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June 15, 2007 | Tate Linden
Here's a quick aside - since I'm still getting back into the swing of things after spending time with Theodore (more on the story of his name another time.)

The night before Teddy was born we went to see Garrison Keillor's Prarie Home Companion. It was a great experience and Wolf Trap is an exceptional environment to take in a show. We sat on the lawn near the front and listed to beautiful music, heard Garrison talk, and basically enjoyed ourselved on what we had been planning as our last pre-kiddo outing. ...though we had no clue how literal that was.

The show ended and we walked about a mile to our car. And then sat.

And the weirdest thing happened... This group of people who had a pleasant evening together turned into the rudest bunch of drivers I'd ever seen. As we attempted to get out of the parking lot we spent about ten minutes trying to catch the eye of drivers so they would let us into the exit lane. This didn't work at all since no one would look at our car. We followed this with about five more minutes of frantic waving - which we should've known wouldn't work since (as noted previously) no one was looking at us.

Next step - I asked my lovely wife to ask a driver if we might cut in (since the cars were coming from the passenger side.) Sure - it took a few cars before anyone would even admit that they could hear her. (And for the record, it is remotely believable that someone might not have seen our frantic waving and yet was still allowed to drive a car - but for someone not to hear my wife say "excuse me" when both windows are rolled down and to also ignore the polite wave - that's just... yeah... rude.)

But the rudeness got worse. We finally made eye contact and were able to get an acknowledgement to our greeting (probably after 20 minutes total of trying) and we asked "May we cut in?"

The driver of a Lexus SUV smiled at us and said...

"No. Sorry."

Well... at least she apologized immediately for being rude.

The next car again was with the "I can't see nor hear you" crowd. The one after that saw the whole thing and actually was very pleasant - its occupants saying "it's not like anyone will get out of here much faster by squeezing you out."

A special thanks go to these kind anonymous people.

However - to the folks that didn't let us in - particularly that last two... I have this lesson in naming:
If you are going to be rude to other drivers while driving your own car and sitting in traffic that doesn't move - perhaps you should get license plates less memorable than "RN I HOT" and "TWITTY"
Should you see them on the road please give them an appropriate "hello" from me. Wave with as many (or as few) fingers as you please.

I suppose this actually does have something to do with naming for business. If you're going to put out a product that angers your customers you probably want to avoid a memorable name. This is one reason why we didn't take the "herbal Viagra" contract that came up last year. I didn't want to be the guy that named the product that caused semi-virile men to storm the gates of a product manufacturer. And I'm not a big fan of naming for obscurity.

And in fairness to the ladies in both offending vehicles - perhaps they were in a hurry to get out of there because they had a woman going into labor in their car.

Oh... wait... that was me.
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!

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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. campaignforlittlebritain.com - 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 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 7, 2007
americone_dream_pint.jpg

images-1.jpgBen & Jerry have named a new flavor, Stephen Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream™. The concoction is "a decadent melting pot of vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and a caramel swirl. It’s the sweet taste of liberty in your mouth."
March 6, 2007
hmb.jpg



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.

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Source: click here

[Thanks for the tip Denise!]
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: eabel@wayne.edu

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 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.
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 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
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 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 Kodak.com. It is expected to be in place for the rollout of the company's home goods in Macy's this fall.
December 15, 2006 | Tate Linden

Indira Gandhi discovered a promising young talent around 1969 and nominated her as a member of the Indian delegation to the UN Commission on the status of women. This woman spun this nomination into a seat in Parliament in the 80s, and then as Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and PMO. She followed this up with the presidency of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee and just became the first Chief Minister to get a second successive term to rule Delhi.

Her name?

I'll get to that...

First names are tricky. Last names are even moreso.

What would happen if your last name held a proud history in your own country but translated very nearly into a profane reference in other cultures? As this powerful woman has progressed in her career there must have been temptation to step onto the global stage. With all of her achievements she seemed ripe for the move.

But she didn't. Perhaps it was that she was more interested in helping her own country and culture.

Or perhaps it was because the English speaking world is not ready for someone with the name "Dikshit" to hold a prominent role in affairs of State.

From what I can tell, Sheila Dikshit is a great woman. But I can also confirm that English speakers have a very difficult time with her last name. Just check this thread that brings up the name, or this site that can't help but bring up many, many references to the name in popular culture. Or even Dikshit.com whose tagline is (no joke) "Feel The Difference."

English speakers have to feel at least a little bit naughty when saying the name.

In the name's defense, I've been told that it is pronounced "DIX-sit" but even so, we Americans can't pronounce "Ask" and "Nuclear" on most days - so how well do you think we're going to do with this name?

I'm sure there's a lesson in this. I'm pretty sure it isn't "Check your personal name for translation issues before you go into politics." But it seems at least a little bit telling that a woman with such a strong following hasn't made the leap to the world stage.

I'll be watching with interest when her term is up to see if she goes for a third consecutive or tries to affect world politics. I'm guessing that she'll stay in Delhi, though I'll be pleasantly surprised if she takes on the translation issues and makes a grand re-entry into the UN.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group
703-778-992

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 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
NBC had a contest to name Carla and Turk's baby. Of the final ten names, how many of them are just various forms of Carla and Turk being munged together?

Well... there's
  1. Cartur
  2. Curk
  3. Kirk
  4. Tarla
  5. Tula
  6. Turla
How many women do you know that would allow their kid to be named thusly? (I haven't broached this with my own wife for fear that I will be unable to have more kids after the conversation.)

The four remaining choices that had at least a smidgen of a chance were:
  1. Isabella
  2. Jasmine
  3. Olivia
  4. Ricky
Why were the other options even on there? To force the voting public to pick one that actually had a chance?

