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August 29, 2007 | Tate Linden
Unbe-infixing-lievable.

I just read on POPwink (a couple days too late) that the Dems are looking to come up with a new bumper sticker. I had no idea.

You should read Michael's post over there, and I must agree that his judgement (that the ones they've come up with are "hideous") is spot on.

The choices they've laid out for us are:
  • W IS OUT - Send the Right Wing with Him
  • NO REPUBLICANS LEFT BEHIND IN D.C.
  • What Have Republicans Done For You Lately?
  • 2006 Was Just the Beginning. More Dems in '08
Ouch. Y'all already know I dislike naming contest and such, so I won't go into that here.

Is the left wing in such a state that they have to recycle old concepts? Two of the four are just reworking old slogans "No Child Left Behind" and "What Have You Done For Me Lately." One uses a visual key to link W (as in Bush) to Wing (as in right) but seems to ignore the fact that the left has a wing too. The last option seems to endorse doing whatever we did in '06... but somehow doing it better.

None of them seem catchy. None of 'em seem smart. None of 'em speak to me (as one of the centrists that typically decide elections.) None of them take advantage of the location of the message (a bumper.) None of them are memorable (without having to recall either right wing rhetoric or bad pop songs.) These are conversation enders rather than conversation starters.

But what if you could fix that? What if you had a phrase that sounded catchy, implied at least a bit of intellect, could speak to disaffected centrists, used language that mixed well with the bumper medium, and could be used by talking heads as a conversation starter?

I think it's possible.

Something like "The Right Turn Is Left" (tm)(sm)(c)(etc...) above a contextualizing message such as "Democrats for ___________" (where the blank is a platform cause) or "Vote Democtratic in '08" seems to fit the bill.

It throws wordplay, logic, message, direction, context, mnemonics and all sorts of good stuff (like the fact that this is a "Googlenope" as I write this) at the reader without preaching about "W" or gloating about 2006...

...and you can almost hear people chanting it at the Democratic Convention if you listen hard enough.

(Added bonus - the logical Republican response "The Right Turn is Right" or "The Left Turn Is Left" loses all of the power and wit that the use of the conflicting statement brings. It's a hard slogan to fight effectively.)

Anyone else think there's a better option?
May 22, 2007 | Tate Linden
Oh, cute! A whale naming contest!

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

Right.

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

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

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

Whee!

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

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

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

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

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

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


BrandChannel just released their top brands results from all continents around the world. Here is what's in and what is out: In and out in 2006 Winners: Google Las Vegas iPod YouTube eBay Yahoo! Target Oprah Winfrey Sony NFL Losers Nicole Richie Britney Spears Havana Paris Hilton Hand-hand combat Mumbai Boxing W Hotels Bangkok NHL Source: ImagePower Newsmaker brands survey
 
January 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
The New Year brings us a couple new entrants and a few changes in the top ranks.
  1. Domaining Blog, Globe Domains and Domain Name Blog join the ranks of the... well... ranked. All three cover aspects of naming. I'm not 100% sold on them being in the list, but will give 'em a try for a while and see what other blog authors and readers think.
  2. Due to the additions of the new sites Igor, Name Development, Snark Hunting, and Qwerky all move down a spot, and the rest move down two or more spots.
  3. Away With Words has the only genuine uptick in rank - though it is hidden behind the dropping of two ranks due to the new sites.
  4. Markeys and Popwink move up. Evidently the folks in the Netherlands really like naming a whole lot.
  5. Brandnama, Beep.Name, and Name Ideas drop off the list of ranked sites. Rough week! I feel pretty bad, but I figure that'll give sites an incentive to break into the top million... making the naming commentary and resources that much more well known.
  6. Catch-Word continues to hang on even though they continue to be mostly dead. Based on the rankings it seems like they're going to be gone next week.
  7. Also look for Qwerky to overtake Name Development in January.
Spots continue to dwindle... Here are the top 13:

THREE MONTH ALEXA RANKING AVERAGES (1/1/2007):

Rank Site AlexaRank Change 1 Wordlab: 71,195 (1532) 2 Stoked Brands: 129,176 1477 3 Domaining Blog: 147,485 NEW 4 Igor: 149,103 (5959) 5 Strategic Name Development: 224782 (11,878) 6 Snark Hunting: 265,451 2243 7 Qwerky: 268,584 5957 8 GlobeDomains: 669,131 NEW 9 Away With Words: 731,455 65,382 10 Good Characters: 755,983 3191 11 Popwink: 1,451833 7034 12 Markeys: 1,513,209 7332 13 Catch-Word: 1,597,119 7733 (Schrödinger’s Blog)

