Category: National

A Concrete Win for PCA and Stokefire Branding & Advertising Agency

Sorry to all for not posting this great Portland Cement Association PR on our site earlier. Was a bit of a flurry yesterday. Here’s the official release: A Concrete Win for PCA and Stokefire Branding & Advertising Agency. It looks pretty spiffy in PRWeb’s format – or you can see it awkwardly formatted below.

DC-area agency makes concrete front-page news and earns client top honors from 2011 CWA Marketing Communications Awards.

This billboard was viewed by hundreds of thousands of frustrated commuters during asphalt repaving.

A Billboard from PCA’s Award-Winning Campaign

“Forty-eight hours after the billboard posted, concrete was on the front page of the region’s major newspapers.”

Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) October 05, 2011

Stokefire Branding & Advertising Agency today announced that its work on behalf of the Portland Cement Association (PCA) has won the 2011 BEST OVERALL Marketing Communications Award as judged by the Construction Writers Association (CWA). This marks the first time a non-profit industry association has earned top honors in a contest typically dominated by commercial industry titans. PCA will receive the award at CWA’s Grand Awards Dinner in San Antonio, Texas on October 25, 2011.

“We are honored by CWA’s recognition and excited that the concrete brand and campaign developed by Stokefire’s creative team served the needs of our membership so well,” said Bruce McIntosh, PCA’s Vice President of Communications. “This campaign quickly allowed us to become part of critical infrastructure conversations, and ultimately led to new concrete and cement projects for our members.”

“PCA needed to provoke a change in behavior,” said Tate Linden, Stokefire’s President and Chief Creative. “Politely knocking at the door of opportunity hadn’t opened it, so we gave the industry another way through. PCA’s top-notch team delivered in a big way once the door was opened, converting opportunity into tangible results.”

CWA’s judges lauded the multifaceted national effort targeting wide-ranging audiences including public works officials, consulting engineers, city and county officials, and even taxpayers and the motoring public. Stokefire delivered campaign strategy and creative execution across print, web, outdoor, clothing, and trade-show elements. In awarding top honors to PCA, judges cited the all-around strength of the campaign, from the design detail and copywriting effectiveness to the broader strategic approach and key media placement.

A strategically placed billboard component above an asphalt repaving project received specific praise from the panel. Forty-eight hours after the billboard posted, concrete was on the front page of the region’s major newspapers, had earned favorable stories on CBS TV News and Public Radio, and had generated buzz on blogs, bulletin boards and Twitter. More importantly, PCA’s leaders were granted access to key infrastructure decision-makers, leading to the true measure of the campaign’s success – tangible new business.

About Stokefire Branding & Advertising:

Stokefire has secretly branded and advertised stuff from its hideout in the Washington DC metro area since 2005. The Stokefire team develops award-winning strategic brands and advertising campaigns that change behavior and get results. The agency has quietly established a diverse client list that includes Heinz, Charles Schwab, Discovery Communications and the US Department of Defense.

About the Portland Cement Association:

Based in Skokie, Ill., the Portland Cement Association represents cement companies in the United States and Canada. It conducts market development, engineering, research, education, and public affairs programs. More information on PCA programs is available at

About the CWA Marketing Communications Awards:

For over a decade the Construction Writers Association has recognized the top marketing and communications work from around the globe. Previous CWA Marketing Communications awards have honored work for megabrands like Caterpillar, Bobcat, John Deere, and Volvo. The CWA, founded in 1958, is a non-profit, non-partisan, international organization that provides a forum for journalism, photography, marketing, and communications professionals in all segments of the construction industry.


That’s it!

Congrats to PCA on the 2011 CWA BEST OVERALL Marketing award. Many, many, thanks to Bruce, Patti, Doug, Brian and the rest of the PCA team for giving us the opportunity, for giving our strategists and creatives great information to work with, and for executing flawlessly after the campaign launched. Without every ounce of opportunity, trust, and execution none of this would’ve happened.

Automated Meter Reading Gets A Makeover

How do you talk about “metering” without mentioning the meter?

That was just one of the challenges we faced while working on this project.

We’re proud to announce another of our clients (The Automated Meter Reading Association – or AMRA) has launched their new identity. They needed a name that appealed to their core audience of senior leaders, could double as a new name for the industry as a whole, and avoided the verbal association between “meter readers” and “men in overalls” that seemed to be a bit misleading.

