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What’s in a name?

I sometimes find myself helping businesses that use an abundance of naming conventions for their companies, products, and services. Where the target market for all these names is the same, using a large number of names in your marketing simply confuses your customers. Simplification rules. Always.

It’s always worth thinking about differential advantage where your target market is the same. There’s value in using company name alone where your target market is the same and there is no differential advantage. Think McKinsey – which brands everything as “McKinsey”.

Alternatively where your target market is the same but there is differential advantage, consider using the company name to endorse the product brand. Think Cadbury’s Flake and Cadbury’s Twirl. Here the target market is the same: everyone who enjoys chocolate. That’s covered by the company name. There is differential advantage though around the texture of the chocolate. Flake is more crumbly than Twirl. So there is value to customers in having a product name as well as a company name. Product name though gets more attention than company name in these circumstances.

Another example is of Apple iPad and Apple iPhone. The target market is the same: everyone who wants handheld devices. But there is differential advantage based on the location of the user. So company name combined with a more emphasised product name adds value to the customer.

Google offers products that stray across target markets and advantages. Google AdWords and Google Adsense have similar target markets for advertising products but differential advantage. So company name and product name are used together with the emphasis on the latter. Compare that with YouTube and Android. Here Google uses a unique brand name because the target markets are different and there is differential advantage. Or look at Google Maps and Google Apps. Here a company name and grade are used to reflect a similar target market and no differential advantage.

It’s interesting to look at how the most valuable brands in the world apply their branding strategies. Apple tends to use their company name as an endorsement to their product brand (Apple iPad). But not always (Apple TV). Microsoft do the same (Microsoft Office, Microsoft Xbox, Microsoft Windows). Google tend to add company name to product name. But not always (Android). Coca-Cola use their company name on the packaging of different product brands. Samsung use their company name to endorse their product. As does Toyota.

There’s a lot of strategic thinking to put into what names your business uses and how.

Categories: b2b b2b marketing brand Branding Creativity customer marketing Naming

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Dave is an experienced global B2B Chief Marketing Officer / Marketing Director with an established reputation for delivering commercial results in start-up, mid-tier, and blue-chip businesses across technology, and business services and professional services sectors.

Dave has worked for major brands such as Telefonica O2, EY, and Barclays and held posts from Chief Marketing Officer to Director of Online, has run his own business, and managed a P&L for a major corporate. He is chair and co-founder of the Business Marketing Club ( - a network of B2B marketers. In 2019, he was named one of the top 100 B2B European marketing leaders ( He is a graduate of Cambridge University, a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Chartered Marketer and holds a MBA with Imperial College, London. Dave is a keen cyclist and adventure traveller, is married, and lives in Buckinghamshire. You can read his blogs at

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