I'm actually thinking that the naming contest worked and gave the show a name (Isabella) that works better than any other - but I'm pretty sure that the deck was stacked. You'll note that the actual number of votes wasn't shown.

As for how effective the campaign was... I didn't hear of it until after the fact - and I'm even a fan of the show. Anyone out there like the show more because they participated in the naming of a kid? Okay - other than Rita S. who got five letters of her name in print for submitting the winning name...

And note that if a single munged name had been submitted instead of 6 of them it would've soaked up more than 20% of the vote - and might've gotten even more votes since it'd have been unique rather than one option amongst a majority. How would Scrubs have handled a character named Tarla anyhow? Jokes about Carla mis-hearing her name would only be funny for about half an episode.

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.

Thetruth.com 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 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 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.
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
703-778-9925

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 Jobing.com 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 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 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.
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 Amazon.com - 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
703-778-9925

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.
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

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 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.
April 18, 2006 | Tate Linden
Carl Smith over at nGen Works has a great short post about a guy that has slapped an honest-to-goodness real-life tattoo of the John Deere logo on his bicep. Why'd he do it? Apparently because "They's the best." Wow... I remember when people would put the big red Superman "S" on their arms to indicate their power. Now we've got guys essentially saying that they're so well made that a tractor company would proudly claim them... (In looking at the picture on Carl's site I'm guessing the tattoo-ee is probably more of a steam roller than a garden tractor, but still he's obviously not falling apart at the seams. I certainly wouldn't want to question his solidity...) This is truly a powerful message. Imagine a world where cows get to choose their brand. (“I’m a Lazy K cow!”) Apparently quite a few people are doing this. Are our bovine friends next? Will this become a world of Star-Bellied Sneetches? As for how this literal branding relates to the more common corporate branding, I have this to say. I would love to see someone wearing a Stokefire logo on their arm. To have someone that passionate about a brand that I worked to create would be a deeply satisfying validation of the impact of my hard work. If you work hard enough to establish a reputation that connects with your target audience, not only will they buy your products for life, they’ll also proudly take on the very qualities you have infused your products with and claim them as their own. The John Deere statement that “nothing runs like a Deere” connects with the target buyers. They think something like, “Yeah, nothing does run like a Deere – except me.” It sends the message that there’s something special, and since Deere’s are in fact well made, the message not only connects, but rings true after experiencing the product. There’s a scale of commitment with brands – people are more willing to wear a cap or t-shirt with a brand message on it than they are to put one on the bumper of their car. They’re even more likely to associate themselves with a brand by being seen inside a store as a shopper (just being seen in a store is an impermanent legitimization of a brand - just look at how restaurants fill the front window seats first...) On the more permanent side you have bumper stickers and airbrushed car art. So – where is your brand on the scale of client commitment? Does your market advertise for you at all? Do they wear shirts, hats, or pins? Do they have a bumper sticker that sends business your way? Have they claimed you as their manufacturer by slapping your logo on their body?

Aside: Just giving away stickers and tees doesn't mean your brand is connecting. Check the parking lot (or their torso) the next time you see your client. Are they using what you gave them? If not then you've still got work to do.)

If you can’t bump the needle off of zero, then it’s time to figure out why. Does your brand fit with your real-life performance? Does your brand inspire loyalty? Are you even trying to connect on an emotional level with your client base? Politicians do it all the time, but never seem to get past the bumper-sticker or yard-sign commitment level. Their jobs depend on that emotional connection more than most of us. They literally go out of business if they don’t connect better than the competition. (I think I’ll look into this aspect another time, as I could write for pages on why there’s such an impermanent connection with politicians.) Back to the topic. Can you imagine the impact of seeing one of your clients walking into your shop and rolling up their sleeve to show you… your own logo? If that doesn’t give you goose-bumps then you’re unable to see the potential and power of branding. Here's to hoping you can see and feel the power, and want to give it a shot.

(Disclaimer: Crap with good branding is still crap. If you don’t like your own brand then no matter what you do you won’t be able to make other people like it either. Fix your product, then fix your brand - anything else will be a waste of time and money.) Tate Linden Principal Consultant 703-778-9925
April 10, 2006 | Tate Linden
I just read the Wall Street Journal's ego piece on Armani. I think he's dissing me personally... or if not personally, he would be dissing me personally if he knew me, or knew of people like me, or saw that I had a Ficus-naming contest.

Anyhow, he provides five tips in the article (for which you will have to pay to read) and the last one is:
"I can't accept men wearing sports jackets in a board meeting. Sports jackets are for weekends."
Dangit! All I wear are sports jackets (except for on weekends.) I'm guessing he won't approve of my jeans, broadcloth shirt, and leather shoes, then. Nor will he enjoy my acute lack of anything resembling a tie around my neck.

Personal note to Giorgio - Yeah, most boardrooms probably call for a matching ensemble suit/tie combo. Not all of 'em do though. Mine? No suits, please. Sure - if you want to be seen as a conformist then by all means. Even in one of your suits I'd still think that a guy would be out of place. Classy, probably a tad too warm, maybe thirsty too, and likely better looking than all of us - but still completely out of place.

Also - your first comment that "Polyester is a fantastic fabric" makes me feel a little better about disagreeing with you. I've tried polyester and, frankly, was not particularly impressed. Especially poly shirts... I mean, come on. You tuck 'em in and before you can get your hand out the tail has already removed itself from your pants, and done so in such a silky and quiet way that the only way you'll find out is after you've passed by the cute receptionist who blushes at your predicament.

Hypothetically speaking this type of event would have been before my non-hypothetical marriage, of course. That is, if this had happened at all, which I am most assuredly not really saying it did. Not.

That is all Giorgio. Rest assured I could have gone on far longer, but feel you have been suitably upbraided for now. Be glad this one was just between us.