UTILIMETRICS was launched on October 2nd after over a year of brand analysis, development, and design. Check ’em out.

The AMRA/UTILIMETRICS team really impressed us with their understanding of what was needed to reestablish their brand. It isn’t every day that you see an association take such a progressive step. Kudos also go to Bates Creative Group for their work on the graphic identity.

Can’t wait to see what’s next for the organization and the technology they represent.

Imagine the children!

What would happen if Saddam’s “Mother of All Wars” fell in love with Putin’s “Father of All Bombs?”

“Mother of All” has become a trendy way of saying “best” or perhaps “will redefine the meaning of” (though the latter doesn’t feel particularly prone to trendiness.)

How does this relate to naming? Well, there’s the obvious fact that both Saddam and Putin used these lofty words to refer to important things (okay, so they weren’t really products, but they still needed names…) And there’s the more relevant fact that “MoA” has been used thousands of times in products and services since it was coined. MoA appears to be more commonly used in commerce than FoA – at a ratio of about four or five to one.

Of particular interest to me is the fact that (as far as I can tell) there are exactly zero products that use the phrase “Mother of All” in their names that have become wildly successful – other than the originally referenced war, of course.

I predict that we’ll see similar results from “Father of All” in the coming years. We may even see it become more popular than MoA for a while. But I’d be willing to wager that no product with FoA or MoA in its name will ever crack the top 100 spots on Amazon or any other reputable mass retailer.

Could it have something to do with the fact that the terms are typically used tongue-in-cheek? Or that they’re too closely linked to pop-culture and prone to becoming dated too quickly? Or is it that the logical impossibility of something becoming the mother or father of anything *after the thing is already born* is just too goofy to consider seriously?

I’ll leave you with this thought. How is it that “The Father of All Bombs” could be invented more than a half-century after the nuclear bomb (a much more powerful weapon) was dropped? It seems that the FoAB is more like the smaller, better behaved nephew of the atom bomb, doesn’t it? But “The Nephew of All Bombs” just doesn’t have much oomph…

So much for truth in advertising….

Republicans and Democrats Copy Convention Playbooks

Ever want to have a big-time title? The Republicans are ready to let you earn one. For five million dollars.

Yep. Five big, big, big ones donated (or rather offered to the RNC to sponsor the Republican National Convention) gets you:

  • A private reception with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Norm Coleman, and the mayors of the cities ear the convention.
  • A private dinner with Republican leadership.
  • Golfing with Republican leadership.
  • An opportunity to sponsor water bottles, volunteer outfits, city banners, billboards, bus signs and events.
  • Access to the media party.
  • VIP access to the convention.

And… best of all… the RNC will officially give you the title of “Finance co-chair.”

(Perhaps this is because as the minority party they figure someone on the right side of the fence should get a co-chair title.)

And the Democrats, you might ask? What are they offering up?

For the bargain price of $1 million you can have:

  • Invitations to private events with the Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Mayor John Hickenlooper, Sen. Ken Salazar, and more.
  • VIP access to the convention
  • Premier sponsorship of the media party
  • Top sponsoship of the “coveted fete” media party
  • An opportunity to place products with corporate logos in delegate and media goody-bags.
  • Invitations to all host-committee events

And yes… the Dems are offering up a title. Sort of. Actually, they’re selling adjectives.

The adjective in question? Presidential.

If I were going to donate a million bucks I think the more obvious title would be “Rich.” It’s a good thing that the title the Dems selected doesn’t suggest that power and influence can be bought, isn’t it?

If you don’t have that top level of funds available you can consider offering up a bit less. Both parties have developed nifty – and strangly similar – levels and titles. Check this out:


What does this tell us? Perhaps:

  • There are no Democrats with more than a million dollars to spend.
  • If the Democrats win the presidency all precious metals will be cheaper.
  • For Democrats, though there’s assuredly a second place, there is no third.
  • Republicans are either having their convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, or they’re really big fans of Norse mythology.
  • You probably don’t want to use that plane restroom after a Democrat has vacated it. Or if you do, bring some Sani-wipes.

I’m not saying that naming funding levels is easy. But “Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze” is only slightly less mundane than having “Red, White, and Blue” levels (which isn’t often done on a national level nowadays since no one wants to label a donor as “white.”) Why aren’t we seeing a tie-in to the party platforms? Is appreciation for precious metals really that much of a key to the identites of both parties?

