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October 29, 2007 | Tate Linden
I've been sent perhaps a dozen free books on branding and marketing in the year and change I've been blogging. I've never written about them - mostly because there's rarely anything about naming or verbal branding in them.

This book doesn't have that disconnect...

The Soul of the Corporation by Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly is an impressive book. And it is almost entirely related to what I do for a living. I'd suggest that it's one of the more advanced books on the concept of corporate identity, and it is backed by a slew of research (and the Wharton School.) While I didn't read it cover to cover yet, I did read the chapters that discuss the role of identity in situations that matter to naming - such as mergers, acquisitions, the beginning of new brands, and such. All of 'em were spot on - or a least headed in the right direction.

As an example - the book identifies the ingredients of Successful identity Change as:
  1. Vision
  2. Effective Communication
  3. Consistency
  4. Leadership Continuity
  5. Luck and Positive Signals
While Stokefire's number one ingredient is missing (leadership involvement!) the list is one that is worth spending time to understand. It is clear that without any one of the five items a project will likely fail. They've at least provided a good starting point to work with.

Other interesting tidbits:
  • An analysis of evolutionary vs. revolutionary change
  • The difference between organizational and brand identity
  • The downside(s) of branding (narcissism, id conflict, drift, & fragmentation)
  • How to handle mergers, spin-offs, joint ventures, and more.
  • Four leaders who've managed identity well, and four who haven't.
  • Transitioning from a single brand to a portfolio...
If these topics don't get you motivated to read the book then chances are excellent you're not in the naming field. Or, as a former SecDef might say, "you don't know what you don't know."

Perhaps most refreshing was the near total lack of talking-heads from major branding firms that typically populate books like these. We get to see things through the eyes of employees, stakeholders, and customers - not the guys that developed (and are defending) the brand. Who cares what we, the creators of the identity, think. If the people who live the brand don't say it then it ain't real.


Many thanks to Wharton School Publishing for the comp. I've dog-eared so many pages that it's beginning to look like there's been trouble at the printer (since most of the upper-outside corners appear to be missing.)
October 24, 2007 | Tate Linden
The Utilimetrics team is doing a great job getting the word out about their new name and it seems they're just beginning to try to get traction with their name as an industry descriptor as well. You'll note that the author of the article below keeps referring back to "advanced metering" when referencing the industry. The leaders of Utilimetrics, however, appear to use the "metering" term only when referencing the box on the wall.

Changing industry terminology doesn't happen overnight. But it does happen.

We'll post more on this as it happens.

Creating new words ain't easy. Just ask Erin McKean over at the Dictionary Evangelist. (Though we're not above trying to bribe her to accidentally slip a few of our words into the next Oxford American Dictionary. Wonder how far a fiver would get us...)
News From Utility Automation & Engineering T&D

Biggest little city hosts Autovation 2007


by John M. Powers, online editor

Autovation 2007, the Automatic Meter Reading Association's (AMRA) annual international symposium, celebrated its 20th anniversary in Reno, NV from September 30 to October 3 and, from the outset, sent a message to those attending: The industry is changing. It became clear to attendees that today's advanced metering involves a lot more than just a box on the back of a house and a tool to read said box. These days it's all about the data.

To drive the point home, outgoing AMRA president Jim Andrus announced at the first general session that the association is changing its name to better fit the growing scope of advanced metering. To further highlight the changing landscape, the Autovation 2007 keynote featured in-depth financial analysis of the market and opinions from heavy hitters in the industry along with days packed full of educational presentations about new initiatives and technologies.

At a press conference about AMRA's decision to change its name, Andrus and AMRA president-elect Stephen Carrico of Lee Lake Consulting (recently featured on episode 7 of Currents) explained that the name change, from AMRA to Utilimetrics, is a response to the shift from the advanced metering industry emphasizing "the physical box and the technology needed to read it" to a greater emphasis "on the data collected from the meter."

"We knew we had to roll out a new image," said Carrico.

Andrus and Carrico said Utilimetrics hopes to become more visible to regulators and policy makers by being a neutral voice "providing information on metering technologies and the value that can be derived from their uses." The name change, said Carrico, "is our first step to being noticed." But Utilimetrics won't have to do all the work to get recognized. The market will do some of the lifting, too. According to Andrus, the advanced metering market is growing and will continue to do so, which will attract attention from outside the traditional boundaries of metering.
[Click here for original article with more text...]
October 15, 2007 | Tate Linden
I actually happen to like the AMA quite a lot... So it is with a bit of sadness and angst that I question the addition of what appears to be a new feature in the Marketing News magazine. In September the acronym was "USP." They give us a friendly hint that it doesn't have anything to do with the Postal Service. And then they tell us that it means "unique selling proposition" and go on to explain what that means. If you know marketing you know what USP means - and if you don't you probably won't be reading a magazine only given to AMA members...

This month the acronym is SaaS - standing for "Software as a Service" which the folks at the AMA seem to think "effectively renders the terms ASP (application service provider) and on-demand obsolete."

A few points:

One - ASP deserves to be rendered obsolete. Why go to the trouble of making an acronym that means something and is pronouncable and then ignore both the meaning and obvious pronunciation? I see the letters A, S, and P and I say "asp." One syllable. Neat. Maybe a little scary. Why make it three? Weren't acronyms meant too save us effort?

Two - There's no way SaaS will make ASP obsolete. SaaS is almost impossible to type correctly on the first try. Most word processors automatically switch the last letter to lower case. Mine did so, then suggested that what I really wanted to say was Seas, Sagas, Saabs, Sass, or Salas. At least ASP doesn't violate any word processing standards that I can think of.

Three - How would you pronounce SaaS? Does the last letter give it emphasis? Does a double A give it a long vowel sound? It could be "Sass" or "Sayce" or "Says" or "Sayz" or "SaySUH" or something else.

Four - If SaaS is the acronym of the month then why isn't it found anywhere on AMA's website?

There's more, but I've got proposals to write and clients to serve.

This all begs a single question for me.

Why would an organization teaching about marketing suggest any acronym as being "of the month"? Acronyms are shortcuts. Acronyms eliminate the message. Acronyms take the oomph out of marketing. Acronyms cost more money in the long run...

When was the last time you thought to yourself... THAT is one beautiful acronym? (FCUK excepting...)

P.S. - I do know that the feature is meant to be educational... but if that's the case then why suggest that the acronym is good? Ah well. Perhaps I'm just grouchy today.
October 9, 2007 | Tate Linden
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.
September 28, 2007 | Tate Linden
At an event put on by ASAE last night I heard David Colton, page one editor for USA Today, say the words in the title of this post. Unlike most of the online references to this topic he wasn't talking about how to preserve your singing voice or avoid painful laryngal issues.

He used the phrase to jokingly refer to the way most newspapers write articles. It's the advice he gives to others at USA Today if they want their article to be printed as written. Most newspaper articles start with a convoluted introduction that sets the tone, provides context, or tells the back story to the article before the real reason for the story happens - leading to the reader wanting to scream, "GET TO THE STORY ALREADY!" As you probably know, USA Today just says what happened and leaves the verbal gymnastics to the other papers.

I've heard a somewhat similar phrase used in the news industry - "Don't bury the lead." But it has key differences. Burying the lead implies that you miss the point of the story. Clearing your throat doesn't mean the point of the story is missed - it just means that it is delayed.

I really like the new phrase, though. It's got a lot in common with something we say at Stokefire all the time - that being "Get the [bleep] out of the way of the message." We often spend so much time in marketing trying to set up the perfect delivery of our message that our audience loses interest before we get the chance to tell 'em why we're worth knowing.

I think we may end up stealing "Don't Clear Your Throat." I like it that much.

And in case you're wondering how Stokefire lives up to our own phrase - here's how I introduce my team:

"Hi - we're Stokefire. We name stuff." And if I'm feeling ornery I might add "...and we do it pretty damn well."

Might be worth taking a look at your own messaging to see if you're expectorating a bit much. (No one likes to hear you gargle.)

And last - David's discussion was pretty cool. He talked about how the focus of the paper help bring the nation together. To provide common ground - stuff that everyone could talk about over the water cooler. I could really see how this philosophy has to be paired with the no-nonsense delivery of facts without preamble. No one starts a water cooler conversation with "Did you hear? Twenty years ago these two guys started a tech company in their basement..."

September 25, 2007 | Tate Linden
We've named a whopping two whole companies in the "sustainable" or "green" or "eco-friendly" or "tree-hugging" or "Gaia" or "Mother Earth" or whatever other catchword you want to use.


And we still haven't used a cliche. (We wish we could have said "thirty-seven" or "a hundred twenty four"... but we've gotta start somewhere.)

Both "green" brands we've helped to develop are fresh new concepts that convey what is at the core of each company without blending in to the crowded ecomarkets.

emPivot is a green media firm that empowers its audience to change their views on issues involving sustainable living (tagline "View green from every angle.) webmeadow is a solar-powered technical development company. Both companies are led by charismatic leaders with great vision - and both work in crowded markets with all sorts of "me too" names.

We've helped our clients step outside of the "green" label and establish identities that show there is an alternative to using camo in the masthead.

...and this gets down to what we believe is the role of the professional namer in business.

Should a namer just give a client what they say they want? We're going to go out on a limb and say "no." Our job is not to give a client whatever they say they want - because often the client either doesn't know what they want or doesn't know what's possible. (Both emPivot and webmeadow had great ideas to begin with, but the ideas evolved as we went through the generation and evaluation process.)

We've had a client say they want "A name like 'Flickr' - you know... with that cool short ending" and we didn't give it to them. We've had a client ask for a name with four letters - and they ended up selecting one with twelve, because it actually met the goals we discovered and developed together.

There are quite literally thousands of people in the United States who are qualified to provide lists of names that satisfy exactly what a client says they want. There are hundreds that make a living doing almost exactly that.

There are few, however, that help clients understand what identites can do for an organization, how to launch a brand, or what really matters when trying to decide between multiple strong naming ideas (or even a strong one and a weak one.) Our view is that as namers we are responsible for the words our clients choose. If our clients are set on an identity that is going to handicap them in the long run (or short run, for that matter) it's our job to tell them about that risk.

If namers were only responsible for the generation of lists of names then namers would be no better than a talking thesaurus - and those already exist. If namers are only responsible for producing letters and sounds for clients to consider then I'd put up my own son, Theodore, as a perfect (if high maintenance) source. (He's particularly talented at words with gargles and raspberries in them - and he'll give you near-infinite variations.)

Here it is, folks. Namers don't just make lists. Everyone can do that. If you make lists please don't tell us that your names are more creative, different, or better. Since all you're providing is a bunch of concepts without any guidance or evaluation you can't make any claim other than the number of ideas you provide. While quantity is important during the creative process, quantity is your enemy during the evaluation and implementation phases.

Here's the gauntlet: If you're a namer that deals in lists without context (e.g., no evaluation, implementation help, or detailed guidance) we're saying you're not a namer. You're closer to all the people my wife and I tried to ignore when we were getting ready to name Theodore. Even the great man we named him after gave us lists to consider (and oddly enough he didn't put his own name on the list.)

So... name listers aren't namers.* Anyone want to pick up the gauntlet and mess with us?

Poke. Poke. (Hey, we're Stokefire, after all. We gotta find other uses for this poker.)

(* - Note that we aren't afraid to use name listers ourselves on occasion. It's a critical part of the naming process - especially when a project gets a bit stuck - it's just not the whole thing.)
September 18, 2007 | Tate Linden
We've long stated that acronyms are one of the fastest ways to anonymize your company. We were this close to being proved wrong recently.

How did it almost happen? Apparently a town near Seattle (named South Lake Union) wanted to bring public transportation to town in the mode of a trolley. What could possibly go wrong?

I mean, really... the South Lake Union Trolley is completely innocuous, right?

Alas, the South Lake Union Trolley was not to be - even though folks started selling shirts to show their civic pride and publicizing the new service with "Ride the SLUT" emblazoned on 'em. How many other towns would gain a cult following for their public transit systems? Cool, no?

One article did have an interesting quote right at the tail end, though...
With the streetcar, said Don Clifton, a Cascade resident, "We learned how fun it is to change the name of things."
Amen, brother. (Though it'd have been even more fun to leave it!)
September 13, 2007 | Tate Linden
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....
July 24, 2007 | Tate Linden
We talk to many marketing, branding, and graphic design firms in our area and frequently ask about where they got their name. Typically the answer is something like "It sounded cool" or perhaps "we kept searching until we found one where the website was available and made a bit of sense."

Today I spoke with Bruce Gemmill, president of Campbell and Associates - a marketing firm located in Herndon Virginia. In addition to being an all-around good guy who is involved in the local chamber and other organizations, he had a nice story to tell about his firm.

I was curious how a guy with the last name of Gemmill might end up becoming president of a boutique marketing firm with the name Campbell. I was guessing he'd bought it from someone.

I was wrong.

As Bruce told me, he'd spent years leaving messages and talking with administrators for his clients - and invariably people would respond with "Thank you Mr. Campbell." As noted above, that is not his last name. His last name, Gemmill, is a name not many people have heard of - and it sounds awfully close to Campbell when heard over the phone - or even in person.

Rather than spend the remainder of his career correcting people on his last name, Bruce went with the flow. He named his firm "Campbell and Associates" and in the process ended up with a name that is highly memorable even though it appears on the surface to be common.

Sometimes it isn't the name itself that lends character to the company. Sometimes it's the story. Okay, often it is the story. (In fact, we tend to prefer the story behind the name to be at least as powerful as the name itself. It lends strength to the brand.)

Bruce's selfless act of removing his own last name from his firm showed a lot about the company's core values. And it gives him a nice story that helps people remember who he is, what his firm's name is, and even provides a peek at his own persona.

Kudos, Bruce. Thanks for taking the extra thirty seconds to tell me your story. Hope others enjoy it as much as I do.
July 12, 2007 | Tate Linden
I'll be the first to admit that naming your kid takes a lot of effort, thought, and in most cases comprimise. I would even go so far as to talk with someone - perhaps a historian or psychologist - about whether or not the name has any negative connotations. You could even open up any one of hundreds of naming books that tell you what every name means - or one of dozens of websites that allow you to search for names by their meaning.

One should also take the thirty seconds necessary to ensure you're not creating a catastrophe down the road when little Albert Sammy Smith is asked for his initials.

For me, naming was an intensely personal thing when it involved my own son. The question of who we wanted to honor (a great grandfather and both of his grandpas), how we wanted him to have options as to what he would use (Ted, Teddy, Theo, Theodore, TJ, etc...) to express his own personality...

Now that you know my views - read this article.

Yes. People really do that for a living.

Once you close your mouth (or stop laughing - if you're a corporate namer) I'd love to know what you think. Is there a place for people who offer a baby naming service where the names "Liz" and "Doug" are seen as first and foremost pertaining to fat kids? (Our new intern, Liz, would prove an exception to this rule, by the way.) Sure, almost every name is going to have connections for people - but if you know a Doug from decades ago who was the brightest and skinniest kid in your 3rd grade class aren't you going to have different thoughts about the name?

For me, I'm hoping that little Teddy doesn't select Theo as his preferred name. People in generations before and after mine don't understand why. But ask a Gen-Xer and you'll get the same answer every time: "Oh yeah - that's way too Cosby." If you only know one person with a name, then that name will be inextricably linked to that person in your mind. I only know one Theo - and though I did think he was pretty cool in the eighties - I don't really want that in my mind when I think of my son.

I'll make my question more clear. Is there a reason to pay $350 to get someone else's prejudices and experiences applied to your own flesh and blood?

Whaddaya say? Are you going to hire self-named "Nameologist" Maryanna Kowitts?
July 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
Quite a few of our clients often call into question one of the most basic assumptions we tell them to make. The assumption? If a name can be shortened in any way - via acronyms, dropping syllables, or just using the first portion of the name - your customers will find and use it.

(The companion parable to this - that you should never try to create your own abbreviated name from your full length name unless your clients force the issue - is something I'll address another time.)

Most recently a client protested that I was being overly pessimistic and that people aren't that lazy. Here's what they said in as close as I can get to an exact quote:
That's an overreaction, Tate. You should have more faith in the human race, nyo? We're not that lazy.
Perhaps you can guess which word I'm going to point out as proving my point.

No, it isn't the apostrophe-"s" of "That's". It's "nyo."

If we can't take the time to pronounce a two syllable thought ("You Know") then how can we expect ourselves to say the long version of anything?

If you examine where this particular example of truncation and shortening comes from I think you'll find that it traces back something like this:
  1. Do you know what I mean?
  2. Ya know what I mean?
  3. Know what I mean?
  4. You know?
  5. Y'know?
  6. Nyo?
  7. (and very recently) Ye-o?
Listen closely next time you're having a conversation. The verbal shorthand we're using for "You know?" has almost nothing to do with the letters contained in the words of the phrase. We've got a definite "y" sound and an "oh" sound - but everything else seems to have fallen away.

I'm sure there are linguists out there that would be upset about this for all sorts of reasons. And I'm certain there are others that show this as proof that our language is healthy and adapting. My only reason for bringing it up is to show that we're always going to try to make things easier for ourselves.

It isn't General Electric, it's GE. It isn't Kentucky Fried Chicken - it's KFC.

And Stokefire? You'll never see us call ourselves "SF" or any other shortening. It's one of the reasons why we don't use mid-Caps in our name. Midcaps promote the use of acronyms and abbreviations. We figure if we're going to go to the expense of creating a name for ourselves and printing it on business cards we probably shouldn't be using a name that begs to be abbreviated. After all - we try hard to get our name in front of our prospective partners and clients... why would we want to double our effort by putting two names out there? (The real one and the abbreviated one.)

We endeavor to have a name that doesn't go the way of "Do You Know What I Mean" and instead begs to be sounded out. Maybe even emphasized. And we endeavor to create those for our clients. Sure, there's power in GE, KFC, and IBM - but those names have millions of dollars of marketing to keep them in the minds of prospective clients. For companies that wish to be a bit more economical with their marketing dollars it makes sense to get a name that doesn't break down into an acronym.

Seems to be working well for Google, doesn't it?
June 28, 2007 | Tate Linden
I received a letter in the mail from one of my representatives yesterday. It contained a newsletter with the title "Whippletter."

As you can probably guess (since you're one of our highly intelligent readers) the esteemed Senator's last name is "Whipple" (First and middle names are Mary and Margaret.)

My question: Does this cramming together of words actually do anything positive for the Senator's brand?

My follow-up question: Since no guide is given to how to pronounce this munged word what would you think the pronunciation should be?
  1. "Whipp-Letter" - ignoring the emphasis and going with the intuitive identification of word parts.
  2. "Whipple-TER" - going with the change in emphasis as the type indicates
  3. "Whipple-Letter" - ignoring the shortening entirely and forcing the word to make audible sense.
Potential lesson in naming:

When looking for creative ways to conjoin two terms you should consider the impact to more than just the way the words look on the page. Show them to people and ask how they'd pronounce it. If people stumble (as most did when I asked around the office) then consider getting rid of the confusing bits. (This is related to a widely accepted concept - that the human brain will look for familiar patterns when trying to figure out how to pronounce something. But sometimes the model identified doesn't provide clear guidance - like the brand "Vild" - is it pronounced like "Wild" and "Mild" or like "Sild" and "Gild". Interestingly most people hit on the latter pronunciation even though the former is more common.)

What do you think?
June 27, 2007 | Tate Linden
But we have a fun idea for taking over the world. And we're looking for an intern who can both draw and build websites who wants to build what could be one of the coolest non-traditional marketing campaigns aimed at marketers... ever.

What we're offering:
  • ...
Okay... we're not really offering anything. You may or may not work in the same office with us. You may or may not get free lunches. We might spring for gasoline, or we might not.

What we're offering is a killer idea that you can execute on and add to your portfolio of projects. If it works we'll be pointing to you as the guy/girl that got it done and we'll happily send business your way. Maybe even some of our own. If it doesn't work? Well, you can still put it on your CV - it just won't be quite as cool to do so.

If you know about the old site and you appreciated the humor - you'll love this project. We'll need a bit of e-commerce and page layout - actually a lot of it, so if you've got those skills let us know (and if you "don't got" those skills you probably shouldn't be writing to us...) And truthfully we have no idea what to ask for in terms of technology. We're not techies, so hopefully you'll bring that tech knowledge with you - or else we'll be stuck trying to find interns for our interns. The more ridiculously high-tech we can make this thing the better off we'll be.

Interested? Send us a note with links to your online work.

And be sure to tell us a bit about who you are. But NO RESUMES. Period.

Based on responses to previous notes like this we can't guarantee that we'll respond to everyone, but we'll do our damnedest. Maybe we can find an intern to be sure we get everyone?

Thanks for reading this far. Please feel free to send this to anyone you think might be interested.
June 25, 2007 | Tate Linden
Managing expectations is one of the hardest parts of developing powerful names. We work hard at the beginning of a project to ensure that expectations are set correctly. There's a misconception that names can do absolutely everything for a company. For example, here's a (slightly modified) list of things a client wanted from their name on a recent contract - before we helped them pare it down.
  • The name should not use any of the current buzz words or industry descriptors
  • The name should double as the new industry terminology of choice
  • The name should publicize both the existing industry and our own company
  • The name should be easy to say and spell
  • The name should not feel out of place amongst the existing company names in the space, but should still be unique.
  • The name should be intuitive
  • The name should make people feel good about being associated with us
  • The name should attract upper-echelon clients
  • The name shouldn't alienate or existing lower caste clients
  • The name should help to keep clients engaged with us for multiple purchases
  • The name should be progressive and contemporary but should not need to be renamed again due to it going out of style.
  • ...
The list went on from there. And it got even more conflicted as we got into it.

Let me be very clear: Names are the starting block, not the finish line. A good name can help set you apart from your competitors - and can perhaps help with a couple other goals as well... but it cannot get you repeat customers in most situations.

You cannot, I'm afraid, have a name that does absolutely everything for your company. You also cannot have a name that doesn't have at least a few drawbacks. All the best names in the business have flaws - Google sounds like baby-speak, Caterpillars are squishy and eat crops... But the names set them apart - allowing them to get noticed and position themselves versus the competition. From there the companies can take over.

Memorability, evocativeness, pronunciation, strategic fit... these are things we can work on with a name. (We have twenty-six other variables we throw in there too... but you can't have a name with all thirty variables pegged at "10.")

For anyone out there struggling to find the perfect name... just stop. Perfection is not attainable. When you break a name into its constituent variables some will be strong and others won't. Just ensure that the portions that you're leveraging the most for your business are associated with the strong aspects of your name and you'll be set.

Forget the All-Everything name. Just try to get one that is good at something while avoiding any major pitfalls. You'll be so far ahead of most other companies that you'll forget you ever wanted anything more.
June 21, 2007 | Tate Linden
Best. Jingle. Ever.

Please note that I am made unjustifiably happy by the idea that there's a company out there with this name. Or at least it appears that there was a company with this name. I can't find any website for them (but of course I can't speak or write in Japanese, so this isn't surprising.)

Sometimes a name (and jingle) can be so bad (or badly translated) that it becomes almost endearing. This seems to qualify. And before you ask - Stokefire doesn't plan on developing names for translation into Japanese and back to English any time soon. You'll just have to wait for us to expand before you can get gems like National Rich You Grow Corporation and such.

The following text is the only information I can find on the company (and it isn't from a reputable source):
At the dawn of the 21st century and a small Japanese demolition company by the name of Nihon Break Kougyou (Japan Break Industries) tried to come up with an edge to compete in a very difficult arena. They decided to release their corporate theme song to the general public and lo and behold and it became a top ten hit in Japan!
And here's the full lyric just in case you'd like to read ahead while listening...
Break it down! Break around. We're coming to your town. To destroy, if you employ! We'll work without a sound.

The building can't take it for very much more Pieces of concrete are hitting the floor They're the things that get in the way of world peace (The Peace of the Earth is Kept!) Break Out!

Japan Break Industries Steel ball Da Da Da

Japan Break Industries Chemical anchor rock this house to the ground

We bring the house down! We bring the bridge down! We bring the building down! From east to west

We get it on! We get it on! Japan Break Industries

Break defence! Break offence! A faulty residence. Wood and bricks, we'll unfix! For a low expense!

Pile head welding is our forte We got support 24 a day Hammer of justice, high up in the sky (Doesn't this YUMBO go into an eye?)

Break Out! Japan Break Industries

Diamond Cutter Da Da Da

Japan Break Industries Automated compressor let your echoes shake the ground!

We bring the house down! We bring the bridge down! We bring the building down! From east to west We get it on! We get it on! Japan Break Industries

[Musical Interlude]

Japan Break Industries Steel Ball Da Da Da (Ooh!) Chemical anchor Da Da Da (Da!)

Nihon Break Kougyou Diamond cutter Da Da Da (Hey!)

Japan Break Industries Automated compressor let your echoes shake the ground!

We bring the house down! We bring the bridge down! We bring the building down! From east to west We get it on! We get it on! Japan Break Industries

Break it down now!
May 18, 2007 | Tate Linden
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!
May 15, 2007 | Tate Linden
No... not with Stokefire. (We're done hiring until we find a bigger space.)

Try Landor - the Grand-daddy of the industry. I received this in my in-box this morning with no mention of copyright or non-distribution policies. So I'll help a competitor out... (They're not competing in my space at the moment so I'll play nice.)

If I were in New York and didn't have my own firm I'd consider talking with them about it... But I'm not and I do, so there shall be no talks.

Landor isn't currently known for their creativity in naming, so perhaps the new person can bring a little spark to the organization. (If I'm gonna help 'em I gotta get a little dig in, don't I?)

If you're applying I'd love to hear about it.

Applied Linguistics & Naming Architecture: Director, Naming & Writing, Landor Associates/Young & Rubicam Brands, NYC, USA

Organization: Landor Associates/Young & Rubicam Brands Department: Naming & Writing Web Address:

Specialty Areas: Applied Linguistics; Verbal Identity


In the 'agency world' and among marketing professionals on the client side, Landor Associates is known as the world's most accomplished and internationally recognized branding and design consultancy. For 65 years we've delivered a multidisciplinary range of brand strategy, design, naming, interactive, and research services, helping clients around the world create, renew, and strengthen their brand power. Besides being a solid career credential for the best designers, marketers and all sorts of advertising, strategic and creative professionals, Landor is also well known as a fun, collaborative, and intellectually stimulating place to work.

The Director, Naming & Writing, based in Landor's New York City office, will be a strategic thinker and doer with expertise in developing branding and naming architectures, nomenclature systems, and naming guidelines for complex corporate and product/service projects. You will also be an expert in name and tagline development and brand voice strategy and guidelines.

Here are just some of the other things we expect from you: - help clients make decisions about strategic and creative work - sell naming solutions and bring ideas to life - provide clear direction to team members for creative efforts, helping them to optimize creative output - identify and take the lead on developing new products, methodologies and processes - be the problem solving "hired gun" on relevant client engagements and function as client leader on all types of Naming and Verbal Identity engagements - have strong and lively facilitation and moderation skills - manage, mentor and develop multiple direct reports - take the lead on creation of proposals and pitches - formulate, assess and manage overall department budget - handle day to day management and operational issues related to the Naming & Writing practice in Landor's NY office.

Qualifications: - The ideal candidate will have a Bachelors Degree in English, Linguistics, Liberal Arts, or related studies with a minimum of 8 - 10 years of Naming/Writing/Verbal Identity experience (on the agency or client side). - Must have leadership experience and worked in an organization as a Naming/Verbal Identity Consultant. - Significant experience with naming and nomenclature strategy is an absolute must. - A "wide angle" view of branding and ability to represent Landor's range of offerings to clients is necessary.

Landor Associates, part of the WPP Group of companies, provides a competitive compensation and benefits package.

To apply, please visit our company website listed below. Please create a new member profile and upload a copy of your resume (Word or PDF format is preferred). If you choose, you may submit samples of your work by clicking on the 'Add Documents' link after creating your profile.

Application Deadline: 30-Jun-2007 (Open until filled)

Web Address for Applications:

Contact Information: Manager, Human Resources: Ira Beckman Email:
May 8, 2007 | Tate Linden
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 703-778-9925
May 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
...but sometimes it can help.

VIMO - a search and comparison engine for finding doctors announced a new name in 2006. They used to be "Healthia."

I personally have no problem with the name VIMO - it evokes the concept of Wine for me - as in "Vino". This led immediately to a connection with the toast "To Your Health!" And that seemed to make at least a little bit of sense to me.

This, however was not what the company leaders apparently intended. Here is a quote from a VC blogger who wrote about it last year:
So the folks at Healthia were happy to announce yesterday that they have selected a long term moniker for their company (and without retaining a "naming consultant"). The new name Vimo evokes:

(i) vim, as in health, vigor, and vitality;

(ii) the Gujarati word vimo, meaning insurance;

(iii) the Swahili vimo, meaning measurements and also stature;

and, most importantly

(iv) the urban slang vimo meaning sexy, cool and impeccable.
I was unable to figure out where the blogger got the connotations from (The press release doesn't mention them) but I hope that the justifications he provides aren't the ones they used.

Here's why -
  1. VIMO doesn't connect strongly to "vim." Why? Because Vimo appears to naturally be pronounced "Vee-Moe." While I don't condone it, if you wanted to make the connection with vim noticeable you'd have to play with capitalization - like "VIMo" or "VimO" - or you could force the correct pronunciation by using "Vimmo."
  2. Given that the service is sold in the United States and that their target customer likely speaks neither Gujarati nor Swahili, the fact that the name has meaning in those languages means absolutely nothing to the consumer. Since the service being sold is a portal and not an end-use (e.g., they are going to find someone who will solve a problem - and that someone will require a discussion or visit off the website) there is no incentive to stay with the site long enough to have these definitions sink in.
  3. The urban slang dictionary is notorious for having bogus definitions. Most of the terms in it appear to be from people trying to make up new trendy-speak so that they can say they started it all.
Still, this isn't a bad name - and I'd even go so far as to say it is a good one. Nice length, nice sound, fun to say...

The place where the name falls down (and where a naming consultancy can help) is in telling the story. Rather than telling people what the name evokes:

"Our new name, Vimo, communicates vim, vigor, energy and enthusiasm -- collectively characterizing our commitment to empowering consumers in their quest for reliable healthcare information,"...

... the leadership could make a stronger connection. Sure, the first three letters spell "vim" but where is the rest of that communication coming from? The letters themselves? The implication that wine is involved? And then there's the question of how "vim, vigor, energy and enthusiasm" characterize a commitment to empowering consumers to do anything. It just sounds like marketing-speak to me.

I can't stand marketing speak. As soon as I start hearing words like "paragon" or having a search engine described as enabling a "quest" I just tune out. Does anyone out there listen to this stuff? I certainly hope that the stories Stokefire builds actually sound like something people might say in real life.

Vimo is a fine name. Just give the bogus stuff a rest and speak with your own voice. Leverage the more obvious meanings not the hidden ones... and tell it like it is.

I wish you all a pleasant start to your day, and may you have the best of occurences coincidentally befall you as you progress towards the darkening hour.

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
April 30, 2007 | Tate Linden
We had a client a couple weeks ago who was astonished that we would claim we could usually tell what era a corporate name was created. They seemed somewhat mollified when we trotted out the ".com" example - as a sign of the post Internet boom. They were a little more convinced when we brought up Flickr and the flotilla of corporate names with the missing penultimate letter.

Copycat naming isn't new in the corporate world.

I've gone back as far as the early 1900s and found examples. I'm sure there are more even earlier than that - we're just working our way backwards...

In the year 1900, the term "Pianola" came into use. A few years later Victrola and Crayola joined in. By 1928 there were almost 100 companies with the -ola suffix in America. For a world without much in the way of instant mass media this proliferation is quite impressive. Granola, Shinola, Coca-Cola...

What do these names have in common? To us it seems that they indicate a connection with what was new in the first third of the 20th century.

Think Motorola is an exception? It isn't. Registered in 1930, the company likely leveraged the word Motor (as in car) and ola (to reference music) as a way to carve out a new niche for music on the road.

The next time someone asks you if you know how old a company is you may want to take a look at the structure of the name. There's a lot to be found within the patterns you may find.

Tate Linden Principola - Stokefire 703-778-9925
April 26, 2007 | Tate Linden
Someone - we're not quite sure who it is that runs the Ubernamer site - rated our blog's name as better than two of the sites we think are the bee's knees - NameWire and Wordlab.

We're glad someone online likes the name. We'd heard a bit of disappointment from the masses when we moved away from Stoked Brands and the "Poking brands with sticks just to see what happens" line. One benefit of the change is that when we tell people the name of our blog they either blush or break out laughing. Or both. (We've had a bunch of requests to make tee-shirts and just haven't had the time to do it right. When you ask a namer to put something in print you're going to have to be patient!)

I personally am not quite sure what Ubernamer is measuring when he scores the names in question, but we do feel that our name is just right for our target market - the inquisitive marketer, linguist, or even an employee of a company going through a rebranding who isn't an expert, but has some exposure to the concepts or practice of naming and wants to know more. We're not a source for consistent news in naming, we're not here to help beginners create their own name - we're here to give people a window into how namers think, how names are created, and what sorts of things can trip up (or make successful) the process.

There is a quote I'd like to address from the Ubernamer's post:
So who wins this name war? Thingnamer. And yet, Thingnamer is not as interesting as, say Brandnama or, even, Brandaclaus. Learning: Portmanteau words work better as brand names. Not that any of that matters. At the end of the day, for whatever reason, all the three names being compared here have more clients than both Brandnama and Brandaclaus put together. Just goes to show, again, that a name is only a small part of the branding game. Unfortunately.
My thoughts:
  1. Thingnamer vs. Brandnama vs. Brandaclaus - We're more partial to Thingnamer, but that may be because Thingnamer speaks to who we are and what we do more than the other two names. I could not possibly run a blog with either of the other names on it - Brandnama sounds like it's too cool (I may play at being cool, but I'm a name geek at heart), and Brandaclaus has implications that don't blend with who we are (we don't run an elf sweat-shop, and our work is most certainly not provided for free.) That said, I feel strongly that both Brandnama and Brandaclaus have a place in the blogosphere - and perhaps even in the corporate world as naming companies. They're going after different markets than Thingnamer/Stokefire does.
  2. And more on comparing names: One aspect of evaluating a name versus the competition is determining the strategic fit. I'm not able to adequately evaluate who Brandnama and Brandaclaus are going after or what their goals are. I only know my own. If you've ever been to one of my lectures or presentations you've heard me say this before, but I'll put it in writing now: Yahoo is a pretty damn good name for a search engine. It is not, however, your best option for a funeral home. Thingnamer meets my needs and the needs of my target market better than any of the other names that have been mentioned. It is approachable, accessible to all generations, humorous, easy to spell and (based on our own proprietary scoring system) the best name we could find for what we wanted to do. Brandnama and Brandaclaus aren't me. Even if the names are better (and I'll leave that judgement to others) they wouldn't address my personality, my desire to say things as they are, and my vocabulary.
  3. Portmanteau Words: We absolutely agree that there is a place for them in naming. They're a tool we use and and evaluate when developing names. They are not, however, the balm that turns a bad name into a good one. Thingnamer as a name doesn't break down into a portmanteau easily, and the full power of the name can only come across through the full presentation. "Thinamer" is a pretty crappy name. Oddly enough we've found that while using portmanteau words has the benefit of adding depth to a name, that depth is often gained at the cost of clarity and power. Not every portmanteau can be "SPORK" - which to us is nearly perfection for more reasons than we can list here.
  4. On client count: You have to start somewhere. Also, it may be that the market in which you operate (Dubai, in this case - I believe) may be influencing your success. I'm not sure how the market is over there - and I don't know if writing in English helps your cause. We've worked on a single naming project in that area and had to develop a name in Hindi, not English.
  5. On names only being a small part of the branding game. We actually like this fact. If names were the only thing that mattered then the world of marketing and branding would be hugely dull. We enjoy being a part of this complex process that links brands to consumers. There's far more of a challenge involved when you have to play nice with everyone else working on the brand. That's just one of the reasons getting the right name can be a significant investment - and can take larger companies months or even years to develop. If it were easy we'd be out of a job...
That's it. We wish the Ubernamer the best. Here's to hoping that they can open up the naming market in Dubai. After our experience trying to learn the finer points of conversational Hindi we've decided that the languages spoken in the Middle East and Asian markets are just a bit too much to take on.

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
April 24, 2007 | Tate Linden
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 703-778-9925
April 23, 2007 | Tate Linden
I6.jpg'll be the first to tell you that I've got a really cool wife. She's stylish, smart, funny, and there's that whole thing about her carrying my unborn child that makes her all the more appealing...

Anyhow, my wife was flipping through a magazine about pregnancy and came across this great little invention that is basically a soft and stylish blanket with a short strap that links around the neck of a nursing mother so that the little tyke can drink in privacy. The product is made by BEBE AU LAIT - a very classy sounding company in this namer's opinion. Even the tagline, "nursing covers for chic mothers" points to upscale and stylish customers. So it rather makes me wonder what the heck they were thinking when they named this spiffy new product...

Hooter Hiders(tm)

Really. That's the name.

Apparently it got the name because some male friend called it that upon seeing it in use.

I must admit that the name is quite descriptive.

But, no, I don't like it.

My reasons:
  1. When was the last time you heard a style-conscious breast-feeding mom refer to her life-giving breasts as "hooters?"hooters_triplets.jpg
  2. The disconnect between the word "chic" and "hooters" is huge. In fact, when searching the internet for "Chic Hooters" I found many hits. All of them seem to be porn sites that evidently can't spell "Chick." Imagine walking into a trendy boutique in New York... now ask yourself if you'd expect to see the bra section labeled "hooter holders."
  3. If a husband is going to buy his wife something for her... assets... I'm guessing more often than not it is going to involve the displaying of said assets rather than the hiding of them. Why does this matter? Because the name "Hooter Hiders" is a name that I believe is more targeted at the male psyche than the female one. Think I'm being stupid? Ask yourself this: Why aren't there any companies marketing breast pumps as "Knocker Kneaders?" I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that men aren't good at spelling silent letters.
  4. It is never a good idea to go up against La Leche League. Based on what I've read of theirs (and I do like 'em... I really do) it seems that anything that inhibits the fresh-air experience of breast feeding in public is to be shunned. The Courts often support them. Feeding an infant is pretty-much the only time a woman's breast can be publicly displayed in the United States while staying within the bounds of the law. Upsetting a bunch of lactating women by suggesting that they abandon their rights... yeah... not so smart.
  5. You will never get any desireable spokespeople to stand up and proclaim your product is worthwhile. Can you imagine Oprah, Gweneth, or Angelina saying they can't live without Hooter Hiders? Anna Nicole (GRHS) might have been up to the challenge, but few others would dare.
  6. EXTRAFUNTIMEBONUS Reason: The name logically doesn't work. Hooter (singular) Hiders (plural) implies one of a few things. Choose from a sampling:
    1. More than one of the product is needed to entirely hide one hooter
    2. Only one breast should be hidden
    3. The product is sold in packs (and thus must be referred to with the plural) like Huggies.
    4. A secret membership organization that advocates either:
      1. Going around placing one of their breasts in hard to find locations OR
      2. Finding owls and forcing them into said hard to find locations (presumably after aforementioned breasts have been removed.)
  • Note that there's a pretty good reason they likely didn't go with the grammatically correct version of "Hooters Hider" since it would be homonymic with "Hooter Cider" and I'm thinkin' that wouldn't go over well.
There are a couple of ways that the name could work - but they're even more risky than I would personally advocate for
  1. Get the backing of La Leche League and use this as a way to dissuede the populace from asking to have breast-feeding women cover their breasts. Make them use to "proper name" for the product. "Oh, you mean you want me to pull out my Hooter Hiders? Sure... just ask me to use it and I'll do so." Most of the people offended by the sight of a woman's breast probably will have trouble saying the word "breast" so I'm guessing that "Hooter" will be a near impossibility.
  2. Market 'em to husbands. Instead of going for chic and trendy go for comical. Have the designs show a woman holding a big bottle of beer up to her chest instead of a kid.
  3. Wait for the next "Sex and the City" type show or movie and pay major bucks to get the product mentioned in the script or used by one of the sexy progressive women.
If Hooter Hiders does choose to market to men I know just the professional race car driver to pitch the product.

