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

This book doesn't have that disconnect...

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

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

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

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

Bravo!

Many thanks to Wharton School Publishing for the comp. I've dog-eared so many pages that it's beginning to look like there's been trouble at the printer (since most of the upper-outside corners appear to be missing.)
September 24, 2007 | Tate Linden
No. We did not name a company "Sustainable Technical Development", though you have to admit that the acronym would be catchy... catching...

Bada-bing.

We did help our good friends living in the wilds of New Hampshire figure out how to name their business concept - a friendly, common-sense approach to technical stuff (like web programming) that just so happens to be run from an office powered by solar.

And though the sustainable development angle was philosophically important to them, it also was practical. Living in the very literal wilds of New Hampshire there are often power outages lasting days. Last year the power was out for a cumulative two weeks.

So, what do you name a company running off-grid with two friendly, approachable, calm, and capable leaders at the helm? Well, if you're us... you name it:

webmeadow.gif

(Know what else they do at webmeadow? They raise ducks! How's that for a perk?)

Welcome to the world webmeadow! Looking forward to reading your blog and hearing your success stories as they happen.

Want proof that the brand has the power to attract green-sensitive businesses? Look no further than Stokefire. We were so impressed with what they're doing that we're having the webmeadow team develop our new Web presence - due out late next month.

We're sure there's some witty thing we can put here that would losely tie in with those old Remington advertisements, but it's the end of the day and it's time to go home and play with TJ to recharge the batteries for tomorrow. Perhaps a bit more wit will be available in the AM.

Kudos A&E!
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?
August 22, 2007 | Tate Linden
...and another Stokefire name hits the market.

How do you develop a name for a green media firm without using the words "green," "eco," or any of the other current buzz-words used in the space? By focusing on how you're different and what you're trying to achieve rather than slapping a "me too" name on that blends in with the crowd.

emPivot opened for business this week and is already gaining attention as the place to go to find and share new perspectives on green issues.

Why emPivot? Because the founders (Chace Warmington and Thom Wallace) felt strongly that their purpose was not to spread the gospel of green to the choir, but instead to offer a place where real people can discuss every aspect of green - whether they're passionate supporters, detractors, or on the fence. This is about empowering a change in perspectve - a change in opinions - or a change in lifestyle. The concept of being green doesn't move all that much, but our understanding and perspective can change rapidly.

While "green" was off-limits for the name, it was still in play for the tagline - something we proposed using to contextualize a name that didn't immidiately shout its purpose. (You'll note that Google, Yahoo, Kodak, Exxon, Sears... and just about every other great brand in the world... doesn't disclose their market in their name. They use advertising, taglines, and other tools to get the context across. We think we're in good company here.)

Stokefire developed both the name and the tagline for the new company (a brand owned by Ecofusion.) The result:
emPivot: View Green From Every Angle
We also developed alternate taglines for future use - and we'll trumpet those as emPivot grows their brand over the coming years.

We'll post a full case study and press release later this month - and will have even more information available once our redesigned corporate website sees the light of day in September.

Great job thus far Thom and Chace... looking forward to more great things from your team!
July 24, 2007 | Tate Linden
We talk to many marketing, branding, and graphic design firms in our area and frequently ask about where they got their name. Typically the answer is something like "It sounded cool" or perhaps "we kept searching until we found one where the website was available and made a bit of sense."

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

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

I was wrong.

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

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

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

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

Kudos, Bruce. Thanks for taking the extra thirty seconds to tell me your story. Hope others enjoy it as much as I do.
July 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
Quite a few of our clients often call into question one of the most basic assumptions we tell them to make. The assumption? If a name can be shortened in any way - via acronyms, dropping syllables, or just using the first portion of the name - your customers will find and use it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seems to be working well for Google, doesn't it?
June 27, 2007 | Tate Linden
But we have a fun idea for taking over the world. And we're looking for an intern who can both draw and build websites who wants to build what could be one of the coolest non-traditional marketing campaigns aimed at marketers... ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forget the All-Everything name. Just try to get one that is good at something while avoiding any major pitfalls. You'll be so far ahead of most other companies that you'll forget you ever wanted anything more.
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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May 21, 2007 | Tate Linden
I've had a few emails this month from readers who were interested in hearing what was on my bookshelf. It's probably been about a year since I wrote anything about our reference materials, so I figure it's about time to update.

