Owens, J. (2000), "The OmniPowerful Brand: America’s #1 Brand Specialist Shares His Secrets for Catapulting Your Brand to Marketing Stardom", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 358-372. https://doi.org/10.1108/jcm.2000.17.4.358.6
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
In a world flooded with books on brand management, Frank Delano provides a valuable contribution in creating great brand names. In a style that is both informative and breezy, Delano draws on his extensive experience in brand naming and imaging as President and CEO of Delano and Young, Inc. References to his firm are not intrusive or self‐promoting. Instead, Delano describes numerous branding successes and some failures from his and other companies, and provides excellent step‐by‐step guidance in creating brand names. His experience ranges across numerous product categories, from pharmaceuticals to automobiles to any number of consumer products. The text encompasses many layers of branding, including company and product‐level brands as well as other aspects that affect brand image, such as salesperson interactions and service support.
The book is divided into two major sections. The first half justifies the price of this book in its discussion of what makes a great brand name and detailing a process for finding one (or many!). It is useful to anyone contemplating a new brand name or evaluating a current name. Some chapters in this section are: “The Current Process,” “A New Understanding: The Brand Name as King,” “Secrets to Naming Products and Companies,” “The Seven Proven Principles,” and “A Proven Process.” Delano describes both poor and productive processes for branding products, including why taking the advice of an ad agency often leads to weak names, and the weaknesses of some computer‐generated names. Many marketing managers will recognize both winning and weak cases from their own experience, and appreciate the insight that Delano provides into what went right or wrong. The critical factors center on Delano’s Seven Proven Principles (p. 50):
(1) Capture the product’s essence, uniqueness, or spirit (ideally in one word) with a big idea.
(2) Win the consumer’s attention, inspire the imagination.
(3) Insist on a quality of sound that is highly appropriate to the product’s category.
(4) Keep it simple.
(5) Make it unforgettable by creating a visual image and sound that are recorded in the consumer’s mind forever.
(6) Stay targeted on the product’s correct sexual image profile.
(7) Make believable what you claim the product is capable of delivering.
Delano elaborates on each of these principles in an easy‐to‐follow, step‐by‐step process. Along the way, the reader finds a useful tool in Image Mapping to keep the brand effort focused. There is helpful advice in pre‐launch reviews and testing, trademark applications, and marshaling resources inside and outside the firm to deliver a first‐rate branding effort. While this guidance is relevant to firms large and small, the value of a professional firm like Delano’s is evident.
Delano’s prescriptions provide generally wise guidance, and my criticisms of this section of the book are minor differences of opinion. For example, Delano champions brands that are easy to pronounce and without dual pronunciations, but this rule may be most applicable to mass market products. His process would have eliminated brand names such as Vuitton and Hermes, and Chanel may have been a toss‐up (although Delano admires Chanel’s brand management). Further, Delano seems to have a higher threshold for brand ubiquity before it results in brand overuse, boredom, or downright tackiness. How many more places in the marketplace do we need to see Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jordan, or Disney characters? Do we need the name Viagra extended to other products that connote “resurrection, jump‐starts, vim, and value..” as Delano suggests? (p. 5) Viagra sportswear, anyone?
The books’s second half is titled, “Building a Brand Name Into the OmniPowerful Brand,” but is best considered “Brand Management Lite.” Again, Delano cites numerous examples that demonstrate the importance of brand consistency, packaging, product innovation, quality, after‐sales service, and advertising in growing and supporting good brand names. There are also look‐to‐the‐future discussions of marketing on the internet, teaming up with other power brands, etc. However, there are better and more detailed books in brand management that are readable and more instructive to practitioners. One is David A. Aaker’s Managing Brand Equity (Free Press), which is not as insightful in naming brands but is still a benchmark in building valuable brands.
My main complaint with this book is the implication that a great brand name should be the focal point of a marketing strategy (“Nothing is more important in building a brand than the selection of the brand’s name,” p. xiv and p. 19). While a good brand name will facilitate a product’s market acceptance, and a weak brand name may hurt it, many other factors have stronger influences on a product’s competitiveness unless the name is an outright dog. (Delano hilariously identifies many of these that were seriously considered by a firm’s management.) More critical success factors may include the increasing sophistication and knowledge of customers who are not as easily swayed by brand names; meaningful product innovation (no one thought they needed a new suitcase until the wheelies came along); astute market intelligence systems; designing the right products for the right market segments; supplier and channel cooperation; more rapid product introductions in a number of industries; more aggressive competitors on many fronts; and channels that are evolving via direct mail, patronage rewards, and the internet.
The best brand name won’t save a product that didn’t get the product and execution right in the first place. For example, Delano was impressed by the brand names of Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe, and Fashion Cafe, and championed the extension of their names to numerous products and consumer experiences. Lost in the discussion was a critique of the original belief that consumers wouldn’t tire of over‐priced, mediocre food in loud, overhyped settings. Delano might claim that the execution didn’t evolve and live up to the potential of the brand name after initial success, but smart consumers would wonder if there was a sustainable product to begin with.
Practitioners would buy this book for its excellent advice in naming brands, but should recognize the limits of even the best brand name. Academics would find the processes described and examples useful for their classroom activities and points of discussion.