Until then this one goes in my naming Misstep Hall o' Shame. (I may change my opinion of the kind folks at BEBE AU LAIT send us a sample and my wife can actually use it and also tell her grandma what it is. I think I'm safe in saying that she won't be able to bring herself to do so...)

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
April 19, 2007 | Tate Linden
I'm not sure how other namers out there are approach the naming of associations, membership organizations and societies. Really. I'm not.

Here's why:

We're getting swamped by calls from associations wanting help recovering from naming projects - mostly internally led. They want help recovering from membership revolt or to head off what they see as an impending confrontation.

From what we can determine the causes for the alienation are from one of two things. Either the leadership team went off on its own to develop a new identity and presents a single option for the membership to vote on out of the blue - usually at the annual meeting... Or the leadership team goes to the membership and asks what the name should be - resulting in thousands of submissions, factionalization of the membership base, and no majority approval.

Membership organizations have a rather interesting aspect to the development of a new name. Rather than trying to attract dollars, the name is often better tasked in helping to raise the profile or morale of the membership. Organizations have come to us seeking help in making the members sound more credible, in finding new ways to refer to terms that are outdated, or to invent a word for a concept that is so new it hasn't even had terminology coined yet.

We're really enjoying the work - both on the creative side and on the membership-involvement side. The reason why so many association rebrands fail has more to do with not understanding how to involve the membership without ceding control than it does with finding the perfect name. Stokefire doesn't build perfect names and brands. There's no such thing. The best brands in the world are flawed. They do, however, have exceptionally strong aspects to them that outweigh the weaknesses in the current market.

So... word to the wise on association naming. Don't try to get your membership to name your association for you. It won't work - and the majority of your members won't like the name. Also don't attempt to force a singular identity upon your members - they'll mutiny. Find a way to involve membership in the process without allowing the masses to pull you in ten thousand different directions.

It's possible... honest. We're doin' it today.

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
April 17, 2007 | Tate Linden
We've had this concept in our heads for quite some time. Or maybe it was just me that had it in my head. Anyhow, we're beginning to take the wraps off of our visual identity that was started way back in '06. We're not quite at a stage where I can show the designs online, but rest assured we're close. If we send you a proposal within the next few weeks you'll likely have a chance to see the refreshed brand in action.

So what is "Edgy but Approachable?" Well... it's tricky. We aim to be sort of like Janeane Garafolo but without the political extremism. It's the best effort we've come up with for getting our pre-contact impression into words. Sure, there's all that great stuff about expertise and brand knowledge, and the study of naming... but who are we at a party?

You'll note (when you see it) that our new logo actually looks quite a lot like a tattoo. That's no coincidence.

What do you folks think of the idea? Does it seem to fit with your idea of Stokefire? Does it make sense? Is it us?

And a random thought. I saw this great tattoo of a fly on a guy's shoulder in ID Magazine (the current issue.) As I recall, the text for the picture mentioned that ever since he got the tattoo people would come up and try to brush the fly off of him. If that doesn't (re)define edgy but approachable I don't know what does.

If only Judaism were a little more lenient on the whole tatt concept. Oh, and I suppose the wife would need to be a bit more lenient there too.
April 9, 2007 | Tate Linden
(I can say that, can't I? It's not a euphemism I'm familiar with, but I'm sure someone will take offense...)

There was a time long ago when the staff at Stokefire thought to themselves "Why is it that so many business start blogs, only to watch them fizzle and die?"

We were haughty. We were confident. We occassionally had an hour in our day in which we had time to think to ourselves how wonderfully haughty, confident, and gosh-darn right we were.

We are no longer haughty. Apparently haughtiness takes time. So do blog entries. Oddly enough, things that also take time include rewriting your entire naming process, going through a visual rebranding, responding to requests for proposals, and just plain getting your butt in front of people that want to do business with you.

We are humble.

And we now sort of understand. It happens because life happens. It happens an hour or a day at a time. Soon there's a week of no posts. And then two...

...and then you start getting notes from your clients and fans wondering what the hell happened.

We have some of the most incredible clients in the world - and we forget that one of the reasons they find us incredible (or at least they say they do...) is because of this very blog. When in the midst of a client workshop someone raises their hand and stops us - asking "when are you going to start blogging again" we know we've done something very wrong. We thought that focus on the client experience was paramount, but our clients were wanting to engage with us and see if there were lessons that our staff was learning while working on the project. They liked the fact we wove stories about them into our every day conversation. They wanted to see their name in backlights...

We were being stupid.

So... Hello to all of you out there who threatened to drain our laptop batteries if we didn't get back to it. Hello to my wife who barely stopped short of pointing out that if she can handle nurturing our unborn child in her belly while upholding our constitution and spending nights readying our home for the baby I can darn well invest some effort in keeping her entertained for five minutes of reading while she drinks her morning tea. Hello to Dana who I must also kindly beg to begin her posts again. Hello to Nancy, Denise, John, JT, Kevo, Florence, Mark, Jeffry, the five guys named Mike, Brent, Evan, Claude, and the rest of you that have been kind enough to come back regularly, comment and basically validate our online existence.

Hello blog.

I admit it. I've missed you.

And yes... I've got a whole lot to talk about. (Gotta remember to mention office space tomorrow...)

I'll start tomorrow. Promise!

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 27, 2007 | Tate Linden
I don't know about the rest of you name and tagline experts, but I received about twenty emails from clients, friends, and yes, even my wife about this article in the Washington Post yesterday. It's a fun read.

Here's what my wife sent me this morning:
On the radio this morning [she listens to the local NPR affiliate], the 7:30 factie was a list of taglines suggested by a DC blogger as the new DC motto. (The current slogan is "Washington, D.C.: The American Experience") My favorites:

Washington, D.C.: Less of a target than New York

Washington, D.C.: Guns now welcome

Washington, D.C.: More bloggers than rats

Washington, D.C.: Come for the frisking, stay for the wanding

Washington, D.C.: Experience the Confluence of Willful Ignorance and Power
Nice find, Sarah!

...and if any of you are wondering - we're not one of the PR firms hired to do the tagline work. We're not even a PR firm. Actually, we're kind of wondering why a PR firm would be involved in something like this.

I'm 95% certain that no matter what the tagline ends up being it'll be so watered down by focus groups that it'll have lost all significance.

I'm thinkin': Washington DC - Putting the "us" in USA.

How's that for bland? I could probably go even more bland and flat given more time... Save some money on the focus group investment...

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 26, 2007 | Tate Linden
In what I consider to be a very smart move, Nissan is looking at changing their current tagline. For some reason the tagline "SHIFT_" is not gaining traction. Of course, me being me... I'm going to spend some time telling you why it isn't working.
  • The use of a special character in a slogan is just plain weird. I'm pretty sure it was meant to be seen as a blank for the reader to fill in, but that isn't readily apparent when read. It almost seems like something you'd see in a click-language.
  • The idea that we could latch on to a concept that has no real identity (shifting) is pretty absurd. They've used the word to connote change, but the concept of change is one that can't define a brand. If your brand is in constant flux then you can't hang on to anyone that wants to buy your product. Think about it. Right after you're lured into buying a Nissan they go and change things up again and you're stuck being connected with a brand that no longer appeals to you. We don't want change - we want the stuff we want.
  • Rule number 43 of taglines. If you have to resort to a special character or something you can't pronounce in your tagline you're not done building yours yet.
  • Rule number 72(a) - If your tagline can be turned against you by the addition or subtraction of a single obvious letter you probably need to do some more work. The number of references to "SHIXT_" and Nissan exceeds 1500 on Google.
  • There's such a thing as a tagline with too many meanings. There was nothing solid to latch on to here. Nissan didn't decide which meaning they wanted, instead choosing for it to mean the act of shifting, mental shift, shift in expectations, stick shift, and more.
What really gets me steamed, though - is that this could be a great tagline... for an internal effort. Nissan was (and is) hurting - and they did need to shift... but they didn't need to tell their customers. Why share the fact that your bottom line is hurting and something needs to change? Sure, candor is often a good thing, but when it comes to cars people need to feel that the company is strong. Who wants a regular-use car for which there is no longer an accountable manufacturer?

About two months ago I found a great document lauding the success of this tagline and showing how great it was that Nissan was able to use the same message internally and externally. It appears to now be offline. If I can find it in my files I will repost it here. It's a great read - especially in light of the recent talk.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 26, 2007
A Little Brittan. A Little Corner of New YorkAnyone walking east down Jane Street in the West Village yesterday morning would have known they were approaching the border. There were puddles on the road when the rest of Manhattan was bone dry and somebody had laid little sections of plastic lawn around the bottoms of all the trees. images-2.jpeg All right, we are a little ahead of ourselves here. Wrest yourself from your daydream and look at the little green street sign. It says Greenwich Avenue as it has done for generations. Never mind that the block is home to that little oasis inbase_image.jpegimages-11.jpeg Gotham of British comfort cuisine, Tea & Sympathy. But renaming the block Little Britain is, in fact, exactly what the owners of the restaurant, Nicky Perry and Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett, have in mind. They are quite serious. So serious, they launched a petition drive last week to persuaimages2.jpegde the local community board and the Mayor to allow them to do it. There is nothing unsophisticated about their campaign. They hired a marketing company to create a website - www. - brought Virgin Atlantic on board as a co-sponsor and staged a press event with flight attendants and the English soul singer, Joss Stone.
March 23, 2007 | Tate Linden
It's pretty well known that when Microsoft wanted to develop a cool name for their new music player - Microsoft's attempt at taking a chunk of business away from Apple's iPod - they contacted one of the biggest branding houses in the business - Lexicon.

Lexicon developed the name Zune - a name that seems to connect with the word "tune" and has a "z" at the beginning of it. Lexicon's staff used words like "fast" and "full" (focusing on the zoominess of the Z and the roundness of the "ooh" sound) to describe what the name does for the product. When Lexicon talks about it the brand sounds almost well put together.

Steve Ballmer evidently didn't get the memo, however.

When asked what the name means he responded, "It means nothing. It's just a cool name." (listen for the quote in this YouTube video at about 1:01 into the clip.)

Sadly this sort of thing happens all the time. Someone, be it a naming firm or an internal asset, develops a name and finds all sorts of interesting factoids or associations about the name, goes to the trouble of creating an identity. The branding team embraces that identity and works hard to make it compelling.

But somewhere along the line someone forgets to brief the CEO. Or maybe they do brief him and he's got other things on his mind. The problem is that the CEO isn't actually involved in the branding process (or at least I would guess that is the case here.) If the folks at the top aren't involved and haven't been brought up to speed then all the work done by the branding team is pretty much worthless.

If I say we chose a name for the next new thing because it is laden with connotations and my CEO says it's meaningless, what does that say about the product, the name, the CEO, and me? Pretty much nothing good:
  • The product doesn't have anything interesting enough about it to get the attention of the CEO - or he'd have been involved in the branding process
  • The name isn't compelling enough to engage the interest of the CEO to the point where he knows what it means
  • The CEO doesn't value the work done by his branding team and marketing staff enough to remember it
  • The branding team produces work that gets ignored by the guy footing the bill. How good can the work actually be?
It's stuff like this that shows the importance of executive involvement and buy-in. Just saying you're willing to pay for a name isn't enough. You gotta be up to speed.

I wonder how many other naming organizations won't take a project if the top-level representatives of the brand aren't on board? We won't take a job in which we can't access the top of the pyramid. It wasn't always this way, but we've had issues just like this - where we build the brand and either the brand gets canned before launch or the launch gets completely bungled because the senior executives didn't read a positioning brief that clearly states the whats and whys of the brand - and instead went with gut instinct. Imagine the horror experienced by a marketing team that is ready to roll out a fun-loving brand identity only to hear their leader convey the importance of gravity and attention to detail just days before the rollout. newcoke-can.jpg

We've learned our lesson.

It's been quite a while since we would take on branding engagements where the top of the pyramid can't be found. In fact, we've even made senior executive sign-off part of our contract. We're not done until the CEO types can convincingly represent the brand identity. If they don't believe in and understand the brand then we've still got work to do.

Side note: Just because the CEO understands the brand doesn't mean that it will be successful. New Coke went down in flames even though the company leadership was thoroughly behind it. Bringing customers and membership along is a different issue - and one that we've addressed in the Optiva threads.

I'm sure other namers have some horror stories here... Maybe someone else can share. I'm especially interested to hear from Lexicon about how they responded to the Ballmer slip-up.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 23, 2007

Monster launches new product


Monster Worldwide Inc. launched a new recruitment media product designed to aid employers in seeking people who are not actively looking for a job.
March 22, 2007 | Tate Linden
This one is courtesy of YouTube.

The name is M5 Industries., but evidently Adam Savage was hoping for something a little more British...

mythbusters.jpgThe tale of the name picks up part way through Adam's answer to an unheard question.

This is an example of what can happen when you don't do the required research when developing a name. Memory is a funny thing, ain't it?

My guess? Though he says he was going for a reference to James Bond's tech shop (MI6) I think he probably was remembering their Secret Service (MI5). Additionally, in the US we really don't use "MI" for anything - but we do have a fondness for guns like the M60 and fireworks like the M80. There also might be a little bit of Europe in the name if you consider the BMW M5 as an influencer.

I'll call this one "Plausible."

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 22, 2007
Tech products get a shot of bling with the new line Active Crystals which named between a partnership formed between Phillips electronics and Swarovski Crystals. First itmes to come out will be a flash port and headphones. Smiliar items that use the Swarovski crystals can be foundn on


March 21, 2007 | Tate Linden
If you have a product that needs a name you probably have at least a few ideas about what that name should be. Great. Chances are good that before you find someone like us to name your product (or company) you've actually written down a few of these names and played with 'em a bit. Maybe you've asked other people what they think about your potential names, even. Perhaps you and your peers throw a code name or working name back and forth as you work on your project just because you have to call it something, right?

Well, that's fine. But you should be aware of a couple things that are happening while you're doing this.

First, as noted in Monday's rant about cool code names, you're setting up your clients for a disappointment.

Second, and more importantly, once you begin to use a code name, working name, or even if you just start bouncing some ideas around in your mind you're beginning to lose the objectivity you need to name your project well.

Recently one of our clients came to us with just this issue. After months of considering names internally they were stuck. They hadn't chosen a name yet, but they'd been playing around with the same group of names for many weeks.

After our first round of naming the client was disturbed to find that some of their favorite pre-existing names had some rather large problems to overcome. For instance:
  • The nonsensical word that they preferred happened to mean something in a foreign language that would limit their ability to own the word locally or globally
  • The word has no meaning or connotation amongst the target market
  • The word doesn't allign with the goals they've set out for the name or the company in general.
And there was more to it, but I'll leave it at that.

The real issue we had to overcome wasn't that they were in love with the name - it was that they'd become so familiar with the name over time that they couldn't objectively evaluate the difficulties that their clients would have in saying it, reading it, or understanding what it means. They'd come to embrace the term as catchy, when in fact it was downright awkward.

Think about it. You invent a term - say... "Cobonovirtuate" and you think about that term for months. You say it every few hours during the day. You go to sleep thinking about it. You use the term to reference something important in your life. You think of words that rhyme with it.

After those months have passed you are so familiar and comfortable with the term that you think it is the most natural thing in the world.

It can be tough to hear, then, that the name is flawed. I give big kudos to my client for trying to see past their familiarity

In fact... They're still not through it. But I'm rooting for 'em big time.

And if they don't see past it? We're gonna build 'em the best damn support structure for a flawed name that we can.

But, yes. Still rooting. (And perhaps next post I can address some ways to avoid sticking the wrong label on to begin with...)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 19, 2007 | Tate Linden
A good friend sent me a link today to an (expired) vote on what to name Adobe's new "desktop runtime." For the record I have no idea what a desktop runtime is and I really don't much care to invest the time to find out. The key here is that it was given a pretty cool code name by the folks at Adobe prior to launching the full product. Here's what Adobe Labs has to say about the product and code name:
Apollo is a cross-OS runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills (Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop RIA’s.
All you developers out there probably now understand what the product does. I'm still clueless. But that's beside the point. The point is that the code name "Apollo" is still pretty darn cool.

Now the downside.

Adobe is now in the position where it must alienate the developers that have been working on or hyping the product code named Apollo. Why? Because Adobe can't use the name, and doesn't want to come right out and say that they were foolish and didn't check the US Patent and Trade Office before they started using it. If they'd checked they'd have seen over 1300 live and dead marks pertaining to the word.)

Mike Chambers - Sr. Product Manager for Apollo over at Adobe - says as much on his own blog when you read through the comments (starting at about XIII or so.) Sez Mike:

Hehe... Yeah, I like Apollo too. Just remember that there are a lot of considerations when choosing a name, not all of them in our control. (for example, is it already in use, is it something that we could trademark, etc...)

I've said it before. I will continue to say it in perpetuity. Code names that have any meaning at all are bad.

  1. If they have any meaning that pertains to the product or its goals then the intended audience will latch onto that meaning and identity.
  2. Once the audience has accepted the code name they'll raise a huge cry when you try to change it. (Apollo is a cool name. It's just a name that they can't have.)
  3. Typically companies don't want to look like idiots so they refrain from giving the real reason for the change from code name to production name (A.K.A. "we were too lazy to do a five minute search at to figure out that we were going to have some big problems pushing this name through legal.") Kudos to Mike for letting word get out in a friendly and informative way.
  4. ...of course, if the code name misses the mark (as did Google's initial name of "Backrub" - which was meaningful, but rather awkward) then all you've done is weird people out before you try to convince them that you do in fact have a cool product on your hands.
So - if your meaningful name hits you've got a battle to reorient your clients to the new identity and if it misses you've got to start all over again with a new image. I'm not seeing a benefit either way.

If you instead have a policy of naming every product after something innocuous (and gods are not innocuous, by the way) or - even better - don't give your product a code name and instead push to get the real name reserved as quickly as possible then you almost all of the potential headaches.

You've still got to find the right name, however.

If only there were Thingnamers in the world to make things even easier. What a wonderful world that would be...

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 19, 2007

jackiechan.gifInstaGreen Tea Beverage Mix is a vitamin-packed green tea product that delivers EIGHT TIMES the antioxidants of regular green tea.

To deliver this punch, Jackie Chan, kung-fu master, backs the product with his name and verve.instagreenblob.gif
March 12, 2007
Starbucks to launch its own music label named Starbucks Records. It is unlikely however that they will sell any records at all that the name is just marketed to consumers who remember the vinyl days of past. Paul McCartney rumored to be the first to be signed. Full story here.
March 9, 2007
In a Global Marketplace, Claiming a Name Becomes an Art in Itself.loius.jpg

When a snazzy new product goes on sale in many countries, its name must be one of a kind. Yet today it has become increasingly difficult to find a name for a company, a product, or shade of lipstick that has not been taken.
March 9, 2007 | Tate Linden
Frequent readers will know that I've got problems with the way most organizations utilize taglines. The typical company uses their tagline as a way to fit in rather than a way to stand out. Consider the following examples:
  1. Making your dreams a reality (or) Turning your dreams into reality. With over a million hits for the combinations on Google it's clear that the slogans aren't doing a thing for the firms that use them. And also note that there's nothing at all here to tell us what industry the firm is in.
  2. Customers are Number One! Yep. And if they weren't you wouldn't be in business.
  3. Creativity. Strategy. Execution. Really this is a reference to the trend to have three single words as the tagline. No one ever pays attention to it. And it sounds reeeeeally pompous.
I was asked what I thought led to strong taglines last week and after a few minutes of thought I came up with this:

The best taglines have a few things in common:
  • They represent the brand spiritfast.jpg
  • They specifically apply to the company using the slogan - to the exclusion of any other company in the industry
  • There's something unexpected or unique - perhaps rhyme, interesting word choice, or an attitude that hasn't been seen in the industry. It has to have at least a little risk.
  • They address a specific audience and are meant to drive this audience to do something (like buy the product, think about particular qualities, talk about it, bug their parents, or something else.)
I was also asked whether there was a test that could be applied to determine if a tagline was great. I think that longevity comes close, though longevity isn't a requirement. Certainly there have been some powerful taglines that were created for singular events.

In some industries (such as with automobiles) you'll find manufacturers changing the tagline every year or two. Sometimes this can be good, but usually it is a sign of a major problem. Just look at what Buick has done over a four year period:

2001 - It's All Good 2002 - The Spirit of American Style 2004 - Dream Up 2005 - Beyond Precision

I challenge any of you to find the common brand theme or thread here. I see optimism, patriotism, creativity/aspiration, and accuracy. How do these ideas come together in a cohesive brand package?

Answer: They Don't.

I have a feeling that we'll be seeing yet another tagline from Buick soon - as they realize people don't buy Buicks for their tight handling or precise fit.

Contrast this tagline churn with what Saturn has done:

1990 - A Different Kind of Car Company 2002 - It's Different in a Saturn 2004 - People First 2006 - Like Always. Like Never Before.

Common threads? How about 'being different by valuing the relationship with the buyer/owner'? Every tagline references that in some way. This isn't tagline churn because the previous one was ineffective, it is churn that brings out deeper aspects of the core brand.

If you're going to invest in a new tagline every few years shouldn't you at least make sure that each one builds on the last?

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 8, 2007
picture-14.jpgAgroLabs, Inc., announced today its new product line of single-serve, exotic The lead item in the Bali Island line is White Peach Juice made from peaches grown only in China.

March 8, 2007 | Tate Linden
We've got a fun challenge coming up in the next couple months. Another membership organization has selected our team to help them rename.

The challenge? They've got a four letter 'acronym' with letters that no longer represent what they actually do. At one point the letters were an initialism (like "GE" stands for General Electric) but the way in which the group described themselves has changed (as if GE changed its description to Mostly Lightbulbs And Electronics but neglected to move away from "GE".)

members.jpgThe biggest hurdle in most naming cases like this is to make the membership a part of the process. How do you make 5,000 members feel like a part of the process and still end up with a singular name that meets the needs of a diverse organization? If you neglect to bring the membership along for the ride you can end up with a revolt or a failed vote. If you do bring the membership along you can end up with factionalism as various constituencies lobby for their own approach and views.

Our approach is to involve the membership from the very beginning. It was the membership that asked for the new name here - and we're going to listen to everyone that wants to participate and guide us in the crafting of the new name. Rather than ask the membership to suggest the names, we ask for their input as to what they want the name to do for the organization. Sure, we'll take name suggestions too, but we want to be sure that any name we consider will meet the needs of the membership as a whole. By keeping the goals of the name distinct from the name candidates we enable the membership to make an informed choice when making a vote. The impulse to pick a horse and root for it to win gets pushed down by the more objective decision to determine which horse best fits the job at hand.

You don't want to choose a racehorse when the job at hand involves plowing the field.

Thankfully, in our experience we find that memberships are very good at making decisions like this when presented with the facts and context they need to make an informed decision. It's only when you don't give them the tools to evaluate the names and the opportunity to affect the outcomes that you end up with major problems.

Our friends over at ZilYen brought us into this project and we're looking forward to working closely with them to develop the final pieces of the brand they've already begun to solidify. And a big howdy to the project leaders at the organization (Jill and Lander) as well. We'll see you in a few weeks!

Tate Linden (and team) Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 1, 2007
macys.jpgRetail giant Federated Department Stores, Macy's Cincinnati-based parent company, made that move Tuesday, announcing that its board will ask shareholders to change the parent name to Macy's Group Inc.
March 1, 2007 | Tate Linden
logo_iowa.gif...I'm sure I could think of a better parody given time, but... well... this result doesn't really fill me with joy.

Actually, it wouldn't have mattered which way the vote went - the fact that the credit union was unable to disclose the real reason for the name change (hint: it probably wasn't just confusion) meant that the membership didn't have enough data (in either vote) to cast an informed ballot.

While I don't have 100% confidence that the University gave an ultimatum to the CU, I'm more confident in that cause than I am in any other. I'm pretty sure that if this cause had been disclosed initially the name Optiva would've been accepted more easily. In my casual perusal of online commentary I've found that many of the complaints about the new name reference the fact that the old name was the whole reason that they were a member in the first place. Many wanted the strong tie to the University and thought it was almost criminal to tear it away.

But what if the CU had been able to communicate that they had to disassociate themselves from UofI?

Imagine if Weber Marketing Group had been able to work with the full membership to find a way to honor their desire to feel connected to the school? Disclosing that the university was trying to protect its brand (saying, in effect "you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here") could've brought a rallying cry from the membership instead of a cry of foul play.

This is not to say that a naming contest was the right way to go - but certainly offering members a chance to contribute to the identity - to make sure that the new identity at least addresses the values the membership holds most dear... that would've been worthwhile.

At Stokefire we're approached occasionally by membership organizations and non-profits that wish to have their leadership team develop names without involving (or occasionally even informing) the membership until it is time to vote. While we may offer consulting support for these organizations we've never taken on a full naming project under these terms. (And FWiW, a good portion of our consulting effort goes towards trying to persuade the client to involve the membership and be as forthright as possible.)

This Optiva re-vote seems to validate our take, no?

Kudos to OptivEx for beginning to tell the full story, to the membership base for showing that there are consequences when an organization becomes disassociated from its membership, and yes, even to Weber for weathering the storm.

To those that find it surprising that I might not be ripping apart Weber... I find it interesting that no one has ever questioned whether the name Optiva was one of the top candidates suggested by the Weber team. Maybe that's because not many people know what the naming process is like. I don't have inside insight into how Weber runs their projects, but when Stokefire works with clients we present numerous candidates and make suggestions as to which are the best for various purposes. We've had a few clients go through the process and select a name that we think is a poor candidate (or that we didn't develop.) The client still has every right to disclose that we were the naming expert for the project - and it isn't likely that we would ever mention publicly that we advised against selecting a name our clients end up with. (Dissing clients - or making them look foolish - is never a good thing.) Our goal is to advise our clients as to the strongest identities available and then to do our best to support the identity choices that our clients make - even if they don't exactly follow our advice.

A few links for you:

I have enjoyed (albeit wincingly) reading the opinions of Nicholas Johnson and see them as an example of what happens when a really smart guy who cares doesn't get enough access to the information he needs. Today he provides an overview of the second vote and links to areas where you can find more backstory. Any CU or membership organization considering a top-down naming effort needs to read Mr. Johnson's words before they go through with it.

I've also watched Michael over at Popwink as he has opined on the issue - today just summarizing the final vote and showing some snapshots of the CU's home page before and after the vote.

[Edit - Thank you to JT the 'Hawk-eyed' reader who noted that I've been watching hermits rock as well. Greg's post today has some interesting quotes from the event last night.]

The story was also picked up by the Iowa Press Citizen and what appears to be another site owned by the same folks - HawkCentral. Both sites have comments enabled and the boards are heating up quickly. My quick Google search found no other news outlets covering the vote.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 26, 2007 | Tate Linden
baseballcards.jpgCan nicknames serve a purpose other than to make you look foolish in retrospect? (Did I really let people call me by the name of a small fried nugget of processed potato bits? Yes... yes I did. But in my defense I was only three.) Apparently they can.

Ernest L. Abel, Ph.D. and Michael L. Kruger from Wayne State University found a connection between the use of nicknames and living longer.

Here's the abstract from their report:
We investigated the effect of having a nickname on the longevity of major league baseball players. Ages of death, birth year, and career lengths of major league baseball players who debuted prior to 1950 were obtained and we compared longevities of players with nicknames with those who did not have a nickname. After controlling for these factors in analysis of covariance, there was a statistically significant increase in longevity of 2.5 years associated with having a nickname. Players with nicknames (N=2,666; 38.1 %) lived an average of 68.6 (±15.1 S.D.) years compared to players without nicknames (N=4,329; 61.9%) who lived an average of 66.1 (t16.1) years. We attributed this nickname-related effect on longevity to enhanced self-esteem.
Reprints of the report can be requested via email to:

While I agree that a name can have major impact on the success of a product, person, or business, I'm not sure that this report is throwing strikes.

I have to wonder how self-esteem can be quantified when the only variables controlled are age at death, birth year, career length, and whether or not they had a nickname. I did not read the full report but would imagine that there are better ways to determine if self esteem is a factor. Consider the more tangible variables of:
  • Salary rank (versus contemptoraries)
  • Stat rank (versus contemporaries)
  • Inclusion in team or league hall-of-fame
  • Records held (and for how long)
  • Position played (since some positions may be more likely to have nicknames than others - and each position requires different physical skills and body-types)
My feeling on this report is that there is some confusion between a "nickname-related effect on longevity" and another cause (the real one) that the nickname is also caused by. It could be physical attributes, increased skill, or something else. The fact is that people who get nicknames typically have something different about them (as proven by the fact that there aren't many ball-players called Joe Average.) Maybe these differences are the cause rather than the label that we put on them...

How does this apply to the world of branding and naming? When looking for true causes for success or failure it helps to look deeper than just the surface. I've found that many of the best-named companies aren't just named well - they're responsible for great products and they're managed well too. The name is the crowning achievement rather than a mask to hide a weak product.

A great name can help a company with other differentiators stand out from the crowd. It can also help a company stand out in an a commoditized industry. But as I often say, giving a piece of poo a great name may get that piece of poo a lot of press, but at the end of the day it will still only be a very well named piece of poo.

(You'll note my use of three-letter words instead of four. With the baby on the way I'm having an irrational fear that the kiddo will read this stuff and blame me for a nasty swearing habit.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 23, 2007

Introducing Meth Coffee. This rather controversial named product is marketed as a high caffeine beverage that provides an intense buzz and cocoa-tobacco finish. The "Meth" branding could generate a storm of publicity for this product in the same way that the use of the word "Cocaine" did for a recently launched energy drink.
February 23, 2007 | Tate Linden
We had a discussion yesterday with a prospective client that uses an acronym as their name. Or it used to be an acronym. Now it is just a few capital letters that have absolutely nothing to do with the organization. At some point in the last few decades the words used to describe organization changed (no longer matching the letters in the acronym) so they had to adjust the way they referred to themselves. The acronym became an anachronism.

Imagine a company called the National Record Player Company - that goes by NRPC. This name would serve them well through the 1980s - at which point the company switched away from record players to things like CD players, and soon after that to DVD players.

Kentucky Fried Chicken had a problem similar to this when they decided the word "Fried" held too much kfc.gifbaggage. They are now officially named "KFC" and the letters themselves have no official meaning anymore.

If you owned NRPC what would you do? Would you keep using the letters as you've been doing for decades because that's how people know you and there's strong brand recognition (even though the letters have had no words behind them for three decades?) Would you attempt to kluge together new words that fit the letter pattern better than the old ones (like BP did with Beyond Petroleum?) Or would you ditch the acronym and go for a brand new name that better positions you for the next three decades (while potentially honoring your past at the same time... but no pressure, of course?)

Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Each one will be loved by some and hated by others. Just take a look at our own blog and you'll see that major backlash can occur when nothing other than the name changes.

Membership organizations are particularly vulnerable to backlash when even the slightest adjustments are made to the brand. Today's society defines people by the company they keep. When an entity with which people are associated changes it reflects on the the members themselves. For naming this means that people who associate with an organization in part because of the name (perhaps because it is their alma mater) will not respond positively to a name change without a significant amount of justification and participation.

When was the last time you heard of a company or organization with a strong brand and lengthy history that renamed itself and received unanimous accolades? I certainly can't remember one. There's always dissent (though I believe that dissent is a good thing - but that's a post for another day.)

Off for my second cuppa joe.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 22, 2007 | Tate Linden
serveimage.jpgI just watched an advertisement about five minutes ago for Special K2O - a fruity protein-water drink.

I am truly saddened for 2(oh) reasons.

First, it is my belief that this is an unwise brand extension. I'm sure that some executive at Special K Headquarters thought that this was a logical step - probably using a justification like: "People eat Special K to get their vitamins, so it makes sense that people will think of us when they need a healthy drink. It's like a fruity breakfast in a bottle you can drink any time!"

The problem with this line of thinking is that people typically don't drink protein water for breakfast - and breakfast is what Special K is most strongly connected with. You'll note that Special K hasn't moved into the frozen dinner aisle, and has avoided developing lunch meats... They're strictly an early morning thing.

Think about Special K for a moment. What are the qualities that come to mind? For me I think of crispy flakes accompanied by cold milk. I also have a secondary response connected to healthfood (albeit processed health food.) The only connection to fruit I may have is via my addition of a banana or strawberry to the bowl (though I'm sure Special K has experimented with fruity cereals and breakfast bars.)

This isn't brand extension, it is brand dilution. I expect we'll see this product disappear (or get rebranded) within a few months.

The second reason I'm displeased with the product is the name. Even upon reading or hearing the name I'm not quite sure how to spell it. Do a search on the (presumably) correct name via Google today and you'll get approximately 850 hits. Now try a search with the "Oh" as the number zero. As of this moment there are at least 10,300 mentions. That means that less than ten percent of the people trying to write about the product are actually getting the name right.

The folks at Kellogg didn't factor in a major linguistic change that began in the 1990s (or perhaps earlier) and really took hold in the last couple years with Web 2.0. When a word ends with a phonetic "oh" sound most tech-savvy types will assume that the sound refers to zero. "Two dot oh" or "two point oh" (and even "two oh") have strong connections with numbers, not letters.

You know there's something wrong when your own investor site gets the name wrong.
Special K20 Protein Waters deliver five grams of protein per 16 oz. bottle with 50 calories. Special K20 is available in three flavors: Strawberry Kiwi, Lemon Twist and Tropical Blend. Suggested retail price for four 16-ounce bottles is $5.99.
I admit that the product name is saved somewhat by the fact that most buyers don't need to spell the name to buy it. The supermarket (thankfully) doesn't require you to spell the products before purchasing them. I can think of some specialty ice-cream brands that wouldn't make a dime if spelling mattered in brick & mortar product sales.

Still... don't you think it odd that 92 out of 100 mentions of the product don't actually mention the product? Add in the fact that specialk20 is camped and the correct product name (as of right now) is still available for registration and you've got a strong indicator that something is very wrong.

What do you think?

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 20, 2007




XM and Sirius Satellite Radio announced thatimages1.jpg they're confident they will be a single company by year's end, but they haven't decided what they new entity would be called, nor the location of its headquarters.


viewmedia.jpgBioPharm Informatics LLC, a premier provider of Laboratory Information Management Systems consulting services and lab technology solutions, announced today that its name will change to LabCentrixSM. LabCentrix is a coined word that connotes putting each lab at the center of everything the firm does to ensure the very best technology solutions are deployed for each customer.
February 20, 2007 | Tate Linden
focus-group.jpgI'm starting to get worried.

In the last few weeks I've noticed more people are asking me about focus groups. Every couple days a client or prospect suggests that we use focus group data to either:
  1. confirm the direction we should take for a rebranding effort - or
  2. confirm that the name(s) we have developed are worthy of launching
Color me displeased.

Those that know me well can probably pick out the word that annoys me in both suggested uses. The word is "confirm."

Focus groups don't confirm. Focus groups just focus. You give them something to discuss and they discuss it in ways not done in the real world. Unfortunately many companies use the results of focus group testing to change their strategic direction, target audience, or even their name.

I recently talked with a financial firm that used "reliable focus group data" to determine that the thing their customers wanted in a financial institution was trustworthiness and financial stability. Great... except that I'd guess that these same qualities have been identitified by every other financial firm in the country. By saying these same things about themselves they disappear into the mess of standard-issue companies.

I absolutely abhor hearing companies and organizations espousing trust as a primary virtue. They end up looking like NAR - who decided that they should shout about the ethics training they give their agents because their focus group data showed that people don't trust real estate agents.

How many of you would buy from a used car salesman that repeatedly told you that he took ethics training - and told you stories about how trustworthy and friendly he was?

Very few companies know how to use a focus group correctly. It seems counter-intuitive to use them to find new ideas, but that's the only thing we've found them useful for. Instead of asking what is important to a focus group - why not ask:
  • What is it that we do differently than other companies
  • Why did you choose us over the competition
  • If you didn't use us who would you go to for our type of services
  • Why would you choose them?
  • What could the competition offer you to entice you away from us?
  • Is there something that we do today that if we stopped doing you'd leave us?
Get people to discuss the stuff that really matters. No one selects a bank because they're the only bank that is trustworthy. They're all supposed to be that way. If everyone is supposed to do (or be) something then why say that you do it?

Here is my plea: Stop trying to confirm your ideas with focus groups. You will rarely learn anything other than how smart you are (and you'll wonder why your smart ideas don't work.) Instead use them as a tool to help you come up with new ideas.

How do you know when you've got a new idea? Take the output of the focus groups (using questions like those above) and compare the answers to your own internal responses. Then look to your competition and see what they're saying in their marketing. If you've got output that isn't being used elsewhere in the industry and is underappreciated at your own firm you've got something that could actually bring positive change.

Ideally the output will focus on things that are the opposite of what your competitors state. Like "we like you because everyone else wastes our time trying to be our friend and you just take care of business and let us get on with our day." That's a market opportunity waiting to be exploited.

I will guarantee you that your new idea will have nothing to do with "trustworthiness."

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 19, 2007 | Tate Linden
optivacolor.gifYou'd think that enough had been said about the renaming of the University of Iowa Community Credit Union to Optiva (effective March 1, 2007.) Even our little corner of the world racked up dozens of comments about it.

A new controversy (or perhaps the old one) has erupted and a revote is on the way.

If it isn't clear yet, there's a lesson here. That lesson is: Renaming is Hard.

As for my opinion on this whole thing... I'm a bit confused. I don't understand why the folks at the credit union didn't more vocally support (or at least listen to) the people upset by the name change. Sure, I'm not particularly pleased by the name "Optiva," but if I were a member I'd at least want to have my opinions made available to other members and discussed via the membership pipeline.

The justification for the name change is that people were confused by the old name. Folks thought that it was only for alumni and students when it is in fact open to everyone. Fair enough. But I question whether the name is the right thing to change when facing this sort of confusion. This credit union has a huge and vocal group of people that want to be associated with the university - and this group of people grows every day. It wouldn't be difficult to adjust something like the tagline or even create an ad campaign to solve the problem. In fact it would be cheaper, easier, and more practical.

You'll note that the company made no mention of financial problems or legal issues - just confusion.

I'm getting confused myself now. Why would an organization that benefits from a huge number of rabid fans and alumni ditch that association for something innocuous and Latinate?

Weber Marketing Group did their job in creating the identity, but I'm not certain that if confusion is the primary mover a new identity was the right response. No matter how great Weber's work was it wasn't going to solve the confusion and still maintain the same strong tie to the University.

