Resonant Congruent Differentiation Explained (Really!)
I know, the phrase “Resonant Congruent Differentiation” could scare your ears. It sounds like that concept you learned and quickly forgot in Psych 101. But stick with me a moment and I think you’ll see that it’s rather simple, easily understood, and very pertinent to the way people create a brand name or slogan for a business, product or service.
Having recently gone through some re-roofing trauma, a lawn sign promoting a contractor caught my attention. “Mr. Fussy Roofing” it read. First, I chuckled at the name because of its seeming oxymoronic nature. And it is a name with amusement value. Moments later, reconsidering the value of "fussy," I thought: “I wish I knew about that guy when I had my roof done.”
Mr. Fussy Roofing is an almost perfect example of a differentiated product or service name that’s congruent and resonates beautifully. Without an advanced marketing degree, Mr. Fussy clearly understands brand strategy. When you’re coming up with names, this is exactly what you should be striving for: resonant congruent differentiation. So let’s break down what this phrase means by biting into intellectually chewable chunks.
Go Ahead, ‘Splain Resonant Congruent Differentiation
Let us read from right to left: differentiation means that you are not confused with competitors, that you stand out from the crowd in a positive way. If all the companies that make steel are named after locations or owners, such as Bethlehem or Harris Steel, you won’t achieve much differentiation if you’re called Rogerson Steel. Choose Strong Steel Co and, at least, you’ve demonstrated a positioning and promise in your name. You've taken a first step toward creative, effective branding and marketing.
Now for the resonant congruent portions. Congruent, as in being consistent with the qualities and values personified in the products/services you provide. If you make a high-end speaker system, naming it Mickey’s Speakers would not be a good path. People would think you had a “Mickey Mouse” product and naming it after your self sounds low budget and small time. This name is incongruent with the image you wish to convey. It's the kind of name that starts you off in the weeds so you have to hack your way out to establish a quality branding identity.
Resonant, in a very basic sense, means that the name makes the prospect or customer feel in alignment with the key message that the name of your product or service communicates. It’s credibility, appropriateness, a connection with your brand. And this is true if it's a product brand, service brand, or corporate brand.
Mr. Fussy Roofing: Our Branding Hero
Let’s use Mr. Fussy Roofing as our example. For right or wrong, roofing contractors do not always have the greatest reputations. People are suspicious of getting ripped off or of shoddy work. (A neighbor had a new roof put on. It drained improperly so water went between the siding and the underlayment. This was, as my daughter says, UNgood. And costly.) Many roofing contractors are small businesses and do not put a lot of thought into their name and brand personality. (Exhibit #1: A local contractor named DBA Roofing.) Many other MALE business owners would find Mr. Fussy to be too cute or feminine a name, and would instantly rule it out.
However, our Mr. Fussy was not swayed by stereotypes. He went outside the macho comfort zone to create a name that resonated congruently with me, his typical audience, and achieved positive differentiation. What do I take away from Mr. Fussy Roofing from the name alone? He cares, he’s different than most, he features attention to detail, he’ll likely do an excellent job, and he does roofing. All from three words! And that's even without a creative slogan or tagline!
Contrast this with DBA Roofing. All I know is that they do roofing, and perhaps that they couldn’t think of a name until the woman at the county clerk's office asked, "What's your DBA?" I don’t know anything more about what they stand for, what their vision is, or how they do business. Even their tag line, "Roofing since 1964" just lays there, making no promise, delivering no inspired benefit. However, two words – Mr. Fussy – communicates so much more that is valuable and powerful. Mr. Fussy differentiated his business. I get it and like what he promises, so it resonates with me, and the idea of a roofer being fussy is very congruent and highly desirable.
So Why Don’t More Companies Create Resonantly Congruent Differentiated Names?
There are many reasons: ego, inability to be objective about your own branding, stubbornness, caution, corporate culture, a desire to take a safe middle road and on and on. This desire not to take a chance applies just as often at big corporations as it does in small businesses.
