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September 15, 2006

Brand Names Without Borders

Doctors without bordersAn excellent post in the Christian Science Monitor blog talks about the notion of “borderless” in brand names. The author, Ruth Walker, profiles the “borderless brand” which has been claimed by the world NGOs and humanitarian organizations (Doctors Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders, even Clowns Without Borders).

The term “without borders”, when applied to an organization, is a kind of shorthand for a humanitarian group that wants to help the world. Walker points us to an article in Utne which discusses just how many “borderless brands” there are out there trying to make the world a better place.

Now, film producer Geralyn White Dreyfous wants to market a documentary called “Doctors Without Borders” that will probably bring the “without borders” name into mainstream entertainment, and thus into for-profit product naming, especially since the appeal of pseudo-brandless advertising has caught on so well in the press recently.

Geeks without bordersAs Walker observes, brands are truly “without borders”, and I would add that branding can be used just as effectively for nonprofits as anywhere else. There are:

  • Recipes Without Borders
  • Trade Without Borders
  • Geeks Without Borders
  • Business Without Borders

Also, nonprofit brand names, especially big ones, face many of the same problems and hurdles that for-profit brands do, argues John Quelch at Harvard Business School. How many people know that Habitat For Humanity has the same brand name value as Starbucks, for instance? I think the "Borderless" brand name also has an equity worth protecting, but those using it should remember that they need to build their brands, too.

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Posted by William Lozito at September 15, 2006 2:13 PM
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