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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!)
May 28, 2007
May 26th, 2007 at 8.30 pm Theodore Joseph Linden was born. Weighing in at 6 lbs 10 oz. Congratulations Sarah & Tate!

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 13, 2007
Shot Dog Camera. No, not named after dog that throws back alcohol shots, but a camera that lets you see life from your K-9's perspective. Brought to you from Japan by Takara Tomy.


Announcement made for the official name of the new baseball stadium at a park in Lorain, OH– the Pipe Yard.

The U.S. Steel company was granted naming rights after a generous donation to the project. U.S. Steel spokesman John Armstrong commented “It sounds like a good name for a baseball park. And we thought it would be an appropriate name since it’s being sponsored by a tubular pipe maker.”

Well put Mr. Armstrong.

March 6, 2007

The Wallingford district of Seattle's Chamber of Commerce has it's hands full. Complaints about a store's sign turned into a major publicity coup for Lori and Ryan Pacchiano, owners of the High Maintenance Bitch pet shop.


Source: click here

[Thanks for the tip Denise!]
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 8, 2007

PHOENIX, Feb. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- British grocery store chain Tesco announced today that its new chain of grocery stores in the U.S. will be called "Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market," and formally revealed its new logo, during an event hosted by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. tesco-express.jpg The company is focusing on the Greater Phoenix area, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego and stores will begin to open later in the year.Tesco USA has plans of opening 300 small grocery stores in Southern California, Las Vegas and Phoenix. The openings would cost approximately $2 billion and would take five years to fully complete. The company plans on opening the stores in the second half of next year.

In an effort to distinguish itself from other grocery or produce stores, the emphasis at Tesco will be on the freshness of food. The company hopes to ensure this freshness with large distribution centers and quick turnaround times.fresheasy.gif

Has anyone seen the new logo (the one above is not it)?? I could not seem to track it down. I would love to get a look.

Thanks for the pointer to the new loge Denise. Much appreciated!!! >>>>>>
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.

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 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
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 | 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 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 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.
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 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 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.

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 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,

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 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 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...

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 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 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 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?

April 13, 2006 | Tate Linden

I only occasionally think about it, but when I do I'm grossed out. Grabbing a can from a vending machine, popping the top, and then putting the thing against my mouth isn't exactly the smartest thing in the world. I've witnessed vending machines being filled and it isn’t pretty. I’ve seen cans dropped on the ground, rolled behind the machine, held by grimy gloved hands that have just been wiped across a sweaty man-brow – all the sorts of places where I would not normally want my lips to touch. But after all that contact with the can I’ll still tilt it back when I’m thirsty.
I used to take a paper towel and wipe the top before I drank, but that didn’t fix the problem. I’d end up with a towel covered in a grayish film that would’ve otherwise ended up on my lips, but no matter how long I rubbed I’d still get more off, so it seemed pointless unless I actually washed the whole thing off with soap and water, and then you gotta wonder how much trouble you’re really willing to go through to get a few gulps of sugar water.
Americans are apparently behind the times. Brazil, Estonia, and Spain (among many others) have already found a solution and have it widely implemented. They prevent the lid from coming in contact with anything untoward by using a “lip cover” as seen on the Strange New Products blog. So, why isn’t that in America?
My gut reaction (with absolutely no research behind it) is that America is not concerned about keeping our bodies protected from germs and the like. We’re happy to use dry paper to wipe our behinds, which is pretty darn gross if you think about it. We are willing to stick our hands down the drain to clear a clog of lord knows what. We’re willing to have corporations pollute land (think Super Fund sites)… all of this because… We’re a nation of people who would rather clean up and/or protect ourselves after the fact.
Do you put on rubber gloves to shake hands during cold season? No, you carry around alcohol-impregnated gel to squirt on your hands after each contact. Do you wear a filter mask during allergy season? No, you take a pill when you get a runny nose, and carry around pockets of tissue. And Super Fund sites? We believe we can eliminate just about any contamination to the point that we can eat dinner off the formerly deadly soil.
Is this a sign of immediate gratification run amok? Are we too lazy to want to squat over a bidet and really get our stuff clean? Why can’t I get my soda with a lip protector without traveling to Europe or South America?
I’ve been reading all sorts of articles written by folks in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere saying that the typical American (and thus the American identity or brand) is always in a rush somewhere. We don’t want anything else put between us and our goals, be it extra clicks on a computer or an additional wrapper on a can of beer. Are they right?