So the real question (at least to me) is what the real reason for the name change was. No one throws away millions in free advertising and positive associations just to solve confusion. If that is honestly the cause then I'd suggest that the leadership of the CU needs a lesson in economics.

I'm pretty sure they've got Econ 101 covered, so that means the answer is elsewhere.

What would make a CU change its name without putting up a public fight? Let me know your thoughts. I have my own ideas, but I'd like to hear yours first. If you could name your own business after your alma mater and benefit from that association every time the name was mentioned in the press - wouldn't you? What would make you change?

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 19, 2007
logohome.gifCoty Inc., the world's largest fragrance company, announced today the creation of a new global business unit which they have named, Coty Beauty, which will combine the mass businesses of the Americas, Europe and Asia.
February 15, 2007 | Tate Linden
Two concepts that I thought would never successfully mix: anything involving the word "viral" and my nether regions.

I have been proved wrong.

(Please note that I am going to do my darndest to make this a PG-13 post. Maybe even G if I can find a way. If you are offended by "Hoo Has" and the like you may want to surf elsewhere.)

afeita.jpgIn what may be one of the most unusual successful viral marketing ploys, Philips Norelco has launched - a site dedicated to getting men to shave... well... everywhere. Backs, buttocks... and a couple other things starting with the letter b. And throw in a couple "p" words too.

The product they're pitching is the "BodyGroom" - a razor specifically made to shave you all over. I'm not quite sure how this particular razor was modified from, say, any other electric razor on the face of the earth, to perfectly shave your business, but it certainly is causing a stir. Thousands of bloggers are talking about it already - and it was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal yesterday as well.

More intriguing to me is the fact that the term "Optical Inch" is spreading like wildfire too. The website with the name is already camped and for sale. There are hundreds of bloggers talking about it.

But why? Why is it that an optical inch is desireable at all? This strikes me in just about the same way that the logic used by guys with combovers and toupes use. Something akin to "Hey, if I wear my hair just right I might fool people into thinking there's more here than there actually is."

This line of logic is one that doesn't sit well with me. Long ago I decided that the moment I had an urge to start parting my hair near my ears I would shave it all off. As you can see this moment has come and gone.

Men of the world -consider this: You may be gaining an optical inch by using this new wonder-product, but (hopefully) at the end of the day the final method of measurement isn't going to be visual.

In establishing your brand it is often said that you want to under promise and over deliver. I think that this product (and its marketing method) are ensuring that its clients do the exact opposite.

The ad campaign is in my opinion a good one. The brand that they are building, however, seems critically flawed. I don't think I could ever willingly associate myself with a company or product that so overtly preyed on a man's insecurities with a solution that so clearly didn't help the situation.

That said, I am involved in open-source research that could make this "Optical Inch" laughable. Get 'em to stand back a bit and who knows how big the "benefits package" could get.

Operators are standing by.

At a distance.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 15, 2007
Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company Changes Name

The name change affects only the mutual insurance company that carries the Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company label. See video of announcement.
February 13, 2007 | Tate Linden
sf-triton.jpgStokefire's chief Thingnamer (A.K.A. "me") is in San Francisco this week for (among other things) the first meeting of a huge group of folks that do what I do for a living - name stuff. I'm staying at Hotel Triton - a boutique owned by Kimpton.

Kimpton's slogan is "every hotel tells a story" so I figured I'd try and figure out what the story is at this one. I recently helped another boutique hotel create their own story, so I'm particularly interested in the topic.

Here's what has happened thus far:
  • We called ahead to ask if we could get early check-in. They couldn't promise it, but said they'd try their best. We were very thankful for anything they could do.
  • Pulled up in front of hotel at a sign saying "valet parking" for Triton. We got out of the car and for two minutes wondered where the valet was. They did show up. Our car is now being kept in an extremely safe place. At least it should be for $37 a night.
  • We walked into the lobby (very colorfully decorated) and up to the desk where we were asked for ID and credit card. They told us about the schedule at the hotel and welcomed us while preparing our room keys. We asked some questions about the decor and neighborhood - the staff was highly knowledgeable. Kudos!
  • The elevators are lit with deep blue and purple lights. Tres cool.
  • One of the room keys didn't work, but we got in anyhow. The room was a bit dated and scuffed. And small. But this is San Francisco - so it's expected.
  • Five minutes after we checked in there was a knock on the door and a very friendly gentleman gave us a note, a bottle of water, and six chocolates. Talk about service. Here's what the handwritten letter read:
Thanks for joining our KIMPTON IN TOUCH program! Should you need anything, please do not hesitate to contact us! Enjoy!

- the Triton Family

I was very impressed until I realized two things. First, I hadn't registered for any program, and second, my name wasn't Mr. Gray - the man to whom the very kind letter was addressed. This did not, however, keep me from being appreciative, nor did it prevent me from tasting the very fine gifts. In my defense, I didn't actually catch the error until after I'd sampled both.
  • The bathroom has an unintended extra bit of entertainment. The toilet isn't particularly well bolted to the floor, so when you sit or adjust your position there's a bit of a thrill. Will you fall in? Will the toilet tip? Will your unmentionables be unpleasantly moistened? We informed the front desk of the issue and await any potential remedy.
The story thus far is a little hard to read. I can see that a lot of thought went into certain things, like the decor, the attitude, and even some of the personal touches - but the execution isn't really there. Sort of like a puzzle that has pieces that just don't quite fit together right.

I didn't spend any time looking into why Triton was named Triton - though there's a mythological green-patina guy in a little fountain in front of the building, so I'm guessing there's a story there that I could learn if I wanted to. I haven't been compelled to look into it yet. (I'm pretty sure that's not a good thing. I'd love to have a story behind a boutique brand... that's the whole point about boutiques - they've got personality and a story...)

More interesting to me was that most of the materials given to me upon check-in kimpton.jpg(including our keys, our welcome pack, and the KIMPTON INTOUCH program materials) had no mention of Hotel Triton at all. There's no real effort to create an experience here - just stuff to point out that you could also be having an experience at other Kimpton locales.

Why would a hotel conglomerate allow an owned hotel to have its own name and yet not allow them to personalize the experience down to the way they communicate with their clients?

I think my perception of this place would be better if they (Kimpton) had avoided one of the things I find truly annoying about many service industry marketing campaigns. Rather than showing me that they've created a place I'll enjoy they instead tell me that they've done it. Here's the quote that came along with my card key:
Our Hotels embrace their own unique story to create a unique guest experience with only one person in mind. You.
This is complete bunk. If each hotel has its own unique story then each hotel is probably going to appeal to a different type of person - many of which are explicitly not me. Got a hotel that plays hard rock? Not for me. Got a hotel all done up in pastels? Not for me.

I'm not sure where this idea that personalization on a global scale is a good thing (or even possible) got started, but it has got to stop. It is a logical impossibility.

You can and should build a hotel experience that focuses on creating a memorable guest stay for every guest. You cannot build that brand by saying the experience was expressly created for every individual in advance. Customization is only effective after you establish a relationship. Customization beforehand means you're probably going to give me a product that doesn't fit.

I think Kimpton would do well to step back a bit and let Triton try to spread its wings a bit. The fact that the two identities don't know how to relate to each other (Triton coasters and Kimpton keys) implies there's something amiss. It seems a perfectly nice hotel, and I welcome the coming chapters in the story over the next few nights. I'm certain that they'll fall into place better the first.

Gotta head out to the Thingnamerfest... so I'll be talkin' at ya again tomorrow. Perhaps some pictures and stories are in order. I'll see what I can do.
February 13, 2007
hob_logo_nav.gif One of Chicago's more widely recognized inns, the House of Blues Hotel, will take a fresh name and image this spring as new operators attempt to push the 353-room hotel further upscale.

Gemstone Hotels & Resorts International LLC, the hotel operator, said a $17 million renovation will transform the Marina City property into a more chic and luxurious destination, to be renamed in May as the Hotel Sax Chicago, in deference to the city's musical traditions.
February 12, 2007

LONDON: Richard Branson's Virgin Group has announced several packages for the television and telephone subscribers of its Virgin Media, which formally got the name Thursday last after the successful merger of Virgin Mobile and satellite broadcaster NTL Telewest.
February 9, 2007


ge-lumination-logo.jpgGE's LED lighting business is renamed Lumination

GE Consumer & Industrial has changed the name of its LED business from GELcore LLC to Lumination LLC.

GE says that the new name "reflects the fast–growing business unit's vision of imagination with light, and embraces GE's heritage of innovation and optimism for the future." ."Our name change emphasizes an important element of our growth strategy," states David Elien, president of Lumination. "Our focus since our inception has been lighting applications that leverage the benefits of LEDs to drive real value for customers."
February 7, 2007
racecar.jpgPork Racing Starts its 8th Season with Frank Kimmelarca5076.jpg

Last fall the Pork Racing team celebrated Frank Kimmel’s eighth ARCA championship. It was also Kimmel’s seventh consecutive championship. During this unprecedented run, one sponsor has been a constant with the #46 team – America ’s Pork Producers.

As the team heads to Daytona, Kimmel will be trying once gain to tame Daytona International Speedway and come home with his first ARCA 200 victory, one of the few trophies not on Kimmel’s mantel. Cheering him on will be 50 of America ’s Pork Producers who will descend on Daytona Beach from across the country.

“Some sponsors tend to dabble, but for America’s Pork Producers, when we find something that really works, like our relationship with Frank Kimmel, the #46 team and ARCA, we stick with it,” says Karen Boillot, Director for Retail Demand Enhancement with the National Pork Board. “For example, we started using the term ‘The Other White Meat’ nearly 20 years ago. All these years later, ‘The Other White Meat’ is not only still at the core of our marketing efforts, but has become one of the best known taglines in the world.”1840dd.jpg

America ’s Pork Producers, represented by the National Pork Board, use their sponsorship of the #46 team as an important part of their “The Other White Meat. Don’t Be Blah.” marketing campaign that challenges consumers to make meal-time more exciting.
February 7, 2007 | Tate Linden
Some call it "corn mushrooms" or "the fungus delicacy that attaches itself to corn." But those that don't have the gift of marketing-speak seem to talk a little more freely. Consider "Corn Smut," for instance.

Or my favorite... (Boy I wish I could make this more suspenseful...)

"Sleepy excrement"

The product? Huitlacoche. (or Cuitlacoche)

Hunghuitlacoche2.jpgry yet? Just wait!

From recipes to go:
...common in central Mexico; during the rainy season, a fungus develops between the husks andhuitlacoche.jpg the ripe kernels where the kernels will blacken, contort and swell to form this musty fungus; valued for centuries in Mexico; has an earthy and distinct taste finally similar to mushrooms or truffles; lends a black hue and resonant aroma to stuffings for empanadas, tamales and quesadillas; makes distinctive sauces; usually sold cut from the cob and frozen; needs cooking to release flavor and aroma; often sautéed with roasted garlic and onions, and either fresh marjoram, oregano or epazote, then simmered with a little water or stock; harvested during the rainy season, usually late spring to early fall.
This lovely delicacy has been the target of USDA eradication efforts (they view it as a blight) - which may be one of the reasons why it is so darn hard to find in the States.

cuit4.jpgIn the late 1980s the James Beard House attempted to popularize the food by calling it "Mexican truffle," and some unknown marketer calls it"corn caviar."

This post was inspired by an old blog post at wherein the author eats an entire can of the stuff. You gotta go read it - mainly to see pictures of what they put in the can. (Imagine corn on steroids. Now imagine corn on steroids getting covered in mold. Oh. And filled with puss, too.)

Why am I writing about this on a naming blog? Because I think this is an excellent example of a product that ain't gonna benefit from a name change - no matter how great that name change is. Call it Ambrosia, call it Cocaine, or call it McDonalds... the name won't help it. It still looks like doo-doo (those Aztecs were smart.)

Remember the "You're soaking in it" tagline? Or secretly replacing the house coffee? That's just about the only approach that I could see working here. Hide the food inside stuff that people can't see and then surprise the audience with the fact that they just ate some really good tasting... mold. cuit3.jpg

On second thought, perhaps that won't work. I smell lawsuits.

Fellow namers - what do you think? Could you name (and brand) this well enough to make it a popular delicacy in the US? (No fair paying Oprah and Michael Jordan to endorse it. The Corn Smut lobby couldn't afford it.)

This one is beyond my pay grade.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 6, 2007
DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. will rename its slow-selling Five Hundred model the Taurus, a name Ford previously used for a car that became the nation’s top-seller, two company officials said Tuesday.

The officials spoke to The Associated Press on the condition they not be identified by name because the official announcement had not yet been made.The Taurus, considered by some the car that saved Ford, revolutionized the way autos look and feel when it was introduced in 1985.

Photo - Ford Motor Company President and CEO Alan Mulally introduces the 2008 Ford Five Hundred at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 7, 2007. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES) 9:37 a.m. ET, 2/6/07
February 6, 2007 | Tate Linden
I'm speaking for the DC chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators Thursday night. Amongst the things I'll be reviewing in my 20 minute discussion (followed by Q&A) will be:
  • The purpose of names
  • A sampling of key aspects of a good name
  • Seven things you never want to do with your name
  • The most important aspect of a successful corporate naming project
  • How to make a bad name good and a good name great. (The trade secret of the great namers.)
I'll try to throw in some examples and audience participation if possible. 20 minutes is a bit tight, but I'll do my best to keep it interesting.

I've been told there's still an earlybird admission (through the end of the day today - Feb 6) and you can get dinner, networking, presentation, and parking for $55 (non-members.) Directions and registration are here. Add $10 for Wednesday registrations and $10 more for on-site. IABC members get in at a discount.

If you're an IABC DC member I encourage you to comment here and let folks know what to expect for the non-speaking part of the evening.

Hope to see DC some of you area locals at the Tivoli Restaurant in Rosslyn, Virginia.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 5, 2007


Apple Inc. and The Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd. Enter into New Agreement

CUPERTINO, California and LONDON—Apple® Inc. and The Beatles’ company Apple Corps Ltd. are pleased to announce the parties have entered into a new agreement concerning the use of the name “Apple” and apple logos which replaces their 1991 Agreement. Under this new agreement, Apple Inc. will own all of the trademarks related to “Apple” and will license certain of those trademarks back to Apple Corps for their continued use. In addition, the ongoing trademark lawsuit between the companies will end, with each party bearing its own legal costs, and Apple Inc. will continue using its name and logos on iTunes®. The terms of settlement are confidential.

Commenting on the settlement, Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO said, “We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks. It feels great to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future.”

Commenting on the settlement on behalf of the shareholders of Apple Corps, Neil Aspinall, manager of Apple Corps said, “It is great to put this dispute behind us and move on. The years ahead are going to be very exciting times for us. We wish Apple Inc. every success and look forward to many years of peaceful co-operation with them.”
February 5, 2007

Kergy Inc., a green energy company focused on the production of the cellulosic ethanol, today announced that is has changed its name o Range Fuels, Inc. CEO Mitch Mandich said, "Because we are located along the Rockies, we're inspired everyday as we look at the mountain ranges and plains in front of us. Our New name will constantly remind us of our mission to protect the planet as we innovate and deploy our technology."





February 2, 2007

Toyota Tundra to be Unveiled Super Bowl Weekend:

Toyota wants to sell as many as 40,000 Tundras to Hispanic consumers — about 20 percent of the 200,000 it expects to sell this year.

"Our Hispanic campaign is critical to the success of this truck," McCullough said. "If we don't get the Hispanic market to respond, we won't achieve our goals.

The company previewed two Spanish-language television ads with the tagline "La nueva Tundra. Tan fuerte como el hombre que la manejar," which translates to "The new Tundra. As strong as the man who drives it."

Not the best tagline in any language. I suggest: As strong as the man (believes he is) who drives it. Ok, still not the answer but I am working on it.
February 1, 2007 | Tate Linden
Can you find success by copying a name or category prefix from a big Web 2.0 site or company? I wanted to find out.

Here's what I did. (Warning: This may get a little boring/technical/nonsensical. Go to "Findings" below the table if you're not interested in my process.)
  1. I found a list of the top (approximately) 1000 Web 2.0 sites and companies compiled by Seth Godin. The list is ranked by Alexa - as good a source as any for my gauge of success.
  2. I scanned the list for prefixes, words, numbers, and letters that were at the start of the website name. (This didn't have to be an actual word - it could be a single letter that is meant to be sounded alone like in ebusiness, or numbers, like "321contact.)" This was not a scientific process. I used a spreadsheet and sorted by alpha to locate groupings.
  3. For each common prefix I counted up the number of "hits" there were in the top 1000 and the top 100 (the latter number being a somewhat arbitrary measure of success.)
  4. I measured the ratio of companies with each prefix in the top 10% to the companies in the top 1000.
  5. I then subtracted out the "initial mover" that brought about the trend in usage (if one existed in the top 100) - assuming that if there is at least one in the top 100 that they are the attracting factor for the term. (I know it isn't really true in all cases, but I gotta start somewhere.)
  6. I measured the ratio of copycat prefix users to see how effective the names have been at drawing traffic.
  7. I completely ignored everything about the companies, websites, users, and any external factors that might be influencing one website to draw more traffic than the others with the same name prefix.
Here's the resulting table:


  1. About 19.5% of the top 1000 Web 2.0 sites fell into a recognizable prefix/first-word usage group.
  2. 20% of the top 100 websites were a part of the prefix groupings
  3. The corresponding success rate (for being in the top 10%) for all companies in the prefix groupings was a approximately 10.26%, meaning that those companies not in the prefix groupings had a success rate of just below 10%.
  4. But when the First Movers are subtracted and we analyze only the copycats the success rate is reduced to 4.1%, implying that non copycat names have an approximately 11.4% chance to succeed. This is an increase of over 180% achieved just by not following the prefix groupings of other top 1000 sites.
  5. The best success rates for pattern matching names are for beginning with the word "news", any grouping of numbers, or a variant of the word "You" (as in you or your). And even these success rates aren't exactly awe inspiring.
  6. Personalization is well represented in the top 100 (just factoring in the prefixes - there's probably more that hide the personalization elsewhere in the name) There are multiple examples of each (I, My, You) prefix in the top 100. And yes, not every "I" refers to personalization - but I'm going to stick by my story.
  7. Success rates for companies that have first mover status for names and have attracted copycats in the top 1000 is 40.00%. (This is mitigated by the fact that we assume the top-ranked name is always the first mover - something that is not always true.)
  • Generally speaking, copycat naming does not work.
  • The impressive success rate for first movers with copycats likely isn't a causal relationship (e.g., naming with a new prefix won't get you a 40% chance of being in the top 100) but it certainly makes the case that starting trends is more likely to get you attention than following them.
  • More research in this area would be absolutely fascinating for me - I'll be looking to write a deeper study for publication in the near term.
What do you think? Are the outcomes as you thought they would be? Is my logic horribly flawed?

Will you read my amazingly dry research report when I have the time to publish?

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 1, 2007

Cartoon Net Promo Sparks Boston Scare

NEW YORK A marketing campaign for Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force turned into a daylong terrorism scare for the city of Boston and a PR nightmare for Turner Broadcasting over boxes that were mistaken for bombs placed around the city and elsewhere nationwide. Police arrested Peter Berdvosky on one felony charge of placing a hoax device and one charge of disorderly conduct.

Folks, terrorism scare? Not something you want your brand name associated with.

- Adweek, February 01, 2007
January 31, 2007 | Tate Linden
Imagine looking at a plate filled with bananas, oranges, and apples. Now imagine adding something to that plate.

Got your thing? Good. fruitbowl.jpg

When I ask others (mostly marketers and designers) how they would approach naming they typically hit the competitive research angle as their primary inspiration. And this research does help - but not for the reasons that most people think. Competitive research for inspirational purposes leads to names similar to what already exists in the market. Or at least that's what it most naturally leads to.

Back to the thing you were going to add...

Most of you probably picked a fruit. Perhaps a few of you picked a vegetable. Maybe even a couple got really creative and suggested a blender or fruitflies. Or perhaps even an object that has nothing to do with anything here.

But I'm guessing that all of you named an object and none of you added things like:
  • Quantum Physics
  • The National Debt
  • That To-do list my wife gave me this morning
  • The entire cast of My Three Sons (living or dead.)
I'm not saying that any of the things that you (likely) didn't add are good. But the fact is that you didn't add them. They aren't in the universe you considered. This is why relying on your competitor's names can be a dangerious trap.

By limiting yourself to what you can see in your immediate industry (and can easily relate to what you do) you limit your options for how you describe your business. You're either naming to be like or unlike your peers.

So how can you avoid this trap? Well - I don't actually have that answer for you. But I do have it for me.

I do this by forcing my mind to jump the tracks. That may mean trolling YouTube for a video that shows something funny or creative. It might be sitting down with a thesaurus and randomly linking words until I am presented with an entirely new concept. Or it may be just releasing my mind to the wondrous possibilities presented by attention deficit disorder. My associate (Dana) has become adept at telling when this last method is used by me.

She calls it "seeing butterflies." I'm not entirely flattered... but it works.

Today's jumping the tracks episode was brought to you by YouTube.

Picture the following items (listed in random order):
  • A foodprocessor
  • Toothbrushes
  • A shelf full of books
  • A lamp
  • A squeaky chew toy
  • A cupboard full of glasses
  • An electric eggbeater
  • A metal tomato slicer
  • A toilet bowl brush
  • A bunch of lipsticks in varying colors
  • A pair of ladies bedroom slippers
  • A set of pet food dishes (with food and water in them)
Can you find the thing in common?

I'm guessing that you can't. (Yes, they're household object. No, that isn't the "in common" aspect worth notiing.) To find the answer just sit back, turn on your computer's volume, and enjoy ten minutes of inspiration. (It takes a minute or so to develop, but it is worth it!) And no, I still haven't figured out how to link up YouTube and Wordpress. It'll happen eventually, though.

Pure competitive research doesn't lead to great names - but competitive research turned on its ear, its head, or some other body part... that can lead to greatness. Find a way to get outside of the problem. Find a way to redefine the goal. Find a way to see the competitive names as a chance to ignore them, repurpose them, or make them pointless.

Find a way to turn your metaphorical blender into something musical. Do whatever works... but make sure you do find your way out. (It might not result in a great name - but it'll at least get your name a chance to get noticed.)

Tate Linden Managing Principal Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 30, 2007

BrandChannel just released their top brands results from all continents around the world. Here is what's in and what is out: In and out in 2006 Winners: Google Las Vegas iPod YouTube eBay Yahoo! Target Oprah Winfrey Sony NFL Losers Nicole Richie Britney Spears Havana Paris Hilton Hand-hand combat Mumbai Boxing W Hotels Bangkok NHL Source: ImagePower Newsmaker brands survey
January 30, 2007 | Tate Linden
I think we can all agree that branding is supposed to set companies apart - or rather set a specific company (the one being branded) apart from all others that it might typically compete with.

What would happen if every company in the world branded itself?

Is it possible for hundreds of millions of companies to truly be unique in their markets?

I believe what makes branding work is that the number of companies that invest in their brands is actually quite low. I've not seen any statistics, but certainly among small businesses branding is so rare as to be almost non-existent. And in mid- to large- companies I'd wager we're looking at less than 10%.

To my way of thinking, the lack of buy-in from the majority of companies makes the money spent by the companies that do brand go much further. It is easier to be unique when no one else is making an effort to do so.

But what happens when everyone is branded? Honestly I'd like to know. Has anyone envisioned a world in which every single company has carved out a niche for themselves?

Personally I think that in a world of branded products a generic solution becomes desirable. We're already seeing some of this in the young adult markets. A few thoughts from other experts on the topic:generic.jpg I think that there's validity in the argument provided by many educated affluent young adults - that global brands are in some way a little bit overly produced or manufactured. Once an organization gets huge there's so much variability and inconsistency (in staff, work product, direction) that a single identity can't really encompass it. Any solid brand is a gross simplification.

I guess this is why I am so constantly surprised that the smaller companies aren't branding. Small companies can genuinely build their brands and immediately see the effects. So long as most small companies aren't doing this (let's say it's an example of the 80/20 rule) this should work.

I'll refine my question(s)...

Do any of you think that there's a set percentage or ratio at which branding will cease to work for anyone? Is it 20%? Is it 80%? Is it when an unbranded company becomes unique by its very lack of brand?

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 29, 2007 | Tate Linden
I read a short blurb on page M6 of the 1/28/07 Washington Post (Registration Required) that I just wanted to quickly address.

If you're a pop star and have your own line of name brand clothing you probably should wear your own brand instead of everyone else's. Jessica Simpson appears to have missed this lesson. A quote from the Post indicates:jessicasimpson.bmp
Her shoe line, launched in 2005, is popular with shoppers looking for trendy styles, but the singer and actress has reportedly ruffled feathers for failing to embrace one of celebrity fashion's most basic commandments: Thou shalt wear thine own brand's clothes. "A PR disaster," says Claire Brooks, president of brand consulting company ModelPeople Inc.

I agree with Ms. Brooks. But this is more than a PR disaster, it devastates the brand and makes what might have been a strong personal name brand into a weak one.

The power of using a recognizable personal name for consumer goods seems to me to be that it connects the consumer to the named person. If a consumer learns that the named person doesn't actually use the product then the link between product and person is more tenuous - and this weakening has the potential to devalue both the product and the personality attached to it.

Imagine if Trump didn't ever stay in his own hotels or if George Foreman had silly Austrialians in sweaters demonstrating his products. What would that say about their products?

Maybe Jessica is just adding to her well-groomed ditzy blonde image.

Think of the products you use that are named after a well known figure. How many of those products aren't used by their namesake (or their living relatives?) If you can't think of any just consider the name-brand folks below:

  • George Foreman
  • Donna Karan
  • Martha Stewart
  • Ford
  • Tommy Hilfiger
  • Michael Jordan

I'm no fashion maven, but it seems that the most succesful designers live and breathe their own stuff. If they didn't then they'd be encouraging the use of competitive products.

Anyone out there able to tell me what's up with Ms. Simpson? Perhaps this is a case of having sold her name to a company that just sticks her name on the product and doesn't allow her any influence? (I've heard many horror stories about this - especially amongst sports stars - and they all end badly.)

(I probably should revisit this topic and look at the difference between designers and the name on the label. They are two distinct groups and I shouldn't have just lumped 'em together.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925

January 26, 2007
Manliness, as personified by Burt Reynolds, right, didn't help push sales of Miller Lite.
CHICAGO ( -- Apparently deciding that market-share losses violate "Man Law," Miller Brewing Co. is shelving its "Men of the Square Table" ad campaign.
Manliness, as personified by Burt Reynolds, right, didn't help push sales of Miller Lite.
The campaign, by Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, Miami, debuted last spring with considerable buzz. The ads featured celebrities Miller and Crispin apparently thought personified manliness, such as actor Burt Reynolds, football star Jerome Bettis and wrestler Triple H, who would meet in a glass cube to settle questions about manly behavior, such as whether it's permissible to put fruit in beer. (It's not.)

Pop-culture references The spots drew laughs, hundreds of thousands of entries to an online "Manlawpedia," and pop-culture references (a wholly-unrelated-to-beer Chicago Tribune story Sunday asked if it was a violation of "man law" for men to wear scarves), but Miller Lite's sales lost ground to its rivals. Sales fell by low-single digits last year, while rivals Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light and Coors Brewing Co.'s Coors Light saw sales climb in the mid- and low-single digits, respectively.

When asked, Miller executives said they believed "man laws" would gradually seep into the popular culture and eventually boost sales. But their patience appears to have run out.
January 26, 2007 | Tate Linden
I must admit that this tracking is a little work-intensive. Rather than a weekly post I'm going to do it when something noteworthy happens. This noteworthiness has been achieved with a few new entrants to the field, and a move amongst the top blogs.
  1. Qwerky has passed Snark Hunting to move into the 4th spot.
  2. Cultural Branding, The Name Inspector, and Brandaclaus have either recently started up or recently be found by us. While none are in the top ten I wouldn't be surprised to see them there soon.
  3. I dumped the domain name blogs. No one liked having 'em here and they were less applicable than I initially thought.
  4. We're short-cutting to the top-ten tracking list (from our list of 13 earlier this month.) It's been a few weeks, and we'd have been there about now if I'd been keeping up the list weekly... and since I'm runnin' the list I get to say what's what.
  5. Expect another post on this topic in late February.
THREE MONTH ALEXA RANKING AVERAGES (1/26/2007): number_one.png

Rank Site AlexaRank 1 Wordlab: 75,677 2 Thingnamer: 120,743 3 Igor: 153,270 4 Strategic Name Development: 230,242 5 Qwerky: 242,165 6 Snark Hunting: 282,925 7 Away With Words: 779,591 8 Good Characters: 860,975 10 Popwink: 912,266

Not making the top ten this time, but still well worth a look are: Markeys (Dutch), Beep.Name, Brandnama, Name Ideas, Product Names, Pastelot (French), and the new finds - Brandaclaus, The Name Inspector, and Cultural Branding.

And more... the following Schrödinger’s Blogs that aren't really worth reading right now, but may pick up again in the future: Catch-Word, Rich With Meaning , Motorbrand, and Ton Of Bricks/A Hundred Monkeys.

If you know of a blog that primarily covers issues pertaining to organizational or product naming let us know. We'll add it to the list.

Happy surfing!

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 25, 2007
canada.gifBack in the news (see our previous blog entry). As per the Minister's Office of Canada, effective immediately, the words “Canada's New Government” are to be used instead of “the Government of Canada” in all departmental correspondence. **Please note that the initial letters of all three words are capitalized.
January 25, 2007 | Tate Linden
wifi_logo_0.gifNo, it wasn't me. It was Ed Saenz of Gravity Branding - creator of the WiFi name.

The link to the video is here (because I don't know how to post it to my own site. If someone helps me out I'll fix it.)

While the entire interview is worth listening to (for over 48 minutes!), I found Ed Saenz to be particularly insightful when discussing a hypothetical naming process for Seagate.

Here's a rough outline of how he attacks the problem:

He asks or determines...
  • What is the unmet need or market opportunity
  • What are the features
  • Who is the user
  • What are their problems (one on ones - no focus groups)
  • What features of the product do they like
  • Why should they want to buy the product
  • Why should they care?
  • What is the brand essence? (He calls it the brand fulcrum)
  • What is the brand personality?
It's branding 101 - but in application rather than theory. Stokefire's own process has many of the same steps - and adds in a whole segment built around the evaluation of the names strengths and weaknesses - but I'm assuming that Gravity has steps that Ed didn't disclose. Never a good idea to give away the entire recipe for the secret sauce.

He also said something that I think a lot of engineers should take to heart. Paraphrased: Don't build a better mousetrap just because you can. Make sure that people want the improvement and that there are enough mice to trap before you start designing.

While the interview gets off track a few times (Scoble seems like a kid in a candy storescoble.jpg with his amazement and comments pulling away from the main thread of the conversation) it is generally informative. I'd love to have a ten minute version that edited out some of the meandering bits that led nowhere. (If someone builds one I'll happily link to it.)

It is rare that someone is this open with their thoughts and methods on naming and branding. Especially when what they have to say is actually interesting instead of a badly disguised sales pitch. (In this case it is quite well disguised.)

Worth a listen - keep it in the background while reading email.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 24, 2007 | Tate Linden
Instinctually I would call them "kind, smart, nice, attractive, brave, generous..." and any other praising word I could think of.

That doesn't work in politics, though. In politics people who give lots of money want to be recognized as a member of a money-giving group. This sort of throws a wrench in the whole throw a bunch of sincere compliments at 'em strategy of mine, since lord knows I can't recite any string of praiseworthy qualities other than the Boy Scout Law - and that I often get mixed up, too.

tex_1368.gifGeorge Bush's fundraising team used the term Ranger to signify those that bring in at least $200K, and Pioneer was chosen as the name for $100K supporters.

A few weeks back Giuliani's campaign strategy book was leaked to the press, and in it the titles for contributors were listed. These were:nyy_1256.gif
  • $1 million - Team Captains
  • $200K - MVPs
  • $100K - All Stars
  • $50K - Sluggers
  • $2K - Benchwarmer
Okay... so the last one isn't real. Oddly, campaigns don't have names for people who just give their personal maximum.

With Giuliani's widely known affinity for the Yankees this classification system seems appropriate - even if it doesnt really link in with national pride the way the Bush program did. People in the Giuliani system will know they are appreciated by the man himself, since the classifications are in his native tongue.

Terry McAuliffe was on The Daily Show last night and was asked by Jon Stewart what Hillary Clinton was going to call her major donors. His ad-lib response was "Hil-raisers" - a term that Stewart derided wholeheartedly. Gotta agree there - "Hil-raisers" is horrible.

McAuliffe's second response - "Mavericks" seems at least a little better. One could imagine Hillary actually usingdal_435.gif the word and referring to her supporters as being mavericks. And then there's the tie in with sports again... Rangers (as in Texas) and Mavericks (as in Dallas.) I'm sure it is accidental, but it's a nice way of moving in on Republican territory.

I think the problem with Mavericks is that the other categories will be difficult to make appealing. What would you use? Stallions? Mares? Additionally, the term Maverick is derived from Samuel A. Maverick - a man that let his livestock run wild and unbranded. Sort of strange to brand one's followers as a group of unbranded people... Shades of the Generation-X folks that all wore flannel shirts to show how different they were. (I still have one in my closet. A shirt, not a Gen-Xer.)

ne_897.gifMy advice: Ditch mavericks. Go for something that emphasizes Hillary's strong points. Is she really seen as a Maverick? I'm not sure that's the right angle. Why not latch onto the centrist identity and go after the patriotism concept? Hillary is not an outsider. She's lived a life of public service - so she should latch onto it. Who doesn't want to be labeled as a "Patriot?" There are are so many rich historical figures, battles, and other events that she can squeeze for source material...

I'm still not sure I've hit the target, though. Hillary could use a good personal branding session. The outputs from that endeavor would serve as great source material for the fundraising strata.

Anyone have any serious (or perhaps not so serious) suggestions for classifications?

(And if Hillary's staff is reading this... Operators are standing by.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 23, 2007

Megaglobe: A New Name in Search Engines. A powerful new search engine to be launched soon called

Megaglobe will protect advertisers from fraudulent clicks with a revolutionary new technology called ‘Pay Per Valid Click’.

Megaglobe is said to be the world’s first truly international and multicultural search engine. With over 300 domain names representing every single country in the world.

The companies patented algorithm works by allocating each search result a ranking - known as a Megarank – based on analysis of the quantity and quality of pages which link to the search result. The algorithm then creates a structure of importance to the sites based on their relevancy.

Putting two and two together, Megarank and the domain names representing every country in the world, makes it clear how they came up with the name Megaglobe.

Will people get it though? Will Megaglobe be as fun to use, or talk, as a Google or Yahoo!?

The Megaglobe name seems to fall flat even though the idea soars.

January 23, 2007 | Tate Linden
Occasional commenter Steve Manning from Snark Hunting spotted this truly horrendous branding campaign (courtesy of Little Debbie Racing.)

His title for the (unaltered) picture? Little Debbie Does NASCAR.


Who out there doesn't see what's wrong with this campaign? How can this get past corporate? I know there are all sorts of sickos out there - but I can't imagine there are actually enough of them to support a snack brand.

And, for the record, the name Debbie has officially been crossed off my list of candidates for the Linden-to-be. Probably an overreaction - but I didn't like the name Debbie to begin with.

Thanks McKee Foods!
January 22, 2007
Several Northern Nevada Casinos Being Renamed. A handful of northern Nevada casinos are getting a name change after the buyout of Sands Regent holdings. Las Vegas-based Herbst Gaming has completed its 148 (m) million buyout of the casinos that include Sands Regency in downtown Reno, Gold Ranch in Verdi, Rail City in Sparks and The Depot in Dayton. All the new names will include the moniker "Terrible's."
January 18, 2007 | Tate Linden
Perhaps I'm missing something - but I don't understand why "America's #1 Name-Branding firm" would:
  1. Post their commercial on YouTube
  2. Not invest at least enough money in their commercial (and soundtrack!) that it seemed professional. (It sort of looks a cut below the stuff you see on cable television after midnight. And given that their own firm does video production it calls into question their abilities.)
  3. Open and close the video with something that appears to be a velvet painting of a tiger.
  4. Have the following text flow across their home page - all in one line.
Edon is America's first unconventional advertising, marketing services, PR communications, Web design, consumer research, and move film and DVD production agency store that offers realistic and affordable fees and where you the customer manage the project's budget, and not the ad agency. And we're the only ad agency in New York that provides its customers with a barter club membership, and PC computer services and convenient walk-in stores with PC terminals to get instant access to the Internet. Now is your ad agency offering you all of this?

After you read this sentence, stop, close your eyes and try to remember what it is that Edon actually does.

I personally didn't do very well. And for the record, if my hypothetical advertising agency offered me walk-up Internet access, barter club membership, walk-in stores, and PC computer services I'd have to wonder why they were investing their earnings so poorly.

Who do you know that wants to go to their advertising agency to search the internet and get their computer fixed? (It kind of make me wonder if Stokefire's business would improve if we offered to mow lawns or make mix tapes for our clients.)

I'm not arguing about the quality of most of the names the company has developed - many are exceptionally good (though Glucerna was not a winner with me.) I guess I'm just surprised that a company so invested in creating a good first impression for their clients would do so poorly with their own.
January 17, 2007 | Tate Linden we throw the mention right back...

If you're interested in following the developing conversation in the Credit Union Rebranding world then I suggest you add OpenSourceCU to your list of frequently visited sites.

The Optiva and Red Canoe brands are getting mentioned again and OpenSourceCu is sending traffic our way to learn a bit about the history of the conversation. (Thanks!)

And whether you're a fan of these names or not you'll find that the conversation has been amazingly civil and educational thus far. Here's to hoping that it stays that way.

For the record - we Thingnamers have said all along that Red Canoe is a pretty damn good name with great potential. We continue to believe in it and the work that our (unaffiliated) branding compatriots at Weber Marketing performed on that job. As for Optiva - we're less thrilled, but can see that the name could work if given a more substantial branding effort.

Unfortunately our bias against Latinate names is something we can't seem to get over.

January 16, 2007
Alchemy Goods, which turns old bike tire tubes, advertising banners, and seat belt straps into messenger and tote bags. Reich started the company in a quest to create a hip, stylish, waterproof, and environmentally-friendly bag after his old messenger bag was stolen. Alchemy Goods espouses a “turning useless into useful” tagline, and denotes the recycled content percentage (by weight) within the Ag label on every product, ala th periodic table. Brought to you via inhabitat.

Alchemy Goods, recycled rubber bags, recycled billboard bags, Eli Reich, sustainable fashion, sustainable messenger bags, eco-friendly bags

January 16, 2007 | Tate Linden
I'm not sure how many focus groups they had to ask before they came up with this. (And I use this as more evidence that focus groups are pointless.)
Original Orville Redenbacher = Geeky, quirky, and a little cool.

CGI Orville = Basically just skeeves me out.

C'mon people! Bringing back a computerized version of a dead guy to sell popcorn? if they could make a commercial with Che Guevara selling Nikes I'd perhaps have a different opinion. Or maybe I wouldn't... especially if he looked as freaky as poor dead Orville does. Redenbacher Reborn?