Not in the top 13: Beep.Name, Brandnama, Name Ideas, Domain Name Blog, Rich With Meaning (Schrödinger’s Blog), Product Names, Motorbrand: (Schrödinger’s Blog) Pastelot (French), Ton Of Bricks/A Hundred Monkeys (Schrödinger’s Blog)
December 18, 2006 | Tate Linden
Yet another week with some major moves!
  1. For the first time since the 'race' started one of the top players has changed. Stoked Brands (soon to be Thingnamer) took over the number two spot from the esteemed folks at Igor. We're pretty sure this is only temporary... But we'll bask a bit while we've got the chance.
  2. Our blog-bud over at Popwink has cracked the top ten - with a massive movement of over a million places. We're thinkin' he and his friends have found the Alexa toolbar. Or maybe he is giving away free booze.
  3. The biggest move comes from Name Ideas - moving up over three million spots and breaking into the top fifteen.
  4. We have a new addition to the group with a respectable showing - the Dutch site Markeys shows up for the first time at #13. We're happy to have 'em. If you can read Dutch feel free to tell us what they're saying over there...
And in other news - in an effort to make our own lives at Stoked Brands a little easier... We're going to remove one place each weak from the rankings (so next week there will be no #15) until we get to a top ten list. We may continue to provide links to those outside the top group, but they won't be ranked. You'll have to do your own searching for actual numbers and such.

And now, the...

THREE MONTH ALEXA RANKING AVERAGES (12/18/2006):

Rank Site AlexaRank Change 1 Wordlab: 71,865 (2,135) 2 Stoked Brands: 140,395 11,922 3 Igor: 147,829 (5,777) 4 Strategic Name Development: 211,334 5,060 5 Snark Hunting: 267,236 (5,901) 6 Qwerky: 278,651 1,418 7 Good Characters: 754,421 18,365 8 Away With Words: 846,166 90,269 9 Catch-Word: 1,468,828 (207,107) (Schrödinger’s Blog) 10 Popwink: 1,609,916 1,173,584 11 Beep.Name: 2,051,940 3,302 12 Brandnama: 2,167,036 3,648 13 Markeys: 2,324,203 (NEW) (This site has the ability to translate, but I can't link to the translated page.) 14 Name Ideas: 2,711,470 3,207,324 15 Rich With Meaning: 3,591,652 4,089 (Schrödinger’s Blog)

Not in the top 15 this week: Product Names: Sorry, but if you don't have your own Alexa stats you can't compete. (Product Names uses the stats from their host site, not their own numbers. And their host site is blogspot.) Motorbrand: (Schrödinger’s Blog) Pastelot (French): Not sure why this site isn't doing better. Guess the French arent interested in naming. (Check here to read it in awkwardly translated English.) Ton Of Bricks/A Hundred Monkeys: Not only is this site partially dead, it doesn't have any stats either.(Schrödinger’s Blog)
December 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
Quite a few things going on this week:
  1. Away With Words breaks the good side of the 1 Million ranking mark. Congrats!
  2. Brandnama moves up almost TWO MILLION in the ranking and leapfrogs a few spots to reach the cusp of the top ten.
  3. Thanks to Steve Manning at Igor we've picked up another blog - albeit a blog that is only updated every few months. Welcome to A Hundred Monkeys/Ton of Bricks... (Echo.... echo... echo...)
  4. Igor International continues to hold three of the top five spots (Wordlab, Igor, Snark Hunting) but is in danger of losing a spot to Stoked Brands (#3) and Qwerky (#6)
  5. Competition to get into the top ten naming blogs has become quite fierce - with major gains in ranking from the 8th to the 12th position. Popwink is creeping up into contention.
  6. The percentage of Schrödinger's Blogs within the naming category increases to 22%. Someone stop the bleeding! (Steve... don't you know the folks over there? Get 'em writing!)
  7. I still haven't figured out how to get decent formatting (I tried automating it today and ended up taking about twice the time as last week...) so forgive the hard-to-read look. I'm workin' on it.
THREE MONTH ALEXA RANKING AVERAGES (12/11/2006):

