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You only have one chance…to make a first impression

June 10, 2011

“You only get once chance to make a first impression.” Someone probably handed you this cliché as you headed off to your first job interview or when you were meeting a new teacher for the first time.  What the cliché implies is that those first impressions are powerful, they are long lasting.  This is true even in business; they are made by your brand. So what does your brand need to have to really catch consumers’ eyes? How do you keep them loyal to your product? Is it a catchy commercial jingle or bright colors on your logo?

                Branding is really made up of more than one component and it all starts with a name.  First impressions are made quickly, so the name needs to be something that is easy for your customers to remember: Paul Johnson’s Amazingly Fabulous Home Improvement and Design Shop is probably not going to stick with them very well.  Alliteration can sometimes help: Coke-Cola, Poultry Pal, Wallside Windows. But keep in mind that you don’t want to create tongue twisters for the consumer.  Simple, direct, and straightforward names are always best: Target, Lowe’s, Jet’s Pizza.  Use your name as a way to tell a customer the most important thing about your product. Jet’s Pizza is fast (you assume from the name), you are right on target to get what you need if you shop at one those stores, if you buy Puffs the tissue will be soft…because they’re puffs.  The name gives you a brief snapshot of not only what the product is, but what its best feature is as well.

                If you happen to have kept up with any of the research done about how people perceive things, you’ll know that some people learn and remember things by hearing them and some by seeing them (and some by doing thing, but that’s another story). This is why logos have been so crucial in branding. It’s one thing to hear a name said, but when you have a visual image to attach to that name it goes a lot farther for many people.  When you see a pair of hands, you know it’s Allstate; you see a giant yellow M and it’s McDonalds.  Here again simple is often best, as you don’t have very long to make that first impression. Nike, for example, has a swoosh mark and the simple phrase: “Just do it.” And yet, everyone knows it’s Nike and people will even pay more to have that little swoosh mark on their shoes.  The logo should be something that is striking with or without color, according to experts, and something that can remain effective in a variety of sizes.

                The final component of that first impression is typically a slogan.  Generally speaking, a logo and a slogan go hand in hand: “You’re in good hands with Allstate” accompanies their logo nicely.  During World War II, the United States Army branded itself with “Uncle Sam wants You,” and the distinguished gentleman pointing his finger at passersby.  Your product name gave you a couple of words to sell your product, but your slogan gives you a whole sentence!  A simple, direct, single sentence, that is.  Some slogans incorporate humor: think Captain Morgan Rum’s “There a little Captain in him.”  That is a great approach for some products, while it may be out of place for others. No matter what the approach, keep the sentence honest and fresh. Don’t claim to be the best, even if you are, because everyone does. Think of the slogan as a way to promote the attribute of the product that you like best. Nike’s “Just do it” promotes the determination and will to succeed. “Just lace up those running shoes and go.”  They are able, in three words, to give their customers a sense of empowerment.  And that is a great first impression.

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