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October 26, 2007 | Tate Linden
A few readers of the blog and even a couple clients have pointed out that I am prone to the occasional rant. (But they've also been kind enough to note that it is informed or at least well researched ranting.)

As noted on an earlier comment today, I rant for a reason. I question stuff I don't get. I challenge people to defend their brands. When it doesn't make sense to me I'll say so.

I wouldn't call it ranting though, I'd suggest that I'm poking - and perhaps provoking.

Why?

I poke because I care. Naming is seen by many in marketing and branding as something you throw in for free when taking on a design project. And the work produced in these instances tends to be exactly the sort of stuff that gives the naming field (such as it is) a bad name. I make my living in an industry where almost every name is a potential Exxon Valdez for the field. When one of us messes up it affects all of us. And even if the product was given away for free it still drags us down (a free oil spill is still an oil spill.)

I provoke because provocation gets read. And they get forwarded. And people respond to them. Naming has low visibility. If I poke at someone's brand for not making sense chances are excellent that if they're legitimate they're going to respond - perhaps by poking back, or by actually addressing the issues that I raise. If they don't respond then the bad brand stands exposed and identified as below the norm. Either way the industry gets more visibility, a high likelihood of some smart discussions, and more people passionate or informed about brands and names.

I poke because I've got to be me. One of Stokefire's founding principles is that we're supposed to be who we are. (No sense putting on a costume to help other businesses try and be themselves - it gets too complex.) I'm a guy that believes all the cards should be on the table. When I screw up you'll know it. When I believe your brand can be improved I'll tell you. And when your brand is strong enough that you don't need my help (as happened last month with DARKSKY) you'll know that too.

I poke because I believe. If I didn't believe that branding worked I wouldn't bother. But good branding does work. I'll point out branding companies that use the same technique for every project (much as Igor pokes Landor on occasion.) I'll poke names that say more about the gutsiness of the namer than they do about the brand they're supposed to represent. I'll rage against names that have such obvious issuses with them that they never should have left the concept stage. I'll express my astonishment at those who suggest what you're called and how you convey yourself to the market doesn't matter at all.

I poke because it clarifies my thinking. Often I'll start writing and will change my opinion as I begin to think things through. Or it'll come when someone points out that I've been ignoring a critical aspect of an issue. But I had to put my thoughts on the page - in the virtual public - for it to happen. It helps me to figure out what's really at the center of an issue.

And... it feels pretty damn good. Try it yourself. Find something in the branding world that doesn't make sense to you and just start poking at it. Try to figure out what the creator of the brand was thinking - or not thinking. What was the goal of the name, tagline, or brand campaign? Pretty soon you'll start seeing all brands that way. And all those compulsions that branders everywhere are trying to force into your head will suddenly not be so compelling.

[Ed. "BUY STOKEFIRE?"]
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