Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Branding - Choosing A Name & Logo

When I was a young manager at Merrill Lynch, more than 30 years ago in Consulting and Sales, I designed stationary that I used for projects and proposals.  It had a thin, two line black border and over in the left hand bottom corner, I placed the Merrill Lynch Bull, the company's famous logo.  It looked really great and very professional.   One day about a year later, I got a call from the Merrill Lynch Bull Police in New York City.  The woman who called told me that they knew that I was using the Bull in an "unauthorized way" and that if I did not cease and desist, I would be fired.  To this day, I am not sure how they learned of my transgression.  There was probably a snitch in our ranks trying to do me in, which is not uncommon in big companies; but then that is another story.  In any case, since I had come from education a few years earlier where it is almost impossible to be fired, I was stunned by the call. 

But I learned an important lesson that I preach to this day and that is never, never mess with the logo, or the image of the company and don't allow anyone else to do it either.   This is the reason why today, our Marketing function reports directly to me because I am keen on controlling the image of our company, first hand.  When we became a stand alone company, I knew that before we had clients, Operations, a sophisticated back office and all the functions needed to run a global company, we had to create an image for the company that we could sell.  We were competing with big companies so we had to look big before we were big. 

In the beginning it was a little like a Jerry Seinfeld episode, it was a show about nothing; but we had to make it look like something substantial and that we did right out of the gate as a stand alone company.  First we had to choose a name.  Since we could not use our  money to retain an expensive consulting firm, I basically got out the dictionary and started turning pages until I found the name that would convey quality and permanence.  I chose the name Paragon because it tied to excellence as a virtue.   I was also keenly aware that one day, we might be an international company so it had to be a name that would work on a global basis.  After getting legal clearance, we were set to go. 

But, we needed a logo, our version of the Merrill Lynch Bull, that could come in front of our name and be an ever lasting part of our brand.  So, I just got out my yellow pad and starting drawing all sorts of shapes.  Before I knew it our Double Diamond logo emerged and remains so to this day.   In my mind, this connection of the two diamonds was to signify the connection among our clients, customers and employees.  And, the diamond itself was to display tenacity, character, integrity, stability and strength. 

What I did not know at the time was that Paragon was also the name of a hundred carat diamond shape in Greek terminology.  That was sheer coincidence.  I chose our Paragon Blue and Silver as a good combination of colors to portray value.   Remember, we could not use our money to hire outside Consultants to do all of this so as an entrepreneur, wearing many hats, I was the Marketing Department among many other functions. 

There were even bigger issues to tackle before we could develop our first marketing brochures.   We had been the Consulting Division of a relocation management company.  I knew early on that if we were ever going to grow beyond my personal skill set in Consulting that we had to offer relocation management services to implement thousands of moves each year to grow well beyond anything I could do personally.  That meant changing the entire mind set of our small company to position our firm for far greater growth than we could ever accomplish as a Consulting company.  We did just that in our first year in business. 

In fact, though we had a few clients to start with, within the very first week of being in business, we signed a very large client, that we had bid as a Weyerhaeuser company, to implement a major group move for 1,200 employees, from 9 cities to 2 cities.   We were off and running.  We had our new name, our new logo, our new colors, our new Marketing materials and a major client.  It was a really sweet beginning and it has been non stop ever since.   

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