But first, I must say that I'm not going to tell you what's on my bookshelf. There are about 200 books there - most of them only read once or twice and now only very occasionally thumbed through. The stuff I use more regularly has a place on my desk. Forty-two books have that place of honor in my office - running along the back edge of my desk within easy reach. Thirteen of these books have a major "How-To" aspect to them - shedding light on how to develop, categorize, or evaluate names.

Here’s a list of the current "How-To" type books on my desk that are dedicated almost entirely to naming. The snippets of information aren't really reviews. They're just a bit of context to help you understand how the book is used:
  1. Blake, George. Crafting the Perfect Name: The Art and Science of Naming a Company or Product. USA: Probus, 1991
    1. An excellent, if dated, reference for people looking to name their own company. As with most of the books here, it does a great job educating you on the basics of naming, and even provides lists of source material in the appendix so you can start naming immediately. Unfortunately the lists are far short of what would be needed to perform a comprehensive naming project for a mid-size (or larger) firm. The age really shows when it addresses the legal aspects of naming - including the hoops one must go through to check if a name is registered. I refer mostly to Chapter Six when I crack the cover - the chapter on Names to Avoid.
  2. Barrett, Fred. Names that Sell: How to Create Great Names for Your Company, Product, or Service. Portland: Alder Press, 1995 (Amazon Rank = #993,472 in Books)
    1. A book aimed at people who have a basline of experience in naming. Barrett runs through all sorts of criteria for how to name companies, but in his effort to cover everything (he does come close) he drops any sense of order. He provides Twenty-Five different techniques for developing names - and these appear in a jumble of methods we've been unable to untangle. There's gold here - it's just a little hard to find. Barrett also provides another list of source words at the back of the book - and again the list is a bit lacking. A bit of a peek inside a namer's head - all sorts of information but not in a structure that aids in learning. We've opened it a few times in the past year - mainly to remind ourselves how another namer might approach a particular problem.
  3. Cader, Michael. The Name Book: A Unique Reference Listing of Everything Imaginable That Has a Name (Except Babies!) New York: Random House, 1998 (Amazon Rank = #505,676)
    1. A book of lists that goes quite well with the how-to books. It offers very little how-to and a whole lot of reference. What's great here is that the lists are intuitively sorted into groups. Interested in a powerful name? Perhaps you want to examine lists of Spanish monarchs, or Roman emperors, or military ranks... An amazing number of ideas to get the mind moving. Feels a touch dated, but when referencing historical stuff this might be a benefit.
  4. Charmasson, Henri. The Name Is the Game: How to Name a Company or Product. Homewood: Dow Jones-Irwin, 1988
    1. Charmason may be smart, but he suffers from the same affliction that Barrett does. There are some interesting methods listed here, but the book is dense and cluttered. Again suffers from age as major passages of the Trademark section are no longer applicable. Charmasson has some interesting takes on naming, though after the first couple reads I must admit I haven't gone back to this one. It's just not that useful and has been overcome by better and more readable books. (We're putting it back on the shelf today.)
  5. Frankel, Alex. Wordcraft: The Art of Turning Little Words into Big Business. New York: Random House, 2004
    1. Prior to meeting other namers at Alexandra Watkins' party I had little idea how the other namers worked. This book brought new insight into both the process of naming within major branding firms and the presentation of fully developed names. It is rarely cracked other than to illustrate a point to a client who wants to know how others do something. Incidentally, this is likely the best book ever written about the naming industry (in my quite humble opinion.)
  6. Javed, Naseem. Naming for Power: Creating Successful Names for the Business World. Toronto and New York: Linkwood, 1993
    1. You may be sensing a pattern here. The How-To books just seem jumbled. Javed is a famed speaker and columnist and this book appears to be a compilation of his speeches and writings. Again no real order here, and no overarching messages or lessons. Add in the fact that I can't personally follow what he is saying much of the time - and that time has proven quite a few of his examples false - and this has little value. Why is it on my desk? Because I can use it to show how our views, practices, and opinions differ from the mainstream. Some of the names he really likes fall into traps we try to avoid - and having an expert advocate for names a client likes (and then have that expert proven wrong) adds power to our words.
