During the 19th and early 20th centuries, a rancher would mark his cattle with a brand. This brand, depicting an image unique to his ranch, distinguished his cattle from another's in the event of a broken fence. Branding, in today's modern marketing world operates much the same way. It seeks to distinguish a product or service from the competition and create a lasting impression in a prospect's mind.

Pay dear attention to your branding programs from the outset, because they work to strengthen the "link of trust" between your company and its buyers.

Shaping Your Brand Image

To start, consider first the personality of your company. Is it sexy or sweet? Tough or tender? Is it more like John Wayne? George Clooney? Andy Griffith?

And if you think all this is hooey, consider these questions: Do Marlboros really taste better than other cigarettes? Is H&R Block superior to the tax accountant down the street? No, but a big reason these companies are leaders is because they have successfully built a personality around their brands.

Name: the First Step

How different would you be if your name were Clem or Matilda? Your company name sets a tone for your brand, right from the start. Names can be generated from invented words (Xerox), initials (IBM) and founder's names (Johnson & Johnson). Some of the best names, though, communicate a benefit (U-Haul or Budget Car Rental).

Logo: Your Company's Symbol

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Jay Lipe is the president of Emerge Marketing LLC (www.emergemarketing.com), a firm that helps growing companies develop marketing plans. He is the author of the books The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses (Chammerson Press, 2002) and Stand Out from the Crowd: Secrets to Crafting a Winning Company Identity (Kaplan Publishing, fall 2006).