Edit 1/22/07 - Interesting... We've gotten about a half-dozen hits from Con Agra corporate on this post. Might there be a chance that someone over there pulls the project? (Actually, turning the negative PR into a campaign in itself may be worthwhile... Something like "There's no replacing Orville. We're Sorry..." You read it here first.)
January 15, 2007 | Tate Linden

Found this on Brandnama's blog. Sounds fun to me. Here's my effort:

Enterprise Rent-A-Car
General Electric
Kong Pet Toys
Land's End
Odor Eaters
Rain Bird
Union Pacific

A few interesting things here:

  1. The list really says a lot about a person. Brandnama and I have only one company (Xerox) in common.
  2. I bet that in about a year this list will be much different for me. Going from a married guy with a dog to a married guy with a kid and a dog will probably change my exposure to brands significantly. I can imagine that Gerber, Huggies, and other similar products will place well in coming lists.
  3. Regardless of anything else this list may imply, I do not have stinky feet.

Wanna Play? Comment with a link to your blog (where you have tried it yourself) - or just put your list in the comments.

Tate Linden
Principal Thingnamer
Stokefire Consulting Group

January 12, 2007 | Tate Linden
We like to give props to our clients when they do something noteworthy, and this qualifies:

lemerigotlogo.gifLe Merigot (a strategic branding client) and Blush Ultralounge (a naming and strategic branding client) now have their own website. (They also have an external webcam - but I'm not sure how long it will remain active.)

Both of these businesses were created by pushing the envelope. Evansville, Indiana is a tertiary marketplace and conventional wisdom would suggest that offering ultra-luxury room and board isn't an easy sell. (But tell that to the capacity crowd that filled Blush on New Years Eve!)

blushlogo.gifThat's one of the main reasons why we at Stokefire were so excited when contacted by Jim Brown (General Manager of the facility, and a VP at Columbia Sussex) to name and brand the $40 million project. An ultraluxury hotel and nightclub in New York, LA, or Vegas has been done. There's a playbook to follow. The same can't be said of a town the size of Evansville. This was a chance to try something new - developing a cosmopolitan offering that can work in a smaller town. There's nothing quite like it.

Casino Aztar is located directly across the street, and just outside the front door is The District - Casino Aztar's investment in providing something for the younger crowd. When I was on-site a couple months ago The District was already seeing success, with Jillian's and Ri-Ra packed during peak hours. (It was a strange and wonderful experience to fly into Evansville and be served by a beautiful woman with a genuine lilting Irish accent.) Le Merigot and Blush are basically the crown jewels of The District, and should help to provide a constant flow of traffic to the other businesses there durring off-peak hours.

Our work with the management team of both facilities was fun and challenging - especially when representatives from HR walked in while we were discussing why avocadoes are considered aphrodisiacs.

If you are in the Evansville area for business or pleasure and are looking for excitement I'd strongly suggest Blush and The District as the destinations of choice. Blush's identity was built around creating blush-worthy moments. Everything from the "matchbooks" (note that there's no smoking in Evansville) and coasters to the inclusion of special aphrodisiac-laden menu items encourages you to push your own boundaries and get your blush on. Even cooler, over the coming months and years there are more things being added to the environment - meaning that there will usually be something new to see, taste, or interact with each time you go back.

If you stay at Le Merigot you get some extra perks at Blush - including preferential admission. But staying at Le Merigot has its own appeal. The amount of attention paid to guests is amazing. Everything from a memorable signature turndown (that I won't spoil for you) to some truly impressive check-in processes that you may miss if you blink has been built around making your stay special. I could (and actually did) write dozens of pages about how special this place is - but you've got to see it for yourself to really understand it. Some of the experiences will be a lot like what you'd find in the big cities, but others are fresh approaches to hospitality that we haven't seen anywhere else.

If you want to know where the next generation of boutique hotels is being invented I'd suggest you check out Le Merigot, Evansville.

Have you been to Le Merigot or Blush in Evansville? If you have - what did you think?

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925

[Ed. - Thanks for the fixed logo Randall]
January 11, 2007
Cisco sues Apple over iPhone citing trademark infringement. The two Silicon Valley giants apparently are going to duke it out. Apparently San Jose-based Cisco, the world's largest network-equipment maker, has owned the trademark on the name "iPhone" since 2000, when it acquired InfoGear Technology Corp., which originally registered the name. Apple argues that since their technology is 'materially different' that it has they are entitled to use the name.
January 10, 2007 | Tate Linden
[Ed. - Having some trouble with formatting this post... apologies for the way it looks.]

It takes an awful lot to truly peeve me. (And let me say this early... this post is entirely the opinion of its writer and not that of Stokefire or

AutoBlog (currently residing at for some reason - and yes, I removed the link) has done it. I don't think I've ever seen such a poorly named company that lies to its prospects and engages in shady business practices (like sending me spam.) Until now.

First, I'll take on the name: AutoBlog.

Why is this a lousy name? Try these on for size:stupidity.jpg

AutoBlog sounds like someplace you'd go to get your vehicle-information fix. Oh wait... it is a blog about that kind of stuff. A very popular one at that.

It could also be something that people new to blogging would use to make creating a blog easier.

The name is already in use in the technology market (as seen above) and these blokes just stole it, so if anyone looks for the product they'll find the "real" site, and not these guys.

But there's more! What sort of shady business practices is this company involved in? How about these (taken from their web page):

They say "Autoblog automaticaly posts your site to more than 2 million websites!" and then a few lines later say "Advertising using Autoblog is 100% SPAM FREE advertising! You will never be accused of spamming."
  • I would like to officially state that AutoBlog Spammed my blog with something called an Automatic Post that I can only assume was put there by their own product. The three posts linked directly to their sales page. Perhaps there are another 1,999,999 other sites that were given this valuable information as well...
  • If this isn't SPAM then I'm not sure what is... Unless they think SPAM is only SPAM when sent via email or sold in rectangular metal containers.
They say "Your ads stay visible for a long time - daily re-submissions are not required!"
  • But they fail to mention that tools such as Akismet can block out nearly 100% of the posts their product submits. never showed any of the SPAM posts they attempted to put on our site.
  • Technically the latter part of this statement is correct...
They say "No matter if you are professional advertiser or new to online advertising - AutoBlog is suitable for everyone."
  • ...that wants to be slammed with complaints and get their site removed from their hosts.
They say "Every 2 week [sic] you will receive an updated list of over 100,000 TESTED URL's [sic] to add to the software."
  • ...but they don't tell you what they test it for - and it obviously isn't to see if your posts actually get through since I'm gettin' hit with it.
The owner of the copyright for the website (listed as "Trusted Articles") appears not to have ever built a real website. The email belongs to - whose only web page is the one the copyright is listed on. Which calls iteslf AutoBlog, of course... and translates the name into an IP address as soon as you enter the page.
  • Perhaps this isn't shady, but it's a little strange.
Still interested in buying the service? Great! Just use your PayPal account and send payment to the following very trustworthy sounding email address:
  • Why aren't we paying especially since theres a "Free 2 week trial, cancel at any time?" Gmail is effectively anonymous.
And when you buy the service for the list price through PayPal you see the following information:

"Note: Your subscription will automatically renew at the rates stated above unless you cancel prior to the end of the billing period." ...interesting, eh? Especially since we're not told ahead of time how to cancel.There are a few lessons here, but the majority have nothing to do with naming:
  1. Naming: Don't use confusing or popular names. Unlike me, most people won't take the time to figure out what the heck you mean, and just like me everyone that knows the popular name will be upset with you for stealing it.
  2. Branding: If you're going to start a business (shady or not) at least put in the effort to appear legitimate.
  3. SPAMMING: In case y'all haven't learned by now... it is a bad idea to SPAM a site specializing in naming and branding. It certainly won't help you win business.
And if anyone is still reading - here's some random information you may be interested in. (I do not suggest that you attempt to take matters into your own hands by using this information to contact someone to get the SPAMMING stopped.)

The host information for AutoBlog is here (the site itself was registered anonymously.) The administrative contact is (312) 343-4678, or perhaps (312) 829-1111.

This guy may or may not be the man that runs the service. I'm pretty sure he isn't, since this press release says the guy is American.

Slugsite has some interesting information and shares my opinion of AutoBlog. Nice to see that I'm not alone.

And whatever you do I would certainly not advise that you purchase their own service to send out SPAM that links back to their website and points out that their product does, in fact, qualify as spam. That would be mean. And besides... you'll probably end up being billed for eternity.
January 10, 2007
Apple Computer Is No Longer. Steve Jobs announced after the announcement of the iPhone yesterday, something seemingly subtle, but actually really big: a name change. Apple Computer, Inc., will from now on forward be called Apple, Inc., reflecting the fact that Apple is more and more turning into a general electronics company instead of a computer/software company.
January 9, 2007
Advancis Pharmaceutical Corp. of Germantown, MD expects to start the new year with a new name and finish it with a new product ready to market. The company has filed an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval of its once-daily antibiotic treatment for strep throat in adults and adolescents. The company’s search for a new name, now down to five finalists. Advancis hired ‘‘a couple of branding companies” to help find name that ‘‘will not step on anybody’s toes,” he said.

January 8, 2007 | Tate Linden
We Americans pride ourselves on our ability to understand stuff. A whole lot of us think we're downright smart... So, with all this rampant intellect bouncing around you've got to wonder why this happened:933007_75875.jpg
The Nintendo Wii game Necro-Nesia got a rename for it US release: Escape from Bug Island.
Sure, Necro-Nesia isn't exactly catchy... but I've amused myself by thinking about the meeting in which the switch came up. Seems like a group of people looked at what sort of names have been used before and then said lets use that! (Escape from Monkey Island, Escape from Gangsta Island, Escape from Rhetundo Island...) "We've got lots of bugs and they're on and island... and you've got to get off!"

Honestly, Escape from Bug Island is a pretty good name for a game in which you've got to get away from an island full of bugs. People who are interested in the concept of the game are going to want to play it based on the title.

Interestingly (to me) I think that "Bug Island" alone wouldn't have worked as well. It almost sounds like a kiddie game. And of course the objective isn't clear... are you making bugs? Are you trying to become rich off of bugs? Does it have something to do with spying?

Counterpoint: Note that Halo was quite successful with a less obvious moniker. It wasn't "Escape from Halo." Just "Halo." And the fact that the revelation of the meaning was part of the game (Halo was a spacecraft of some sort, I believe) made the name that much more interesting. In this context "Escape from Halo" would've given too much information about the game and defeated the purpose of the exploration and storyline.

Non Name-Related Parting Thought: I'm truly disappointed that Escape from Bug Island isn't taking advantage of the technology provided by the Wii gaming system. As soon as I heard about it I pictured people standing around the living room making compulsive fly-swatter motions around the room. Thwappp.... Thwap-thwap!

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 5, 2007 | Tate Linden
Okay, so I'm a recovering corporate trainer. There, I admitted it. I spent a few years with General Electric (now GXS) and Primark (now Thomson Financial) developing and delivering training for software packages. I figured that this experience would be enough to carry me through the development and delivery of my own company's coursework.

Unfortunately I forgot one of the first rules of training that I learned... "Prepare for the training like you had to deliver it the week beforehand." Actually I think that it was supposed to be the month beforehand, but even when I was working inside big corporations I rarely had more than a few weeks to pull together a course.

That said, I tried to pull together my course by finishing with two hours to spare. Here's my list of activities for the final two hours:
  1. Put finishing touches on Powerpoint presentation and send to color printer.
  2. Discover that color printer has no black or blue ink - and it won't allow me to print in red or yellow alone (not that I would have, mind you.)
  3. Send presentation to secondary b&w printer
  4. Notice that printouts appear to have been eaten by printer and then spat back out. No, really. There are almost visible teeth marks and some pages are crumpled and ripped - and spooky bits of ghost text are randomly distributed over my own slides.
  5. Throw away ruined print job.
  6. Go back to own computer and attempt to re-print to tertiary printer.
  7. Notice that my computer has frozen and requires hard reboot.
  8. Upon rebooting computer notice that working file has disappeared and four hours of work are gone.
  9. Notice that deodorant has stopped working. (This is not a joke.)
  10. Call tech support to see if they can get my file back. They cannot.
  11. Stay online with tech support when I realize I can't locate tertiary printer on my computer. Install print driver for 25 minutes. (Thanks Russel - it was time well spent!)
  12. Examine original working file to see how bad it was three hours ago.
  13. Realize that it was, in fact, truly awful.
  14. Go to trashcan and pull out mangled presentation.
  15. Make copies of mangled (but complete) presentation.
  16. Print out copies of supplemental handouts via tertiary printer. Marvel that something has worked correctly (though I later learn I didn't print enough copies.)
  17. Welcome my truly together presentation partner (Rachel Pastirik from Netdrafter) who arrives with everything printed out already, saving me from instant combustion.
  18. Rachel can't connect to our LCD projector.
  19. Give Rachel my computer (after all, my own presentation isn't on it anymore) and she's up and running.
  20. Start class almost on time. (We missed by three minutes)
I gave my presentation off of the handouts - which actually worked quite well since it prevented me from falling on some bad habits like reading from the screen.

Overall the reviews were strongly positive - and we had a completely full class. I look forward to seeing the new blogs appear on the scene in the coming weeks.

Is there a lesson in branding or naming in here somewhere? I think there may be. A good brand can help you to overcome truly horrific fumbles. Building the identity behind the name can be a lifesaver when things get tough. Our reputation (an intentional branding) as adaptable, fun, humble, and engaging really came to the rescue for us.

And the naming lesson? Well, it was nice to be able to refer back to our name when explaining what happened. Even when it looked like the light was going to be extinguished we were able to keep at it, poking, prodding and stoking until we got the fire going again. We had a highly successful class - and about halfway through I personally felt that my deodorant had caught up again.

But next time? Finish prep a week before hand. At least.

Last - a big thank you and hello to the class participants who were universally understanding, patient, and highly involved: Gretchen Martens, Yolanta Barnes, Deborah Crittenden, Julie Lassiter, Claude Labbe, Nora Nagatani, Martin & Ruth Saenz, Sally Galloway, and Monica Walker. Once you have your blogs online I'll proudly provide a link from here.

Tate Linden Principal Thingnamer Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 1, 2007 | Tate Linden
Happy New Year everyone!

As mentioned in 2006 we have rebranded Stoked Brands as Thingnamer due to the change in focus for the blog. We'll be holding off on a new look until Stokefire (the company that owns the site and promotes the blog) has gone through their own rebranding and is ready to launch their own rebranded stuff.

Ever since we selected the name Thingnamer we've gotten quite a few questions about it. Here's a quick response to the various questions we've gotten:
  • Did you (Tate Linden or Stokefire) create the Thingnamer name? Nope. We didn't. We spent a whole lot of time a couple years back explaining what it was that we did - and then received a challenge to say what we did in three words. I came up with a few options, including "We Develop Identities" and "We Name Stuff." On a trip to Switzerland I mentioned this to the founder of Santana Tandems, (Bill McCready) and his response - written in the facebook for the trip - was to say that my occupation was "Thingnamer."
  • But don't you do more than name things? Yes. The title doesn't exactly cover everything that I do, but it certainly covers a good portion of it. Compare my title to that of "salesperson" or "programmer"... there's a whole lot of stuff that people do in those positions that have very little to do with programming or selling - and yet we let 'em go on with their day anyhow.
  • So why did you decide to steal the name from Bill? I'll ask a question back here. Which is more catchy - "We Name Stuff" or "I'm a Thingnamer?"
  • So... you name stuff for a living... but you couldn't come up with your own title (and blog)? In a word, "Yes." In a few more words, I believe firmly that in many cases "The eye cannot see itself." We have developed hundreds of names - including Stokefire - but once you live with (or within) an identity or concept for long enough you cease to be able to see it with fresh eyes. Bill had never heard of my line of work and his instinctual simplification was far better than my own labored efforts. (This is one reason why we will bring in non-experts to assist with naming when we're deeply involved in a project.)
  • What convinced you that Thingnamer was the right name? There were approximately 50 people on the Switzerland tour and every single one of them was intrigued enough by Thingnamer to approach me and ask me about it. It wasn't that they didn't understand the concept - it was that they thought it was the coolest thing they had ever heard. And there's more, too. I went back and started looking for other ways to say the same thing (but to address the full weight of my job) and I failed. Anything else I tried was awkward or inappropriate. Thingnamer trumps Identitygiver, Brandmaker, Namegiver, and just about any other munge you might think of. It is fun to say, has a fun Superhero aspect to it (as though anyone would actually want to be born with that super-power) and upon hearing it the first response isn't "boy that guy is certainly full of himself" (which was exactly the response each of the other names got.)
  • Will Stokefire remain the same, or is that changing too? Stokefire Consulting Group has no plans to change their name at this time.
  • What will happen to Stoked Brands? It will fade away. Search engines will probably still drive traffic due to that name, and I'm sure at some point someone else will try to get the domain (we never owned If someone wants to run with that identity they can do so without upsetting the Thingnamers here. I do love the concept of poking brands with sticks - and will likely bring that aspect inside Stokefire for marketing - but I never really connected with the identity of Stoked Brands. The alternate meaning of Stoked (usually used in the same sentence as "dude") doesn't reflect my own attitude or language - and it didn't really reflect that of Stokefire either.
  • Don't you tell people not to use ".com" for their company names? Yes. The ".com" after Thingnamer on this site is a name-geek joke. It is probably funny to a total of four people in the world - and one of them is me - so it stays for now. It seems like every company named from 1999 to 2001 slapped ".com" on the end of their name to show how cool, high-tech, and trendy they were. These same companies almost universally dropped their suffix after the "dotcom bubble" burst. If I was being more obvious I would've named it Thingnamr Beta. More people would probably appreciate the humor...
That's all the questions I've gotten so far. If you have more of 'em just leave a comment with the question. Or you can sling mud at the new name. Or tell me how right I am. Or comment on my shiny scalp. It's a new year... everything is possible.

tate_one.jpg Tate Linden Principal Thingnamer Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 31, 2006 | Tate Linden

I often suggest that companies that assume meaningless names (or apparently meaningless names) are making a mistake by not leveraging the full potential of a good name.

Google Zeitgeist appears to show that nonsense names may be having a comeback.

Bebo was the number one most-searched item on Google in 2006 (just above MySpace - a name that is actually quite descriptive.)

Also noteworthy - eight of the top-ten "What is..." queries on Google were medicines. This actually makes sense to me since there are policies in place for regulated drugs that prohibit the use of names that suggest the effects of the drugs. How many of the following list could do you know?

  1. Carisoprodol
  2. Acyclovir
  3. Alprazolam
  4. Tramadol
  5. Hydrocodone
  6. Vicodin
  7. Xenical
  8. Xanax

The only place I've seen most of these names are in my comment spam and junkmail folders. I do find it interesting that not many people seem to be asking about the Viagra-type products anymore.

(The other two most-searched items were "hezbollah" and "ajax")

As an extra last-day-of-2006 bonus I'll list Google's last available information on company/product searches (from November.)

Bricks to Clicks: Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Sears, Costco

Cars: Ferarri, Lamborghini, Hummer, Mercedes, Porche

Random Assortment of Popular Corporate-site Searches from Around the World: eBay (Australia), Nexopia (Canada), Vodafone (Czech Republic), QXL (Denmark), La Redoute (France), Tchibo (Germany), Ferarri (Greece), Tokio Hotel (Hungary), Air Deccan (India), RyanAir (Ireland), Uniqlo (Japan), Friendster (Malaysia), TelCel (Mexico), LimeWire (Netherlands), Bebo (New Zealand), YouTube (Norway), Opony (Poland), Mercury Interactive (Singapore), ABSA (South Africa), Softonic (Spain), Blocket (Sweden), Araba (Turkey), BBC (United Kingdom), Mobifone (Vietnam).

Note: I'm leaving out the links so we don't get a whole bunch of false hits on our site.

I have yet to figure out exactly how to determine anything of value with regards to naming from the Google Zeitgeist (other than trends.) Certainly there's a lot of information on what business models are popular - Telecom, Social Networking, and Auctions are represented well - but there's little information about whether or not people actually know what these companies are doing.

Zeitgeist is a better buzz-meter than it is an evaluation of a company's worth or success. I'd be willing to bet a whole lot of money that not long ago Enron was at the top of the Zeitgeist pile - and they certainly weren't there for a positive reason.

Further complicating things, there are likely a lot of searches on company and product names for people who have no clue what it is that they're actually going to find. I've done this myself quite frequently when I've heard a name in the news or someone across the room mentions something... I just "Google" it and learn for myself what it is. This is especially useful when you're dependent on traditional media (like TV news) that taunts you with a story for 45 minutes before actually giving you what you want to know.

As 2007 gets going I'll work to find some better ways to leverage the Zeitgeist data - perhaps giving you all some insight into the trends we at Stokefire see emerging in naming. (You already know of our Flickr naming pattern... so we'll be looking for the next big thing.)

Happy Last Day of 2006!

Tate Linden
Principal Thingnamer
Stokefire Consulting Group

December 20, 2006
It was Joel Cheek who perfected the Maxwell House Coffee blend, and Theodore Roosevelt who originated its famous "Good to the Last Drop!" tagline. It was in 1907, when the President was visiting "The Hermitage", Andrew Jackson's old estate, that he was invited to Mr. Cheek's home nearby. After finishing a cup the brew master asked Mr. Roosevelt's opinion of the blend. "Good," cried the President, "good to the last drop!". Listen to your customers. Taglines can come from anywhere....or anyone.

No, Virginia, there really is not a Betty Crocker. Even though at one point in time she was voted the second-most famous woman in America. Betty was invented in the offices of Washburn Crosby Company in Minneapolis in 1921. The company had been receiving hundreds of questions from consumers about baking with its products. To make it’s replies more interesting more personal, the company invented the character Betty with the surname of a former Washburn executive, William Crocker. Take creative license when you can.
December 20, 2006 | Tate Linden
It's a rare day that we get the chance to read a book by a commenter on this very blog, so when the opportunity presented itself we took it.

Denise Wymore's book: Tattoos - The Ultimate Proof of a Successful Brand is certainly non-traditional, which seems to mesh nicely with our view of Denise herself.

When I got the book I figured (based on the title) that it was going to be a scholarly tome about the culture of tattoos, a comprehensive listing of the companies that have gained a following of tattoo wearers, and perhaps a good amount of information about what drove individuals to put stuff like a John Deere logo on their arm. (The link is to a blog post from early 2006 when I briefly looked into this concept myself...)

So - to the readers who are looking for an experience like the one that I was expecting - this is not the book for you. There are nine pages that list five things companies can do to make themselves tatoo-worthy. The five things are interesting and important, but won't necessarily get your own company the sort of cult status that Harley-Davidson has with the body-art crowd. tattolarge.jpg

This isn't a scholarly tome.

It is, however, a very interesting read - and it provides insight into one professional's experiences with nine brands that have had varying success with creating identities that may (or may not) be worthy of tattoos.

Wymore brings forward personal stories of connection (or lack thereof) with brands many readers will know well: The Westin Heavenly Bed, The Catholic Church, Craig Carothers, Saturn, Starbucks, iPod, Chico's, Texas, and The Huntington Beach Hilton. For each of these brands she provides a tale of how she has experienced the brand and then she provides a report card that goes over the five points and determines whether or not the brand is tattoo worthy.

I find a lot of value here, and those in marketing departments that are struggling to meaningfully connect with their target markets would do well to read the hits and misses that Wymore has found. The stories pound home the fact that in branding it is often more about the consumer than it is about the company.

For me the strongest chapter was about Wymore's literal near-death experience at a Hilton. Customer Service departments, marketing departments, and even operations staff should have this chapter as required reading. I've already told this story twice to clients (one of whom is a boutique hotel) and they've understood the implications. One of 'em even has gone so far as to create an atmosphere where the staff actively looks for ways to create memorable moments for their guests - using the power of the individuals that work at the hotel rather than the power of the parent brand to make the stay enjoyable (or perhaps "memorable.")

The book had its high and low points...

The Strengths:
  • First-person accounts of brand experiences that any decent marketer can digest and connect with
  • Compellingly built chapters that each provide new insight into what makes a brand,
  • Chapter summaries that reintroduce the five core ideas and rate their application
  • A casual style that makes it an easy read.
The Weaknesses:
  • The title is deceptive (I'm a Thingnamer, so you had to expect this one),
  • There is no wrap-up or summarization at the end of the book, so we're left with a scattered assortment of ideas rather than a strong singular lesson or direction.
  • There's no discussion with people who actually have tattoos of the brands mentioned - leaving what is for me a major hole. Maybe it's just me, but I wanted to hear from the people that actually took the plunge and slapped a tattoo of a certain brand of mattress or an iPod on their bod.
  • While the most tattoo-worthy brand is mentioned (Harley Davidson) it isn't analyzed in its own chapter - so we never get to know what leads to the ultimate connection.
I suppose the negatives flow mostly from my initial expectations and not from Wymore failing to deliver. What she has done is put together a series of stories that someone might have told you over a period of months while drinking coffee at the local Starbucks. You will learn something from reading this book, but it won't be statistics or a definitive "how to get people to wear tattoos of your brand."

You'll learn that Wymore knows quite a lot about brands and what makes the connection between company and customer, and quite possibly you'll be interested in talking further with her about creating that connection for your own company.

If you come in with the right expectations you'll find this a highly enjoyable and generally informative read.

And Denise... should you be ever be interested in writing that book that I was expecting to read just let me know. You've got a sure-fire reader here - and perhaps a co-author (time permitting.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 19, 2006
“MIU MIU” forces “MY MUI” to abandon their Business. Swiss Fashion Label has to endure defeat. The Swiss fashion label “MY MUI” beaten by the upmarket label Italian label “MIU MIU”. What sounds like a David and Goliath situation is actually an example of a rather clumsy choice of trademark and its consequences. MIU MIU, the Italian subsidiary of Prada, declared the name “MY MUI” as being capable of producing confusion and successfully prevented its registration.

London Lite Cleans up Messy (Newsprint) Business. The free evening paper runs with the strap-line “Printed with ink that won’t come off on your hands”.

Martha's new logo a better thing. MSLO has been working on a new branidn initiative for months. The circular mark has already popped up on the company's Web products, including the Martha Stewart page on It is expected to be in place for the rollout of the company's home goods in Macy's this fall.
December 19, 2006 | Tate Linden

Aztar to open hotel 'by the water'

Grand opening for Le Merigot, Blush Ultralounge set for Dec. 28

More energy is expected to soon be pumping in Downtown Evansville when the wraps come off Casino Aztar's new high-end Le Merigot Hotel and Blush Ultralounge and Tapas Bar.

A grand opening for the facilities is set for Dec. 28, Jim Brown, Casino Aztar president and general manager, announced Thursday.

Reservations are beginning to be taken for the 100-room high-end hotel for New Year's Eve forward.

"We are absolutely thrilled about opening Le Merigot and Blush," said Brown.

"These two venues are spectacular and the first of their kind in southwestern Indiana.... Both will offer local and regional visitors a fresh, new entertainment experience," he said.

The rooms are designed to attract primarily guests from 25 years old to their mid-40s.

The rates will range from $129 to $249 a night.

The hotel, Blush and Tapas are the newest additions to the $40 million The District at Casino Aztar on Evansville's riverfront.

The hotel name, Le Merigot, loosely translated, signifies "by the water," Brown explained.

The district still has one more site remaining for adding another entertainment venue in the future, he said.

The site sits behind the district's recently opened Jillian's Billiards Club and Ri Ra's Irish Pub and Restaurant.

The type of entertainment likely won't be decided until after Aztar Corp., the parent company of Evansville's Casino Aztar, completes its merger in January with Columbia Entertainment, Brown said.

The new district is creating a total of 260 new jobs, Brown said.

Around 100 of those jobs are for Le Merigot Hotel and Blush and Tapas, he said.

Job applications still are being accepted for certain positions.

The new hotel was designed by the Evansville-based architectural firm of Veazey Parrott Durkin & Shoulders. Evansville's Industrial Contractors was the general contractor. Los Angeles-based Laurence Lee was the interior designer.

Brown said a prototype of one of the hotel rooms was created in a warehouse, located about a block from The District.

"We wanted to be sure everything worked together before we built 100 of them," Brown said.

Le Merigot will be a departure from a traditional hotel experience as it combines warmth with technology, he said.

For example, some of the amenities will include Italian bed linens, goose-down duvets, plush micro-fleece robes and slippers, LCD flat screen TVs in both the bedroom and bath, in-room high-speed Internet, MP3 input and glass-enclosed showers with multi-unit body sprays and overhead rainmaker showerheads, Brown outlined.

"For slightly more adventurous travelers, Le Merigot will offer five grand suites, each offering an intoxicating view of Evansville's Riverfront and entertainment district," he said.

The suites will include spacious living and dining room areas, a master bedroom and an oversized bath, complete with an effervescent soaking tub, Brown said.

Blush Ultralounge is located on the hotel's first floor.

Brown said he believes the nightclub represents a hot Las Vegas-like nightclub, imported to Downtown Evansville.

Its menu will offer culinary creations with a Pacific Rim flair, along with a wide selection of sushi, Brown said.

December 15, 2006
Wii launch ad draws series of complaints over violence. Sword violence... which is different than the locality advertisements running in London Underground stations showing a group of people with bloody stumps instead of heads dancing in a hall of mirrors at the palace of Versailles. The strapline says visitors to Versailles will be "treated like royalty". Which is more offensive?

Virgin Galactic Appoint First Space Agents in NZ. Together with Virgin Galactic, House of Travel, whose tagline is "How Kiwis See the World" will help make the dream of going into space a reality for New Zealanders.

Make that a triple: whisky maker back for another round Johnny Walker has a new commercial that will air next week. It features the global tagline "Keep walking", which has been in use since 1999 and is based on the proposition that a drinker who is "moving up" to scotch is making progress in life.
December 14, 2006
Residents of Fjuckby demand new name. Having stoically accepted years of relentless badgering, the people of Fjuckby have finally had enough. Globalization has led to rude English-language associations that the villagers could do without.

Underdog PosterHave No Fear, the Underdog is Here. "One Nation...Under Dog" is the tagline for the new Underdog movie set to come out this August.

For holiday glee, play on Wii. Two Japanese men knock on a door, bow, and offer a small white gift. No, it isn't the start of a joke, but a commercial for the new Nintendo Wii.

(This space intentionally left blank!)

December 14, 2006 | Tate Linden
William Lozito over at Strategic Name Development wrote an interesting piece about a WSJ article from Tuesday.

The two tidbits that caught my eye were the fact that most B-schools are named after major benefactors and that they're trying to corner the market on particular types of B-school students.

I do find it interesting that most business schools forgo the creative naming process and instead take the names of rich benefactors. I'm guessing that those names are probably part of the deal when you're laying $25 million or more on the line.

What does having a rich guy's name on the door means to the students, professors, and staff? What is the message? Does everyone who goes to Haas School of Business want to be like the benefactor? Does anyone actually know what the benefactor was like at this point?

In terms of naming strategy the benefactor last name seems to be a combination of descriptive (as in "this guy gave us wads of dough") and in some cases an empty vessel (as in "what the heck is a Sloan?") I understand the ego-centric desire to see one's name on a school... I can imagine benefactors dreaming about building a factory that pours mini-me businesspeople out through the doors annually.

I gotta wonder, though, if in most cases the school would be better served with a name that wasn't attached to a rich guy. Where are the schools named after the qualities that business-people should aspire to? Where are the schools that are named after the core beliefs of successful businesses?

I'm not going to hold my breath for this to happen though. I'm guessing that when someone is signing over a check for $25 million the whole "let's name this after fluffy bunnies and good things" is less important than "I'm donating $25 million, so I must be worth naming something after..."

The second aspect - that business schools are branding themselves to appeal to certain types of aspiring business students - makes a lot of sense to me though. Especially since the names of the schools provide little to hint at the experience to be had within.

This is also in line with what we tell our clients at Stokefire. It is far easier to attract an audience when you're consistently saying one thing to them. Once you identify what makes you unique, anyone whose top priority is to experience your type of uniqueness will move your school towards the top of their list. I've seen this happen on many occasions - even to the point where people will choose smaller specialty schools over the biggest names in the world. Stanford carved out a great niche for entrepreneurs in the late 90s based on their proximity to the Silicon Valley and the huge venture cap firms in the area. Many potential Harvard and Princetonites were pulled westward by Standford's repositioned brand.

All other things being equal, most consumers will choose a product made by a specialist over a product from a generalist. Stokefire's own experience matches this. We offer naming services that are sometimes far more expensive than those offered by our non-specialist competitors in the area. But the fact that we specialize and have deep knowledge and experience in our field makes the additional investment a better deal than can be found at the generalist shops.

Put differently, would you go to a famous dog groomer for your own haircut? Sure, they know how to cut hair. And maybe their experience will work for you... or maybe you'll end up looking like a poodle.

Going to the best-known business school in the world doesn't help much if the field you are going into has better specialty schools available. Want to produce movies? USC (boooo!) and UCLA (yeah!) likely trump Harvard every time.

In business (schools and the real world) specialization rules.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925

December 13, 2006
AKQA Begins Push for Palm's Treo 680 Touting that it's "Not just a cell phone. A Treo.". He acknowledged the similarity to the positioning of rival Helio, which in ads from Interpublic Group's Deutsch bills itself as more than just a cell phone, but noted that the two devices pursue "different markets. We're going after the multimedia player."

Cape May, Delaware: Beach towns seek recycling advice. The county has printed educational material for real estate agents, property owners, campgrounds, motels and people on holiday with the tagline, "Don't take a vacation from... recycling." It's a effort to help preserve the lovely environment that people choose to spend their time in. New name for Randolph Macon Woman's College. Three months after a controversial decision to go co-ed, the 115 year old Randolph-Macon Woman's College has a new name...Randolph College
December 13, 2006 | Tate Linden
Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Katie Arcieri of the Capital Gazette. She talked with me about Anne Arundel's recent efforts to brand itself as the Informatics Capital of the World. A brief excerpt of the discussion can be found here towards the end of the article.

Here's how I was quoted:
Tate Linden, principal consultant of Stokefire Consulting Group, a Springfield, Va.-based brand development firm, said the claim that Anne Arundel was at the center of the informatics corridor was “aggressive,” considering that the county still seemed to be in the education process back in March. According to a county Economic Development Corp. press release dated Jan. 31, “informatics is about to become clear to more than 100 business executives” at a county tech council breakfast in March."

“The constituents said, ‘Maybe this is a word that will encompass everything,’” Mr. Linden said. “The advantage is, you don’t upset anyone by it, but you have to wonder if there’s anything in it.”
I'm not entirely sure that it makes sense, given that I'd been rambling on about related stuff for about 8 minutes before I said this gem. Ms. Arcieri isn't at fault here, though - this one is on me. The quote is accurate, and I can't expect that she give it a five paragraph preamble to contextualize it.

In case anyone is interested, here's a rough overview of the points (with embellishments) made in the conversation. Perhaps one of these will make my quotes make sense.
  • I did some quick research while talking with Ms. Arcieri and found that business leaders will still getting educated about what informatics was as recently as mid 2006 - and the process only started in early 2006 (as noted in the county Economic Development Corporation's own press release.) In my opinion when you're the capital of the world in something you shouldn't need to go to a meeting to learn what it is.
  • Informatics isn't well known - even in the informatics industry. Ms. Arcieri noted that many in the industry didn't know they were in the industry at all - thinking instead that they are in high-tech or database fields.
  • Since informatics (as a term) isn't well known the slogan and claim are forced to do double-duty. Not only are you having to go up against other tech-center cities, you must then help educate everyone as to what informatics is. The strength of any statement is weakened with it is followed by the phrase, "which means..."
  • I noted that it wasn't clear who the slogan was supposed to help. Was it focused on the existing businesses to help them feel better about staying there? Perhaps it was aimed at getting new companies to locate in the area. Or maybe it was a public service to get the concept of informatics into the mainstream.
  • When I looked up the meaning of informatics on the web I found a slew of definitions and while they were all related (it has to do with information) none were the same.
  • When a term isn't well known and is also somewhat ill-defined it seems like an aggressive strategy to use it as part of a publicity campaign. This term (and the way it is presented) isn't engaging enough to get people to go seek it out a definition, so the claim is going to be meaningless for most people.
  • Because informatics is such a general term, the claim that you are the capital of the world (or the corridor, or whatever...) becomes nearly empty. Princeton's wordnet defines informatics as the "gathering, manipulating, storing, retrieving, and classifying" of recorded information. That's a whole lot of things to be claiming. It'd be more meaningful (and perhaps believable) to pick one of those subheads. Otherwise you're about as believable as Leonardo was as he shouted "I'm the King of the world!" from the front of the Titanic.
  • Another quick search showed that Silicon Valley is better known for informatics than Anne Arundel is. Google showed ten times as many references for the former. Aren't world capitals typically better known in their field than non world capitals? (Or is this like state capitals that are less well known than other cities in the state - like Sacramento vs. San Francisco?) One of the keys to creating taglines that work is that they must be believable. Once people do know what informatics is they may not be able to swallow the claim. Sure, the NSA is in the area, but at least according to Google the Silicon Valley has a stronger connection to the field.
I know it is far easier to throw stones at slogans than it is to create them, and I've been told that this slogan was developed by a branding firm - though I don't know which one.

I can see some more creative and effective ways to apply this concept -

Want press? Use "All your informatics are belong to us." That presentation would get people looking up the word (and would also cause a backlash from people who hate that phrase being repurposed.)

Want press and controversy? Ultimately informatics in this area is used for government intelligence of some sort. Why not use "Anne Arundel: Big Brother's Brain."

The reason I am not fond of the informatics angle is that it takes no risks, gets forgotten, and doesn't get people involved. The way to create successful slogans is to step away from what is expected. Think Las Vegas. Think NYC.

...or at least think creatively...

"The Informatics Capital of the World" will not get press outside of the DC area. And press is what the area needs to actually become the informatics capital of the world.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 12, 2006 | Tate Linden
Just about every week I'll hear a variant of the following phrase float into my office from the shared hallway:
"... and if you're not getting enough traffic to your website then we can sell you our search engine optimization package. It's only $1500 for the first six months!"
...and just about every week I cringe.

Why am I bringing this up on a blog about naming? Because another naming blogger spoke about it first!

I agree with many of the points Tauno makes about the importance of links and key words - but disagree that this should potentially drive a business to create a SEO-friendly name. (And there-in lies the sum total of today's minor controversy.)

The problem with naming a website or company with SEO in mind is that humans aren't SEO-readers. So a website called may be easy to parse when reading, but non-intuitive for humans to remember. We know the web as a place where spaces are removed, not a place where spaces are turned into hyphens. (In fact, in an informal workplace poll most in our office assumed that sites with multiple hyphens were link farms or splogs.)

Stokefire has been a good name for us, but certainly wins us no awards for SEO naming. It would be a rare day that someone went to Google and typed anything close to "My company needs a name to stoke the fire and get us moving again." ...and even if they did I'm not sure they'd find us.

Other than putting keywords in our headers we haven't done much with SEO - and yet more than 50 percent of our traffic is from search engines.

So, why do we get so many hits?

Two words: This Blog.

Having an active blog on which you talk about your area of expertise seems to have a far greater impact on search engine placement than any domain name model or SEO trick ever could. For the $3000 that SEO costs (at least from the local folks here) you could be paying for the approximately four or five hours a week that a solid blog demands.