1 Wordlab: 69730, # Chg -1394, % Chg -0.02, 2 Igor: 142052, # Chg -3525, % Chg -0.02, 3 Stoked Brands: 152317, # Chg 20752, % Chg 0.14, 4 Strategic Name Development: 216394, # Chg 6451, % Chg 0.03, 5 Snark Hunting: 261335, # Chg -585, % Chg 0, 6 Qwerky: 280069, # Chg 40004, % Chg 0.14, 7 Good Characters: 772788, # Chg 78541, % Chg 0.1, 8 Away With Words: 936435, # Chg 203786, % Chg 0.22, 9 Catch-Word: 1261721, # Chg 206375, % Chg 0.16 (Schrödinger's Blog) 10 Beep.Name: 2055142, # Chg 318410, % Chg 0.15 11 Brandnama: 2170684, # Chg 1709205, % Chg 0.79 12 Popwink: 2783500, # Chg 659735, % Chg 0.24 13 Product Names: 3038994, # Chg -5158, % Chg 0 14 Rich With Meaning: 3595741, # Chg -3028, % Chg 0 (Schrödinger's Blog) 15 Motorbrand: 5584698, Incomplete Data (Schrödinger's Blog) 16 Name Ideas: 5918794, # Chg 908799, % Chg 0.15 17 Pastelot (French): 5980896, Incomplete Data 18 Ton Of Bricks/A Hundred Monkeys: No Data (Schrödinger's Blog)

Have a great week folks! Continue sending links to other naming blogs if you find 'em.

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
December 6, 2006 | Tate Linden
We're in the midst of a book project in our "spare" time here at Stokefire. One of the things we're looking to provide are real war stories or horror stories about naming projects from around the globe. We've already got the goods for the major stories - the ones that are easily found via Google or Technorati or in any one of a dozen books on corporate names and histories (or even from our own experience.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 4, 2006 | Tate Linden
I'm not sure what happened, but shortly after I posted all the numbers here the stats were updated by Alexa... making it two updates in a single week. (If we didn't have numbers for last week we used the inter-week numbers to compare against.) Here are the updated Numbers for 3 Month Average from Alexa.

1 WordLab: 68,336 (2,977 Better) 4% 2 Igor: 138,527 (8,447 Better) 6% 3 Stoked Brands 173,069 (38,472 Better) 22% 4 Strategic Name Development: 222,845 (11,848 Better) 5% 5 Snark Hunting: 260,750 (17,480 Better) 7% 6 Qwerky: 320,073 (91,919 Better) 29% 7 Good Characters: 851,329 (259,273 Better) 30% 8 Away With Words: 1,140,221 (166,146 Better) 15% 9 Catch-Word: 1,468,096 (276,940 Worse) -19% 10 Beep.Name: 2,373,552 (6,551 Worse) 0% 11 Product Names: 3,033,836 (5,200 Better) 0% 12 PopWink: 3,443,235 (1,072,169 Better) 31% 13 Rich With Meaning: 3,592,713 (No Data) 14 Brandnama: 3,879,889 (No Data) 15 Name Ideas: 6,827,582 (60,712 Better) 1% 16t Pastelot: N/A 16t Motorbrand: N/A

Big upward moves from PopWink (Over 1 million better!), Good Characters, Qwerky, and Stoked Brands. Only Catch-Word and Beep.Name were down - and the latter looks like more of a rounding error.

Still inactive: Catch-Word, Rich With Meaning, and Motorbrand.

Not many ranking shuffles - Away With Words moves back up after a false indication that she was dropping - swapping with the Inactive Catch-Word blog. Name Ideas drops to 15th due to Brandnama and Rich With Meaning having enough data to compute a 3 month average.

Happy Surfing.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 4, 2006 | Tate Linden

While there were minimal changes in the rankings this week, the big news comes from the addition of seven blogs to the list. Even better, it appears that most of them are active.

I haven't figured out if I want to keep the inactive sites on the list... since there may be good data on the sites, and perhaps by drawing attention to the sites I can encourage/shame/cajole the owners into picking up the banner again.

THREE MONTH ALEXA RANKING AVERAGES (12/04/2006):

1 Wordlab: 69,585 (1,728 Better) 2%
2 Igor: 151,413 (4,439 Worse) -3%
3 Stoked Brands: 185,599 (25,942 Better) 14%
4 Strategic Name Development: 223,091 (11,602 Better) 5%
5 Snark Hunting: 280,475 (2,245 Worse) -1%
6 Qwerky: 322,480 (89,512 Better) 28%
7 Good Characters: 967,530 (143,072 Better) 15%
8 Catch-Word: 1,191,156 (NEW) - INACTIVE
9 Away With Words: 1,425,534 (119,167 Worse) -8%
10 Beep.Name: 2,367,001 (NEW)
11 Product Names: 3,039,036 (NEW)
12 Popwink: 4,491,290 (24,114 Better) 1%
13 Name Ideas: 6,888,294 (NEW)
14 Rich With Meaning: N/A - INACTIVE
15 Brandnama: N/A (NEW)
16 Pastelot (French): N/A (NEW)
17 Motorbrand: N/A (NEW) - INACTIVE

Amongst the top six blogs there is a significant tightening up of ranks. Any one of the 2-thru-5 blogs could get bumped by the one below as soon as next week. Same goes for 7-thru-9. My money is on Nancy (of Away With Words fame) overtaking the dead Catch-Words site in the next couple weeks.