  7. McGrath, Kate, Trademark: How to Name your Business & Product. 1994
    1. We use this only as a primer for the basics of trademark law. It is not up to date at all, but the terminology it uses and the classes of names referenced haven't changed much. If you want to understand what sorts of names can be trademarked and why then this baby is a good bet.
  8. Morris, Evan. From Altoids to Zima: The Surprising Stories Behind 125 Famous Brand Names. New York: Fireside (Simon & Schuster,) 2004
    1. Not a how-to, really, but a "how they did it." Fun to read and a good reference to trot out when a name covered within the pages is in the same industry as one of our clients. It usually helps expand the thinking at the brainstorming meetings. (We have a long list of books that cover the etymology of corporate names - we'll get to that another day.)
  9. Nussel, Frank. The Study of Names. A Guide to the Principles and Topics. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1992
    1. Really only on our desk as a reference, this book helps us remember the science of naming - especially some of the more obscure terms and their full definitions. Can't remember what Morphosyntactics are? This is the book for you. I personally open the cover about once a month to a random page. It's helpful in getting my mind onto a different path when naming. The whole book explains terminology in naming and lists examples of just about every type of name known to man. AND it is highly organized! Oh - and the reference materials cited contain some of the hardest to find and most useful older research documents on Onomastics.
  10. Rivkin, Steve. The Making of a Name: The Inside Story of the Brands We Buy. New York: Oxford, 2004
    1. Perhaps our second-most-favorite book on naming. Somewhere between a how-to and an industry overview. Fun to read. Can't say I read it that much, except for the appendix containing the reference materials. We actually found many of our materials here. If you want to create a library of easily accessible naming books this isn't a bad place to look for titles.
  11. Room, Adrian. Trade Name Origins. Chicago: NTC, 1982 (Amazon Rank = #1,006,067)
    1. Similar to the Morris book, this one does the same thing, but for more companies in less detail - and twenty (plus) years earlier. Great for finding patterns in naming that you want to latch on to or avoid.
  12. Wegryn, Jim. Funny Thing About Names. An Entertaining Look at Naming in America. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2005
    1. This is a new addition. It's on my desk mainly because it's new - and because Wegryn appears to be just as much of a statistics geek as I am. Nice list of more recent research papers at the back, and a strong index that helps me to find relevant examples to share with clients and partners. A little more humor here than I'd like to see - but the title does warn us. I'd be more interested in reading the pure research behind this - because it looks like he did a lot of it (including an interesting bit on the history of street names that have impacted the English language.)
  13. Williams, Phillip. Naming Your Business and Its Products and Services: How to Create Effective Trade Names, Trademarks, and Service Marks to Attract Customers, Protect Your Goodwill and Reputation, and Stay out of Court! (City Unknown): P. Gaines, 1991
    1. Horribly out of date book that attempts to cover everything under the sun about names and trademarks in 90 large-print pages with lots of clip art. Covers some interesting territory with its random list of things you can name your product after (symbols, mythology, history, bible, geography, literature, and puns... yep, that's it!) This is my "there is no one book that can show you how to name" book. From what I have seen so far there isn't even a good list of name classifications in print yet. There is an interesting appendix at the back that shows all the pages of an old trademark application, but it bears little relevance to naming today.
May 7, 2007 | Tate Linden
Hello loyal (and disloyal?) blog readers. Just wanted to put a quick post out there that we've brought on an office administrator to handle all those little things like, well... paying bills, filing, answering phones, and basically keeping the Stokefire team in line. Okay... mostly just keeping me in line. My team tends to do quite well on its own.

