ban these five words from your brand strategy

As i help companies define or re-define their brand strategies, we articulate the core values and attributes of their brands.  We distill from all the things that could be said about their brands the most distinctive and defining elements.mouth_tape1

No matter if the company is a large enterprise or a small business, B2B or a B2C, product or service, new or established, several words always come up in practically every discussion.  And when they do, I have to explain why they aren’t appropriate or effective terms.  Here are the five terms I ban from every brand strategy I work on:

1. “trustworthy” — Every brand aspires to be trustworthy — in fact, that’s the whole point of having a brand.  You want people — customers, employees, partners — to trust that you do what you say you do.  Including such a generic term in a brand strategy is meaningless.

2.  “best” — What makes you the best for one person is different from what makes you the best for another.  It’s an ambiguous term — brand strategies should be descriptive.

3.  “most admired” (or “most loved” or “most respected”, etc.) — Brand strategies should also be prescriptive and defining your brand as “most admired” doesn’t really say anything.  It’s better to say how you will become so esteemed — the distinctive characteristics to you embody or the unique value do you create..

4.  “cool” — If you have to say it, you’re not.

5. “authentic” — You can’t claim you are an authentic brand, you must be it.   People will think your brand is authentic if you actually behave in authentic ways. I wrote a post for my partners at Bulldog Drummond about this last one.  Please check it out.

And let me know if there are other words that should be banned from any brand strategy.  I’m sure you’ve got some good ones.

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  • Add ‘professional’ to that too!

  • I like this list. I’m not a fan of the self-gloss. To extend the logic of #4, if you have to tell someone you’re cool, leading-edge, disruptive, etc. than you’re probably not.

  • deniseleeyohn

    great comments, jeff & brandsworth — thanks!

  • Birgit Blain

    Denise, to add to your list, these frequently used words should be banned from packaged food brand strategies:
    “quality” – In the first place, consumers wouldn’t expect anything less. But, what does “quality” really mean? It is subjective and relative to one’s experience. Qualifying “quality” can make it meaningful.
    “unique” – Chances are it’s been done before. Since “unique” means “only one of its kind”, it is very difficult to achieve.
    “delicious” – Again, it’s subjective and in the eye of the beholder.
    Drilling down with the 5 whys can be a useful exercise in defining brand values and attributes.

    • deniseleeyohn

      love the suggestions, birgit!