Welcoming guests and clients to Birch Studio, we offer water to drink:
“Would you like some water?”
“A water would be great, thanks.”
We say “some” water, they say “a” water. It’s such a slight turn of phrase but it illustrates the power of a single word.
“Some” is served in a glass and “a” water is served in a bottle. Right?
The first has an inherent sense of grouping. The second has a distinct individuality about it.
We use terms like “some”, “they”, “those”, “this” and “we” to identify something in general. They refer to a certain amount or group of something. But they are not defined by name. They are referred to in terms of groupings, in a sense.
“A” changes that. “A” is more singular and isolated. “A” has an autonomy about it that “some”, “they”, “those”, “this” and “we” don’t.
With the change of “some” to “a”, water is subtly quantified, turned into a discernible amount of something. And that something can begin to have an identity. That definition of the object as a thing is a necessary first step in developing a brand.
You can probably imagine where I’m going with this. It’s almost a story about the continuum from commodity to product. First there’s some stuff that fills a need. Then people start to like it a lot. Then someone recognizes its value and ramps up the promotion of it, delivering it in their own special way to the masses. At that point, they’d probably want to name it and make it their own. Thus, a glass of water from the tap turns into a bottle of water from the store, which may be named something. Dasani anyone?
Reading through “Holsigner’s Charlottesville”, a book about old Charlottesville recently, I was struck by how the names of the businesses were all people’s names: H.M. Gleason, a farm supply store; John A. Gilmore, a fine furniture store; Sensibaugh-Ritchie, an electrical appliances store. This is the rudimentary beginning of branding. Rather than the small town style of just hanging out a shingle that says “Shoe Store”, these people had the sense to put their name on it. But naming was still very much tied to the name of the proprietor.
Think about other big names we know: Kellogg’s, Campbell’s, Johnson & Johnson, Smith & Wesson. There definitely were non-family names in business back in the day, but they tend to be created much more these days. Perhaps because there are so many of us that a last name isn’t as unique as it used to be. But also in part because a constructed brand name can capture the imagination so much more. It’s another arrow in your branding quiver.
Now, for a coffee. Or is it some coffee?