Why you don’t get to decide what your brand means

negative-brand-sentimentExtensive thought, planning and design work goes into the creation of a company’s name, logo, and tagline in order to ensure that all 3 do a great job of properly representing the business, culture, and products or services.

What does our name convey?

What does this logo color mean?

How might our customers interpret our message?

I was following along on a recent Facebook thread where an individual in the personal fitness industry asked for opinions from her Friends and Followers on a t-shirt idea she had. The t-shirt was meant for kids to wear, and her target buyers were other parents who also took their workouts, weight lifting and personal fitness as seriously as she does.

The t-shirt idea she proposed was a side-by-side comparison of a “regular” woman, using the generic female restroom icon as imagery, against another image of a very muscular woman with long flowing hair, holding a barbell. Beneath the 2 images were the words “Your Mom” and “My Mom”, with the “My Mom” words lining up beneath the extremely muscular woman, with the flowing hair and barbell.

The responses to the t-shirt idea were in 1 of 2 camps:

  1. The “Drop the Comparison between Moms. This Gives a Poor Impression of You and Your Brand. Remember what Happened with the ‘What’s your Excuse’ Lady? We Have Enough Mommy Wars Already” camp, and
  2. The “Don’t Play it Safe. Who Cares What Anyone Else Thinks?! If They have a Problem with it, It’s Their Problem and Not Yours” camp.

The most significant difference between the 2 camps wasn’t the fact that they disagreed about whether or not she should print and sell these shirts. It was the fact that Camp 1’s reasoning was based on how someone else will interpret the comparison being made in the shirt, and make assumptions about her and her brand based on that statement. Camp 2’s reasoning was self-centered, and rooted the belief that she didn’t need to care about what anyone else thinks.

The fundamental difference between Camp 1 and Camp 2 is the precise point where you need to begin developing your brand’s message and the image you want to portray: If others have a high likelihood of incorrectly interpreting your sentiment or developing a negative feeling about a brand as a result of your name, imagery or marketing message, head back to the drawing board and figure out something better.

If you don’t want to risk being horribly misunderstood – or becoming the next social media sensation for all the wrong reasons – you need to follow along with the reasoning of Camp 1. I know this woman personally, and can tell you she’s an incredibly kind, supportive person who would be just as excited for you if you began a walking exercise regimen as she would be if you were a competitive weight lifter.

I don’t know a business that doesn’t want to grow, and become more and more successful. And the only way to grow is to increase the number of people who are aware of your business and what it has to offer, while viewing your business and brand in a positive light.

You can guess what Camp I’m in with regard to this t-shirt dilemma. When you are making a decision about something as vital as your brand’s image, you absolutely, positively must base your decision on how your message can and will be received by everyone else.



  1. The Week in Social Analytics #110 at TweetReach Blog - […] Why you don’t get to decide what your brand means [from Eli Rose Social Media; written by Liz Jostes]…

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