But blogs do more than just save money - they prove competence, give you the abilty to talk with your prospects, and even (dare I say it) give you fodder for the inevitable book you've always wanted to write.

I have many clients that ask about buying SEO, and I've always told them not to bother. Those that had already purchased it weren't particularly happy with the results because even if it brought additional traffic there was nothing on the website that actually engaged the visitor. Driving traffic to a brochureware site or a static page is futile. People visit, see that you're boring and leave...

If you have a great website with active content then you don't need SEO. If you have a blog and can write well you'll not only attract visitors - you'll keep 'em coming back.

But back to naming for the web... You can find hundreds of resources for naming your website online. Many have conflicting information. Here are a few thoughts from us...:
  1. First, try to use your name. If at all possible you want to bring the vehicle that you have spent all of your time and money to build into a solid brand online as-is. If you can't use your brand online then you'll have to spend even more time and money to build a second brand.
  2. Keep it short. The more letters you use the more chances your prospects have to mistype. There's a good reason why we didn't use
  3. Spell it rite. When the only way to reach you is through a keyboard it makes sense that you'd choose words that are easy to spell - and spelled correctly. Some new naming trends have made dropping the penultimate letter somewhat intuitive (as in Flickr) but other techniques - like vague phonetic matches ala Tabblo - end up sending traffic to the wrong sites.
  4. Remeber that on the web you can have more than one front door. Okay, so your own name is taken on the web. Why not use your tagline, a business descriptor, or add a few letters (like "inc" or "llc") to your name? The cost involved in grabbing a few (or more) alternate domain names that point to your site is minimal. Does this dilute the brand? Not really - since the domain name and the name of the company don't need to match. Put in the description of any household product ( and you'll usually find that it leads you to a company with a different name.
  5. Check with (or other authority.) Wouldn't it suck to build a website, advertise the heck out of it, and then find out that someone else has a right to tell you that the name and site you've been advertising belongs to them? Well, it can happen.
  6. If you expect people to type your name then use ".COM" especially if you're a business. DotCom sells itself - other extensions are the opposite - you spend as much time communicating the extension as you do your own name. (.net, .tv, .mobi, etc...)
  7. Name it like you would a company. If you haven't named your company and the new site is going to represent your enterprise then go find a book on naming or talk to a nomenclature consultant. Many of the rules that apply to the naming of companies can also apply to websites - and if the website is the company then almost all of the rules apply.
Please don't use this stream-of-consciousness, knee-jerk, pretty-much incomprehensible post as the only resource for naming your site - or even as the only reason not to invest in SEO. My point with today's ramble is that there are probably better ways to increase your fame (and traffic) than paying someone to help people find you.

Maybe you should be focusing on whether or not you and your brand are worth finding...

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925

December 10, 2006 | Tate Linden
The National Association of Realtors - (The Voice of Realty) - has a page on which they tell potential home buyers and sellers How to Choose a REALTOR.

Let me summarize their guidance:
  • Make sure you hire a REALTOR because they are held to a "Code of Ethics (which in many cases goes beyond state law)."
  • Working with a REALTOR that has access to a Multiple Listing Service "will give you access to the greatest number of homes."
  • Make sure you ask your REALTOR to clarify state "regulations, so you know where you stand" on the duties for your type of agent.
  • Know the difference between a buyers and a sellers agent and make sure you know whether your agent is representing you or someone else.
  • Check that the agent has an active real estate license in good standing.
  • Check what real estate designations the agent holds.
  • Will your agent "show you homes that meet your requirements and provide you with a list of properties he or she is showing you" in exchange for your commitment to work with them?
I just don't get it. I'll respond to each item with an eye to how the REALTOR and/or consumer is affected or represented.
  • Use a REALTOR because they're held to a "Code of Ethics." First, why would anyone point out that people need to be trained in ethics. Does the REALTOR profession attract unsavory types? Second, I checked on the Code and found that it contains 17 unique articles and 81 standards of practice. That's a whole lot of stuff to assume that every single REALTOR in the world has memorized. Even with the Code hung on the wall where they can see it every day I'd wager than less than 1% of REALTORs could list every article and practice. If it near impossible to live and breathe by the Code then why have it at all? (Other than to tell people you have a code.) The required 15 hours of training per year (I think I have that number right) just isn't enough to memorize the code and keep current on other real estate issues. FWIW- I'd bet that Google's Code of Ethics is known by 99% of their employees - and they can probably recite it perfectly.
  • MLS access gives you access to the biggest number of homes. Okay. MLS does give you access to homes, and people do use it - but in many cases it doesn't give you access to homes that are listed by owner and most MLS services are restricted so that only agents can search them, meaning that if your agent uses one as the sole method of advertising your home then people without an agent won't be able to find you. In most cases MLS gets you access to REALTORs, not buyers. (I understand why NAR would want this - as it does help REALTORS... but it doesn't necessarily mean that the client will be best served.)
  • Have your REALTOR clarify state regulations/Buyer-Seller Agent Distinction. I've been in at least five real estate transactions and this has always happened without my prompting. I know I should care about it, but it isn't top of mind for me. REALTORs have it as part of their spiel - but repeat clients know the spiel - saying they either represent you, the other guy, or both... then you sign something and get a copy showing what that role is. Also, given that REALTORS (potentially) have a higher code isn't it more important to learn about that? Why is this the customer's responsibility?
  • Check that the agent has an active real estate license in good standing. This is common sense, but I know exactly no one that has done it. Ever. I've asked a dozen folks and everyone laughs at me. Yes it is the law, but it isn't the consumer's job to out the impostors. Seems like something NAR should be doing on behalf of its constituency, no? (I certainly don't check every restaurant for a liquor license when I buy a drink. Do you? And I certainly don't check for health-code violations online - even though they are available - because if I only ate at the clean places I'd never go out.)
  • Check what real estate designations the agent holds. What exactly does this mean? What kinds of real estate designations are there? What is the advantage of having one - or more than one? A search turned up at least twenty designations on NARs own site. Rather than checking on what the designations are doesn't it make more sense to ask what the designations give the client? Will they make more money? Will they save money? Will they have a smoother transaction? Will it be faster? Does a desgination that doesn't provide a material benefit to the consumer matter? Seems kinda like putting makeup on a pig. If designations are important then isn't it more important that an agent have a designation that specifically represents the situation the buyer/seller is in? Should a non-specialist recuse themselves if there are better options available to the buyer? (Certainly seems like the ethical thing to do, doesn't it?) Do they need to disclose that there are others that specialize in the area the client is interested in? (Again... ethical.) Do they need to disclose that designations exist at all?
  • Will your agent "show you homes that meet your requirements and provide you with a list of properties he or she is showing you?" If you are an agent and all you do for your clients is show homes and make lists then you don't deserve to have clients. If I told people that the reason they should work with me is that I make names that fit requirements and I show them candidate lists I can't imagine that anyone would ever hire me. This level of service is assumed. If you don't show houses and give lists you go out of business. So why ask the question?
If I were a REALTOR and found that my clients were being given guidance like that seen above I'd be calling up NAR and telling them to get their act together. The NAR is hurting the good REALTORs and doing no favors for the brand by allowing the bare minimum to be passed off as allowable.

I have heard from REALTORs that the annual training requirement can be fulfilled in a single marathon day - and that there is no test given to confirm that the information learned is actually learned. There's no follow-up weeks or months later to see if the information is retained. One REALTOR commented that a few people in the room had actually dozed off. (Apparently the only requirement is that you be physically in the room... coherency and consciousness are not mandatory.)

In my light reading of the Code of Ethics I couldn't find a rule against this, so it must be okay.

Why not figure out what actually makes a good REALTOR and focus on those qualities? Don't ask what people are looking for. Don't use focus groups. When people are asked what they look for in a REALTOR they don't know how to respond. And getting a whole group of people together gives you a whole lot of answers that are provided because they don't know how else to answer. Sure people want ethical REALTORS. We also want people who breathe, who are decidedly male or female, who like food, who speak our language, and who don't swear at us under their breath or launch into song when they get stressed. I'm guessing the latter options didn't show up on the surveys, but I'd wager that breathing would actually be found more important (and no less irrelevant) than ethics. Ethics is a given. People don't want to deal with unethical people in any business. So don't talk to us about whether or not you're ethical.

Training in ethics doesn't matter - being ethical matters - and you can't promise that. What can you promise? What about creative services? What about taking care of paperwork or fast transactions? What about a promise to never ask for a piece of information more than once? What about keeping track of what the strengths and weaknesses of each house visited are and helping clients keep things straight? What about restricting your services to areas in which you are qualified to deliver informed opinions - and referring business elsewhere when you're in an unfamiliar neighborhood?

I don't want a taxi driver, I want someone that can actually help me.

What about providing services that matter?

The NAR is sick. Once enough of their constituency notices and comments perhaps they'll take some medicine.

Prescriptions are available...

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 9, 2006 | Tate Linden
You may have thought it wasn't possible, but it is. I'm going to write yet again about the confused brand that is REALTOR... or is it REALTORdom? ...REALTORness?

Would you believe that I receive about a dozen hits a day from REALTORs - and a few letters a week too. So far everyone has been in agreement about the problems with the REALTOR brand. Unfortunately I haven't had a single post from a REALTOR willing to speak out against the problems with NAR or the representaton they give to REALTORs.

That hasn't changed - on my site. But I came across a post on the Sellsius blog where a whole bunch of REALTORs have vented. The post in question shows the top 10 complaints with the NARs site. Seems like the association that is supposed to represent all REALTORs is only representing those with deep pockets. Here's a sampling of the complaints:
Charging extra for enhanced listings Charging extra for leads Sponsored links divert traffic away from member listings Banner ads distract consumers Lack of member trust in a for-profit website
I had no idea that the NAR was doing things like this. Some I can see as reasonable - there's always going to be preferential treatment for larger or wealthier members - that's the nature of organizations. Elephants rule. As for other aspects I'm a little stunned. If I was represented by an organization that sold advertisements on my own product pages I would be miffed. They're not just being unhelpful, they're actively working to lose business for those that they represent.

I would assume that any organization that represented me (hypothetically) would allow me the courtesy of selling to my prospects once they had found me. The NAR continues to offer alternatives to my targets even after they've selected me as their REALTOR.

How can the REALTOR.COM problems be fixed? How about:
  • No competitive links from detailed listing pages unless the REALTOR is compensated for the clicks. Google does this for free - and REALTORs are paying NAR for the business they lose.
  • Increasing the default level of service given to a listing to at least the level provided by free sites such as Craigslist. One picture? Are we in 1995, or what?
  • Banner advertisements on a REALTOR's listing page should pay the REALTOR, not NAR.
  • REALTORs should be able to have their own banner advertisement on their listing pages (for a fee, of course) - and should be able to veto advertisements from those that work in their farm area.
  • REALTORs should never have to pay for leads from their own representative organization. If the organization isn't there to help businesses succeed then why is it there at all? Shouldn't membership fees cover the minimal effort required to forward contact information?
If I was a member of an organization that worked this hard to make a profit off of me I'd probably not be a member for very long.

Why are there so few REALTORs willing to rock the boat or leave the organization? Why is the NAR so overt about not representing their constituency. Why won't anyone speak out on this blog other than me?

Wait... I've heard about stuff like this.

Oh crud... is the Mafia behind this?

Tate Linden John Doe 123 Main Street 703-555-1234
December 8, 2006
An Unreasonable Fear of Christmas? It used to be that people wrung their hands about the over-commercialization of Christmas. These days we have almost the opposite problem—Christmas is disappearing entirely. Advertisers still want the huge spike in sales that Christmas provides but they're afraid to acknowledge the holiday itself. It's almost funny to watch them trip over themselves trying to find politically correct substitutions as they avoid saying the dreaded "C" word. But "happy holidays" and "season's greetings" only go so far.

Seems it's a big week for listings information. Zillow announced today the upgrade of the popular site with virtual For Sale signs for both FSBO's and realtors. We had a giggle over the "any home, anywhere" tagline- the presumption being you actually own it.

As part of this years 'Don't drink and drive' campaign, England's Road Safety Team are distributing posters with the strap line, 'Whose bed will you end up in after the Xmas party?' to all pubs and clubs in the county. The poster will feature a picture of a prison cell with bed in it.
December 8, 2006 | Tate Linden
Okay. This post was going to be about how companies with dead blogs are perceived by the marketplace, but then I realized that the topic would be too broad. Waaay too many companies and people have dead blogs - and most of 'em probably don't understand what a dead blog does for a brand (personal or professional.)

But there are some companies that should understand the implication of a dead blog. I would suggest that any company actively involved in the business of branding should know that an inactive or rarely updated blog does more damage than it does good.

Reasons? How about these:
  • The sites become the target of other bloggers (like this one) who immaturely point to the inactive blogs and say "how can a company involved in branding leave such a big hole in its own brand?" We've been waiting to catch a word... any word... from these guys for ages.
  • Surfers who do end up finding the site may think that the company is no longer in business if the site hasn't been updated in almost a year. Kinda makes you wonder what sort of meaning the site is rich with...
  • If prospects get to a site that hasn't been updated for ages and also has blank pages all over the place then I'm pretty sure the prospects are going to motor their way over to other purveyors of branding.
  • And finally - if your name suggests that you've got plenty of labor sitting around then you'd better find time to get at least one of your experts onto your blog to keep things up to date. Monkey - groom thyself!
I hereby pledge to pull down my blog - or at least notify everyone that I'm closing up shop - if I'm alive and unable to keep the standards of the blog high. Anything else cheapens the field of branding. (I reserve the right to ditch the blog if I'm dead or get mad cow disease.)

Maybe the active branding and naming blogs can come up with a catchy name for blogs of indeterminate status.

My Submission: "Schrödinger's Blog Syndrome" I'd suggest that someone grab that name and run with it, but no one will ever be able to spell it... (Certainly we Americans have a problem with umlauts. I for one have no clue how to type them[ed: or didn't until Bob helped me out!]. Perhaps the Germans can make it work.)

Proper usage includes:
Oh crud. Yet another blog lost to Schrödinger.

Looks like Schrödinger has been adding to his blogroll

With about 20% of naming bloggers afflicted with Schrödinger's Syndrome we're keeping a close watch on William Lozito for signs of weakness.

That's it. If y'all don't stop messing with me I'm going to go Schrödinger on this blog.
Not bad for a Friday morning. (Too bad that someone already has the website.)

Tate Linden Principal Cönsultant Stokefire Cönsulting Gröup 7Ö3-778-9925
December 7, 2006
Freelander 2 Rebranded as a Range Rover? Land Rover is considering rebranding its recently launched Freelander 2 (AKA LR2) SUV as a Range Rover to improve its perception as a luxury vehicle. Land Rovers are considered to be utilitarian vehicles in all countries, but more so in some than others. In parts of Europe, for example, a buyer may look down upon the Land Rover branded Freelander when comparing it to premium marques such as BMW. The other reason behind the name change would be to allow the Freelander to punch above its weight in terms of prestige despite being priced below many comparable vehicles.

'Orbital Outfitters' to Provide Space Suits for Next Generation. "Have Spacesuit -- Will Travel," from the famous Robert Heinlein novel, is also the tagline of a new company that intends to do just that -- make sure a new generation of commercial civilian Space travelers, adventurers and explorers fly in style and safety in Space suits like none designed before. reports the UK's "The Wrestling Channel" is to be renamed to TWC Fight!
December 6, 2006 | Tate Linden
We're in the midst of a book project in our "spare" time here at Stokefire. One of the things we're looking to provide are real war stories or horror stories about naming projects from around the globe. We've already got the goods for the major stories - the ones that are easily found via Google or Technorati or in any one of a dozen books on corporate names and histories (or even from our own experience.)

We need the stories that aren't written. We need the laughable, the tear-inducing, the weird. Did they name your company after the owners dog? Is the name unpronouncable? Impossible to spell? Did your company get bought by someone who just slapped their own name on it even though they don't have a clue what you do? Heck - we'll consider any sort of naming story - even the naming of people, animals, or scientific stuff.

We've got our share of stories from the inside. We want the stories we can't find.

What can we offer to those whose story we can confirm and use?

How about:
  • Your name in print with the story and in the acknowledgements (if you wish)
  • Links to your blog from this site and the book site when it is launched.
  • A free copy of the book when published.
We cannot publish stories that we can't confirm, so if you submit something make sure you include your email so we can follow up.

We'd appreciate a Digg or two - or just telling your friends in the industry about this. The more publicity we get the more useful the book can be to you and the other folks looking for solid information about naming.

And to those of you in the naming industry - we're happy to share your stories as well... fully attributed. This isn't about self-promotion for us, it is about helping educate consumers about the troubles that can occur when stuff goes wrong with naming and branding.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 5, 2006 | Tate Linden
It has been far too long since I've mentioned the REALTOR brand respresented by the National Association of REALTORS. So long, in fact that I've got a backlog of things to discuss.

First up: How do you say "REALTOR?"

Other than the apparent need to SHOUT the word (and yes, the NAR demands that you capitalize the whole word) the pronunciation isn't exactly clear. Check out this link that shows the regional preferences for saying the word out loud.

Upon examination you will find that there aren't any significant preferences. The pronunciation seems to be pretty random.

This can't be chalked up to regional differences - like the word "Crayon" can. When you take a look at the comparable map you'll find that the pronunciation "Cran" for "Crayon" is used commonly in the Northeast, but not as much elsewhere.

Why am I bothered by this?

I am bothered because the NAR exists to represent the interests of its constituency, but doesnt seem to do a good job of it. Realty is a verbal industry where REALTORs should be communicating via their own physical (audible) voice. According to the survey less than half of the respondents are saying the word correctly. And it isn't the fault of regional dialects. My own REALTORs often used the incorrect pronunciation, and my family is split as well. If the question of whether the word was pronounced "REEL-ter" vs. "reel-TOR" had been asked I'd bet we would have even fewer folks saying the word correctly.

If you were responsible for the success of a brand that most people couldn't pronounce what would you do?

Me? I'd do something a lot like David Fletcher suggests and start by helping my own membership say the word correctly. If the Rotarians can recite a twenty-second speech at the end of their meetings (often populated by a few REALTORs) then REALTORs should be able to say their own brand correctly in their meetings at least a few times.

C'mon NAR! Let's see some progress on the REALTOR brand. Pronunciation is an easy fix. It won't be so fun when I bring up the questions that NAR tells the end-client to use when selecting an agent. (My regular readers had better know what question the NAR suggests buyers and sellers ask first. And bonus points if you know why I think it is pointless.)

(This may turn into a theme this week unless someone can find me a person at NAR willing to listen...)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 3, 2006 | Tate Linden
...then you should be paying better attention to the news.

Nancy Friedman over at Away With Words points to quite a few talking heads that are yapping about what to call the goings on in Iraq.

Is it "Civil War" or "Sectarian violence"?

According to Google there are hundreds of thousands of articles on the subject and over 13,000 blogs using both terms.

This seems to me to be another example of PR savvy people having insight into the weight of an existing term. "Civil War" is a loaded name for Americans. By definition (literally) what Iraq is going through is civil war. But the powers that be don't want to cause the associations... so they are using less familiar terms.

Sectarian Violence means violence between two different groups. Civil War is fought between members of the same nation.

Sounds like they both work to me...

But the weirdest thing in all of this is that President Bush - the guy that unabashedly calls our most powerful weapons "Nuke-u-lar", is known for having a small vocabulary, and often invents words when he can't find the one he wants... just nails this term every time he uses it.

Until the last three weeks I'd never said nor written "sectarianism" in my life. I can't imagine that Bush has had it in his vocabulary for long, nor can I picture how long Bush had to practice saying it before he got it right. (Kinda makes you wonder why he hasn't invested the effort on the weapons side...)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 2, 2006 | Tate Linden
Thanks to Anantha - a promising new naming blogger out of India - I came across a wonderful paper written by Randal S. Rozin of Dow Corning.

It is rare that people display so much of their process to the public. When people do display this much it often doesn't stay available for long.

My advice? Click the link and print the file before it disappears. Whether you're a naming veteran or a first timer this is an excellent peek into a process used by a very sophisticated naming department.

I don't agree with every tidbit offered in the paper, but I was truly engrossed by gaining access to something usually off-limits to outsiders and other industry members.

Enjoy the find while it lasts!

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 1, 2006
South Molle Island to enter a new phase. The plan includes an updated island logo which will include the new tagline “The Natural Island Resort” and a complementary strapline “Connecting People With Nature".

IceWeasel, The rebranding of FireFox. Did you know about IceWeasel? I think not many people know about this thing. Don’t worry..I love to share with you. IceWeasel is a web browser and it originally base on FireFox. It is one of GNU projects and done by Debian to satisfy some of demands from Mozilla (the creator of FireFox). How'd they get this name IceWeasel?

Salesforce rebrands its platform… again. As of today, it has become the Apex platform and Apex API, which helpfully puts all the platform elements under the same branding as the Apex programming language announced last month. Since Apex is a synonym for culmination as well as summit,'s marketing people must be hoping this is the final step in the platform's rebranding journey, otherwise it could be all downhill from here on.

Stealing Green. Mega-corps GE, BP and Wal-Mart have joined the chorus for sustainability by re-branding themselves as green companies. A pioneering green business consultant contends it's more than just PR.

Sky Anytime rebrand for broadband download service. Satellite broadcaster BSkyB is rebranding its Sky by Broadband video download service as Sky Anytime and is adding Sky One shows and pay-per-view premium to the programming line-up.
November 30, 2006
How big companies terrorize small businesses. Big companies are the most litigious in protecting their brand names. Last year alone, Louis Vuitton conducted more than 7,000 anti-counterfeiting raids around the world and began more than 15,000 new lawsuits. Those pennies keep adding up so no wonder a leather purse costs around $500 these days.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) today announced the launch of a new integrated interactive branding campaign. The tagline of the campaign "Media More Engaging" focuses on how interactive advertising combines three crucial campaign elements: audience, experience and effectiveness.

Beer for all. There is beer for dogs, kids and even beers are that is certified kosher, like HE'BREW, a Jewish-themed label from Shmaltz Brewery ( Billing itself as "The Chosen Beer," the half-jokey, half-serious gourmet kosher microbrew has a boozy rabbi cavorting on the label. There is also Layla (, a dirty blonde lager with the tagline "Israeli for Beer".
November 29, 2006 | Tate Linden
I remember seeing a sign with those words as I rode across the country in my father's yellow Pontiac Sunbird in 1976. I think it kept me laughing for about two states. Every time I thought of it I was unable to speak until something else distracted me (usually my elder sister threatening to bring me to an untimely end.)

I was five, okay? I'm bigger than she is now, so the threats have ceased.

I often wish I could remember what state the sign was in - or at least wish I had been smart enough to snap a Polaroid of it. Alas I have no idea where I saw it and didn't have the camera ready.

So when I read Laura Ries' blog about a gas station with an unusual name I was prepared to reminisce... but I ended up being more grossed out than anything else.

Why would anyone name their gas station Kum & Go? (I agree with Laura that the name is pretty crude.)

A look at the company history doesn't provide much help (other than to indirectly point out that the company was founded by two men whose last names begin with K and G), and neither does the infamous (and profane) urban dictionary. What is helpful though is a look at an online etymology dictionary for the word "cum." The key is to notice that the crude application appears to have begun in 1973 - or more than a decade after the company had established itself. (I'm not clear based on the description whether the sexual overtones were applied to this particular spelling or on the root word "come" from the 1920s. You certainly can't argue that the word "come" is off limits for convenience stores...)

So the question seems to become one less focused on why they named the company Kum & Go and more on why they didn't adapt when culture introduced a negative connotation.

What would you do if your own company or personal name became slang for a sexual act? Certainly it would be cause to evaluate ones name and see if the association will hurt the brand, or if the brand can take advantage of the new meaning. In this case it seems that the company evaluated it and decided that sticking with the name was a nod to the "risk taking" atmosphere mentioned in the company history. The fact that the connotation isn't addressed at all seems to be part of the strategy.

Certainly not one that we would recommend (though it certainly is buzz-worthy even if it doesn't do anything to reinforce the original brand.)

That said, I think I'll leave Pump and Munch well enough alone...

(Thanks for bringing up the topic Laura!)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
November 29, 2006
Corporate Chickens. KFC implements new store designs and will continue to use the famous "Finger Licking Good," and "11 Secret Herbs and Spices" as taglines. The Colonel, an icon known around the world, will appear in a red cook's apron, rather than the iconic white suit.

Verizon Wireless, YouTube ink video content agreement. With the ability to upload videos to YouTube directly from your cell phone, maybe Verizon's new tagline will be "Can you see me now?".

Acronym awareness. Working in the computer industry you develop a habit of talking in acronyms. I’ve often found it amusing how the acronym over time becomes the proper name for the thing it identifies–that there come to be a set of people who know the acronym and the thing it identifies, but who don’t know what the acronym is a short form of.

New Beverage Product Names Focus on Health and Wellness. An excellent article in Drinks Business Review Online alerted us to some truly interesting drinks that ought to help us all survive the usual overindulgence that comes with the season. Content Stampede Brewing's new beer brand, 'Stampede Light', is one of the first brands to mention hangovers in its marketing. The reduced hangover claim stems from Stampede Light's added vitamin B content, replacing vitamins which the company says are lost after drinking alcohol.
November 28, 2006
New supermarket format store introduced for pharmacy. Life Pharmacy introduces new supermarket format store under SupaChem™ brand. The SupaChem pharmacy combines traditional pharmacy service and healthcare with supermarket accessibility, convenience, scale and value. This is reflected in a three-part brand proposition: value on pharmacy lines; a multi-tiered pricing structure; and professional dispensary and consultation services under the strapline “SupaValue. SupaPrice. SupaCare.”

Why Rename Everything?. So many things get renamed these days, and often for no reason at all!

Your World. Your Chance to Make it Better. That's the AmeriCorps tagline used at the the signature on AmeriCorps employees emails. The tagline is strong -- short, sweet and memorable but not found anywhere else in their marketing materials, including their website.

Zune Beam Your Beats. Microsoft is rolling out the Zune mp3 player with a focus on sharing music files between users. The two taglines, “Beam Your Beats” and “Welcome to the Social” attempt to convey the collaboration possible through blue tooth connectivity.

Digg Sends Cease and Desist to came up with a simple solution to the problem: they scrubbed out the “i” in the logo and renamed the site “”. It seems unlikely that Digg will pursue any more action.
November 27, 2006
The Jedi Religion and How to Start A Religion. Last week, two self-proclaimed Jedi Knights appealed to the United Nations to recognize their faith as an official religion and accordingly rename the International Day for Tolerance to Interstellar Day of Tolerance.

Time to Rename the Cell Phone? They're not just for making calls, and they don't have a lot to do with cells. Maybe it's time to name the ubiquitous gadget something else. - Cingular will be sold under name of AT&T. SBC, which closed its merger with AT&T on Friday, plans to sell Cingular Wireless under the fabled AT&T name.

Timing Could Be Everything. New Itsu restaurant with a tagline of "health & happiness" awaits opening in the World Financial Center at Battery Park in New York City.

Tasmania Tackles Homophobia.The advertisements detail the negative effect of homophobia on families, businesses and the gay and lesbian community, using taglines such as “Names will always haunt us" and "Homophobia stops with you".

From Happiness, to Happy Feet, to HappyNews. "Real News. Compelling Stories. Always Positive." That’s the credo of Have a happy search. That’s the tagline for the search box. Report happy news. That’s the challenge on the left side bar. In contrast, Unhappy News. And the list of the major news stations follows.

Christmas Crackers. The Beeb's strapline "The One to Watch this Christmas" has never been more true than this year, with a cracking line-up of goodies on all Auntie's channels: terrestrial and digital.
November 22, 2006
Complaints fail to derail Virgin ad. The ad that features a Virgin train being "attacked" by a group of Native Americans on horse back. Their attack fails and, at the end of the ad, one of the Indians is shown serving drinks on the train. The strapline at the end of the ad stated: "Man who go on big train have big idea." Despite 83 complaints that the ad is racist and offensive Virgin is not pulling the ad. Their ad agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y&R, released the statement that the ad "was meant to be a light-hearted "affectionate homage" to the cowboy and Indian film genre that kept with the brand's theme of making ads in the style of classic films." appoints Head of Happiness as part of the result of a major rebranding for the firm which introduced the strapline: "Don't worry, be happy."

Outer Beauty?. Remington is challenging the 'inner beauty' wave of advertising pioneered by beauty brands with a campaign using the strapline 'It's what's on the outside that counts'.

A SPICY sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards’ officers warned the manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon. Blogger asks "Do girl scout cookies contain real girl scouts?"
November 21, 2006 | Tate Linden
I've been on a bit of a tear lately about naming contests. I've been pointing out that it is great PR, but poor business practice to leave your name to a popular vote. You can check the past two days on this blog for more in that vein... needless to say, I'm not a fan.

I had, however, assumed that the naming contest was ideally suited for things like zoo animal naming contests. Why? Because a contest draws attention to the fact that there's a baby animal. People like baby animals. People give money to see baby animals. People tend not to give money to see middle-aged or old animals when not in the immediate vicinity of a baby animal.

So... naming contest involving baby animal = free press = increased donations and interest.

Apparently there are people who disagree with me. One person claimed that an elephant naming contest ended in - I kid you not - tragedy. The poor animal shall for ever be associated with fast food.

This brings up a point related to something suggested by Jeffry Pilcher of Weber Marketing. What happens if the winning name isn't liked by the organization. This is actually a very real concern. Assume that you have a half-dozen or so finalists. The chance of any one name getting more than half the vote is pretty slim - and the majority of people who participate in the voting will have had their favorite name eliminated. Not only is the organization at risk of disliking the name... the majority of the intended audience won't like it either!

Let's hear it for brand-building through massive alienation!

(Will someone please knock me upside the head so I can get off this topic?)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
November 20, 2006 | Tate Linden
I think I am.

But before you judge me, let me say that community involvement is actually a great thing, and companies should be invested in their local communities. Especially if they expect local residents and businesses to do business with them.

So, why bash community involvement? Because it seems to be coming up a lot as justification for poor business practices.

The easiest (and most relevant) issue to pounce on here is the naming contest discussed on Friday. Naming contests are being used as proof of interest in the community - since if the company wasn't involved in the community then why would they ask the community to name them?

Here's my beef with this line of thinking: Community involvement is rarely the primary purpose of the company being named. One would hope that most businesses exist to provide a needed good or service to an audience. If every company existed for the sole purpose of being community involved we'd know everyone's name in our community, but we'd be dirt poor, have no food, and probably no public services either.

There are a select few organizations that are truly centered on community involvement - typically these are advocacy groups, community organizations and the like. These organizations may be well served by a name built from within. In fact, I could argue that an organization that represents the citizens of a community would have a hard time justifying the expense of hiring an external expert (since it removes resources from the community.) Using the naming of the organization or service as a chance to build the community would contribute directly to the attainment of the primary goals of the organization. Zoo animals, schools, park organizations, and kids sports teams are the sort of things that lend themselves to naming by committee.

But what of companies that exist for other purposes?

Banks, software companies, and restaurants usually do not exist to encourage community involvement, but they do benefit from being community-involved.

Unfortunately many companies believe that all you need to be successful is to be community involved. Sure - it helps (often in huge ways) but it can't be the center post of the tent. Businesses have to provide a service first, and then they can differentiate that service. Think about it... at some point you actually have to communicate what you do to make money...

Since service businesses hinge on the value of the service provided (as in - am I getting the best value for my money by going here, or could I do better across town?) it seems like good advice to work on actually making the service more valuable in ways central to the type of service provided.

Bringing this back to naming... what we say by having a naming contest is that we're concerned about being involved in the community. We want to show that we're listening. We want our constituency to feel like part owners (though you'll note we're not actually giving away stock here...) so they'll spend money with us.

Sure, it works for stuff like Pandas at the zoo (free publicity! increased donations!) but you'll note that once the product/panda has grown up people don't visit/donate anymore - at least not because of the contest. Naming contests give you short term recognition but almost no long term benefit.

Sounds suspiciously like an advertising campaign, doesn't it? But one that you can never change. The name sticks around 'forever' while the fact that you named by contest fades away.

Where's the benefit?

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
November 17, 2006
Next, who isn't intrigued about growing old, as we all, hopefully, have to? One guy who's cheerfully there already is Pete Lustig, an e-marketing manager, aged 84, in Illinois. He shares the journey and time traveler tips in his lively Late Life Crisis blog. It bears the tagline, "Too soon we get old; too late we get smart," so here's where I go in search of some short cuts to the smarts, before it's too late.

Virgin Atlantic Gives Short Shrift To BA’s New Clubworld Seat. The campaign includes a picture of BA boss Willie Walsh in the new BA Clubworld seat with the strapline “Sorry Willie…still 7.5 inches too short”, illustrating how much the Upper Class Suite is longer in length.

‘Can Superman Rescue Ben Affleck’s Career?’ How strap line for an article in the Guardian should really have been titled 'Can a Supername Rescue Ben Affleck's Career?'.

Woman with heartburn sues Coke and wins. How’s this for an ad slogan: “Things go better with (a reasonable amount of) Coke”? Coca-Cola may have to think twice about certain taglines now that a Russian woman has sued the company, and won, for allegedly getting heartburn from signature product. tries to convince smokers to quit with guerilla marketing campaign. Using the tagline on stickers they hope get plastered around on cigarette ads: 'Contains Urea'. Urea is constituent of urine, and apparently is contained in cigarettes. Urea, is universally known as carbamide, as recommended by the International Non-proprietary Names (rINN).
November 17, 2006 | Tate Linden
...then why are they so often used to name stuff like:

A sheep, an online forum, a public elementary school, a panda, a bunny, a chat room, an elephant, a local baseball team, a poop hauler, a development plan, a book character, a videogame monster, and literally tens (or hundreds) of thousands of other stuff.

What don't you see named by contest very often? How about children?

Why is this?

My opinion is that people don't have contests to determine the names of things that truly matter to them. They open up naming contests when the actual outcome doesn't really matter.

Naming by popular vote is a great way to create buzz in a community, and you'll note that things like zoos, public schools, and online communities are looking for ways to bring communities together. The naming contest is free press and might give proof of community involvement and a bit of a backstory.

Perhaps this is what annoys me about the naming contest idea; naming contests are not establishing a brand, they're a marketing tool. Marketing is supposed to tell your target audience something about your product or company - and this program suggests to your audience that you don't know what you're doing. Additionally, it lets your audience affect your brand in a permanent way - and the area affected is one that your audience has almost no experience in.

How many of the people that will enter the contest or vote on the results will have any clue as to what makes a good name? For elephants, schools, and chat rooms it doesn't matter. The goal there is to get people involved early, so it is the journey and not the result that matters.

For companies looking for growth the result is more important. If they want to expand outside of the name-submitters and voters they'll need a name that has appeal to more than just the namers and that fits with the brand.

I guess I like the concept of the naming contest, but not the results. It's honorable to want to involve the community, but perhaps not as smart to actually take their advice on things they know very little about.

Think of it this way - If you have kids (or have a kid on the way) you know that relatives, friends, coworkers, and even strangers will suggest names for your unborn child. Did any of you actually write down all the suggestions and then have the entire group vote on which name you would use? I'm thinkin' the answer is "no." You honor the suggestions, but the result matters too much.

I wish the example was more perfect, but it has its own problems. Most people don't hire naming experts for their kids, instead following general naming trends (like the huge number of Jennifers in the 60s, Dakotas in the 90s, and two-syllable boys names ending in -er an -en that seems to be omnipresent now.) Still, we want to make sure that the name is "ours." We won't let the public tell us what to do (at least not consciously.)

My thoughts are too scattered today to really do the topic justice, but there's a lot more depth to this. (An interminable delay at Cincinatti airport last night seems to have crossed a few wires.)

I promise I'll be bright-eyed on Monday, at which point I may come back to this topic and say something that makes sense. In the mean time, anyone have any examples of company names that came from naming contests that have stood the test of time? (I know of a few, but I'm holding them in reserve.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925

November 16, 2006
Auburn. Minnesota to vote on name for New Elementary School. Students and staff members will also get to vote on the new name. Since the start of the school year, students have been working to put this election together. Four finalists are being suggested.

Could UNCC get a new name? Members of the UNC Charlotte Student Senate debated last week whether to endorse changing the school's name to the University of Charlotte, but the discussion could be moot.

SBB Mutual is now CIMB Wealth Advisors. Re-branding exercise would also involve the setting up of a training and development centre for its agency force. Under the exercise, there would also be a re-branding of its 35 offices nationwide over the next few months.

Re-Branding Church: Queer Eye For The Big Guy. This week, Canada's largest Protestant church announced a $9.3 million image makeover that targets 30-45 year-olds with ads featuring suggestions of whipped cream sex and gay marriage. Though some may find it encouraging that The United Church of Canada is taking such an open stance on sexuality, it remains to be seen what kind of parishioners they'll attract with their bobble-head Jesus dolls or how many will stay when they discover there's actually no Jello wrestling in the pulpit.

Oxford professor Timothy Garton Ash longs for jihad. He puts forward what seems to amount to a simple re-branding of the war on terror, as if use of the term "war" itself begat the violent nature of the enterprise. Ash explains, "it wasn'ta good term to start with.
November 15, 2006

TV Land Unveils Original Programming Slate of Pilots and Series. The third installment in the successful annual "100 Most" franchise, this year's five-part special, 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases counts down the most unforgettable TV quotes and catchphrases ever said on television. From "You're Fired!" to "That's Hot" to "Dy-No-Mite," 100 Most Memorable takes a fun look at those verbal barbs, taglines and exclamations that television has fed into pop culture for years.

Dentist goes on the air using radio commercials to reel in patients, voicing the 60-second spots himself. ''I can make you smile again'' is one of his taglines, as is `I'm talking to you.'' Most dentists shy away from advertising but this strategy has really been successful for this doc.

A trifecta of poor design (and marketing). Where Apple lets the iPod speak for itself, Microsoft has a barrage of marketing photos and taglines designed to make you think it’s cool. This will never work with the intended demographic, which is presumably exactly the same as the iPod demographic. “Welcome to the social”? “Release your inner DJ”? It’s painful.

The UK's Network Rail is using direct activity to drive consumers into shops located into shops located within its stations in the run up to Christmas using the stapline "Time to shop", will direct consumers to a dedicated website, which will go live later this month.

Starbucks launches cashless coffee. Unveiled with the strapline "Starbucks Card - great coffee now has its own currency", the Starbucks card can be used at outlets in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and Thailand by people on holiday or business.

'Christmas' Returns To Major Retailers Walmart's not acknolwleding they made a rather BIG mistake but re-naming The "Holiday Store", "The Christmas Store" is being welcomed by most shoppers.

Fast Food Nation "steals" line from The Simpsons At the end of the promo ad for Fast Food Nation, the tagline for the movie flashed across the screen: "Do You Want Lies With That?".
November 14, 2006
Japanese Knotweed Solutions is the UK's leading invasive weed treatment company. The new HQ has been re-named Itadori House - "itadori" is Japanese for "strong weed".

The Philadelphia Phillies' Triple-A affiliate will be named the Lehigh Valley IronPigs when the team begins play in 2008. The name resulted from a naming contest. IronPigs which won by a 2:1 ratio, reflects a name that bonds the Lehigh Valley's steel-making heritage. The name comes from the term pig iron, which is the term used to melt down iron to make steel, is one of the strongest metal alloys known to earth.

