Seth Godin posted an article on really bad branding a couple of days ago, pointing out some company names that don’t differentiate companies very well:

Jewelry Central is a really bad brand name. So are Party Land, Computer World, Modem Village, House of Socks and Toupee Town.

It’s a bad brand name because Central or Land or World are meaningless. They add absolutely no value to your story, they mean nothing and they are interchangeable.

Why is differentiation such a key marketing strategy?

It’s simple – you only truly succeed as a brand, and as a business, by being top-of-mind in your targeted clients’ minds. And you can only be top-of-mind in your clients’ minds by having a clear, identifiable, distinguishable identity … ideally an unique identity with a story.

The name is a piece of it – an important piece. The image is an important piece. The story is an important piece. The products you choose to create and market are important pieces. The successes you build are important pieces. The customers that you enable are important pieces.

Put them all together, you’ve got a brand.

But if it’s not differentiated … if a client can’t distinguish your name, image, story, products, and successes from competitors … all of it is meaningless.

Because that client will open up the yellow pages (in other words, Google), search, find you and your competitor, and go eeny meany miny mo. Which means that all your hard work and all your investments in marketing mean nothing. Differentiation, which needs to start before your marketing, and even before your product development, is an effort to ensure this doesn’t happen.

This is all obvious. So why are so many companies not differentiated?

Here’s why: differentiation requires discrimination. If you want to be differentiated, you must say no. There must be certain products you won’t build. Certain markets you won’t pursue. Certain clients you don’t want. These are all clear and undeniable corollaries of choosing certain products that you will invest in, certain markets that you will pursue, and certain clients that you definitely do want.

However, many companies can’t say no.

They fail to see that in saying no, they gain increased capability to say a very focused, powerful yes.