You want to see a spike in donations? You want to get press? You want to get people talking? Here’s how:

Use controversial platform topics as your funding levels.

Imagine the Democrats having an “Equality Advocate” level or the Republicans with a “Protectors of Marriage” sponsorship. Sure it is divisive. But imagine the power of being able to show that there are 5,000 people or companies willing to not only say that they are for (or against) gay rights, but show they are committed with a dollar sign next to their name. You want more notice? Add in right-to-life issues, death penalty, and the like. How many churches and community groups wouldn’t be throwing dollars at the campaigns to show their support for a cause that mattered to them?

Will it happen? I’ll almost guarantee that it won’t. But I’d love to actually see a party or candidate take a stand like that. If it matters to the candidate/platform then why not allow the constituency to show their support for the idea? We’d know real fast whether or not an issue had real support.

Are you with me?

Interested in more on this topic? Earlier this year I wrote a post about the terms the individual candidates used for their fund-raising efforts. I must admit that even the worst ideas used by the candidates can trump the best the DNC and RNC have pulled together.

Is it because the categories were developed by committee? Probably.

Add another nail to the coffin that contains focus groups and working committees, please. (Though “Mile High Plus” is a pretty impressive name to be approved by committee… hard to believe someone didn’t choke on the sexual connotation.)

Naming for the short term?

Oh, cute! A whale naming contest!

The local CBS affilliate is having a contest to name a mother and calf that have gotten lost up the Sacramento river. Cool right?


Except as I seem to recall, many of these whales that wander up rivers tend not to live to see the ocean again.

On the plus side, there’s not much at stake here with the names. Whales probably don’t care – or know – what we call them. On the down side we’re going to have a whole bunch of little kids following Bonnie and Clyde – or whatever their names will be – and I don’t know how easily they’ll believe the whales went to live on the farm with the pet dog.

So we’re naming two animals that may be doing their best to off themselves for some reason. Let’s make it a fun story for the kiddies!


Interested in a better story about dying or dead whales? This one is my all time favorite. And it may just be the first story to ever use “Splud” to describe the sound of a whale exploding. After you read Dave Barry’s version I encourage you to watch the video – especially the 30 seconds following the explosion.

Bring the family!

The Office Names Names

Yep. I’m addicted to The Office – and am not quite sure what I’ll do to recreate those uncomfortable laughs I’ve become accustomed to for the off season.

But this post isn’t about my love for the NBC show, it is about the website and company names mentioned on the show’s season finale.

The website mentioned? Try: Yeah – it doesn’t go anywhere. But you wouldn’t believe the number of hits that “creedthoughts” is getting all over the internet. Someone had the foresight to register a week before the episode aired (one can only assume someone on the production staff did it to prevent someone else from profiting) but the .net and a few other sites were snapped up shortly after the line was spoken.

As far as names go – I actually quite like “Creedthoughts”. I imagine that for lovers of the show the site would speak directly to those who wonder “what the hell is he thinking?” and it would attract quite a crowd of regular readers. Much like schrutespace, I suppose.

UPDATE: There IS a creedthoughts blog. It is here.

The show did have a rather uncomfortable naming-related moment when Michael Scott wraps up his interview with David Wallace (CFO of Dunder Mifflin):

David: What do you think we could be doing better?

Michael: I’ve never been a big fan of the name Dunder Mifflin. I was thinking we could name the company something like “Paper Great”. Where great paper is our passion. We’re grrrrreeeat! I dunno. Could be good. Or, uh, “Super Duper Paper”. It’s super duper. I dunno. Something like that.

Interviewer: Okay.

Michael: Okay.

Interviewer: Thanks for coming in Michael.

What scares me the most is that this sort of thing really does happen in conversations with prospects and clients. I’ll be the first to admit that client-submitted ideas often do quite well and we can build strong identities around them. However… In this case I just was made uncomfortable on every possible level. Wonderfully so, but… still…
And if anyone is interested, both and are available for immediate camping and opportunistic exploitation as of 11:47 EDT on Friday, May 18th. Imagine the peaks in traffic you’ll get when the DVD launches!

Just Say “No” To Badly Named Products

It certainly beats banning them outright, doesn’t it?

I’m really not quite sure how I feel about this story:

An energy drink called Cocaine that was pulled from store shelves in Illinois last week is being discontinued nationwide.

