Can a single word define your brand?

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WordI was reading the Duct Tape Marketing blog yesterday and came across a post that really got my wheels turning … What’s the Measure of One Word? I think I even dreamed about it, one of the unfortunate side effects of being a serial blogger.  In it, John Jantsch says:

“It’s absolutely essential that you find a way to differentiate your business in a meaningful way. I know I talk about this all the time, but it’s that important.

What if you interviewed a handful of clients and asked them this question: “What’s the ONE word you would use that best describes what we do well?” Is it fast, attentive, welcoming, creative, cheap, cool, techie, smart, caring? One word is tough, but you need to get there. One simple word that sums up how you are different. If you can do that, and it’s a word that means a lot to a lot, your marketing job will be significantly easier.”

Wow, choosing one word seems like such a challenge, but it really does force you to think clearly about how you distinguish yourself from your pack of competitors.

In the early hours this morning, I started to think about a number of businesses I am familiar with, and the words I would use to describe them:

  • Ali Brown, The Ezine QueenSexy.  Strange, I know, to have this word come up for someone that writes about the merits of e-newsletters and online marketing.  Doesn’t sound too racy, does it?  But the owner, Ali Brown, consciously markets herself as “online marketing expert and party girl.”  She includes pictures of herself in bikinis cavorting in Mexico and details exploits with her gal pals in limo rides around Beverly Hills in her blog.  She is actually really sharp and provides lots of good info.  But, agree with it or not, she has chosen to promote a brand that says “if you listen to my advice, you could have a life like me!” and … subconsciously, “maybe you can look a little bit like me too!”  Who wouldn’t want to look like a Baywatch character all by writing a good newsletter?
  • Andy WibbelsEdgy.  Andy is a long-time blogging evangelist and business coach that wrote the book Blogwild and always has a funny and sarcastic slant on the world.  An example is his short “Loofah Your Blog” excerpt from his Blogging Blunders mini-lesson.  Or the recent post Trimming the Freaks about  getting rid of annoying customers or blog readers. He is not afraid to take a stand on unpopular topics.  Edgy might not be the word he uses to describe himself:  it may be  Natty, per the comment from his friend Suzanne Falter-Barns.
  • Robert Middleton, Action Plan MarketingClear.  Robert is a marketing expert that works exclusively with independent service professionals.  Everything I read from him is straightforward, easy to understand and logical.  He is not what I would consider radical or revolutionary, but he has a knack for creating processes and systems that make marketing accessible to people that are new to the field.
  • Dave Barry, Miami Herald columnist:  Hilarious.  It might just be me, but I can’t help laughing outloud whenever I read one of Barry’s columns.  Like “Honk if You’re Married and Can’t Cope With Anger” or “Science:  It’s Just Not Fair.”  He is more than sarcastic, or sardonic,or witty.
  • Joel Spolsky, Joel on SoftwareSmart.  I am not a technical person, but I really enjoy reading what Joel writes.  There may be a more specific word to describe what makes him unique, but I can’t find it … if you know of a word that combines  smart + funny + accessible, that would be his word.   Amazing X-Ray Glasses from Sprint and The Development Abstraction Layer are good examples of his writing, which always make me think and smile.

These examples illustrate my perspective on people I see from afar as an interested reader or customer.  As you try to come up with your own word that distinguishes your company, think about it from the perspective of your customers, readers or users.  Which adjective would they use to describe you?  John suggests:

“What if you asked all your clients and associates to help you come up with your word and then asked them to give you their thoughts on what that word means or how they experience that word. (This would make a very fun activity for a client appreciation party – just add beer.)

If you actually did that you might uncover some incredible marketing material and may even come up with the motivation to inject your word and all its various meanings into everything you do – make your word your filter for every marketing decision.”

Any thoughts  on a word for your own business?  I am kind of perplexed for mine – your suggestions are appreciated. (a recent commenter, unimpressed with a short post, suggested “vague” and “metaphysical.” as in “That was so vague and metaphysical it was of no practical use.”  I have a feeling I couldn’t launch a strong marketing campaign with those words 🙂

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18 Responses to “Can a single word define your brand?”

  1. Word Game: What’s Your One Word That Says It All?

    I’ve read several posts over the last month that talk about finding one word that sums you and your business up. And there’s the whole long copy vs. short copy debate rekindled. In his book, Words That Work: It’s Not

  2. Pam,
    For you, cheerleader.

    Stephanie Weaver

  3. Independence – This is the word that I think of when I think of your blog. It encompasses Freedom (or Free as was said), Empowering, Revolutionary (for North Americans anyway) and Hope. Just my view.

    For my business – Transforming.
    Paraphrasing what people tell me: Your views changed my views and helped me transform my business.

    Great post. The collective minds at work are a wonderful thing to see. I really enjoy reading each morning. Now I have to get some work done or I will be returning to the cubicle nation.

  4. My one branding word is “actionist”. It’s all about being decisive. I’ve even defined it. Check it out in this post from March,

  5. Anonymous says:

    Can a single word define your brand?

    This post from the Escape From Cubicle Nation blog makes some questions on the subject of a word being able to define your brand as a whole.

  6. Pamela Slim says:

    Thanks for all your great words and thoughts everyone! It is so fascinating to hear your perspective on what my work means to you.

    “humbled” is my word of the day.


  7. Nadine says:


    I know, more than one word. But that’s what comes to mind.

  8. Mike Ambrose says:

    I say you’re “empowering.” When I think I can’t go it on my own with my consulting niche idea, I come here for a positive jolt of energy!

  9. And so many great suggestions for your word, Pam. I think I’d have to cast my vote and second “passion” and “hope” as your defining one-words.

  10. This is an easy one for me. I named my business on the exact premise–The Relief!

    I’m the “relief” clients get when they have a competent assistant, trusted advisor and spirited cheerleader all rolled into one who takes on their administrative burdens and gives them much-needed space in their business.

  11. Great post. The word that immediately popped for me and what I do is “REAL”. It’s about being a real person, and doing what really works for YOU…and not to mention I am about as ‘real’ as you can get.

    For you, I might consider “Revolutionary”… and in leading a revolution.

  12. Jef says:

    I’d say “motivating” as a one word description of your blog. Although the above mentioned “freedom” would also be great!

    Keep motivating us on our road to freedom !

  13. Leah Maclean says:

    “Insight” is the word I would choose for you Pam. Insight is what you have, it is what you share and it is what others gain by reading/learning from you.

  14. Julie says:

    “Hope” is the word I think of for Escape From Cubicle Nation. You give uplifting yet practical advice.

  15. I like the challenge of it. I prefer two words, though – which I got from Dick Richards’ book “Is Your Genius at Work?: 4 Key Questions to Ask Before Your Next Career Move.” Mine? Still working on it. Maybe “Smart Enabler”? 🙂

  16. John Jantsch says:


    What a great addition to the idea.

    You do such thoughtful writing.

    So what is Pam’s word: Passion – sometimes caring enough about something is well, enough – vague and metaphysical is just what people who don’t see it, might see.

    That’s my take.

  17. Audall says:

    “Free”. When I think of you’re blog and what you do, I think of the word “free”. Not sure if that’s what you’re looking for. But that’s a very powerful word, meaning, and concept. It can be an adjective, adverb, or verb.

  18. WOW…Ah Ha..the one word that describes my new business Buttons of Hope is well… ONE
    We make custom photo buttons to honor people who have passed away or to help people who are doing active charity fundraising events — we also make buttons for schools — so parents and friends can proudly display their ONE favorite player.
    We are unique because we make one button at a time, of one person, for one person! Yes I think Buttons of Hope is best defined by the one word, ONE!