing the Windows logo on the Start key with an Ubuntu logo. We were the first and only to do that. It was fun and I will tell you more about it in an upcoming post.) For our new Linux keyboard, we had the penguin graphic looking spunky and solid, but we noticed that manufacturer’s mock-up of the keyboard contained an Internet Explorer hotkey at the top left of the board.
My comment, said with hands on hips: “Well, now, that just won’t do.”
So, we began considering graphics to use to signify the glorious world wide web.
My comment, said with hand thoughtfully on chin: “The web sure doesn’t have a branding manager.”
It occurred to me that when you build something so highly useful, you do not need a solid product image. Of course this is an extreme example, but it does lead the way into what happens when you:
1. let something grow organically,
2. allow it to exist without pressure-marketing, and
3. build it so that quality is customer driven.
Perhaps you have already considered this fact, but it was a bit of a revelation to me. Everyone, myself included, is grappling for The Open Source Business Model yet here is the engine that makes nearly everything we do to communicate with each other possible and it doesn’t even have a brand.
It really is a wildly beautiful, rebellious thing.