Portland, Oregon's new, PDOT’s “Hub” Project (aka Travel Smart) has a new name, a new logo, and a new plan. Now calling their work “SmartTrips”. A program that is meant to encourage people to take less car trips by making it easier for them to choose transit, walking, and bikes.

Snoops Dogg's canince apparel line is now sold at Amazon. So G-up up your dawg with some Snoop stlyle and check up on some of the possible taglines for this bow-wow line.
November 13, 2006

Remington is challenging the 'inner beauty' wave of advertising pioneered by beauty brands with a campaign using the strapline 'It's what's on the outside that counts'.

Gingerbread House Festival. All proceeds from the festival will go toward the Boy Scouts of America, Learning for Life ethics program and the Utah PTA Art Education Fund. Festival planning committee member John Pilmer pointed out that the goal of the festival is said best in the tagline, "Build a house, build a child."

Festival planning committee member John Pilmer pointed out that the goal of the festival is said best in the , "Build a house, build a child." “Lunatic fringe,” “head case” and “one-eyed pinhead” might sound like insults from the schoolyard, but they are actually names that scientists have given to genes. The names are causing problems for doctors who have to counsel patients about genetic defects with names like “sonic hedgehog” and “mothers against decapentaplegia.”

New York Mets organization comes to terms with CitiGroup Inc. in renaming the new stadium.

Saturn in the 90's had the tagline "A Different Kind of Car Company," and that definitely seemed in line with the community Saturn was building. Now, not independent of GM, Saturn customers have seen nothing new and the company has become lax in maintaining connection with its initially very passionate customer base. Saturn's tagline is now "Like always. Like never before," and it will be interesting to see if car buyers... well, buy it!

November 13, 2006 | Tate Linden
I've occasionally wondered what it would be like to name thousands of products all under the same brand. Stokefire has yet to provide me with this challenge (a few dozen names under a brand umbrella is the most I've done thus far), so it is only in daydreams that I see myself as David Webster, the naming guru at Microsoft.

Let me type that again.

Naming guru at Microsoft.

That is a job that could give most people nightmares. First, the fact that they've taken the step to bring on a Naming Czar indicates that there's some difficulty involved. Most megacorporations just let the VP of marketing for each division figure out what to call stuff (so if they want to call a company like Stokefire to handle it or just name it internally - the choice is theirs.) A few others don't care at all and let the product teams or consumers provide names.

Microsoft has begun taking naming seriously. Regular readers may remember that I'd given them a hard time with some of their previous names and branding techniques, including Microsoft Live and .Net, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm pleased that Microsoft is trying to put some effort into creating solid naming practices.

(Webster made a single comment on Robert Scoble's blog that seems to have made him famous in an instant. A search on Google brings up hundreds of hits - and all of them point to the same post. )

Back in May, Webster stated his views on:
  • Code naming
  • Finding usable and protectable names
  • The trouble with naming for Microsoft
I think that Webster is on track with almost all of his stated opinions, though I differ on code names a bit.

Here's an approximation of what he says (with my comments indented):
Produce product names earlier in the cycle so that the need for code names is reduced
  • I'm not certain this will help anything, as it still takes time to get names through legal, and people need to call the product something.
Equity and buzz provided by code names is generally wasted since the name almost always changes. The backlash of "why didn't they just stick with the code name - that was better" tends to hurt more than it helps.
  • This really doesn't go against code names as a whole, just the cool ones. I actually think that he's on track with this, but wouldn't necessarily propose the solution that he has put forward. Instead I'd suggest not using cool code names. (This is a pretty common practice - made standard by Apple's naming gaffe regarding Carl Sagan, and before that by the Germans in World War I.) Sure, there's an ego boost and buzz boost from having that cool name attached to a product, but there's not guaranteed transitive property when trying to change the name. The coolness could end up staying behind... So - why not use a non-cool name for the working title until you find the right product name? An alphabetical list of vegetables, animals, minerals... or just about anything would work. You could even make it internally meaningful (even though code names shouldn't be meaningful) by having each branch or brand in your company use a different category.
Microsoft has a harder time finding good names than most other companies.
  • Amen. Few companies will be looked at as critically as Microsoft. Not only do they have to come up with a good name for the product, they must do far more due dilligence than most. Where most companies that have moderately closely matched names (e.g., "StarBank" vs. "Starbucks") may let the potential confusion slide, any time Microsoft develops a name they're guaranteed to be sued by anyone that has more than a few letters in common. I'm not going to delve into this much other than to say Microsoft is cursed with a horrible public image that seems inextricably linked to evil, greed, poor quality, and... lots and lots of money. When Microsoft takes a misstep you can be sure that whomever they wrong is going to try to make them pay.
Generally I find the prospect of naming earlier in the cycle to be admirable, but this could lead to some other complexities. After more than a decade of exposure to technical product management I can conclusively say that the initial product specifications and the actual product rarely are exactly the same - and often can be almost completely unrelated. If you've named a product early in the cycle because you're anticipating a certain market appeal but the functions that are supposed to appeal to that market are left out... you're going to end up with a badly named product.

It would be counterintuitive for me to suggest that starting the naming process early in product development is bad. Naming as an afterthought invariably leads to mistakes that can often cost money. Microsoft can't just do a trademark search on They need to search every territory in which they sell their products. They probably do directory searches and web searches to ensure that no one in their industry is using a (tm) or (sm) signifier with the name they want. If they leave any of this out it has the potential to cost them legal fees and settlements.

...on the other hand, we do get frequent calls from companies that have tripped over trademark issues (often with C&D letters in hand) so starting the naming process late does have its benefits. For naming companies.

I think stepping away from code names that are meant to appeal to the target audience is a good step - and one that every large company should consider.

Last: David Weber seems to be saying the right things over at Microsoft. I look forward to seeing the slew of products named with the new tactics. (And I wonder if he was behind the removal of the .Net brand. If so this might be an indication that things are on the right track.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925

November 9, 2006 | Tate Linden
We're intrigued. Over on our post about Red Canoe Credit Union we've seen a great discussion between two experts in Credit Union branding. In the last few days the name "Optiva Credit Union" came up as an example of a name with branding troubles.

So we decided to check some online resources and determine for ourselves if the name was as problematic as initially suggested in the earlier post. We combed through the following sites: From our "research" we've found that detractors from the name point out the following:
  • Optiva is pretty much meaningless.
  • The statement provided on the CU's website - "The name is wholly unique in the financial services industry, just like our credit union" is factually incorrect, given that a company in San Diego is already providing financial services under the name "Optiva Mortgage"
  • Optiva Mortgage has told the press that they are doing business in Iowa, and that they plan on creating a "business atmosphere" in the state.
  • According to the Daily Iowan there was some irregularity with the voting for the name change.
There are other issues (such as lack of customer participation) but we're going to leave those alone for now - until someone suggests we address them directly. But from our knowledge of the naming industry we can address the four bullets above.

First - the fact that Optiva contains little meaning is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it is Latinate and Stokefire isn't particularly fond of the "me-too"ness of Latinate stuff. But lack of meaning can often be a plus. Consider the name "Kodak." It is entirely meaningless, and yet when we hear the name we typically imagine a high-quality photograph. The company was able to produce a product that assigned meaning to the name. (Though it didn't happen automatically - they had to invest in both the product and the brand.) Kodak was profitable for decades in part because they were able to create an implied meaning for the word.

Optiva is actually not quite meaningless - it has some implied meanings based on the morphemes of the word. Opti- could represent "Optic", "Optimal", or even the concept of choice (as represented by "Opt.")

So it seems to us that (other than our issue with Latin) the meaningless aspect isn't really a concern.

The second issue - that the name was already taken - has the potential to be a major problem. But when we looked into Optiva Mortgage there wasn't much "there" there. Optiva Mortgage does own a website, and Google shows 2,400+ hits for their name. But when we attempted to look at those sites Google reduced the number of non-similar sites down to less than 20. In addition to the company's own website we found that about half of them were links to mortgage quotes search engines, and the remainder discussed either the Optiva naming story or the fact that they were hiring on Craigslist in San Diego.

Preliminary analysis shows that Optiva Mortgage has not made any real effort to protect their name. There are no trademarks owned by them, and they haven't even taken the preliminary step of putting (tm) after their name (and without this the company has little or no right to the exclusive use of the name in their own industry.) Optiva Credit Union appears to own the federal trademark for the full name, and also for a lettermark of the word "Optiva." If there's really an issue here then Optima Mortgage could contest the trademark and the issue would be resolved. We don't think that the mortgage company will be doing this, however.

This leads us to the third item: Doing business in Iowa. The fact is that the only location we can find for Optiva Mortgage is in San Diego. Also note that the contents of the website isn't owned by Optiva Mortgage - it is owned by Lion, Inc. (Just scroll down to the bottom of their page and you'll see the (c) notation. Lion is in the business of building framework websites so small companies can get their offerings online. The only entity claiming ownership of anything provided by Optiva Mortgage on their website (including the company name) is Lion, Inc.

As a company that has no current legal claim to its own name, the chances of Optiva Mortgage actually trying to extend their business to Iowa in a legal fashion is unlikely.

Fourth - voting irregularities are entirely different issue. But even in the Iowan article it appears that the vote was done legally. I agree somewhat that this could've been done with more tact, but name changes are rarely popular - so the fact that it was voted on at all (and that a name change was approved) - is a major plus. Typically name changes are pushed through by visionary leaders and not the populace.

There is one more issue that I'm not addressing here because it deserves its own discussion: People have complained that even if Optiva Credit Union can use the name, the fact that Optiva is already in use elsewhere means that they shouldn't use the name for a CU. Briefly - We disagree. But you'll have to come back another time to learn why.

There's no scandal here. Please go about your day.

[Update: Click Here to go to the most recent post on this topic.]

tate_one.jpg Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
November 9, 2006

Borders has appointed Blacks Leisure Group marketer David Kohn as its new commercial director. Kohn takes responsibility for brand positioning, marketing and sales and range. His new campaign used the strapline “Stay a while” is intended to encourage browsing at the chain.

Preorder Tubular (Fomerly InnerTube), the Mac app for YouTube
Tubular, the sleek Mac app for YouTube is a lot closer to release, and is now taking preorders. It was initially named InnerTube, but the developer had to rebrand it when CBS threatened to sue.

WorldChanging a book on worldchanging solutions to the planet's most pressing problems. is out at the end of November. It is beautifully designed, packed with authoritative, pithy articles on everything from nanotechnology to urbanism to lightbulbs, it really is the definitive "User's Guide to the 21st Century" as the strapline.

DulcoEase strapline tells you the secret strapline to her beauty.

Let’s ban “cool” codenames that don’t pass search tests; David Webster, who runs naming for Microsoft, enumerates the ways that cool codename suck. Why? He's got a list of reasons why product naming is hard. It’s David’s job to deal with the complications of brand naming and come up with something good, not just safe. Results, not excuses.

After 239 years of being called Dover Township, New Jersey's seventh-largest municipality will be re-named Toms River Township on Nov. 14.

November 8, 2006

Green Orange, the executive search firm changes its name but maintains the same focus. The merger of Green Orange Executive Search and Search Pacific has created a new regional headhunter, under a new banner. Following the announcement of the March merger, the firm has officially re-branded itself as The Laurus Group and doubled its headcount through the process.

Kodak ad with the strapline "Catches everything in low light. ELITE Chrome 400,’ shows animals who are capable of viewing things, even in extreme darkness, to depict the unique quality of the camera.

CodeSniper What's in a name? The power and peril of product naming. A good product name can describe, define, and identify your product, it can energize customers to buy, attach an ideal, culture, or image to a widget (think iPod), and it can even make your product memorable or seem unique amongst a sea of identical products. Of course, the corollary is that a bad product name can mislead customers, plant negative connotations, subject the product to parody and ridicule (remember Microsoft Bob?), set too high or too low expectations, and generally lead to disappointment when the name doesn’t match the product.

NTL, will re-brand itself Virgin Media, the company said Wednesday. NTL earlier this year acquired Virgin Mobile, a UK mobile phone operator in which Richard Branson's Virgin Group was a majority shareholder. Analysts said at the time of the acquisition that the Virgin brand was one key reason why NTL bought the company. NTL, which is headquartered in the USA and has a large US shareholder base, has been dogged by one of the UK's worst customer service records.

Kodak Ad: Catches everything in low light. The ad is showing the animals who are capable of view things even in extreme darkness depicting the unique quality of the camera. The presentation of the ad is apparently thought through, simple and really communicative. The strap line of the ad is ‘Catches everything in low light. ELITE Chrome 400.

As if dominating everyone on the PGA Tour wasn’t enough, Tiger Woods is now going to take a swing and create his own golf course design firm, “Tiger Woods Design."

November 7, 2006
Prince is setting up home in Las Vegas after signing up to headline Club Rio nights every Friday and Saturday for the foreseeable future. The club will be renamed 3121 after Prince’s most recent album for the late-night concerts, which will begin later this month.

Do our names define us? The tale of one Jewish-American family's search for identity. How an extra "n" in a name can make a huge difference.

Carlton Screen Advertising is to launch a marketing campaign to promote the benefts of the captive nature of cinema advertising on audience with a strapline, "All of the attraction, none of the distraction".
Children's food campaigners argue that Burger King's ad's strapline "are you man enough?", questions the masculinity of boys who do not consume food excessively high in saturated fat.
Promotional transparent umbrella with clever tagline "Hair you want to show off" is finally a great product selection with a tagline that makes sense.
Samantha Thavasa to open U.S. store on New York City's Madison Avenue. Thavasa is a brand name named after "no one in particular." Nicky Hilton, the Hilton name that is not as recognized as her sister Paris, designs bags for the company that caters to the uber celebrity.

Imelda Marcos has given her name to a new line of jewelry designed by her kids called “The Imelda Collection”.
November 7, 2006 | Tate Linden
Over on Lee Hopkins' Better Communications Results blog there's an interesting post about the use of images on vehicles. I really enjoy Lee's blog and find the information that he provides to be though provoking and informative - especially if you are interested in learning about PR.

I too think that the pictures he has posted are quite cool. But there's a difference between a cool picture and a workable concept. A few problems appear with the advertisements:
  1. Every single picture on the page looks surprisingly similar. The trucks are all in the same position with the same background. These aren't photos of actual campaigns, they're mockups. (As evidenced by the final photo that shows the truck "speeding" in the parking lane or about to run off the road - depending on whether you're in a left-driving or right-driving country.) This doesn't mean it can't work - but it does imply that it isn't actually being used.
  2. An advantage of using mock-ups - the colors are vivid and clear - versus two-dimensional and covered with dust. The pics would likely be less convincing when scratched, tagged, and covered in dirt. It makes me wonder how the campaign would age and how expensive it would be to maintain.
  3. One advantage of using the same photo is that every shot is from the same angle - from behind, below, and to the left of the truck. Most of the images "pasted" on the wall of the truck don't work from any other position outside the truck than the position taken by the camera. So - if you're directly behind the truck you would see a picture that makes no geometric sense - the inside of the truck as seen from the left. It doesn't make visual sense.
On the plus side - if the trucks actually were rolling along the road they'd probably have other drivers competing for the exact right space for the perfect view. This could lead to blog mentions and press coverage. But even this has a negative. It could also lead to accidents as drivers jockey for their shots with their eyes on the camera instead of the road.

Even worse... the "sweet spot" for viewing in this instance is only a short distance behind the truck, meaning that people will sit in the danger zone appreciating the advertisement and making it hard for the truck to safely change lanes. The problem with this is that trucks typically can't tell when their rear bumper is clear of traffic. I don't know many truck drivers that would be interested in having people hanging out in the danger zone.

Okay, so I don't know many truck drivers at all. Any, really. But if I did and I asked 'em if they like people hanging out back there I bet they would say "no." (I do hang out in Truck Stops when I drive long distances - but I've yet to pick up any friends.)

I'm probably over-reacting here, but
November 6, 2006 | Tate Linden
I wrote about this a few weeks back and got quite a few emails suggesting that I was "full of it" and must be joking.

Sorry. This isn't an example of my wild imagination getting the best of me. Pen Island is indeed a company that sell pens. If you click the link make sure you check the web address. This is an example of a poorly parsed name.

Even Snopes - the popular urban legend debunking site - backs me up on this one.

Parsing has become far more important since the late 1990s when companies began moving to the Web. Previously innocent names became potential landmines when the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) made the use of spaces in company names somewhat obsolete. (Sure, they could have used hyphens or underscores, but it is easier to remove a space than it is to add an unfamiliar character.)

We've added a research project to our list over at Stokefire. We'll be taking a look at the number of companies that have elected to use names that utilize the Web format (must like "Stokefire" does) over the last few decades. Preliminary research shows a drastic change during the nineties, with usage increasing from a handfull of well known companies to being a recognizable trend on the NASDAQ exchange, the Fortune 500 list, and in Silicon Valley.

With so many companies building Strungtogethernames we'd have thought that the practice of checking for parsing problems would become standard. I suppose that it some sense it has become standard since there are actually not very many companies with major problems. Still - the fact that anyone is letting these issues get through means that there's still some learning to be done.

In our quick search we found quite a few examples (many of which we linked to previously, but through an external site.)

The list of websites that sound naughty but aren't is quite extensive. We strongly suggest that regardless of how inoffensive the websites are you'll probably be offended by more than a few of the implied names. If you don't want to see them then please stop reading now and go here.
November 6, 2006

YouTube Sued by Utube. The Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment Corp., a Toledo, Ohio, company which operates under the website, has a brand naming issue with the Google owned company and has asked that YouTube to stop using the or pay Universal Tube’s cost for creating a new domain.

Sean "Diddy" Combs, the hip-hop star who changes his name more often than a secret agent, has declared that he would like to named be the first black 007.

Forbes writer meets Alex Castro, founder of a Seattle startup called Pluggd. "Pluggd," When asked about the 'mis-spelling' of his company name (which is irritating and hard to remember," Castro was frank: "It is impossible to get words with vowels that aren't already taken up on the Web." "Plugged," with the grammatically correct "e," would've cost Castro $10,000. The "e"-less version ran him $8.99.

Rita's Water Ice Lets Customers Name New Product. The nation's largest and fastest-growing Italian ice chain, announced the success of it's unique product naming strategy. "Today's consumer wants to be involved in the world of advertising that surrounds them -- they want to feel like they have a say in what companies are trying to sell them," said Denise Zimmerman, president and chief strategy officer of NetPlus Marketing, the firm steering the effort. "One of the great things about the Rita's campaign was the combining of online and offline channels to immerse the consumer in the product and the naming process. Who better than someone who has actually enjoyed a product to help name it?"

The Groomsmen a film out on DVD November 14, is about a groom (Ed Burns) and his four attendants and how they wrestle with issues related to friendship and maturity a week before the big day. The tagline on the box, "Till Death Do We Party,"would be hard to top in terms of irrelevance to the film. For instead of this film being a story about a last-gasp bachelor party, it's a coming-of-age/coming-to-terms tale of guys growing up.

Just when you thought Harlequin romance novels couldn't get any, well, racier, they're now introducing a new series "set against the backdrop of the thrill-a-minute world of NASCAR." And the publisher's tagline? "Falling in love can be a blur. Especially at 180 mph."

November 3, 2006 | Tate Linden
Okay, so I have no clue if I will actually make this a recurring event, but Fridays tend to be pretty slow for names in the news.

Onomastics is the study of naming. Etymology is the study of the history of words. So I'm sincerely hoping that Onomastic Etymology is the study of the history of names. (It does sort of stand to reason, but reason isn't always right...)

Today's bit of history is provided by I. E. Lambert's book: The Public Accepts. Published in 1941, it does a great job covering the stories behind many (at the time) well known trademarks, names, and slogans.

The book is a wonderful time-capsule. In the second story of the book we are told "Many a manufacturer has a slogan for his product, but none is more consistently used than this one." I would wager that anyone born after the baby boom would have no clue what the slogan is given that hint - or would know what product is being referred to by the slogan after they hear it.

The slogan? "Ask the Man Who Owns One."

The 800+ hits on Google provide the answer.

On to today's history lesson!
November 3, 2006
Naming pickle. A company naming dispute between two New York City pickle peddlers is headed to federal court.

Australian pop star Kylie Minogue returns to the stage on November 11 in Sydney to resume the tour she was forced to abandon last year after being diagnosed with breast cancer, her record label said on Wednesday. The tour has been re-named the "Showgirl Homecoming Tour".

Do people realize what t-shirts with taglines actually say?. Universtity of Dayton student is concerned about students donning Abercrombie & Fitch shirts that reads: Who need brains when you have these? Or an American Eagle shirt that blairs: Awkward mornings beat boring nights.

The National Irish Lottery has a new strapline 'Think Bigger' for their new ad campaign. What is less heavily advertised is that the pick of numbers is now six from 1 - 45. The odds of winning are now 1 in 8145060.

Comet’s latest strapline: “We Live Electricals”. What? What does that even mean? It’s not even a sentence, as far as I can make out. Surely adding industry-speak to a public ad campaign can only serve to alienate your potential market.
November 2, 2006
Co-operative Insurance (CIS) is set to bolster its new ‘green’ Eco motor insurance by unveiling a national television campaign which will feature images of CIS’ innovative Grass covered Car accompanied by the strapline, ‘now you can get green car insurance that doesn’t cost the earth’.

It appears US citizens have been segmented and tagged as consumers along neighborhood lines. Carnegie Communications has conducted a geodemographic analysis and has determined 66 different market segments, or "clusters". What have you been dubbed? A "Shotgun & Pickup" perhaps? IT hub Bangalore renamed (back to) Bengalooru, which translates to 'town of boiled beans'. Move seen as a bid to appease locals upset at the influx of outsiders.

Bud Light Beer television commercial filmed expediently to stick to the tagline ‘Always worth it’.

John Mellencamp has done more rebranding than just taking the "Cougar" out of his name. Seems that his stance against corporate greed has faded as he aligns his new song "Our Country" with the new General Motors, Our Country. Our truck” campaign.

"Circle K rebrands to Stripes," the Texas Susser companies decision to end its relationship with Circle K should be complete by the year’s. The new Stripes brand is Susser's own creation. The company raised $107 million in an initial public offering this week. The change over will be slow due to federal rules that prohibit promoting a new brand during the process of an initial public offering.
November 2, 2006 | Tate Linden
Naming ain't easy.

Claude Labbe (and quite a few other folks) alerted me to this story:
Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment Corp, a small Ohio-based manufacturer that employs just 17 people, claims its website became a victim of YouTube's success after being engulfed by 68 million hits in August.
68 Million hits. And I would bet that of those people that accidentally went to the wrong site - exactly none of them thought "Wow - this is such a coincidence! Even though I was looking for sophomoric videos I could really use some industrial tubing right now. Where can I send my money?"

UTube is suing YouTube to cover the costs of the misdirected traffic.

This should be an interesting case to follow. While YouTube could get some positive press from helping UTube, I wonder if UTube could've prevented the entire debacle by using forethought.

When picking your domain name we advise
November 2, 2006 | Tate Linden
Even though we spend most of or time working with mid- to large-sized companies, we also work with many startups and small businesses. We've been asked a few times about whether or not the big-boys have to go through the same issues as the startups. Our answer: Yes. They go through all the hoops the startups do, and then they add more to address the existing brand identity, changes in the marketplace, changes in corporate policiy, and more.

This leads to two additional lines of questioning. First, why would a company ever need to go through branding after the first time? And second, does this mean that my company is going to have to do this whole thing again?

First part - Companies are rebranding every day, and most of 'em do it unintentionally. The ones that rebrand with intent are responding to changes in the market (like how KFC has over the last decades gone from a company that focused on Fried as a key part of their brand to one that never really mentions that their chicken is boiled in oil - until recently when they mentioned that it is boiled in oil, but that the oil is healthy.) So a change in the marketplace - like the public awareness of the unhealthiness of partially hydrogenated oils - can result in two rebrands, not just one. (The first was the name change, the second is the recent change in oils.) One wonders if a third rebrand will occur if they find a way to make fried food healthier than baked.

Companies intentionally rebrand to keep their brands current. This doesn't mean they reinvent themselves completely - they usually just steer their brand to ensure that they still own the position in the market that was intended. An edgy brand must continually redefine what "edgy" is if they wish to be seen as on that edge. If they don't then they'll soon be seen as boring, staid, or dated. (On second thought, this might not be a great example - since staying on the edge may be a part of the original brand. Better, perhaps, would be a reevaluation of the effectiveness of staying on the edge.)

Unintentional rebranding is usually not good, but happens more often than intentional rebranding. Small companies often do this after they go through their initial branding process. They establish themselves as one thing when they launch, but don't stay on message. Rather than being the best at what they do they lose control of their brand and become whatever will help them make the sale in the near term. This results in companies that start as vintage clothing stores specializing in 1960s apparel becoming generic used clothing stores, and then adding in a section of brand new mass-market imitation vintage clothes, and then a section with just regular new clothes. Even though it wasn't a formal process the end result is a new brand... but one that doesn't serve any real purpose. For an example, look at what has gone through in the last decade. They went from being the undisputed answer to the question "Where do I buy books online?" to being one of thousands of places that expect you to search for anything you could ever need. Along the way they went through selling just books, to books and music, to books, music, and retail items, to books, music, retail items, and used stuff, to books, music, retail items, used stuff, and services, to... well... everything. I certainly hope this wasn't an intentional rebranding - because if it was it wasn't very well thought out. Even Wal*Mart doesn't sell everything (you can't get industrial computer consultants from the big W.) How can you create a brand that encompasses every other brand on the planet? I suppose will let us know when they get there.

Enough companies rebrand every year to support a competition on the matter. Check out Rebrand - an organization that rewards the top 100 rebranding efforts of the year. You will note that Amazon isn't on their lists.

As for the second line of questioning: Is your company going to have to rebrand? If you wish to survive you must adapt. If you want to excel rather than just survive you need to anticipate adaptation. You need to be ready for it. So we suggest that you always keep your brand in mind and measure the effectiveness of your core identity. Every three to six months you should revisit your core to ensure that not only are you still living by the standard, you're also following a standard that is still relevant.

When should you consider a rebrand? When your existing brand no longer has the impact or relevancy that it did when it was successful. That could be six months after you launch your company (if you didn't correctly identify market trends) or fifty years later. The key is to be aware of the effectiveness of your brand and to be prepared to revisit it before your brand has lost its goodwill in the marketplace.

We'll talk another time about how rebranding can be done without destroying the values and purpose of the company founders - and when it might be desirable to take the extreme step to just do a rip-and-replace and start over again.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
November 1, 2006 | Tate Linden
November 1, 2006

On-line dating sites, such as, let you choose a long screen name and long personal taglines. Just what do you have to say for yourself?

Premium dog food launches and is named after fictional vet called Wainwright. The brand is particularly aimed at dogs with food intolerances and is tagged as "dog's best friend".

Google purchases JotSpot. There’s also no confirmation as to what the new name will be, but suggestions are afloat.
Beverage makers try to find refreshing drinks that do not (like those of yesteryears) have to be re-named to cover up the use of illegal drugs.

Glenfiddich, the family-owned Scotch whiskey brand looks to increases holiday sales. New marketing campaigns, include the strapline "inspiring great conversation since Christmas Day 1887".

Premium Bonds celebrates it's 50th in London. Cake celebration due to parade through Trafalgar Square announcing "saving with a thrill". What's exactly going to come out of that cake?

October 31, 2006
Americans blame Cookie Monster for obesity in children. Producers change Cookie's tagline to "Cookies in Moderation!" [Tate sez: Picture the Cookie Monster stuffing cookies into his mouth in moderation... Doesn't work, does it? If this is true then we've just killed off an American icon with an overdose of Political Correctness.]

Second Helpings, a group that rescues prepared and perishable food from stores and restaurants has updated its image and has renamed its newsletter "Peas and Carrots," followed by the tagline, "Little Bits of News That Go Great Together." The group's new logo features a chef lifting a pot with heart-shaped steam rising from it. [Tate sez: Nice... it's okay to have "second helpings" if it is for charity? Where's my moderation now?]

Millionaire Fair an exhibition opening in Moscow this weekend. Organizers estimate the fair has attracted some 10,000 visitors every day -- fulfilling the event's unofficial tagline "Millionaires of Russia unite!". Ironic nod to an old revolutionary call for the world's working proletariat.

Bikini Ban. An appealing Britain ad campaign showing a Latvian model photographed in a bikini in Eilat, the Dead Sea and Tel Aviv. The photo taken on the Tel Aviv beach includes a tagline reading: The 24 hour Mediterranean city, Tel Aviv. Ads pulled by the Tourism Ministry as not to offend orthodox sentiments in cabinet.

Van delivers tire service to your car. The tagline on the back of the truck is usually what catches people's attention: "Notice: Driver carries no old magazines or burnt coffee."

Hachi Tei Restaurant uses Pelicans, Shark and Walrus' to go for the obvious. Restaurant uses strap line: ‘For those who like their sushi really fresh’.

Patt, White GMAC Real Estate office has changed their name to Pocono Advantage Real Estate. Now they can not even be located in the forest of Pocono related sites.
October 31, 2006 | Tate Linden

Lane Bryant (a plus-sized women's clothing catalogue) is changing its name. New Name: Woman Within.

On the surface this is a fine name. We like the empowerment aspect that the label brings - wear our clothes and honor your feminine side. For a group of people that sometimes don't feel feminine at all (because of public perception) the name serves as an affirmation. It is also an existing brand name that the target clients are comfortable with.

The Woman Within brand has been around for fifteen years.

The name certainly has risks, however. If you take a cynical view the name can even be insulting. It took a leap of faith (or perhaps an act of putting on blinders) to adopt the name in the nineties. This is the sort of name that ends up on the lips of offensive comedians and talk-show hosts. It isn't a difficult leap to turn this empowering name into one that could tear the target customer down.

How might this be? For someone sensitive about their weight the suggestion that they are hiding a woman underneath their girth probably wouldn't be taken kindly.

I find it intriguing that the name went forward anyhow, and that the public hasn't pushed the negative aspect. We'll see if the added visibility of the Lane Bryant marketing machine puts this on the radar of the cynics (other than me.)

If there's a lesson in this it is that you can succeed even if you have a potentially risky name. Companies often agonize over names that might be taken the wrong way - to the point that they create meaningless Latinate names that avoid both offense and connotation. We've had a client that avoided a name containing the word "touch" because they thought it sounded pedophillic...

If you look hard enough at any meaningful but innocuous word you can find a negative. We have had people write our own name as "Strokefire" a few times - which connotes an entirely different sort of butsiness to us. But it isn't enough of an issue to abandon our name. We've also heard that some folks use the word "stoke" to mean "have sex with" but we're still not going to change. At some point you must accept that the target client isn't going to interpret the name badly and just move forward. The key is to be aware of the risks and associations and be able to respond and adapt to them.

Simply put... Avoiding risk leads to avoiding success. And that's not why we're in business.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group

October 31, 2006 | Tate Linden
Back in April of this year I started the Stoked Brands blog as a bit of a test for myself. Would I be able to write consistently about my area of expertise day after day? Would I find new and interesting things to discuss? Would I be able to help others understand the complexities of naming and branding?

Evidently I've passed the test. Numerous thank-you letters have come in from thought-leaders, clients, and peers and along the way we've even had some great conversations between the people that named a company and those that provide advice to the industry. We've had visitors from NASA, the United States Senate, Big Tobacco, local government, Fortune 500 firms, and more than 60 countries.

In passing the test I have convinced myself I'm ready for the next step: writing a column in a paper. I'm starting locally with a good friend of the Community Business Partnership - the Del Ray Sun - and may branch out to other news outlets if I can figure out how to tighten up my writing. Craig Lancto - the editor of the Sun - has agreed to help me out in this effort. Editors are apparently good at stuff like that.

Other happenings:
  • Stokefire is working with an award-winning Canadian firm - Compass360 - on refining our visual identity. The work should be done by January in hard-copy, with an online update coming shortly after that. Our existing visuals are good, but don't really reflect the hand-wrought aspect of our craft. We've become less corporate and more creative. However, even with all our creativity we still haven't progressed past stick-figures in our artistic abilities, so Compass360 is the answer. We're looking forward to great things. (And a shout-out to our Canadian friends... since we've engaged with Compass360 our Canadian readership has gone up about 1000%!)
  • The blog name will begin a slow change from the existing "Stoked Brands" to "Thingnamer(sm)." The focus of the blog has changed from the original general brand analysis to a more specific analysis of names and taglines, so the new name fits a little better. I'm still poking stuff with sticks, but the new name also reflects the fact that I'm doing more than poking and analyzing, I'm naming stuff too. Beginning today you can reach the Stoked Brands blog via the Thingnamer website. The transition will be made official with the web update in 2007. (Tip of the hat to Bill McCready of Santana Cycles. I may not understand the intricacies of fluid dynamics and hydraulic brakes, but I know a good name when I see it.)
  • On December 1 (8 AM - 9:30ish) I will be giving a twenty-minute presentation at the Community Business Partnership on the topic of blogging. It seems many local business owners are trying to figure out if they should give it a shot, but aren't sure what the benefits might be or even how to get started. I'll be handling the business-side of the conversation and my good friend (and Stokefire client) Rachel Pastirik of Netdrafter will be handling the technical aspects. If you own a business (or work in marketing) in Fairfax County, VA I would love to see you there. In addition to the discussion on branding there will also be networking (last time I spoke here it was standing room only - and I've heard some great partnerships were made) and even a bit of breakfast. The event is called "First Friday Breakfast" and you can reserve your spot (for $5) by clicking here and scrolling until you find the event. Or you can cut directly to the reservation page by clicking here. Directions can be found here.
  • We're just starting to look for long-term office space in the Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria areas. We've outgrown our current digs and need a nice open setting. We're looking for something non-traditional - like an old firehouse, foundry, garage, or small warehouse. Bonus points if it is a firehouse and still has that cool pole thing. We need about 2000 square feet right now, but can go for something larger if we find the right space. If you have a potential candidate for us to look at you can send us a note here.
That's enough news from Stokefire HQ. Check back later for more of the stuff you actually come here to read...

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925

October 30, 2006 | Tate Linden
Aaron and Eileen over at Ambassador Boo sent me a company name that I just cannot ignore:


It seems that this miracle product is used to prevent mold from growing in damp crawlspaces. I am not going to comment on the appropriateness of the name today. That's not the point.

What's the point, then? Disappointment.

If you're Aaron and Eileen you would been disappointed in this because you would have assumed that a company thusly named would offer castration services. Specifically the services would be administered via the targeted, vigorous, and repeated application of large concrete blocks. [Ed. I'm thinking that this would be used on criminals, not as an alternative to tube snipping, but I didn't actually ask them. I also went a little further than they did with the description. Artistic license and whatnot.]

Either way, how can you have a name as suggestive as Neutocrete and not use the following tagline:

"Concrete for sterile environments"

A search on Google today found no hits for "Neutocrete" and "Sterile."


We await your call, Neutocrete.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
October 30, 2006 | Tate Linden

Ever hear of personal branding? We've spoken a little bit about it here, but at nowhere near the depth that it is covered in this week's Time Magazine.

I've held the belief that everyone has a brand and can't avoid sharing it with the world. Think you don't?

Ask yourself a few of these questions:

  1. Do you have kids?
  2. Are you energetic?
  3. Do you eat everything on your plate?
  4. Did you study in school?
  5. Do you have an iPod?
  6. Do you dress comfortably when traveling?
  7. Are you the life of the party?
  8. Do you like playing videogames?
  9. Do you have a blog?
  10. Do you own a pet?

Did you answer any of them?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions you've branded yourself. If you answered "no" to any of the questions you've also branded yourself. Heck... if you saw the list and thought "I don't have time for this" or "this is stupid" or "I want to see where he's going with this before I answer anything" then... yes... you've branded yourself.

Oh, and for you wiseacres that think by shutting yourself in a room and never talking to anyone you'll avoid branding yourself... Hope that you enjoy being branded as a recluse.

You see, anything about you that you communicate to other people becomes part of your brand. Even if you don't say a word or move a muscle you can still establish your brand solidly. As soon as you walk into a crowded room you are immediately checked for your brand by everyone that sees you. They see if you're stylish, confident, good looking, healthy, happy, and just about anything else that you might be showing. They're even potentially filing away bits of data about you like, "You're that guy who wore stripes and paisleys together" or "the woman that fell into the cocktail sauce."

Why are people looking for shorthand? Because we can't handle the complexity presented by human beings. We need a mental shorthand to help with recall. (Suddenly all those high-school nicknames like "Shorty", "Freckles", and "Pig Pen" begin to make sense...) We find one or two things that are distinctive about a person and we use them as the tabs on our mental folders so we can always find who we're looking for.

So - even before you spend a dime you probably already have a brand. It may not be good, but it is certainly there.

The idea presented by Time (that companies can help you with your personal brand) is pretty interesting to me. People often see themselves as so multi-faceted that they couldn't possibly simplify themselves down to the one or two things that will lead them to success in life. In job interviews we often throw dozens of great things about ourselves at the interviewer - hoping that at least a couple of 'em hit the right spot and get us hired. So we say we're confident, we're organized, our only flaw is that we don't know when to call it a day, we get along well with everyone, we're a natural leader who knows how to be a team member, we're looking for a job that helps us grow but we have all the skills we need to do it perfectly today.

Not only do most of us not say anything that will help to create a compelling shorthand in an interviewer's mind, we often contradict ourselves in the hopes that one of the two things we say will match with what the hiring manager is looking for.

So - the idea than an industry would spring up to help people land jobs, write personals, and basically be ourselves(only in higher concentrations) actually seems useful. It helps us carve out mental space in the minds of the people we interact with. If you carve out the right mental space with the right person you can end up with your dream job, the perfect spouse, or the best friend you've always wanted. Isn't that worth a couple thousand dollar investment?

But there are downsides. Once you've branded yourself to get that dream job you must find ways to live within that brand. If you've misstated yourself at all it can come back to bite you. Did you say that you were "detail oriented" when you should have said "aware that there are details?" When your copy isn't flawless it isn't going to go over well with the boss.

Even if you nail your brand perfectly it may lock you into a role that doesn't allow you to grow in ways that you want to. Branding is usually about finding the compelling differences between you and everyone else - and the desire to do a little bit of everything doesn't help you stand out. Everyone says (or thinks) it - and most also say they're interested in personal growth. Once you pin your brand to your chest you're going to have to live with (and as) it for a while. Are you comfortable with that? Does your life-history tell the same story?

Remember in today's world we now leave a trail of bits and bytes behind us and Google is there to sweep them into little organized bins. In looking for my name you'll find hundreds of hits, including articles I've written, my own blog posts, memberships in online forums, and even stuff that other bloggers and thought leaders have said about me. If I were to suddenly decide that I wanted to spend the rest of my life as an accountant I might find that my online identity would prevent any reputable accounting firm from hiring me. Anyone with knowledge of computers and the Internet would know in an instant that I had no experience. (You can read numerous stories about bad stuff happening and being found online if you look for 'em. You can't outrun your online identity.)

Is personal branding worth it? Actually I think it is - if you aren't doing as well in life as you think you could be. If you're happy then why bother? Same goes for big business - if you're happy with where you are (and where you're going) then why would you ever invest money in changing that?

(This is actually a pretty big problem for companies that are about to encounter bad times - they don't see that they need to change and are caught flatfooted when times change and being the best record-player manufacturer goes from being something to boast about to something worthy of shame.)

