Branding: A Publisher’s Riff

September 2002
by Johnny Hamilton

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I awoke to Paul Simon singing “Kodachrome” the other morning. The verbal imagery brought new ideas to me on the subject of branding. Simon was singing, “Momma, don’t take my Kodachrome away.” He used a brand name in a song to tell his mother not to take the color from his life. To leave him room to blossom. To not make him live a black-and-white life. And we understood his meaning because we recognized his intent in using Kodachrome.
Successful branding does that. Show you the name and you see the associated image or colors. Show you the image, you know the name. Kodak started in the late 19th century. Kodak was a camera with film. Then it was a camera or film. Then a film. Now a camera with no need for film. The original brand has expanded and been applied to new products for over a century.
Branding follows us through every step of our lives. Certain images bring up particular words, emotions, smells. And vice versa. Some are universal and some local. There’s inadvertent branding, unintentional branding, intentional branding, brand awareness, and there is brand failure and brand destruction.
We brand our companies by naming them. We can hang them with a moniker that no one can remember or say. We can choose names that roll off the tongue. We can make nonsense have meaning or we can turn intelligent terms into garbage. It seems wise to think clearly and into the future when we provide titles for books. We are branding them.

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