Many people may think that Geek Squad is a great name. It’s more fun, evocative and compelling than Your Computer Experts or some other safe, vanilla choice. Yet when it comes to their own name, people get scared and go down a safe path. I recently named a coffee shop “Thanks a Latte.” Would you rather go there for that promised experience or to Herb’s Coffee Hut?
Obviously, you have to take your audience into account. Thanks a Latte is aiming for a Starbucks-type of crowd: more upscale, willing to pay a bit more for quality. Yet, in many cases, a striking, effectively clever, or even surprising name will take you so much further, especially if your marketing budgeting is limited. (Hey, isn’t everyone’s?)
Unless you’re one of those cavemen from the Geico commercials, you know that a geek is computer nerd. A geek squad is a whole mess of ‘em. Chances are you’ll find 25 PC repair guys in your Yellow Pages called "Some Name Computer Repair." You’ll only find one Geek Squad. Let’s say you see three commercials. One for Phil’s Computer Shack, another for Waterville Computer Repair, and the third for Geek Squad. Which are you going to remember? And who are YOU going to call?
This brings up another key attribute of memorable, powerful names: attitude. Geek Squad, Thanks a Latte, Mr. Fussy... they all bring a distinctive point of view to the name. A name you can connect with almost viscerally. Consider Mr. Fussy one more time. Who has more of a persona in two words: Mr. Fussy or Bob's Roofing? Who conveys more depth of appropriate and convincing meaning in two words? While finding a brand name that fits is important, creating one that projects a positive personality, one that you and your business believe in, will go a long way toward developing true differentiation and memorability. You could say this attitude will give you greater resonance with proper congruence, if you do it right. Now you truly have a creative, powerful brand name worthy of promotion that will take your business further.
Do You Want to Describe What You Do, Or Be Memorable?
If you’re going to name your company and have it stand out from the competition, choosing a functional name like The Tofu Shack isn’t really going to dazzle anyone. The Tofu Shack doesn’t go any further than simply being functional on a very basic level, but I've seen worse. Ever notice a truck go by you on the expressway that says something like “Kordis.” They may even have a tag line, such as “Bringing the World to You." Yet you wonder, “What do they do?” Are they importers? A global delivery service? Do they manufacture desktop globes? They have this incredible opportunity to create thousands of impressions a day with consumers on the highway and they can’t even be bothered to say what they do. This is truly a waste of a great moving billboard.
Big companies are fond of neologisms (invented words or terms) such as Claris or Pentium. They get away with it because they have huge budgets. I think you know there’s Intel inside by now. Yet have you ever heard of Comergent? And if you did, would you remember it?
There are other types of names: acronyms, evocative, descriptive, alphanumerical, aspirational and on and on. That’s a topic for a future article.
Yes, your name, brand identity and positioning needs to be more than resonant, congruent, and differentiated. Other essential aspects of your brand include being authentic, connected, able to be lived every day, attention to every detail of customer contact, and so on. But an excellent starting point is the resonant/congruent/differentiated test. Think about those ideas in relation to your name or brand.
Chuck Ingersoll is president and Panamanian strongman at brandsandtags.com. He's also associate creative director at Mason Selkowitz Marketing in Rochester, and the voice of hearchucknow.com, a site where he provides voice talent and audio production services. On the branding front, he's created names, taglines, slogans and positionings for companies, products, services and events for over 20 years, working directly for clients and national branding agencies. From naming high-end office furniture to slogans for a hot dog stand... to naming sunglasses for Ray-Ban and developing positioning for Ireland's largest online furniture retailer, Chuck focuses on powerful, effective ideas that are memorable and achieve lasting results. As Steve Rivkin, author, consultant and fonder of Rivkin Associates put it: "Chuck Ingersoll gets it. His taglines have something special to say. They differentiate and are crafted so that consumers remember them."
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