I can't be sure that I have every blog yet. I had a couple suggestions to add in MarketingProfs, but have decided to defer since they aren't actually a naming blog, and their Names and Taglines section is actually more of a bulletin board or forum. Other suggestions included more general branding blogs and marketing blogs. Sorry... we're trying to stay with blogs that are talking about naming at least weekly.

If you know of more sites I can add keep sending me the links - or just post a comment here.

Biggest Moves:

  • Positive Percentage: Qwerky
  • Postive Alexa Rank: Good Characters
  • Negative Percentage/Alexa Rank: Away With Words (It must've been those links she had to our site for Thanksgiving.)

I'll continue having this as my Monday posting for a few weeks at least. I'm learning a lot from all of your sites, and am enjoying getting to know your thoughts and styles. Once we get everyone on board I may pass the collection and ranking off to an associate, or if there is no interest from the blogosphere we'll just track it internally.

Good luck next week!

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

November 28, 2006 | Tate Linden
The good folks over at the American Name Society are ending their Name of the Year contest today. The winning name should best illustrate (through its creation or use over the last 18 months) important trends in North American culture. All types of names are eligible - including brands, places, surnames, first names, building names, pseudonyms, ficticious names, and just about anything else you can think of. A committee of ANS representatives will select three to five candidates from the nominees to be voted on by the members of the ANS next January at the annual meeting.

Nominations must be received today, November 28, 2006.

Emailed nominations to Dr. Cleveland K. Evans (President of the ANS and affiliated with the Psychology department of Bellevue University in Nevada) must include:
  • The nominated name
  • A one paragraph rationale
Good luck! (And may the best name win.)

... and if you submit a name I'd love to know what you sent and what the rationale was...

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

November 21, 2006 | Tate Linden
I've been on a bit of a tear lately about naming contests. I've been pointing out that it is great PR, but poor business practice to leave your name to a popular vote. You can check the past two days on this blog for more in that vein... needless to say, I'm not a fan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what of companies that exist for other purposes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where's the benefit?

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
November 17, 2006 | Tate Linden
...then why are they so often used to name stuff like:

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

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

Why is this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oxford professor Timothy Garton Ash longs for jihad. He puts forward what seems to amount to a simple re-branding of the war on terror, as if use of the term "war" itself begat the violent nature of the enterprise. Ash explains, "it wasn'ta good term to start with.
November 6, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.
August 21, 2006 | Tate Linden
Hey kids!

Ever wanted to know if you could come up with the next "Just Do It" or "Where's the Beef?" Now you can see if you've got what it takes. Threadless has created a nifty little pseudo-competition that allows you to test your mettle at either wordcraft or design (just click the tab on the page to get to the slogan portion.)

We've been a big fan of Threadless tees for about two years, and tend to give out the shirts to unsuspecting relatives who universally say "Umm... gee. Thanks?" (Most Threadless tees seem to be printed just to get people to ask what the shirt means.)

Our recent purchase of this shirt (our first slogan-only tee - for use on casual cycling days) has made us think that just maybe we could bend our naming and tagline skills to this purpose. The challenge is on.
April 18, 2006 | Tate Linden
We have a winner! Patrick Webb came up with the one that took the prize. The name?

"Marie" the commemorative Ficus.

Pat and Marie

The picture shows Pat with his newly won Orange Thing of Mystery (the hat) and Marie the Commemorative Ficus.

Why did the name Marie win? Because it has a great story behind it. Sure, my clients probably won't care, but it will bring a smile to my face, and when people ask why my plant has a name it will enable me to tell a story that will stick in their minds - and maybe even be retold in the days to follow.

I've already been asked why Marie doesn't have a last name. That's to protect the original Ficus waterer from learning she's got a tree named after her. I'm not sure that she knows that her Ficus was fake yet, and I don't want to be the one to spoil it for her. Let her be happy that during her entire tenure she was able to keep that one plant healthy even when the rest went to the great garden in the sky.

Here's to you Marie, wherever you are. Your thoughtfulness and good intentions will be remembered for a good long time.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant 703-778-9925