Here's the real key, though. Investing in your brand won't do a darn thing for you if you don't know who you are or what you genuinely want to do with your life. If you don't know what direction you want to go then chances are good that improving your directionless brand will improve your chances of landing a job (or mate) that you probably don't want or can't support for the long term.

How do you figure out who you are and where you want to go? You could hire an expert. Or if you're saving your money you could just take a look at your own life. Just by walking around your house you can learn a lot. Are all your cosmetics lined up on the counter? Do you move your furniture when you vacuum? Do you have a piano? Do you use it? How many dirty dishes are in your sink? Do you have art on the walls? Is it original or reproduction? Each one of these questions points to something that you are or believe in. Even seeing where you put your money (electronics, politics, baby-food, your church) could help you figure out who you are.

It's what you do with the things that matter to you that probably define you best of all. So - you've got time, money, and effort. Where have you been investing them? Once you figure that out then you may be in a better position to develop a brand that can support your real goals.

In closing this exceedingly long ramble, you should consider how effective companies have been in trying to rebrand themselves as something that they are not. We've talked about how Altria (Philip Morris) has a name and brand image that doesn't really support who they are - and the response from the public has been overwhelmingly negative. Aspirational branding (when you aspire to be something, but aren't yet there - like the "altruistic" cigarette maker) doesn't work for companies. And it doesn't work for people either.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group

October 27, 2006 domain up for sale. It is estimated that the name will sell for over $8 million. It is assumed that people will just about pay anything to tell their customers to "Just go to"

Magners cider advertising campaign with its 'Time Dedicated to You' tagline hopes to continue the trend across the UK of drinking cider over ice. The hope it is believed is to abolish the image of cider as the lowest common denominator in the world of booze.

Hot Dogma, Pittsburg, PA, legally forced to relinquish its name due to copyright infringement with Miami, FL, Dogma Grill. They will not be shutting their doors forever but instead will rename to Franktuary.

Lightborne Design & Animates creates new campaign for Hasbro, with ad agency Wondergroup to make robotic "pets," I-CAT, I-DOG, and I-FISH come to life. The commercials will show the toys' unique abilities to move and groove to music. The spots conclude with nifty taglines such as: "Cat scratchin' the beat," "Beggin' for the beat," and "Swimmin' in waves of music.".

"It may be Carlsberg that uses the advertising strap line 'It's so good that the Danes hate to see it leave,' but it seems Heineken is pretty keen to know where its beer is going too." IBM tests "Beer Living Lab" will NOT be a study of college age drinkers, but will trial a wireless tracking system of cargo shipments of Heineken beer from Europe to the United States using satellite and cellular technology.

Sam's Club, hopes that it's new 'affordable luxuries' sales effort brings in new business. The Wal-Mart warehouse unit now will add to their product assortment, extravagant diamond jewelry and a 2.6 million dollar jet. Refreshing their logo and eliminating the tagline "We're in business for small business," analysts question if the move is headed in the right direction.

October 27, 2006 | Tate Linden
What do you do if, after giving your business a try for two years, your leader resigns and a division of your business undergoes "voluntary administration?"

Well - if you're Retail Cube you try renaming yourself to something forgetable. Something like (okay, exactly like) RCG Ltd.

Let's see. How easy will it be for people to find this company? Well, a search in Google finds more than 3 million hits. So at least we know they'll find something.

Who uses the name already?
October 26, 2006
Ottawa, Canada. Michael Ignatieff has indicated his willingness to recognize Quebec as a nation within Canada. Is a new name needed?.

DispenseSource® changes name to Nexiant. New name reflects strategic mission of company and growth from a small, five-person operation to a fast-moving, multi-million dollar business.

Local Iowan Millstream Brewing Company looks for new beer name for their best-selling beer.

Mbabane, Swaziland. Chicken Licken outlets close, to re-open, however, under a new trading and company name altogether. The closure came into effect after Chicken Licken-South Africa failed to supply them with some products such as the popular 'Hot Wings'. Owner of four franchises feels bad that there will no longer have Chicken Licken in the country.

Intercontinental Hotels Group Plc. is setting up a joint venture with Japan's All Nippon Airways Co. to manage hotel business in Japan. The venture, to be called IHG ANA Hotels Group Japan. TelePlus Enterpises, Inc. re-brands to TelePlus World, Corp. Change reflects companies focus on their operational objectives, which are to deliver wireless and telecom services to market niches in select markets in the United States, Canada and abroad.
October 26, 2006 | Tate Linden
Finally, someone out there is starting to talk sensibly.

I'm guessing that no one East of the Mississippi has a clue what GVRD stands for. And that is a problem - especially when the folks in the GVRD want our tourism dollars.

If you are a frequent reader of this site you know that we strongly advise against using acronyms for your full name since they dilute your identity. Very few people can pull this off in their own identities - JFK, LBJ, and MLK seem to have posthumously claimed ownership. And a select few cities have done it too - NYC, LA, DC. These people and cities effectively own the initials and there is no confusion as to who or what is being referred to when they are used.

When other cities and people (and companies) try to use initials, however, things can go badly.

At a meeting of Governance Greater Vancouver Regional District someone evidently raised the point that the name is a little awkward. The mere fact that twice as many people are using the acronym on the web (as compared to the full name) should've indicated that the name is ungainly.

Yep. We agree that it is awkward. And we and our tourist dollars would have no clue where we should bring our money if we saw an advert showing our dream vacation was in GVRD.

The proposed solution
October 25, 2006
Washington, DC Communities Get New Name "The Yards". Many question whether the new name would be confused with Baltimore's Camden Yards. Mayor Williams says: "You know you have the birthplace of the United States Navy right on this site. So, if anyone is entitled to use a nautical expression, I think they are."

Alienware celebrates 10th anniversary. Still, "truly believing that the stars really are the limit. After all, they didn’t name the company ‘Alienware’ just because it sounded cool.”

Glendale Arena renamed Arena, a company which hosts career fairs and allows people to post resumes and search for jobs.

New Delhi, India. Reebok's tagline 'I Am What I Am', and sub-brands Fish Fry and Scarlett Johansson's, 'Scarlett "Hearts" Rbk', help make Reebok out sell competitors.

Drug Free America Foundation launches national "'True Compassion' campaign. With vigorous taglines such as 'It's Not Just Alcohol Anymore;' 'Still Think Drug Abuse is Somebody Else's Problem;' and 'Now That the Smoke Has Cleared'.

National Recycling Awards, adverts feature London’s famous landmarks buried in rubbish with the strap line ‘Just when will you start recycling?'.
October 25, 2006 | Tate Linden

According to a group of doctors in London,

"The term schizophrenia should be abolished as it has become incorrectly assigned to a range of disorders and has stigmatising connotations within society."

Schizophrenia appears to be headed the way of countless afflictions that have somehow become more deeply meaningful (and offensive) than initially intended. While the article sites the factual incorrectness of the term schizophrenia, this doesn't address why the name should be changed. If people are misdiagnosing the problem isn't in the name, is it?

Consider: You are sick and you go to the doctor. Doctor says "You have a cold" but in fact you have the flu. Do we change the name of "cold" to something less confusing so that doctors don't mess up?

Okay... maybe that isn't the best example. Perhaps colors would be better. If I call something that is obviously red another color (say, "blue") you wouldn't consider renaming red to something else so that I stop calling blue "red."

That seems to fit a little better. It points out that the incorrect assignment noted in the quote above isn't the issue.

The real issue here with the name is that

October 24, 2006 | Tate Linden
Yep, it is another post about people, not companies... but it all ties in with branding... trust me.

I like Dana (my associate.) She keeps me in line. She reminds me about stuff. She generally makes Stokefire look good... so I take exception to people that want to call her names.

Especially ones that use the word "Bastard."

Okay, but there's a problem. Some really smart people have stated that the prefix from Dana's last name ("Fitz") literally means an illegitimate child. Here... read what some smart guy had to say about it:
October 23, 2006 | Tate Linden
Never heard of Apollos Rivoire? How about Paul Rivoire? Still no? (c'mon folks... you can figure it out...) Well... okay. I'm pretty sure you're gonna know Paul Revere.

Why the series of names? Because Paul's dad (father of the guy that rode a horse and shouted a whole bunch) used all of 'em. He changed his name (numerous times) because "the bumpkins pronounced it easier."

Can you imagine if Apollos Rivoire hadn't changed his name - and still named his eldest son after himself? Would we as Americans laud this recent French immigrant as an American hero? Would we (bumpkins) even be able to pronounce his name?

Okay... Now let's try another name:
October 20, 2006 | Tate Linden
I'm not really sure that it can work at this stage, but I sat with veteran Congressman Tom Davis for lunch today and he suggested that the Republicans could use some help in the brand department. He brought it up with humor, but underneath the joke ("can you fix the Republican brand in the next two weeks?") was a serious issue: The Republicans are hurting.

In Washinton State Darcy Burner is having great success with her campaign. One of the reasons is that she is able to link her competitor directly to the Bush White House.

Normally you'd think that this would be good news for her opponent, but with Bush not doing well in the polls for many reasons (international reputation, the war, the economy) being seen as a friend of the White House is doing no one any favors. Except
October 19, 2006

If it is named and notable it is probably here:

"Colour, like no other" is a pretty apt description of what Fallon has created for Sony Bravia. It's like that movie "Colors" from way back when, only with the actors portrayed by exploding paint.

Tagline "Set yourself free" used by Sony's Vanguard MMORPG seems a wee bit counterintuitive, given the number of intervention groups there are for MMORPG addicts. Perhaps they were suggeting being free from showering, daylight, and socializing with real people?

Sarah Lee's slogan "The Joy of Eating" focuses in on "how food plays a central role in our lives." Evidently the hunger-striker market was worth losing.

The digital-tv and broadband company UPC Norway changes its name to Get. ... We actually like the name, but boy does that sentence look strange. We are dying to ask "To get what?!"

Travel consulting firm gets a new name:

The Advito name links the concept of “advice” with “ito,” a form of the Latin root for “journey” or travel. Together with Advito’s strapline, “Good advice travels far,” the name perfectly expresses who Advito is and what its consultants deliver.

  • Okay... but how do you say it? Advice + Ito = "Adv-eye-tow", right? Or is it "Adveeto? Or perhaps Ad-vih-tow? We could use some adveesing ourselves.

Not to be out fake-Latinized, Diagnostic Ultrasound Corp changes name to Verathon Inc.

The Verathon name is a unique fusion of two ideals that embody the company’s mission and beliefs. Veritas (from the Latin for “truth”) reflects the company’s commitment to being true to the needs of patients and health care professionals, and Marathon describes the company’s passion for enduring achievement over the long run.

We're pretty sure you're going to figure out what we don't like about Verizon's latest press release (Hint):

The spin-off will result in a new public company that will be separate from Verizon and that will be called Idearc Inc. (pronounced EYE'- dee-ark)

AllTheRage renames to ATR warehouse, thus averting widely predicted acronym shortage.

October 19, 2006 | Tate Linden
Lesson in Latin: There's a Latin root word which means ‘to open’ or ‘to give access to’.

Lesson in English: Regardless of what a word means in Latin, if it may mean something else in English you should probably pay more attention to the English connotation than the Latin one.

...and here's the company we suggest needs to learn the English Lesson: The formerly named MeridianEaton that today announced their new name... Aperian.

We can't get over the similarity between "Aperian" and what we imagine our president might pull out of his brain when reaching for the word "Apelike."

Aperian LogoThe full name (and therefore the website) is Aperian Global - which makes us think of someplace that Charlton Heston would damn to hell. We might've considered
October 18, 2006
Hot dogs. Armour hot dogs. What kind of kids eat Armour hot dogs? Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks; tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chickenpox" was an American institution. So why is it that Armour sausage isn't sticking with their own name (which was instituted in 1867). What kind of people let this type of brand recognition go? We'll let Ahnold apply the appropriate verbal smack-down.

Broadwing's new name rings a... Cincinnati Bell. Evidently naming a US company after an Antiguan hawk that strikes small rodents and often strays to hunt young chickens didn't fit with their image...

Marion Manor adopts 'Golden Living Center' as its new name. Current Google hits for Golden Living Center: 13,300,000. Perhaps someone has tried this approach before?

Ecom, Inc.SM, the managed care leader announces it’s now doing business as Ecom PPO Advisors, Inc. to reflect the company focus on consulting. We're left wondering which word is ignored more by consumers - ".com" or "advisors." Probably a toss-up. (Actually this is a pretty good move since .com went out of style in 2000...)
October 18, 2006 | Tate Linden

I was talking with a friend last night about the process of naming and I was asked a rather pointed question:

What makes a bad company name?

I responded with a lengthy monologue talking about acronyms, insults, generic names, and even a whole diatribe about naming without purpose. After about ten minutes I was stopped with a second question:

Okay... so is this something that every naming professional agrees on, or are these just your personal peeves?

I had assumed that about 3/4 of what I was saying was known and communicated by most naming professionals, but I figured I should check it out before I committed to it. One sleepless night later and I have some results.

What follows are the number of books (out of nine that I checked) that refer to a particular issue as being bad news for a company name.

October 17, 2006
Dementia centre gets new name - New Tyne. (Yes it is a bit offensive, but one has to wonder if clients notice.)

Horizon Technology renames five divisions to clarify their holdings. Interestingly, Clarity used to be their name...

"With the development of Bilfinger Berger into a Multi Service Group, the name Rheinhold & Mahla AG was changed in October, 2006 to Bilfinger Berger Industrial Services AG." Okay... not only did we not understand this, we're strangely amused by the word "Bilfinger." How do you get through your pre-teen years with a name like that?

Guardian Newspaper, which comprises The Guardian, Observer and Guardian Unlimited is to be re-named Guardian News and Media. We wonder if this is the beginning of a trend... Can you picture the WSJ as WSJaM? Is it really necessary to say that you have a website in your name? We vote "No."

Following on our pithy Acronymic naming, a company tells us we're misguided. Or maybe it is just the company owners that are misguided. We like the core message, but take offense that we can't name our own damn company. Company owners should not read this article.

Florida Grand Opera has scored hits with ads boasting catchy taglines such as: "Super Human" - referencing the athleticism required to stand on toes for... like... hours.

Looking to help customers better differentiate among its various versions of Linux, Novell said today that it will now call its free, open-source version 'openSUSE'. We say the name Susie will become much less popular with chaste women.

Cocaine. Because everyone wants that energy boost, and associated weight loss from not eating and having their teeth fall out. Hey... are you thirsty?

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are not representative of anyone working for or against Stokefire. We're really just trying to make names and taglines cool, and that's pretty darn difficult on some days.
October 17, 2006 | Tate Linden
We at Stokefire are not big fans of purely reactionary naming. Heck, we're not fans of aspirational naming when the thing you aspire to is something that people already expect from you either.

That doesn't stop it from happening, though.

That is why we're doubly disappointed in the name coming out of the merger between Peoples Energy and WPS Resources as reported in the Chicago Sun-Times today. (And an even better article by Robert Manor containing expert analysis was released in the Tribune. Stokefire wasn't quoted, but we had a nice email exchange with Mr. Manor - one side of which can be found in the comments section of this post.)

We made up the term "reactionary naming" on the spot, but we could just as easily have called it knee-jerk naming, reflex naming, or any of a dozen other options that hint as to the cause. What we mean by our term is that the name is a quick response to an external market force. Anyone else remember when a major network news organization quickly rebranded itself with the tagline "Real News" after a story they broke on automobile safety (real lesson: don't drive with lit model rocket engines strapped to your vehicle) turned out to be faked? (We can't find the story, but we think it happened in the early nineties.) We're pretty sure that the new tagline didn't make people believe the news any more than they had prior to the scandal.

Reactionary naming results in companies pointing out that they're not as bad as whatever they're trying to distance themselves from. This, in turn, results in making the populace think about the negative issue in conjunction with the company trying to avoid this very connection. A company naming itself Unron would by its very nature be calling up imagery of the scandal.

Aspirational naming can work when the thing aspired to is extraordinary or unique. Aspirational doesn't work when it points to
October 16, 2006 | Tate Linden
adidas may have found the Kryptonite to weaken the Nike hold on basketball-shoe dominance. At least in theory. You see, they've put two different ideas together - a cool brand idea and a trendy alternate spelling of a number.

We like one of 'em... but the other smacks of highscool cool-kid tactics.

The adidas brand is being recentered on the idea of a team - a "we, not me" approach. This is a direct attack on the current market leader - Nike. Nike spent millions of dollars pushing the idea that being an all-star is the ultimate goal, and that to be an all-star you gotta be able to humiliate your opponent - freezing them, dunking over them, putting the ball between their legs... The goal was to out hustle your opponent one-on-one.

People weren't wearing Nikes because they wanted to be team players, they were wearing them because they wanted to "Be Like Mike." Sure, Jordan was one of the best team players ever, but there's a reason why the posters plastered on the walls of aspiring ballers never seemed to contain thrilling pics of him passing off the ball. Think Jordan and Nike and you get high-flying, toung stickin' out, in your face skill(z).

That adidas would go in the other direction and point out that one person can't make a team (as evidenced by Jordan during his time with the Wizards) points to how seriously they're taking this. Not many people go against what Nike does. They've had a magic touch of lately.

What I personally like about this is that they're actually going after a larger market than Nike is. Sure everyone thinks that they're all-stars, but
October 16, 2006

The Media Vault breaks out to be the first Hewlett-Packard product to steal the company's new tagline"- "Computing is Personal Again.

Naming your business after your kids, or your dogs, may be cute, but probably only to you.

Wyndham Worldwide announces rebranding of timeshare resorts to run with the 'Wynd'.

Is India game? Xbox 360 global tagline is, 'Jump In' may need a 'jump start'.

CarMax enters the used car race with new tagline: "It's amazing no one's thought of this before."

Miller High Life Beer ad with 14 kt tagline hopes to reposition the beer as a man's man beer. As for the seasonal chocolate beer? We wonder if men will have the craving.

How using acronymns to identify your business does not lend itself in creating initial success.

Binge drinking takes a deep beating with new strapline.

Malibu, CA residents try to dodge De Butts.
October 13, 2006

Fans SHIVE(RED) as Oprah and Bono IGNO(RED) them. How a Gap in brand aid can leave a nasty, (RED) rash on customers.

How a bad tagline (could) ruin a station. 107.5 FM: Movin' In The Wrong Direction. B-i-n-g-o, B-i-n-g-o, B-i-n-g-o... Bingo was it's Nanaimo! (British Columbia that is). Local Lantzville Rotary Club renames it's auction to Big Rotary Auction.

A cure for depression? Butter try.

Utterly Yours breast pillow. Holly Cow. The depth of imagery possibilities here.

Brand Health = Wealth. PepsiCo's new CEO, announces profits from "healthier" brands.
October 13, 2006 | Tate Linden

There's a new slogan in town. No longer do we have An Army of One to kick around. The Army has changed tactics.

The new slogan: "Army Strong."

We think McCann Worldgroup has done a great job with this. It's inspiring, it's self-referential, and we can even hear the drill sarge yelling "HOW STRONG?!?!" to new recruits until they scream "ARMY STRONG!" in response.

We, however, are apparently not in the majority here. Just check out a few of these links.

Want to know why we think that this is worth every penny of the investment the Army has made in the slogan? Click here - and just try not to have every hair on your body stand on end when you watch the video.

Better than any of the rest of the slogans we've seen for the organization:

“Today’s Army wants to join you”: 1971-73.

“Join the people who’ve joined the Army”: 1973-1979.

“This is the Army”: 1979-1981.

“Be all you can be”: 1981-2001.

“An Army of one”: 2001-2006.

If this had been around when we were 18 to 22 our lives might've been very different...

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group

October 13, 2006 | Tate Linden
Our blog has become pretty popular amongst the Real Estate crowd. We get a half-dozen hits a day through Google and Yahoo search engines from people looking for help with Real Estate, Realty, and Realtor taglines or names. We also get a few links from realty professionals that seem to like our stuff. (Thanks folks!) Sure, it isn't a deluge, but the flow never seems to stop.

Interestingly, of the hundreds of realty visitors we've gotten on the blog we've never had a single inquiry about how we can help - other than one of the following questions.
"Can you point me to any FREE name and tagline resources on the internet?"

"Can you show me where the free real estate slogans... Or free real estate taglines are?"

"Do you provide free Realtor taglines or free Realtor slogans?"
Not much variation, is there? We get these questions a lot. And we never hesitate to provide links to those resources. (In fact, you can click right here and here and here and here and here and even here if you just want to get that free help right now. Just be aware that some of the help provided may have trademark or other legal issues for you to wrangle with.)

Okay... now that everyone except for you has left our site I'll get down to my real issue.

Here's my question for the realty folks:

How is it that people working in an industry where they are constantly fighting against low-cost or free resources (such as the "Save 6%" and "FSBO" options) such a huge number of professionals try to boost their own business by using the exact same class of service (free) they warn their own clients against using? Is it that they don't see the value?

Not only this - but these same professionals ask for help - and they leave a trail of crumbs that prove they're using free services.

Let's take a quick look at the type of advice being given on the free sites. Here's a real-life sampling of suggsted taglines from the free services:
Let our experience work for you Take a Q from the crowd and call Que Scott first Experienced in Living and Loving Bucks County making sure your real estate needs are met Trust us to find your dream Home
See anything here that sets these agents apart from their competition or gives their prospective clients a reason to do business with them? I'm not sayin' that these slogans can't work... I just don't see that any of them are adding any value. Just check how many hits you get for the key phrases like "Let our experience" "your real estate needs" and "find your dream home." When you see tens of thousands - or even millions - of hits you know there's a problem. No one will remember your slogan, and no one will think about what it means since they hear it just about every day from every other business.

One of our recent projects involved coming up with a slogan for a local real estate company. The owner of the company worked with us over a period of two months to develop (among other things) an effective slogan that has never been used in real estate previously. The slogan speaks directly to the target market, suggests a whole suite of unique services, and allowed the firm to develop a concrete personality that compells target prospects to do business with them. It also filters out clients that won't appreciate what the company offers. Last - the slogan takes advantage of key aspects of the company owner's personality... so very little work was needed to implement the slogan across the brand.

For those of you that think the "filtering out" aspect is losing you business, think again. If you could get rid of all the tire-kickers in your business wouldn't that allow you to spend more time either with your existing valued clients or working on finding prospects that are more likely to sign with you? This is more than just focusing on a neighborhood - it involves finding a lifestyle or life-stage that is in need of your services. And one would hope that no one else is actively serving that lifestyle right now - and there aren't many lifestyles that fit that description - especially when it comes to realty.

If any realtors are still reading this and think that good slogans can still be found for free we encourage you to go for it. In fact, if you can find a good source of free slogans we'll add it to this post so others can benefit - and we'll provide examples of the slogans suggested.

But of course we're always willing to take on new realty projects if you feel you can't get what you need for free.

...Oh... and what's the slogan we developed for our client?

Why not ask them yourself? (We reserve the right to remove the link if too many folks write to 'em.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925

October 12, 2006

We scour the web for branding stories so you don't have to. And because it's our job.

Truck ads exhort men to be aroused. By trucks. Beer-company women are nowhere to be found.

Chinese company tries new formula for success: Take existing powerful American brand, translate to local language, put the word "new" in front of it, wait for money to roll in. If this works the strategy will multiply like... bunnies.

Amadeus gives us a program guaranteeing best available rate for hotel rooms. The name? "Best Available Rate." See, the right field can provide names sometimes...

'Texas Forest Country' name being touted to attract retirees. Little Red Riding Hood expected not to visit as often.

We stand corrected. Patrick Ramsay's tagline "Wines you can swear by" is an effective use of profanity. But we're not sure that "Arse" is really swearing on this side of the pond.

Microsoft cares about your family. "Saftey is no game" campaign gets real. We anticipate even more eight-year-olds will keep the virtual world safe by upping their quotas of gangsta and pimp killings. If only GTA citizens would say thank you.

We bow our heads and thank the 911th United States Army Technical Rescue Engineer Company. Sure it's a mouthful, and will inevitably be shortened to 911 USATREC... but when you risk your lives for your country you can name yourself whatever you want.

PalmSource - the spinoff that made the Palm Operating System was acquired by ACCESS. Since resistance is useless PalmSource prepares to be assimilated. PalmSource shall henceforth be named... ACCESS. Of Borg.
October 12, 2006 | Tate Linden
Apparently so.

Business naming firm Dynamo [site down at time of post] stands to earn this much for the sale of the domain name - a registrar of wiki sites.

We at Stokefire are amazed at the value placed on the domain by John Gotts. We think there's a bit of a disconnect here. When people are trying to build websites they don't go to When people want to buy pizza they don't go to And when was the last time you went to
October 11, 2006

ABC World News drops "Tonight" from name. Nation tries to tune in yesterday, tomorrow, and this morning but fails to find Charles Gibson anywhere.

Halloween Action Committee makes effort to rename Halloween to "Freakfest". We say that the name Halloween Action Committee is no Prince Charming itself.

Eric’s Family restaurants change their name to Love & Hunger. We thought Hooters had a lock on that. Oh... nevermind. That's lust.

A new brand of baby food starts with all the different foods mashed up together already - saving your kids all sorts of time. We're hoping that "peas with mint and fruity rice pudding" are two distinct offerings, but even so... peas with mint? Naming content: What's a Piwi?

Snatch Master as name for a data mining tool? Why are you laughing? No, really. Why?

MacAddict wants to re-brand as Mac|Life. Because when was the last time you used the | key anyway?

Can Kohl's target Target? Uninspired minds want to know. And as far as cage matches go, we think "a battle with J.C. Penney for middle-income clothing buyers" is something we'll not be watching on Pay-Per-View.
October 11, 2006 | Tate Linden

Industry research is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Someone likely paid a tidy sum to Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell to learn the following:

"Less affluent travelers want the basics," said Gary Sain, YPB&R's chief marketing officer. "The more affluent the traveler, the more important individualized and personalized service is."

Okay. Not particularly ground-breaking there... In case anyone didn't know that people with money tend to be the ones that populate first-class, we now have a statement in writing saying so.

Perhaps more interesting is their finding that people with money pay more attention to branding than people without money. This seems somewhat self-evident to us as well. People with money can afford to pay attention to branding. Those without money have to settle for whatever low-priced crud is available.

This links in with something I lecture about. During my speeches I often talk about price and branding - and the fact that having a strategy of having the lowest pricing is one of the least defensible brand positions. It also makes your brand look like every other price cutter on the market. Lowering your prices is not branding. Lowering your prices is a sale - and you can't have a brand that is all about continually making your prices lower. At some point you cease to make money.

As for the power of brands... according to the survey, affluent travelers enjoy the Hyatt Regency, Park Hyatt and Ritz Carlton for their stays while the budget crowd showed affinity for Marriott and Holiday Inn. I have to wonder if YPB&R actually thinks that this means that the budget crowd would still stay in the cheap places if they had money. I'm thinking that the budget crowd probably doesn't want the basics, but they can't justify anything more. I don't know anyone who would forgo a first-class seat (assuming the rest of their party went with them) if offered for the same price as coach. Brand matters to just about everyone - but some people can't afford to use the brands they want.

Don't think brand matters to you? What if I give you the choice of wearing a shirt made by a local artisan versus one that is made by a sweat-shop in a third-world country. And the latter one also funds terrorism. And they kill cats. And... they want to raise your taxes. And... more bad stuff. At some point you must realize that a brand is affected by everything the company does. It doesn't matter whether you're poor or not - just some people can't afford not to do business with companies that have lousy brands.

Let's look at this a little differently. If I'm trying to create a brand that appeals to people that are looking for the lowest cost then I'm throwing away business from people looking to create a lasting relationship with me. Does anyone actually think that people who shop on price alone are likely stop shopping on price once they find your business? When a business no longer has the lowest price the business is no longer favored and the penny pinchers go elsewhere. You don't see dollar stores converting to two-dollar stores, do you?

So... knock it off with the whole "my brand is about having the lowest price" approach. Even if it is only partially related to the survey, both Stokefire and YBP&R can show you (in very different ways) that it just doesn't have much hope of being profitable.

Wow... that's a whole lot of rambling for what was supposed to be a one-liner response to an apparently pointless survey.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group

October 10, 2006

Leo Laport, "Podcaster Of The Year", presumably wishes his new title was "Netcaster Of The Year".

Hotel Istana rebooks rebrands itself to fly business class.

Banks spend less on advertising this year as BB&T doubles it's media spending– a buck to the market trend, but what's with BB&T's new 20 million dollar branding effort: "There's Opportunity Here?" Is it worth the money?

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who's the most excited of them all? Mirror Mirror Imagination Group that's who (key the theme music!) The world's only beauty and lifestyle futurist agency implements new Brand Excitement division (in addition to their Crystal Ball Trend Surveillance & Navigation Tours). We like the concept, but wonder about the implementation...

Can astrology be used to name a store? We call Bullfish on it. What do you think?

Staying with the profane theme: EFMARK-Bantek dropped the F-bomb and went for "The Value of One" a.k.a. Pendum, Inc. Sounds almost Pen-smart...

October 10, 2006 | Tate Linden
We've amassed quite a library of books on names and naming over the years, and thought it might be interesting to analyze the names the expert namers have given their own books. We were thinking that the best in the business would show their expertise by using the name of their book as proof of competence.

Overall we've been pretty disappointed.

Here's a quick sampling of books on our shelf that are dedicated almost entirely to naming:
October 5, 2006 | Tate Linden

Today's links to stories on names, taglines, and branding.

It's a good thing that everyone agrees on what a name should be - especially since evocative, easy to say, descriptive, creative, web-available names are so easy to come by.

Think to yourself about counterfeit branding. Okay, how many of you thought about cows? Forget about fake Coach purses - how about fake Bessie?

Thinking about naming your firm after yourself? Great, but what happens when you leave?

Recruiting firm brands itself after the color of the lumps most people get from employers.

Can rebranding be as easy as putting an umbrella in your drink? Conservatives seem to think so. hates branding, but we're too cheap to find out why.

If we're ever traveling in South Africa we're going to have a really hard time figuring out where to have our tires changed. National chain rebrands and gets a new tagline. We wonder... what exactly is a "Fitment Professional"?

Japan says Light and Mild Cigarettes may be illegal because the terms are descriptive... Excuse me... Not descriptive... Deceptive. Unfortunately "Cancer Sticks" is already taken.

Canada and Australia discuss branding on an international level. If you read it backwards it says "We're not American."

October 4, 2006 | Tate Linden

Durham gets a new tagline - "Where great things happen." Citizens everywhere check their history books to figure out what the heck actually happened in Durham. Kevin Costner gets an unexpected PR boost.

NVIDIA Renames the 570 SLI and 590 SLI Intel Editions (because adding about 100 to a name just makes it seem that much better?)

Ask gets Asked about Jeeves and why they did it without the butler.

New South Wales Prime Minister Brands Government as "Most Incompetent." While we like the ambitiousness of "most", we're not so sure that this will help him in the polls.

Brit Says "No" to Brands, Gets Really Bad Breath.

School District rebranding held back for a year.

Toshiba to lead innovation except for when it comes to taglines

Travel expert Simon Calder learns the importance of naming when he mixes up Luftwaffe and Lufthansa. One of those two organizations may not be amused.

Palm splits in two and renames self. Now must legally say "Give me two-and-a-half" when giving kudos.

October 4, 2006 | Tate Linden
We direct you to this bit of PR.

If you don't have time to read it just check out our Abridged and Bulletized version (Really, it is shorter):
  • Sinus Buster is first FDA registered Capsaicin nasal spray
  • Sinus Buster is on its way to becoming a household name
  • Sinus Buster is outselling their closest competitor by 3 to 1
  • Sinus Buster is outselling their closest competitor by 24%
  • Price Chopper is an upscale store
  • Sinus Buster costs twice as much as their closest competitor
  • Sinus Buster isn't spending much on advertising
  • Sinus Buster is unique because it contains the same chemical that provides the heat for hot peppers.
  • The inventor of Sinus Buster is a wild self-defense instructor who teaches women how to destroy attackers.
  • The inventor has done more than 50 live demonstrations that involved him getting sprayed in the face with pepper spray
  • The inventor has been on Oprah
  • The inventor suffered from cluster headaches and a runny nose.
  • The inventor tried every modern medicine but couldn't solve his problem
  • Someone sprayed the inventor in the face with pepper spray when he had a headache and the headache went away.
  • The inventor finds this promising.
  • The inventor invents pepper spray designed to be shot up the nostril willingly
  • The inventor squirts hot pepper up lots of noses and the owners of the noses love it!
October 3, 2006 | Tate Linden
Weyerhaeuser Employees' Credit Union will officially change its name to Red Canoe Credit Union on Jan. 1.

We at Stokefire HQ had to do a bit of research before we understood the context (prodded by a quote in the press release.)
"We knew the name had to be something uniquely Northwest, representative of our existing membership base and appealing to future members and our community," WECU President/CEO Bob Kane said in a news release.
Okay, so we Googled "Red Canoe" and "Northwest" and found This Book, which referenced a red canoe. It also mentioned the Yukon River located in the Pacific Northwest (we know this because we found it in Wiki.) It's mostly in Canada and Alaska, but we suppose those are technically Northwest...

We think this name is actually quite catchy and approachable - mostly for the local flavor, imagery, and potential backstory. But it has a few issues that we would traditionally try to avoid.

Primary among these is
October 2, 2006 | Tate Linden

Show of hands... how many of you think that it would be okay to name your new communications company by combining the names of two of the biggest energy providers in the world?

Anyone raising their hand should pay less attention to directions on the internet, should send us $20, and should know that they are quite wrong in holding their opinion.

Enter the folks at Texxon.

September 29, 2006 | Tate Linden
[Ed: After an hour of typing the original post was eaten by the Internet Explorer gods. This is but a pale and uninspired imitation of the original creation.]

Here's the gist of what I wrote about: Virgin Airlines created Premium Economy - but called it Mid Class in 1992. Enter unremarkable results. Then... in 1994 they renamed it Premium Economy. Success! (If I was patient I'd put back the half-dozen links I had to the history of the change here... I am currently not feeling patient.)

The model has been copied by countless airlines. Singapore, ANA, bmi, SAS Airlines, Air New Zealand, and United all use the name, but the American companies haven't been adding to the equity of the concept.

The US airlines - especially United - have taken the term and bastardized it so that
September 28, 2006 | Tate Linden

An interesting little bit of naming history here. Think that Ziff Davis and ZDNet are the same company? Well... you'd have been right a few years back. Not anymore, though.

Ed Bott tracked down this little exchange containing a quote by Stephen Howard-Sarin:

Ziff Davis started an online division called ZDNet. Ziff Davis started a cable TV operation called ZDTV.

Ziff Davis split up. The magazine group kept the name. ZDNet was sold to CNET. ZDTV was rebranded TechTV (and later sold to G4).

Ed points to Bill Ziff's legacy as a prime reason for

September 27, 2006 | Tate Linden

Apple is starting to look an awful lot like a mega-corp. Remember all those stories about McDonalds, Disney, and Microsoft coming down hard on defenseless non-profits and day care centers that either use part of a name or a visual likeness one of their characters? Now it is Apple's turn...

This is pretty odd when you consider that this is the same company that released "Sosumi." They went from challenging the establishment to being the establishment.

The latest? Apple is going after a startup firm for using the term "Pod." Even when "Pod" is part of a larger word...

This smacks of the trouble Apple got into when

September 26, 2006 | Tate Linden

I've been asked to write a short article on naming for a publication targeted at government contractors. The list of readers for the publication reads like an out-of-order alphabet book. BRP, CDK, FTG... the names just pile up one upon the other and I can't figure out which one does what.

So... I'm thinkin' that this will be my topic. With so many companies all trying to use exactly three out of twenty-six letters of the alphabet, the chances of finding three memorable and previously unused letters is pretty much zero. (We don't have the time to check Google - but trust us - it isn't likely that any one of these contractors holds their three-letter-acronym all to themselves.)

Want to see what I'm talking about?

September 25, 2006 | Tate Linden

How much power is there in the letter patterns you use to make your company or product name?

We believe that there's a huge amount - but the problem is that as soon as a pattern is established in the marketplace the power quickly turns to the dark side. (Remember when everything ended in ".com?" Other than - The first major company to name itself thusly - how many of those guys are still around?)

Nancy Friedman over at Away With Words got us thinking about this one today. In her post about Web 2.0 Naming she points out that "The names of most Web 2.0 companies are derivative, poorly constructed, and just plain silly"

Thank you Nancy. We agree.

Specifically she blows the whistle on "oo", "ee", baby-talk, and name truncation.

What's interesting to us is that folks like Seth Godin (a pretty smart guy in our opinion) are so much in favor of the types of names that Nancy - and Stokefire - oppose. Seth's post about how he named Squidoo is quite illuminating. Note his use of the double-o.

In the post Seth talks of how Squidoo came to be and why he likes the name so much. He also points to Flickr as an example of a good name.

Seth - a much read author and trend setter - may have done more to affect the process of naming-by-amateur than anyone since Bezos. Note that Seth's article was written in 2005. Since that time Web 2.0 has flourished (or at least the idea of it has) and companies have done their best to look an awful lot like the pioneers of the concept.

We imagine the average company-namer thought something along these lines:

  1. Seth thinks Squidoo and Flickr are cool?
  2. ...then using double vowels and truncating words must be the key to a good name!

What these namers missed was that it was the fact that the names were unique that made them good. People put a jumble of letters together and then check Google to be sure that there aren't many hits (as suggested by Seth) and PRESTO! New Web 2.0 Compatibr Name! It is a template approach that leads to copy-cat names that are hard to tell apart.

Pop-Quiz time! Can you tell us what naming convention led to the creation of Frappr, Preloadr, Blogr, Weekendr, and Resizr.

We think your flickering imagination can answer that pretty easily.

We agree that Flickr and Squidoo are indeed cool - especially when you consider that they were on the leading edge of the naming trend. But we sincerely hope that Seth doesn't think that the slew of e-less names (or double letter, or child-speak - each a derivation of a pattern he advocated) is helping anyone.

Seth - if you're listening/reading... A follow-up to your original post about the new rules of naming would be helpful. We think that people are focusing on the wrong part of the lesson. Your readers are copying the form and not the intent of your words. It's time for you to start taking some vowels from the double-letterers and give 'em to the truncatrs.

As the probable father of Web 2.0 naming we feel it only appropriate that you be the one to end it. Faair is Fr.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultr
Stokefire Consultr Group

September 22, 2006 | Tate Linden
About two months ago we heard about this story - but we didn't know what it entailed. Back in July Coles Myer said they were preparing to rebrand and rename their company. What they didn't say back then was that Coles Myers is spending $900,000 per month on the project. And now the project has lasted five months, leading to a $5 million bill.While we haven't seen any official press releases - The Australian News says Mccann-Erickson and Futurebrand are leading the project.

One may wonder how the company is paying for this. Perhaps the "retrenchings" of about a dozen marketing general managers (saving $3 million) and 2500 other employees (saving an undetermined sum) is part of it.

Here's the problem with this
September 21, 2006 | Tate Linden
Okay, we really don't get this one by the formerly named Se-Kure Controls. (Now named Halo Metrics)

Specifically the underlined segments from their press release below don't seem to have much to do with our existing knowledge of halos -
A Halo is an invisible forcefield,” described the firm in a prepared announcement. “It is a powerful energy that projects an aura of security around the products it protects. Halo fits with our vision of the future and our reality of today.

