Establishing Brand Identity

Essential TOMA Examples

There are certain companies that dramatically overshadow their competition when it comes to branding. A couple days ago, my partner, Brent, explained something to me about branding I sort of knew in the back of my mind, but never really had articulated into so many words. Yet after he said it out loud, I began to realize its vast importance. Brent told me about something called TOMA, a.k.a. top of the mind association.

There are some brand identities that have mastered the TOMA concept, and subsequently have become the reigning providers in their field. They have done so by creating a dominating force in the heads of potential clients. For instance, when preparing to mail presents for Christmas or sending important documents to a distant location, many people will walk into a shipping spot and tell the owner they need to 'Fed-Ex' something. Now, whether they actually want to send a package using Fed-Ex varies; Other companies often have better prices and faster shipping times than the Fed-Ex ground service. But that shipping store owner is probably going to send their package using Fed-Ex regardless, making Fed-Ex more money as a direct result of successfully establishing TOMA.

Another example can be seen with the Kleenex brand. How many of you when you come down with a runny nose, go to get a 'Kleenex?' Why not just a tissue? The answer is because Kleenex has established top of the mind association with a large audience that you are part of. There are a select few brands that have actually been introduced into the Oxford dictionary because of their exceptional TOMA. Some of these include, Hoover, Xerox, Band-Aid, Jello & Viagra. You get the idea.

Although TOMA is not the single most important aspect of marketing and branding, it seems to provide more dramatic success rates than a lot of the others. While simplistic but defining logos, like the WalMart Smiley or the Target bulls eye, are useful for brand recognition, TOMA seems to provide a brand domination factor that most other elements of branding simply can not offer. Because of the brilliance behind TOMA, I thought it would be a good idea to point out some brand identities that have found a lot of their success by creating top of the mind association for their particular products. Here are a few of my faves, but be sure to let me know if you have any other examples, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

    Google Logo- Successful example of marketing
  • When we talk about a brand having TOMA, there is no way we can leave out the obvious; Google is notorious for their top of the mind associations. In 2006 it was even rewarded with a spot in English language dictionaries:
    Google: (verb) Pronunciation: \ˈgü-gəl\; Definition: to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web. Inflected Form(s): goo·gled; goo·gling.
  • Facebook Logo- Example of marketing success in online social networks
  • Facebook has established TOMA in a variety of age groups since it opened up its website beyond just the college crowd. I, personally, can not tell you how many times I have requested that my pals photographs be 'Facebooked.' I have also 'Facebooked' many people, by finding and friending them on the social networking site. My own mother recently became a 'facebooker!'
  • iPod Logo- Example of Apple's marketing success in mp3 players
  • Apple's well known and widely utilized iPods brought brand recognition to a new market product. The association iPod developed with mp3's is now parallel in ways to what the Walkman did to cassettes. It's questionable whether other mp3 players will ever get to bear the iGenious name.
  • TiVo Logo- Example of marketing successes with DVR'sAs one of the first DVR's on the market TiVo allowed us to cross boundaries with our TV we had been unable to do so before without the old VCR and cassettes. Since its launch, we have 'TiVo'd' every possible program we, for some reason or other, couldn't watch on TV. Even with the wide assortment of DVR's now on the market, 'TiVoing' is a trend that won't quickly die.
  • Coca-Cola Logo- Example of TOMA marketing
  • Coke has become a soft drink classic all over the world. In the South especially, it is very common to hear the word 'coke' being used as a replacement for 'pop' and 'soda.' Coke gains money and popularity from this slang that it successfully implemented so long ago.
  • Lego Logo- Example of TOMA marketing
  • The Lego brand is another example of a brand achieving top of the mind association with an audience. As one of the earlier TOMA trendsetters, Lego was able to draw an impressive following and successfully dominate a market.

Other notable examples:

  • Redbull. Like anyone actually cops to drinking NOS or RockStar.
  • Tobasco. Is there any other kind? Sure there is but we can't remember the name. Chaa...lluuuu.aah?
  • Post-Its. Reminiscent of Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion.
  • Windex. Way too easy.
  • Q-Tips. This goes in the Band-Aid Category.
  • Scotch Tape. The key to every Christmas present and science fair project.
  • Sharpie. The knock-off brands never seem to cut it.
  • Roladex. How did they even come up with the name?
  • Jeep. Every truck/SUV seems to earn this title. (Check out the website- It's pretty intense).
  • Amex. You just don't usually put it on the Discover card.

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