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Tips on Branding from the Crow’s Nest
Guest Blogger, Nora D. Richardson

Ahoy me Hearties!

Did you know that today, September 19, is “Talk Like A Pirate Day”?

The branding professional in me couldn’t resist analyzing how pirate flags and tactics (in literature, lore and life) actually equate to excellent branding and marketing skills that companies should employ today. And let me tell ye, pirates had branding down!

Pirate Flags: Terrifying (and Memorable!) Calling Cards

Raise the Jolly Roger!  As you can see, distinct pirate flags were used as unique calling cards for each pirate captain— sort of like super-scary business cards. The psychological intimidation employed here is really quite brilliant.

Each pirate flag exhibits:

1. A Unique Logo
    • Simple and clear symbols, recognizable from afar
    • Nothing too ornate

2. Consistent Brand Colors
• Predominately black and white, sometimes with red or gold)

3. Clear Imagery (associated with their particular industry)
• Always contains images of death and mortality, so there’s no question
what business these guys are in!

The combination of these elements created a brand name for each pirate, often without the use of words at all (which was necessary, as most seafarers of the time were illiterate). These flags were the sole way to communicate the identity of captain and crew and strike fear into the hearts of men in surrounding ships and ports.

What’s in a (Pirate) Name?
Avast ye! If a pirate’s name had enough buzz associated with it, they could often frighten their prey ships into surrendering immediately, without chase or fight.  So, to create that buzz, effective personal branding was an important tactic for many a pirate.

According to legend, the infamous pirate, Blackbeard, would place lit cannon fuses under the edge of his hat or in his beard to create an intimidating halo of smoke that followed him, adding to his tremendously dark presence.

Dread Pirate Roberts: In literature, a great example is the Dread Pirate Roberts from the popular book (1973) and movie (1987), The Princess Bride.  After the farm boy, Westley is kidnapped by the Dread Pirate Roberts, he eventually becomes the Dread Pirate Roberts himself!  As the prior Dread Pirate Roberts explains to Westley, “I inherited the ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me.”  Westley then explains to Buttercup, “Then he explained that the name was the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear.  You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley.”

Branding from the Crow’s Nest
Obviously there’s a lot of undeserved romanticism attached to piracy, which was typically a terrifying practice.  So, while I do not recommend that any of you landlubbers actually take advice from these old seadogs, it’s true that we can all learn something about branding through pirate literature, lore and history!

So ask yourself the following questions to see if you’re branding is up to pirate standards:

• Is my brand message and identity clear?
• Does my brand identity immediately convey my company’s intent?
• Does my brand evoke emotion from my target audience?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then your brand isn’t as effective as a 17th-century pirate—and that means less booty and fewer doubloons for you and your business! Now’s the time to batten down the hatches and give your brand the old heave ho!  Savvy?

Nora D. Richardson, owner of Spot-On Branding, is a brand consultant, brand identity designer, and speaker who helps businesses create a strong brand image—a brand image that enhances visibility, creates an emotional response from ideal clients, and strengthens the foundation for business growth. Want to know how “Fit” your branding is? Take the free test at

Does your niche bring you joy AND great clients who really love what you offer them and happily pay you for it? If not, it’s time to schedule a complimentary MMM Strategy Session with me to help you determine where your marketing, mindset or manifesting “muscle” is weak–and how to build it up to attract more of your ideal clients who happily pay you for what you do!

Your partner in success,

Lisa Smith
Marketing, Mindset & Manifesting Coach

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