Halo Metrics,” the firm added, “is intended to show that we can measure this difficult space between loss prevention and merchandising. Our experience in measurement, proving that ROI will be improved by openly and securely displaying product, stands us in good stead. It is the backbone of the trust we have built up over the years.”

The firm concluded: “…We need to anticipate the changing face of retail by successfully integrating loss prevention, merchandising, marketing, and operations, thinking beyond our current offering to other areas we can provide solutions.”
And then there's this...
September 20, 2006 | Tate Linden

This is an older news item, but it provides a nice touch of back-story...

Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? had this to say in a story from PROFIT Magazine

"Just before I rebranded my company from The Rubbish Boys to 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I called Al Ries, the author of The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR and The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. I wanted to ensure that my new company name obeyed his 22 laws. Al told me it did, and 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was off to the races."

We like the new name. A lot. (At least a lot better than the old one that used an arcane term for trash that would leave most people running for a thesaurus when they tried to find 'em. "Was it TrashGuys? Or GarbageMen?")

A few reasons we like the selected name:

September 19, 2006 | Tate Linden
Yesterday Adobe announced the pending release of Acrobat Connect - a rebranded version of Acrobat's Breeze service.

We see this as a pretty good move. Given the ease with which most of the competition in this $1 billion market is able to set up conferences, calling attention only to the ease of use (as the name Breeze seemed to indicate) is a bit weak. It doesn't tell you what is a breeze, and it doesn't really hint at any meaningful benefit of the service. (People don't conference because it is easy - they conference because they need to communicate...)

"Connect" (as a concept) doesn't exactly stand out in the field of web conferencing tools, especially since the word is used by almost every competitor in their description of services (e.g., "We connect you seamlessly to your peers...") But
September 18, 2006 | Tate Linden

We're not actually sure that this was a direct consequence, but the timing sure seems to link this up rather nicely.

Stingray Brewery is renaming to The Cayman Islands Brewery. (Release found here.)

(For those that don't know, Irwin was killed by a Stingray off the coast of Australia in recent days. He will most assuredly be missed - and we could easily see him tipping back a pint of Stingray brew up in the clouds. Hair of the dog, and all. Rest in peace - or perhaps perpetual child-like amazement, Steve.)

Regardless of the cause, this may be a decent name change. Sure, Stingray has some strong imagery (though

September 15, 2006 | Tate Linden

Inpatient Medical Services announced a slew of changes this week - including a new name and new leadership. While we can't comment on the new leader, the name is worthy of comment.

"Our new name is more reflective of our services and the timing of this re-branding initiative coincides perfectly with the addition of Ted as our new CEO," noted company founder, Dr. Philip Sanger.

The new name? Intercede Health.

While the word "intercede" doesn't scream "immediate branding success" to us,

September 14, 2006 | Tate Linden

Based on this press release, Stokefire is tempted to put out daily press releases stating "Yes, we're still Stokefire."

What happens when your government tells you to change your name - and you refuse? Probably something a lot like this:

September 13, 2006 | Tate Linden

We applaud a challenging and novel rebrand effort when we see one - and we'd love to have been in the creative sessions that led to this. While we're not sure it will get men pouring into bingo parlours, it certainly has an appeal to it. appears to be a creative attempt to pull in a younger audience to a game currently marketed to the retirement crowd. Among their reasons the virile men should play are:

September 12, 2006 | Tate Linden

We at Stokefire HQ often wonder about the many associations in our area. All of them are doing their best to represent their constituencies - but so few of them are doing one easy thing that could help them spread the word. Instead of telling people who they represent they hide their allegiance in a jumble of letters.

If the MLA knocks on your door would you know who they're representing? We wouldn't either. And the same goes for ICRA, FAB, and until today, the ECCA.


September 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
How would you like it if a world-famous rap star adopted your nickname as his own? Well, Richard Dearlove doesn't like it one bit.

Richard "Diddy" Dearlove had been flaunting his Diddiness since 1992 - about 14 years before Sean Combs decided to take on the name.

But before we go into his current issues, let's take a quick tour of Sean's name-sploration.
September 6, 2006 | Tate Linden

In an apparent effort to make the glass half-full, Canada's government... wait. Nix that. "...Canada's New Government" begins its sixth month in office.

I'm a little perplexed here. If I go to buy a car and note that it is six months old and has five thousand miles on it I'm certainly not going to consider it new. Not even almost new. In fact,

September 5, 2006 | Tate Linden
Hey folks -

Just wanted to let you all know that we are indeed alive. We closed for the holiday weekend and are prepping for most of the company to travel offsite for the end of a contract we're working on.

As for the naming news of the day - how's this:

Philips Semiconductors rebrands and develops (subscription) - UK Philips Semiconductors is to be re-branded for its future development as 'NXP', marking a milestone in the company's 53-year history as it becomes independent ... (clip truncated by Google.)

Let's go through this again folks: Three Letter Acronyms are Evil Incarnate.
August 31, 2006 | Tate Linden has entered the server rental business. While we're a little fuzzy about how this fits with their original ("we're an online bookseller") or more recent ("we're an online consumer goods seller") strategies, we're more intrigued by the name they've chosen for the new enterprise.

Enter the happy funtime bad-translation naming crew: the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud is here. It sounds a little like something that Godzilla might fight for control of Japan
August 30, 2006 | Tate Linden

We're not quite sure what to make of this one, but we'll share it with you nonetheless.

Today, i-mate introduced two 3G new Windows Mobile 5.0 devices. The i-mate JASJAM, the rebranded HTC TyTN (aka "Hermes") and the i-mate SP JAS, the rebranded HTC MTeoR (aka "Breeze").

Not only do we have no clue how to pronounce these non-aka names, we have no idea how to spell them when we're not looking at them as we're typing.

We're not even going to analyze 'em. Just know this

August 29, 2006 | Tate Linden
We wish we could have been a fly on the wall for this one:
National Healthcare Technology Inc. (OTCBB:NHCT) is pleased to announce that the Board of Directors has selected a new company name -- Brighton Oil Inc. The Board has approved the name change and will recommend that the shareholders approve the same, and upon doing so the company shall officially cause the name change to Brighton Oil Inc.
Talk about a change of direction. One day you're curing cancer and the next you're drilling for oil?

Actually, after looking at this one a bit more we're even more confused. Yahoo says they're a 2 person drug company that makes stone veneers. Another site lists them as in the "professional and management services" business.


Anyone care to venture a guess as to what this company actually does well?
August 28, 2006 | Tate Linden
This post is for the many Realtors that read our blog, and for anyone else that might be interested in finding an incredible Realtor to help you purchase your next beach home.

Some of our regular readers may remember that we somewhat recently purchased our Stokefire Southern Branch in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We wanted to acknowledge that we received an exceptional level of service from... yes... our Realtor.
August 25, 2006 | Tate Linden
What happens when a naming consultancy goes rogue? They put all their hard work and creativity into naming an organization only to find that their masterpiece is wasted on a still-crappy company? They'd want payback, right?

That has now happened. But before we get to that story, let's take a quick look at the precedence for renaming companies in trouble.

The temptation is certainly there. When a company has something to hide there's a strong inclination to find a quick fix. What could be easier than a name change? Philip Morris and WorldCom certainly found something attractive enough in the concept to take the chance. Now known as Altria and MCI, the two companies are working hard to show they've changed.

Okay, that's not quite right.
August 24, 2006 | Tate Linden

I heard a jingle on the radio during the drive home today. It was an advert for Brother's latest labeler - called P-Touch.

The lyrics say something about how fun it is to P-Touch, and that everyone needs to P-Touch, and don't you wish you could P-Touch, etc...

We're pretty sure that whomever wrote the jingle knows that they wrote a song that would make those of us with 12-year-old funnybones laugh

August 24, 2006 | Tate Linden
Those of you out there that read this blog to learn about the naming and branding industry - this post is for you. The professional namers and branders already know this.

One of the biggest hurdles we have is this: In early rounds of the naming process we emphasize creativity and keeping an open mind, but by the end of the process reality creeps in. How? Well, the biggest issue is in the legal realm.

It is exceedingly difficult to find words (either real or constructed) that haven't been used before. Sometimes your creatives get lucky and will find a name that has never been linked to a particular field before - but you'd be surprised how often someone else has beaten you to the thought. We at Stokefire have had this happen to us a few times recently
August 23, 2006 | Tate Linden

Stokefire has a problem. We have incredibly talented consultants, but we don't have enough of us... If you're reading this then you probably already know what we do. And you might have guessed from the headline that we're looking for a little help. Soon...

Here's the deal. We're two to three months away from needing our next new group of Stokefirelings, but (being the creatively oriented company that we are) we're not big into telling our new hires what their roles are.

So - a small homework project for anyone thinking about applying

August 22, 2006 | Tate Linden
Are you ready for this? Microsoft is rebranding... something. We're not really sure what it is, but it is being rebranded. Remember Hotmail? That's part of it. And Microsoft's online Beta tools - who can forget those? (It's okay. We didn't know that MSFT had a beta site either.) They're all part of the new program. And the name is...

Windows Live!

Not bad... But the real problem isn't the name (which everyone will at least remember half of.) The real problem is
August 21, 2006 | Tate Linden
Hey kids!

Ever wanted to know if you could come up with the next "Just Do It" or "Where's the Beef?" Now you can see if you've got what it takes. Threadless has created a nifty little pseudo-competition that allows you to test your mettle at either wordcraft or design (just click the tab on the page to get to the slogan portion.)

We've been a big fan of Threadless tees for about two years, and tend to give out the shirts to unsuspecting relatives who universally say "Umm... gee. Thanks?" (Most Threadless tees seem to be printed just to get people to ask what the shirt means.)

Our recent purchase of this shirt (our first slogan-only tee - for use on casual cycling days) has made us think that just maybe we could bend our naming and tagline skills to this purpose. The challenge is on.
August 17, 2006 | Tate Linden

In a bold move, the Republic of Nauru's (an island nation in the Micronesian South Pacific) air carrier "Nauru" will be renaming itself on September 4th to "Our Airline."

Though we at Stokefire are admittedly not very familiar with the Republic of Nauru, and likely never would have posted about them unless they'd chosen this particular name, we've caught ourselves smiling a bit about this story nonetheless. This is not to say that we like the name. We're mostly in a state of not liking it, actually. But,

August 16, 2006 | Tate Linden

Anyone out there ever been to an Ultra-lounge? Better yet, have you been to multiple ultra-lounges? (Tabu, Risque, Ghostbar, Curve, Tangerine, I-Bar, Plush (closed), and Ice would be a good group to know.)

We're ISO folks that have been there, done that, and felt comfortable being there and doing that. We're sincerely hoping that there are some of you in the DC/NOVA area that are willing to swing by and share some thoughts. (Though please don't just show up... we gotta keep this somewhat organized.)

If you haven't responded to this post over on Craigslist then perhaps you might want to do so.

August 15, 2006 | Tate Linden

Not that we're complaining, mind you. We love all the responses. We had no idea that there were so many people yearning for creative freedom. Some very respectable types - senior government officials, directors of software firms, futurists, Ivy Leagers...

We feel like the gatekeeper at Mr. Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

August 14, 2006 | Tate Linden

Yep - we're looking for some local folks to join in our brainstorming sessions and keep our ideas and viewpoints fresh. Take a look here to see a few details about what we're looking for. (The position will be posted for 1 week.)

Want to know what you'll be naming?

August 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
Alright. Perhaps they should think about renaming this one.

Can you call something a Blu-Ray model if it doesn't play the Blu-Ray discs most people want?
August 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
Car names are fascinating. Every major company seems to have their own philosophy - using numbers, animals, shortened words, words beginning with "E", etc. Well, naming consultants, it appears that there's a new opportunity on the horizon.
"The new version of the Smart cars, which will be given new brand names, will be assembled at the former Panasonic factory at Port Talbot."
The new venture is being headed by Project Kimber - itself named for Cecil Kimber, the founder of MG. Apparently the idea is to make the old Smart the new Midget of a revamped GM speedster line.

Once upon a time
August 10, 2006 | Tate Linden
This is the first post in what I hope will be a regular feature of the Stoked Brands blog. We'll find new or noteworthy names in the news... and poke 'em a bit with sticks to see what happens. Sometimes it'll be the big names, other times (like now) it'll be the stories that fall through the cracks.

Yesterday it was announced that Winona Excavating was fined $100,000 for naming a company in bad taste. How bad? Well, the fine was levied by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (or MPCA). Winona Excavating's spinoff company was named... Wait for it...
August 9, 2006 | Tate Linden

Sure, we've heard the stories about people having these dreams, then waking up, writing them down, and in the morning turning those ideas into billions of dollars. You'd think that naming would be an area where this would be a tried and true practice.

Based on our experience it is not so.

Here's the latest example of a midnight ephiphany that we probably shouldn't be telling you about:

August 8, 2006 | Dr. Florence Webb
[Ed.: Welcome to Dr. Florence Webb - our newest Stoked Brands blogger!]

Last week I had occasion to spend most of two days on America’s freeways, driving down and then back up the East Coast. Having plenty of opportunity to read the fronts, backs, and sides of commercial trucks traveling the same byways, I was struck by the diversity of messages and styles I saw.

Truck advertising seems to come in four styles:
August 8, 2006 | Tate Linden
Web 2.0 is here. We're not quite sure what it is, but it has something to do with trendiness, MySpace, company names that have been shortened and end in "r", and an unshakeable belief that maybe there was something to that whole internet bubble of the late 1990s. Add in a shine-effect logo and you're set.

Rather than give you a history of how we came to a time when everyone was trying to be different in exactly the same way, we'll just give you a short-cut to making yourself like everyone else.

Step on over to
August 7, 2006 | Tate Linden
I stumbled across a great resource today in qwerky. This site seems to put forward many of the same views that we here at Stokefire hold. The bastardized english now used (as in "Tabblo" - a site covered by qwerky) can't go without comment.

Qwerky seems focused on finding the very strangest names and bringing them to light. Sure, this may be encouraging the medium...
August 4, 2006 | Tate Linden
Ever wonder who really sets up your brand for success or failure? Most folks think it is the CEO, or perhaps the spokesperson for your brand.

My opinion? Neither.
August 4, 2006 | Tate Linden

I wasn't aware of it previously, but I just learned that the company that owns POM also owns Fiji Water. Upon taking over Fiji they developed a new tagline:

"Untouched by human hands. Until you drink it."

To me this is a brave and bold move. I don't think the tagline would make it by a focus group

August 2, 2006 | Tate Linden

Our new friend Mike posted this to his blog a couple days ago:

"Tate, perhaps you can explain why my company is inflicting this sort of thing upon us. Here's an excerpt from the "branding guide":

Through extensive research, we learned that customers want to do business with a company that has knowledge, that uses its knowledge and experience in innovative ways, and that has a commitment to achieving improved clinical and financial outcomes for its customers. This insight underscores the appropriateness of our brand position. We measure outcomes and deliver results."

Thanks for the link and for suggesting that I could fathom why your company would inflict this upon you. Personally I believe that your branding team has been overrun by focus-group fanatics.

Here's how I translate the text you posted:

August 1, 2006 | Tate Linden
Spirited Energy?

The public has spoken and they want something better. A competition suggested by Tom Brodbeck of the Winnepeg Sun brought in some great ideas.

His favorite? "Where the West Begins."
July 31, 2006 | Tate Linden
This from the makers of the St. Louis brand:
"Six months, 700 interviews, 19 one-on-one focus groups, dozens of meetings with the region’s economic development, government, and business leaders … that’s what it took to uncover and develop the Greater St. Louis story.

We’re proud to unveil the region’s new brand identity. It communicates what differentiates us as a place to expand or locate a business … Perfectly centered. Remarkably connected."
Justing thinking in print here, but does it take six months to figure out that St. Louis is in the middle of the United States? And does it take 19 focus groups to confirm that it matters?
July 28, 2006 | Tate Linden
This just in from "Realtorguy" - A frequent poster to these boards:
Since you’ve bashed Realtors for awhile, that should give me credibiity to bash city tag lines, right?

I heard one today on the radio: “St Louis. Perfectly Central. Perfectly Connected”.

Didn’t make me think of a reason to visit or set up a business there, but it reminded me that a generation ago, the city was a TWA hub. The airline’s gone, and so, does that also speak to the city itself.

I simply wasn’t impressed.
I'm not impressed either.
July 27, 2006 | Tate Linden

"Give us something cool."

This is a mantra we hear from almost all of our clients. They want cool names. They want to be hip. They want to be the "it" company - as shown by their sexy/funky/cool name.

Here's the problem - coolness doesn't age well.

Things that used to be cool include:

  • Michael Jackson
July 26, 2006 | Tate Linden
Living in the Washington DC area I find myself surrounded by a huge amount of visual noise, some of which could perhaps be called "city branding." This is not the intentional rally-the-troops sloganeering. Rather, it is made up of the tags and graffiti that the denizens of the city create themselves.

On my trip to Europe I noticed that the larger cities there have the same problem.

The smaller cities, however, seem to be amazingly clean. As we tandemed through the older parts of Switzerland, Germany, and France, it became clear that there was something different.
July 25, 2006 | Tate Linden

Okay... so it appears that my vitriolic rants have grated on a few people. Whilst I was away a few key readers hinted to Dana that it might be a good idea to bring a little softness to the blog.

You want soft? I'll give you soft...

July 21, 2006

I googled my way onto this story from the New York Times and have been wondering how I felt about it ever since.

It is about a rather new technology which lasers experation dates of eggs directly on the egg itself.

The technology was created by Brad Parker after he saw a story on how hundreds of people die from salmonella poisoning after eating bad eggs. The story exposed how a salesman was taking old eggs from old cartons, washing them, and repackaging them in new cartons. This story was not exposing something new. This practice has been gong on for a long time and comsumers fall victim.

Brad, whose family has a chicken farm

July 10, 2006 | Tate Linden

After numerous (read "three") requests for information on books that may be helpful in naming, taglines, and branding, we figured it was time to respond in print.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I tend not to read one book at a time - especially when it comes to business books. I binge. This week I tried to consume three different books on the very particular subject of naming companies, or rather the art of naming companies (as opposed to learning about the naming companies themselves.)

The three books I am reading are: Word Craft by Alex Frankel, Crafting the Perfect Name by George Burroughts Blake & Nancy Blake-Bonhe, and Naming for Power by Naseem Javed. (I also have a book-in-waiting titled The Making of a Name : The Inside Story of the Brands We Buy by Steve Rivkin, but that one arrived too late to begin with the others.)

Quick takes on the books in progress:

July 6, 2006 | Tate Linden

You must admire the power of a brand that gets invoked in the midst of a political debate.

Here's an exchange excerpted from the Sacramento Bee's coverage on yesterday's border debate on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray, a Republican representing Carlsbad in northern San Diego County, asked what Griffen and the Border Patrol were doing to protect his local Home Depot store from dozens of illegal immigrants harassing shoppers for work.

"Chief, in my neighborhood, the Home Depot is an 'illegal hub,' " said Bilbray, whose victory in a race for a House seat last month was fueled by voter anger over illegal immigration. "Is it too much to ask to have a few agents go to a place known to be frequented by illegal aliens?"

Bilbray was interrupted by Sherman.

"Our subcommittee focuses on terrorism," the Democratic congressman told him. "I don't think there are many terrorists at Home Depot."

July 5, 2006 | Tate Linden
What if you could write a tagline that would only appeal to those that were actually qualified to use your service?

Perhaps you'd say that the tagline should be accessible to everyone and shouldn't make anyone say "so what?"

Based on what I've seen from I'd suggest that you'd be wrong.

JDate has developed a tagline that really only makes sense to potential users of their product. Their tagline is
June 29, 2006 | Tate Linden

Thanks to an anonymous email I'm blogging about the Realtor GRI program today. Don't know what the GRI is? Apparently neither does most of the world. This doesn't stop the National Association of Realtors from charging their constituency extra money for additional training - and the right to use the GRI logo (and taglines! - but we will get to those in a moment) on their business cards and other marketing materials.

GRI stands for Graduate REALTOR Institute. As stated here,the GRI symbol "is the mark of a real estate professional who has made a commitment to providing a superior level of professional services by earning the GRI designation. REALTORs with the GRI designation are highly trained in many areas of real estate to better serve and protect their clients."

Okay... so if GRI's are trained to better serve and protect their clients, then what are the normal everyday vanilla kind of REALTORs trained to do?

June 28, 2006 | Tate Linden
Once again William Lozito has dug up some interesting stuff over on his blog (though he admirably credits Jean Halliday of Advertising age for the original material.)

Based on the research displayed on William's site it appears that car manufacturers are bowling through taglines and marketing strategies at a rapid pace. Every few years there's a major change in direction - such as Buick's alarmingly fast transition from "It's All Good" (2001), to "The Spirit of American Style" (2002), to "Dream Up" (2004), to "Beyond Precision" (2005.)

William suggests that this is proof that "even the biggest and the best have difficulty sticking to a marketing strategy and related slogan or tagline." We agree with him.

But we also note that
June 27, 2006 | Tate Linden
Okay, so they don't say that exactly, but it sure feels like it.

Philadelphia's new slogan - "Forever Independent" does a great job of reminding people of the major historical events that occured there, and I'm actually pretty fond of the sentiment and the potential that the slogan holds.

While the potential is there for some great programs, Philly has chosen only one option - pointing out the centuries old events. Kind of makes me wonder how they could justify the use of "forever" when they pretty much stopped with the independence-type activity shortly after our nation was born. Since then one could argue that Philly has been a center of conforming influence for the good ol' US of A.

So, why I am I still fond of the slogan?
June 26, 2006 | Tate Linden
Regular readers know that Stokefire rails against most real estate agents who hold up their pets in photos as if to say "Oh, and I like cute things too!"

A quick summary of why we don't like this technique in most cases -
June 23, 2006 | Tate Linden

I see so many taglines out there that are just plain... well... plain. Most companies use the four or five words to say "No, We're the Best" rather than coming out and saying how they're different than everyone else. If you've got any of the following words in your tagline you're probably playing defense with your tagline:

  • Quality
  • Number One
  • Customer (or client)
  • Best/Greatest/Top/Incredible

Why is this defense? Because almost everyone uses these terms - meaning that all you're doing by using the same words is preventing those companies from having an advantage over you.

How can you go on offense?

June 22, 2006 | Tate Linden
What has gotten into the minds of supposedly reputable companies? Or rather, what has gotten into their sales departments?

We received two identical packages from Cook's Illustrated yesterday - neither of which we ordered. The boxes had "Open Immediately... Free Gift Inside" printed in large letters.

Thinking that my wife had ordered something from them I opened them up. The first box was a cookbook and free celebrity chef coin. The second box was...
June 21, 2006 | Tate Linden
In what appears to be a first for us, we're commenting on a new company name before the folks we usually read have done so.


Tabblo - a new online photo manipulation company - has come up with an interesting niche. They allow you to upload your digital photos and then munge (our word, not theirs) them into a tableaux for a poster-sized printout that they deliver direct to your door. There are all sorts of other cool things you can do - and I love the idea behind the company - but think that they may be taking on some hurdles with their choice of name.

Here's why:
June 20, 2006 | Tate Linden
We're fully booked on projects for the moment and almost forgot to post!

There's a bit of news today - we are now proud members of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce located just up the road. We had a couple people ask why we were going to join and for us it came down to branding, (no surprise there.)

Two things stick out for us here...
June 16, 2006 | Tate Linden

I think someone put a sign on my back when I wasn't looking. Every day - no matter where I go - I get stopped by acquaintances and associates who want to tell me of the latest horrid branding effort they've come across. Some of them tell me so that I'll have the opportunity to help out the poor souls that are stuck with the strategy, some tell me to show me they've soaked in the messages I deliver in my seminars, and some just tell me to watch me cringe.

This doesn't just happen at my desk. It happens in my neighborhood, at the store, or even while I'm eating lunch at a local diner.

Honestly, I love it. I have my ideal job.

I love the fact that I'm not only helping companies develop solid brands, but I'm also able to educate consumers to look for companies that have solid identites. Many rather large companies do some pretty odd stuff when it comes to attracting customers.

The latest story is brought to you by Dana FitzGerald - Stokefire's Client Relations Consultant.

Dana saw a commercial for Wachovia that I'll paraphrase second-hand (so it is entirely likely that this will be rather like a game of Operator where what I say has nothing to do with the original commercial.) It goes like this:

  1. Enter boy preparing to leave the country the next day.
  2. The night before he leaves (after bank hours) boy realizes that he doesn't have his Passport (because it is in Wachovia's vault.)
  3. Boy's dad calls the banker at home
  4. Banker meets dad and boy at bank (still after hours) to open the vault and retrieve the Passport.
  5. Everyone is happy.
  6. Tagline - Something like "We're obsessed with customer service"

Nice story, right? Well

June 15, 2006 | Tate Linden
In the past week I've had a half-dozen or so questions about why I don't use focus groups as part of my branding, naming, or tagline development processes. Mike Wagner's recent comments here have prodded me to put a few of my more coherent thoughts in print.

Here are a few reasons why I'm not a fan of focus groups:
  1. In real life people considering a purchase do not typically discuss their likes and dislikes with strangers before making a buy decision.
June 12, 2006 | Tate Linden

Who is advising the National Association of Realtors with their latest campaign? In their latest bold move, the NAR has chosen to focus on some pretty odd stuff. The message?

Paraphrased, it says "We're not just Realtors, we're your trusted advisor, your friend, and ... wait for it ... we make your dreams a reality."

First, if anyone ever told me they were my trusted advisor I would immediately cross them off the short list of folks that actually were. Second, an association representing many thousands of people cannot offer much in terms of friendship. That's a personal connection between two individuals, not a corporate policy. As soon as the organization says it it becomes disingenuous.

And as for 'making our dreams a reality'? Why is there such an attraction to this phrase for Realtors?

June 9, 2006 | Tate Linden
Like Beer? Looking for the best beer? Good news! There are apparently many companies making exactly the product that you're looking for!

Here's what they say about themselves:
June 8, 2006 | Tate Linden
The Wall Street Journal - a bastion of valuable information on marketing, finance, technology, and almost anything else that involves money - has been getting on my nerves of late. In a world where the line between online and offline is getting more blurred by the day, WSJ has been holding the line firm.

In a strategy I can't figure out, WSJ decided long ago that other than a few (apparently random) articles, the content in their online newspaper should not be accessible without paying for access. I'm not just saying the details of the article are hidden. The titles, summaries, and extracts are hidden too.

Want proof?
June 7, 2006 | Tate Linden
If you've met me or read my articles in the past you'll know that I believe that one of the critical elements of a successful business is the ability for that business to set itself apart from the competition.

Easy concept, right? Look at what other people are doing - and then don't do the thing that makes them appear to be the same.

Great, we're on the same page then. Now picture yourself at a tradeshow (IFE, to be specific.) You're walking down the aisles, looking at all of these great franchises that you could be a part of... and you begin to notice a pattern. Whenever a franchisor closes out a conversation they hand over something to help the potential franchisee remember them.

Pop Quiz! What is it they hand across to cement the deal in most cases?
June 6, 2006 | Tate Linden

Imagine a world where you can get paid for who you know. Cool, right? You list your contacts and if someone wants to talk with them you can charge people for access! Whee! Isn't for-profit networking fun?

Not so fast, kiddo. Let's think about this for a moment. Why should you be allowed to make money off of me? How do I know that you're not just sending me someone so you get a payday and not because this is a good person for me to network with?

Vshake - a new for-profit networking site led by Sagi Richberg and Sergey Gribov - attempts to add a dash of Multi-Level Marketing and profiteering to the networking concept. If I invite you to join my VShake network I will get paid any time you pay anyone else for access (to you or one of your contacts) - or anyone pays you for access.

Sorry folks, but I don't go for MLM concepts, so you won't be getting an invite from me any time soon.

June 5, 2006 | Tate Linden

I went to the International Franchise Expo in Washington DC this weekend. I walked the floor for about three hours, talking with CEOs, presidents, marketing VPs and sales reps. Every moment was informative, whether it was because some of the companies weren't really ready for prime time, or because I was able to see how a well branded franchise concept can draw attention.

Certainly the first thing in evidence is that once a single franchise has gone out and made a name for itself (see Coldstone Creamery and PODS) a raft of copy-cats will rush in and attempt to get part of the cut. There appeared to be two or three mix-in style ice cream shops, and a few modular storage facilities as well. Other trends include coffee shops, wings shops, and barbeque chains. I'll be going through some of the actual companies and the strategies they used to attract franchisees over the next few weeks. (With so many shops and so much reading material it'll take me a while to figure out who is well branded and who isn't...)

One thing really stood out.

June 2, 2006 | Tate Linden

Today's seminar went very well, for the most part. I discussed the five aspects of a brand that create memorability and attraction with the target audience. We had a completely packed house - standing room only (a first for me since my days in music performance.) I thank the caterers, the Women's Business Center, and the Community Business Partnership for making this such a well attended event.

I also got to introduce the newest member of the Stokefire Team (Dana FitzGerald) who was the Vanna to my Pat during the presentation. She'll be helping out with client relations for the next month or so. Great to have someone on board to give our clients the attention they deserve even when our branding experts may be momentarily inaccessible.

The presentation itself when quite well except for a couple notable exceptions:

June 1, 2006 | Tate Linden

William Lozito over at Strategic Name Development talked about Edmonton's new campaign. Simply put, he didn't like it. The slogan is "Edmonton - It's cooler here." To unjustly distill his message down, he posits that since people already know Edmonton is cold (uncomfortably so, even) there's little point in reminding everyone of this fact.

I'm of a different mind than William on this one. It isn't that he's wrong, per se. I just think that the slogan isn't aimed at him - or at anyone in the North.

May 31, 2006 | Tate Linden
Round and round the wheel goes, where it will stop no one knows...

Evidently the more I talk about Realtors and taglines the more people come here looking for the information.

So, let's play the game. Can you name the companies that have selected the following taglines?
May 30, 2006 | Tate Linden
Let me start by saying I love Constant Contact as an email campaign manager. I just used it for the first time this morning and find it to be intuitive, powerful, and effective - especially compared to Microsoft Outlook. All the great tracking tools and CAN-SPAM compliance are in one place and accessible from any computer with Web connectivity.

I found them through word-of-mouth, but apparently they're looking for a bit more than that.

Here's the part I don't love.
May 26, 2006 | Tate Linden
Quick, who uses the tagline "Men should act like men, and light beer should taste like beer?"

If you know the answer to that - then can you name the sub-brand?

Answer -
May 25, 2006 | Tate Linden
One of the great things about a blog is that we get to see basic information about who visits our blog. In the past few weeks we've found that more people come here looking for realty taglines than anything else. Wonderful. We welcome all kinds at Stokefire and Stoked Brands.

But there's a bit of an issue here. Realtors looking for a tagline as the key to their success are looking in the wrong place. A tagline cannot develop a Realtor's identity unless there's a unique core to wrap the tagline around. If you're a Realtor like all the other Realtors then you're going to end up with a tagline like everyone else. What does this mean?
May 24, 2006 | Tate Linden
We at Stokefire have been in the market for a nice economical vehicle that not only can get us to where we need to go, but can do so with a bit of panache. While the SUV is great for driving clients and consultants to meetings, it isn't so great for driving solo to work, nor for finding parking spaces in DC after 8:30 AM.

VW Garageinator

I've been looking at a couple VW models and at the Mini - and was leaning towards the Mini until I saw the picture of the VW garage (courtesy of weBranding and The Cool Hunter.) Can you imagine how powerful an experience getting your car from the "Garaginator" (my term, not theirs) would be?
May 22, 2006 | Tate Linden

You've probably already heard about it via WJZ or the blogosphere, but Baltimore has put out another doozy of a slogan for all of us to be moderately unhappy with.

The new slogan, "Get In On It" was leaked to the Baltimore Sun (or was it the Washington Times?) and announced late last week. It hasn't been made official yet, but that should come soon.

There are tons of blogs that think this slogan is horrible.

May 19, 2006 | Tate Linden
I just got back from the awards banquet and it was quite a show. Great to see so much support from the community - there were 29 sponsors of the event for 16 entrants. The event was hosted by the Community Business Partnership and is part of Business Appreciation Week (an event sponsored by Virginia's Department of Business Assistance.) Lots of people there, and some great concepts were presented.

The three equal winners were
May 18, 2006 | Tate Linden
I've often found it ironic that oil companies such as Shell and Exxon spend so much money communicating how clean and environmentally friendly they are - but aren't willing to spend the minimum wage salary it would take to get someone to keep their bathrooms clean. This seems to me to be a failure not of the brand, but of buy-in. Independent owners would keep their facilities clean if the parent company actually valued cleanliness, but
May 17, 2006 | Tate Linden
Here's a question for you - Is it good to think so far outside the box that technology can't support your thinking?

This issue hit home today in a big way. I just got my first CardScan today. Amazing technology. I feed in the 200 business cards that I've been avoiding entering by hand and watch as it runs an OCR program and fills in all the fields in Microsoft Outlook for me. Net time invested for the scanning and entry is about 5 seconds a card before I check for accuracy.

Here's the problem, though.
May 15, 2006 | Tate Linden
The name fanatics among you probably know what TLA stands for - but the rest of you likely don't. Here's a hint: Toyota Australia just decided to brand their new performance vehicles as "Toyota Racing Development". They've already helpfully shortened this name to TRD.
May 12, 2006 | Tate Linden

Hugh is at it again.

Okay, not really, since I think this design came out before the last one I put up, so I guess technically Hugh hasn't stopped being at it for quite some time. Nonetheless, Hugh and the state of being "at it" have been closely intertwined for a good long while now.

What do I like about this design?
May 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
Piers Fawkes over at PSFK had this to say about advertising blogs...
"The problem with advertising press online and offline is that they report on advertising. It's a fundamental flaw. Advertising is not where the game is at anymore. Advertising has become a tactic while client side marketers look at how companies act as a brand as a whole - and communications is just one of many tools."
Pretty gutsy words... from a guy that seems to be running an ... advertising... blog.
May 10, 2006 | Tate Linden

I came across this little cartoon today. (Click for higher quality image)


It made my day.

May 9, 2006 | Tate Linden

William Lozito has a short discussion on his blog of state and city tagline problems that seem to have been plentiful lately. While his naming methods may differ from Stokefire's techniques for naming, I think he is spot on with this bit of wisdom:

"What flavor ice cream do you get when you order for 10 people in a room together? Vanilla of course. The same holds true for a brand name, slogan or ad campaign."

While I agree with the idea, I'm curious how it scales to cities of a million people. Is it harder to come up with a flavor that makes everyone happy? Do people even try?

May 8, 2006 | Tate Linden

Generic products (e.g., Tinfoil made by Safeway, Aspirin made by Tesco) seem to exist merely to capture the dollars available from people who merely need an item's function, not a brand's reputation. Tinfoil from Safeway will probably do exactly what a consumer wants it to do - even though it isn't backed by a famous kitchen-wrap brand such as Reynolds.

An article written by Rob Walker in the New York Times Magazine this weekend brings up two very interesting aspects about generics.

First, the traditional generic approach is to make your packaging look as close to the name-brand as possible.

May 5, 2006 | Tate Linden

I've been through a couple hundred branding projects at this point (in various capacities), and I've found that there is one thing that contributes more to the success of a new brand than anything else. That one thing? Executive passion for their company or product.

I visited a company this morning with my friend Jacqui Olkin and met with the head honcho. We went through traditional intros and things were very laid back... until we started to discuss the new direction for the firm and how he wants to grow the company.

May 4, 2006 | Tate Linden

I know people mean well, really I do. Everyone (including myself) thinks that if something sounds catchy and memorable to us then it will sound catchy to other people. Unfortunately, in branding this is often not the case.

Here's my version of Groundhog Day: A prospective client calls me on the phone to ask if I can help with coming up with a company name. "Of Course!", I proclaim. Names and taglines are a big part of the branding service we provide, and both are major sparks for brand success.

The prospect continues. "Great! You see, I've already got this great tagline and I want to build my entire business around the concept."

My sixth sense activates at this point, since I can guess with about 75% accuracy that the name will be one of three things, but I'll get to those in a moment.

"Do Tell" I prompt.

"You're going to love this!" they breathe. The slogan is...

May 3, 2006 | Tate Linden
I am seriously peeved.

Every day I see people driving along in their cars, SUVs, and mini-vans with their windows rolled down about two inches. Are they getting a breath of fresh air? Unfortunately, no. They're universally about to do one of three things.

Either: 1) They are about to blow smoke out the window 2) They are about to flick ash out the window OR 3) They are about to throw a lit cigarette butt out the window.

I do not recall having seen a window in that position for any other reason.

Why am I talking about this on a branding blog? Well, because of the negative perception of smokers that it creates. What are the negative perceptions? Glad you asked.
May 1, 2006 | Tate Linden
I'm a bit puzzled over recent comments posted about Darcy Burner on Real Clear Politics. RCP's Tom Bevan, an apparently right-leaning commentator, wrote a position piece on Washington's 8th Congressional district race.

Bevan lays out Reichert's plan of action
April 28, 2006 | Tate Linden
This release came across my desk today:

Atlanta, GA (PRWEB via HRMarketer) April 27, 2006 --, a premier source for diversity recruiting, has released its Prestige Package, a new job posting/branding package designed to attract diverse job seekers by including companies' work culture profiles in their job listings.

Click here for the full text. (Emphasis mine, above.)

Why did this catch my eye? Well, a few weeks back I received notice of a position for a branding expert where it was quite obvious that no one knew what branding was. This new release seems to say that job postings like that one are a thing of the past. If a branding firm handles job postings they'll be on-target and relevant, right?
April 27, 2006 | Tate Linden
Following on yesterday's quick analysis of branding getting slammed in the media, I found this little blurb on the IABC website - posted by Anders Gronstedt. It is a reworking of an old joke, but made me chuckle just the same...
You go to a party and you see an attractive girl across the room. You go up to her and say, “Hi, I’m great in bed, how about it?” ...
April 26, 2006 | Tate Linden

Why is it that Branding is the new "it" topic for insults in the media? In the last couple months I've seen it dissed by three shows I enjoy:

Big Love - an HBO series
Boston Legal - an ABC series
and "Thank You for Smoking" a movie in wide release

In each case I think that the power of branding was conveyed very well. The protagonist in Big Love realizes that he needs branding if he wants to grow his business (though whether or not it will work isn't yet known.) Denny Crane (played by Cap'n Kirk) uses branding in Boston Legal to establish one of his clients as a "common" housewife rather than someone more malicious. And "Thank You For Smoking" is an exceptionally funny movie that spends the entire time showing how effective branding efforts can be when run by the right people.

Great, right?

April 25, 2006 | Tate Linden
I like the idea of people "taking it" to the gas companies, as this begins to pertain to the effect of a brand on the populace. Exxon is seen as an uncaring, price-gouging behemoth (mainly because it acts like one) and people are fed up.

A chain letter has circled the globe suggesting that we boycott Exxon/Mobil to make them lower their prices - in hopes that this will result in the corporation lowering their prices. Good idea for some industries, but not for gas and oil.
April 25, 2006 | Tate Linden
I've been working with a Realtor in the DC area for a couple months and have done a large amount of research into the competitive landscape - only to find that there really i