The Creative Liberation Lab Notes

An official publication of Limeadestand Works

Brand protip: Be pithy!

April 25, 2018 | Branding and brand communications

pithy (comparative pithier, superlative pithiest)

Concise and meaningful.
Of, like, or abounding in pith.


(brief and to the point): terse, concise, laconic, succinct

Hello from the Creative Liberation Lab! This is Willow, and I have not written here much lately. As it happens, I have a really bad case of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and the weather really affects my mental health and productivity. This spring has not been very helpful here in Northwest Oregon.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the importance of client education.

Client education is important if you want your clients to be on the same page as you and in order to keep them from undermining your hard work due to their ignorance.

It is just like if you are a doctor and if your patients don't know what you know, so even though you make your best efforts at keeping your patients get well soon, as long as the patients are not sufficiently educated to understand what you're saying, then most likely they will undermine all your hard work and professional advice.

Same with this industry.

Because of the repeated problems and frustrations I have encountered over the last year, I am expanding some of the Creative Liberation Lab's educational programs for the DIYers to client education -- both prospective and current ones -- so they actually understand what I am doing and why I am dead serious about what I do.

First of this brand protip series will focus on "pithiness."

A lot of small business owners I have met over the last decade or so have lots of dreams. They want to expand, obviously, and they desire that their brand can somehow encapsulate what they do and what they want to do in the future.

Sadly, almost every one of them makes one of the most elementary mistakes when it comes to branding: Too many words!

Bad examples:

What's wrong with any of these?

Most consumers and members of the public (including, more often than not, media professionals) cannot intellectually handle more than three words.

Therefore nobody you know ever refers to the natural foods supermarket chain recently acquired by Amazon as "Whole Foods Market." To them, it's always "Whole Foods." (Same with the Pacific Northwest's own "New Seasons" -- which is actually New Seasons Markets.)

Looking at the above examples, sooner or later everyone will start calling them "Elaine's" (or Elaine's Restaurant or Elaine's Country Kitchen); "A & C's"; "Jamestown Inn"; "Annie's Market"; and "(The) Frog Pond." This phenomenon will be inevitable and you as a business owner simply has no way of stopping it.

Every time you allow your customers, your employees, or even yourself to deviate from your brand in its exact and accurate form, you allow your brand to be diluted. Brand dilution also leads you to a legal disadvantage when there is a trademark dispute.

So, keep your brand under two or three words!

This is so important I cannot overemphasize it.

The only exceptions to the 3-words-maximum rule are: propositions (to, for, of, with, from...), articles (a, an, or the), and the name of a place (e.g., Oregon, Seattle, San Francisco). These generally won't count toward the 2-3-word limit.

And if you're thinking about having a tagline or a slogan for your brand, keep it under six words. Anything longer than six words won't be memorable and therefore loses impact. A tagline or a slogan is not a "boilerplate" or "elevator speech." It is not a place to describe your business.

Use puns, rhymes, play-on-words, or alliterations if you can to make your slogan easy to say and easy to remember. Having a right poetic rhythm helps. Another good way to write your slogan is to pack it with active verbs (active verbs are something like "go, come, run, get"... and not something like "become" and "is").

When it comes to branding, sweet and short is the way to go!