The company that produces the drink said today it’s pulling the drink because of concerns about its name.

What the company doesn’t say is that some states had banned the sale of the product because they felt it glamorized drug use. So – I’ve a strong feeling that this was less about “concerns” and more about “bottom lines.”

The company is taking the step of re-naming their product.

As I think about it more I think I am leaning towards an opinion… I don’t like it. There are quite a few reasons to be concerned. A few right off the top of my head:

  1. Free Speech: Do companies have a right to sell products with provocative names that do not cross the line into profanity? Heck, do they have the right to sell products with profane names? It seems to me that the answer to the first should be “yes.” The answer to the second question I’m not as sure about. I’ve strong opinions about free speech and its value – and limiting someone’s ability to say a word or sell a product is a step that I’m not sure we should have taken here.
  2. Censorship: Similarly, I hadn’t heard any advertisements about the product. Only the media (and we bloggers) were giving it publicity. I can understand the FCC cracking down on this if they broadcast it – but they didn’t (as far as I know.) It is fine for the press and public to criticize a product and say that it shouldn’t be sold – but for the government to act on these opinions and force the company to rename is different. Opinions are one thing. Enforcing opinions leads to censorship.
  3. Where do all the bad products go?: The only reason anyone was buying this drink was to push the envelope and show how edgy they were. From the folks I know that have tried it I’ve heard it tastes horrible. Have a crappy product? Give it a name that pushes people’s buttons. Make it collectible. It is a time honored tradition to find ways to move product. Saying that certain types of names are off limits for no reason other than that they offend some people’s delicate sensibilities (there’s no profanity here, remember) means that products without strong appeal in and of themselves will have a harder time selling. That’s great for product quality overall, but bad for the average or below average product that loses an escape route.
  4. Slippery Slope: Okay, so we know “Cocaine” isn’t allowed. What about “Dope”, “Morphine”, “Speedball”, “Ganja”, “Uppers”, “Drug of Choice” and the like? Are all of them not allowed? How about naming an energy drink “Vodka?” Would that be allowed? Or “Binge/Purge” because that would glamorize a sickness. Or “Steak” because Vegans everywhere would be upset. Or “Eenryg” – because it might offend dyslexics.
  5. A Clueless FDA sez What?: In a warning letter to Redux – the folks behind the Cocaine drink – the FDA claims that the product being sold is not only a drug, but a new one:”Your product, Cocaine, is a drug, as defined by Section 201(g)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1), because it is intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, 21 U.S.C. §§ 321(g), 321(ff), and 343(r)(6). Moreover, this product is a new drug, as defined by Section 201(p) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 321(p), because it is not generally recognized as safe and effective for its labeled uses. Under Sections 301(d) and 505(a) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. §§ 331(d) and 355(a), a new drug may not be introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce unless an FDA-approved application is in effect for it. Your sale of Cocaine without an approved application violates these provisions of the Act.”

Yes, Cocaine is a provocative name. It was named purely as a PR stunt and it worked. (Sadly.) But no one is claiming that there is actual cocaine in the product. Note that the FDA hasn’t taken action against Sunny Delight – and these people are selling cancer (or is it instant immolation) in a bottle! Imagine if a piece of the sun were to get into the hands of an unsuspecting consumer! Oooh! Or what about Victoria’s Secret? What if her secret was actually cocaine? Sounds like we’d have to ban it, right?

Both the FDA and consumers at large are smarter than this, aren’t they?

The real reason I’m a bit up in arms about the action taken here is that there is no law that I know of that prevents people from selling products named after illicit drugs. I remember there were nail polishes a couple years back that referenced illicit sex and drug use. Why didn’t we ban them?

C’mon US and state governments – if you’re going to ban something with the backing of the government YOU NEED TO PASS A LAW MAKING IT ILLEGAL. Until that time you’re just using knee-jerk censorship.

So knock it off. Let Cocaine (the non-controlled energy drink) be sold. Figure out how to limit commerce in a way that isn’t going to backfire (no “I know it when I see it” stuff) and put it on the books.

Namers across the land will thank you. Or at least I will.

And if I’m mistaken and there IS a law about names that glorify certain substances I’d love to hear about it.

Tate Linden
Principal- Stokefire

Stokefire & Tate In The Media

This is from page 75 of the May 2007 issue of Associations Now (Published by ASAE and The Center for Association Leadership.)

