For a while now, I’ve been thinking about the notion of one-word brand strategy. The idea is that a brand associates itself with a single word, other than its brand name!

That word could describe anything, an emotion, a benefit, an action, a category or even a colour.

I believe that this ultimate message simplification makes sense as a strategy given the fragmentation that we see in the media and the scarcity of consumer attention. Consumers are bombarded by commercial messages. As marketers we need to give them something to take away.

Is it realistic to expect them to take more than a single word?

The tussle between Coles and Woolworths for ownership of ‘Fresh’ is a great example of this. As is the Commonwealth Bank, which led with ‘Can’t’ and then switched to ‘Can’. I think it’s interesting that the CBA opted for ‘Can'; they might as well have opted for ‘Could’. I wonder if they considered ‘Will’.

Optus have carved out a related territory with ‘Yes’. I wouldn’t be surprised if they find others trying to encroach on that space. Tony Abbott has made progress of sorts with ‘No’.

One of the most memorable and smartest recent executions of this idea is Coke’s campaign with ‘Share’, part of the over-arching ‘Happiness’ strategy. I love this. I think the fact that this is about customers and not the brand tells us a lot about the difference between effective brand marketing in a social age and empty promises.

BlackBerry went with ‘Wake-up’, which qualifies as one word if you use a hyphen. Like Coke it was action oriented but that’s where the similarities end. Lenovo is working with ‘Do’.

You might argue that one-word branding means placing limits on brands and marketing. I think the opposite is true. The word that is chosen should act as a guiding principle for all strategy and creative, ensuring that all investment remains true to a core idea. A North Pole if you like, which provides consumers with a consistent and therefore trustworthy brand connection, as well as effectively and decisively positioning the brand. The word may not actually form part of your external communications but can still play the same role.

The trick with one-word brand strategy is to ensure that it is credible and believable. As with all marketing, brands must live up to their promise. You need a decent wicker lid if you’re going to put all of your eggs in one basket. That’s why the jury is out on the CBA’s campaign. That’s why BlackBerry’s campaign led to questions rather than an answer.

Brands that aren’t readily connected to a single word in the mind of consumers could run the risk of being perceived as ‘hard to define’.

What is your brand’s word? Or what would it be?


Daniel Young
BY Daniel Young ON 12 June 2012
Daniel Young is general manager at Brightpoint Digital.