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Jeremy Miller

August 1, 2017 by Speakers' Spotlight

Quirks Make Your Brand Unforgettable

Sticky brands exist in almost every industry. They’re the brands that customers trust and turn to first. So, if your brand isn’t sticky, why not?  Branding expert Jeremy Miller shows organizations of all sizes what it takes to attract consumers like bees to honey. With clients including BMO, Leon’s, and Boehringer Ingelheim, Jeremy’s blend of humour, stories, and actionable ideas inspire creative strategies to help organizations find their “sticky factor” to entice more business, sell faster, become immune to the competition, and earn higher profits. Here, Jeremy explains why “quirks” are essential to successful brands:

Brilliant brand names aren’t perfect. They have flaws and quirks, but that’s what makes the name interesting and memorable.

You’re naturally drawn to quirks. Dr. Sheldon Cooper, the lead character in The Big Bang Theory, is a brilliant physicist with a laundry list of character flaws. For instance, Sheldon’s OCD drives him to knock on a person’s door in a distinct pattern of threes:

Knock, knock, knock, “Penny ….”

Knock, knock, knock, “Penny ….”

Knock, knock, knock, “Penny ….”

The behavior is odd, but it’s endearing and memorable. It’s hard to forget Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

Quirks have an impressive pull on your memory. You notice things that don’t fit expectations, and that makes the item more memorable. This is a powerful lesson in branding. Perfect brand names are less memorable. It’s the quirks that make a name unforgettable.

Naming Quirks Are Profitable

Some of the most iconic brand names are blatantly flawed.

FCUK, for instance, is the acronym for French Connection UK. The name created an immediate controversy because the acronym looked like the F-word, but it stuck.

The name was so memorable that it propelled the brand to incredible heights. Between 1997, when the fcuk campaign launched, to 2001 the company’s profits soared from £6.4m to £19m, and its stock price rose over two and half times.

A quirk can make a brand name hard to forget, and that creates a competitive advantage. Customers will gravitate towards the products they know and recognize.

Death by Committee

One of the reasons that committees are detrimental to the naming process is they quash quirks.

Quirks rarely live through a committee selection process. Someone will deride a flaw of a potential name, and that criticism effectively kills the name before it even has a chance.

Slack, for example, would not pass the scrutiny of a committee. Slack is an office messaging app that improves team communication and reduces email. The brand name is short, memorable, and flawed.

A quick dictionary search of “slack” demonstrates a word with negative traits:

  • Laziness: A slacker who does as little possible.
  • Decline: The business lacks work or activity.
  • Looseness: A rope that is loosely held in position. There’s slack in the line.

A committee could fixate on the negative attributes, and may conclude the word isn’t credible or powerful enough for the brand. That would’ve been a mistake. Slack is a brilliant brand name, because it’s suggestive. The app gives you space to be great.

Slack explains, “Our name may seem funny, but think on this: without slack, there is no reach, no play, no flexibility, no learning, no evolution, no growth.”

Decision by committee is a path to mediocrity. A committee can’t help but select safe, forgettable brand names, because they kill the interesting ones with quirks.

Embrace the Quirks

A hero without character flaws is one-dimensional, and a brand name without quirks is boring.

When choosing a brand name look for the quirks and flaws. Logically you may be able to use the quirks to explain why you shouldn’t choose the brand name, but avoid that impulse. Take a moment to embrace the quirk and amplify it:

  • How would your brand evolve if you owned the quirk?
  • Does it make your brand more endearing and memorable?
  • Does the quirk emphasize an outcome or a truth about your products and services?

You may not choose a quirky name for your brand, but you may discover names that are more interesting and engaging. Safe names are functional, but forgettable. It’s the quirks that push your brand to the boundaries and make it unforgettable.

Jeremy Miller/August 2017