I suppose this means that I have to un-pause the association-building process soon…

Community now
Building an association—and community—from scratch

By: Randi Hicks Rowe

About 30 namers—those individuals and companies whose specialty is to help companies develop the best name for their organization or new product—met informally in San Francisco in February. As far as anyone in the group knows, it was the first time that so many namers gathered in one place before. Their purpose: forming an association with a name they can call their own.

“We had a great time and took a positive step toward developing a group identity,” says Tate Linden, principal of the Stokefire Consulting Group. “Almost every other profession has an association except ours. Quite a few of us talked about creating our own vehicle for sharing best practices and to advocate for and support excellence in our industry.” About a dozen naming professionals and companies have indicated that they like the concept of the association and hope to move forward.

One of the ongoing discussions is how to define the membership. Linden says one way would be to make the association exclusively for namers—a group of perhaps a few hundred worldwide—who are not represented by any association. Another option would be to also open the group up to those people who create identities for organizations or products, which would be a larger group consisting of namers, branding experts, and graphic designers. However, some of these groups are represented in other associations. The tradeoff would be less control for the namer founders in the larger group but more power for the association as a whole, Linden says.

One thing not on the table yet, surprisingly, is what to call the association. “I figure with all the potential brainpower we’ll have available as we near our filing date [that] it is better to hold off. Imagine having all the best painters in the world create a painting together… I’m not sure it’d be pretty, but the story around that picture would be legend for centuries. Not sure that this concept will transfer well to the world of descriptive association names, but I can always dream,” says Linden. “No pressure, of course.”

Randi Hicks Rowe is CEO of Rowe Communications of Alexandria, Virginia.

Now Hiring: THIS GUY

This week’s New York Times, Boston Globe (and any other papers that carry Rob Walker‘s “Consumed”) had an article featuring Scott Campbell – a NYC tattoo artist(e?) that’s been making waves in the corporate world. He’s done work for Nike, Camel, Volkswagen, ZZ Top, and more. Personally I’m dying to talk to him. Not just about his artwork (which is quite cool) but about what he thinks about the concept of corporate tattoos in general.


I’ve still be mulling over the whole idea of what makes a brand tattoo-worthy, and considering (much to my wife’s and my religion’s disapproval) putting a little corporate logo of my own somewhere the sun doesn’t typically shine.

What intrigues me most about Scott’s work is his emphasis on authenticity. For a guy working on very corporate projects it seems like authenticity is a difficult thing to maintain. This isn’t inking skin, it’s painting pictures. It is a very thin line he must walk – and I must admit he seems to be doing a good job of it.

Scott – if you’re listening out there – I’m curious to know if anyone has taken the corporate work you’ve done for posters or signage and had you ink their bodies with it. Are there people with your cool Camel logo walkin’ around?

Other questions to consider:

  1. Is there a difference between the artwork done on behalf of a person and for a company? Is your process different when developing the design?
  2. How real is the danger of losing the authenticity-factor when getting paid by Nike? How do you stay ‘real’?
  3. Among tattoo artists is there a level of respect given to a person getting a tattoo of their own design that isn’t there if they choose a corporate logo or common rose/thorn type design?

I didn’t say the questions made a lot of sense… they’re just things I’m curious about.

If you’re interested in this sort of stuff you might want to read this post about people branding themselves with the logos of the corporations they respect. I’ve heard Apple, Harley Davidson, and Nike are some of the most common tattoos out there – and there are whole websites dedicated to variations on each. The fact that most companies don’t have this sort of loyalty fascinates me. Why aren’t there people showing off their HP tattoos, or Safeway… or McDonalds?

I hope to have an answer to these questions later this year… but if you think you know the answer now I’d love to hear it.

Oh – and that Stokefire logo on this post – that’s our new one! Here’s to hoping that you can see the tattoo influence on the style…

Tate Linden
Principal – Stokefire

News Links – 3-29-07

The RelaxOne. The RelaxOne Massage chair offers dynamic relaxation by listening to the peaceful music, through the audio system of the chair. Its dome-like style is intended to plunge you deeply into the music to rouse a natural relaxation. Created by Swiss inventor and experimental psychologist Hugo B. J. Soder, it is equipped with multi-dimensional sound system, a CD player and an internal ambient lighting for reading. Is is it not deserving of another name?

[Brought to us by Trendhunter]

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