Stephanie has run two of her own startup firms, and has a couple decades of experience helping to run and grow offices for other small firms. For some reason she didn't run screaming from the office when she saw my filing system (AKA "6 inches of stuff on my desk.") For that I'm thankful. It's only an hour into her first day and she's already started working and sent me back to my own desk to make us all some dough. I may have to find ways to make the job more challenging - if only to keep her interested in staying on board. Suggestions are welcome.

(Yep, we're pretty darn excited about getting someone of Stephanie's caliber to come aboard.)

We'll have an email account set up for her this week (if only we had an administrator to take care of that in advance!) but until that time you can reach her via or main phone or through the blog.

Those of you in the Springfield area can swing by any time to say hello and visit our newly augmented team - and the newly doubled office space. (We'll be at Mike's American Grill today for lunch if anyone wants to say howdy.)

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
May 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
...but sometimes it can help.

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

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

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

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

(ii) the Gujarati word vimo, meaning insurance;

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

and, most importantly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
April 27, 2007 | Tate Linden
Over at Ubernamer there was an interesting post on the 21st of the month about using the name Qwertypie for a blog. While we haven't developed a process for naming blogs, we noticed there was a little bit of a parsing problem with the name - visually the term wasn't easy to break into constituent parts. (I personally read the name as pronounced "Qwer - Type - Ee" the first time through.)

We suggested some sort of visual indicator was needed to tell the reader where the lexical partscutiepie.jpg went - like changing the font type or color to show where Qwerty ends and "pie" begins.

We did not, however, think of what the Ubernamer did - and when we saw it we not only knew he got it right, but we felt pretty darn dumb for not thinking of it ourselves.

The fix? "QWERTYpie"

Not only does the use of caps for the first wordlet present the letters in the fashion they're typically presented on the keyboard, the change from CAPS to lowercase strongly forces the visual parse into the right place. It also gives the name the intuitive verbal emphasis that matches how we say "cutie-pie" which I believe is the connection they were aiming for. "qwertyPIE" would bring about an emphasis on food (think "apple pie" - where unless you're answering the question "what kind of pie is it?" you'll place the verbal focus on "pie" - or pronounce them with equal weight - rather than emphasizing "apple.")

I can't speak to the other important facets of the name here as I don't know the subject of the blog, the personality of the author or dozens of other factors that determine appropriate strategic fit. I can say that for a whimsical presentation of a word without resorting to graphic designer the solution he came up with is pretty darn good.

As for why I didn't just outright suggest the eventual solution instead of just leading him to the solution? All of us have our off days... I suppose.

Good job, Ubernamer. Nice workin' with ya.

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
April 25, 2007 | Tate Linden
Okay, there's more than one thing, but this one is on my mind today. A fellow namer came up with a great name and I was about to go give 'em major kudos - and maybe even mention their name here... and then I saw how the client had executed on the name.

Sadly, we as namers often don't get the opportunity to do more than we're hired to do - which is to name a singular thing. Companies identify a need to create a new product name, or perhaps rename the entire company, and set about finding a provider for that service. Once the provider is found they allow the provider to work within the confines of the project, but don't allow the provider to affect the rest of the environment at the company.

My friend renamed the company, creating a rich and meaningful word that leads the mind to all sorts of visual cues and imagery. The client apparently loved the name and adopted it. And then the project apparently ended...

Here's the problem. The company changed their name - but their product naming is still more in line with who they were before the change. So we have this wonderfully flexible and approachable name on the masthead, and then we see these flat unpronouncable three letter acronyms for the products they sell.

Let's let namers name, eh? If you stop at the name on the masthead or door your clients are going to be confused when they get to you. There's a reason why Apple sells the Macintosh and not the APL-05G. If you give yourself that cool name you've got to embrace it and what it means.

Here's to hoping those three letter acronyms at the afore(un)mentioned company are gone post haste.

I'm rooting for you!

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
April 24, 2007 | Tate Linden
This week's New York Times, Boston Globe (and any other papers that carry Rob Walker's "Consumed") had an article featuring Scott Campbell - a NYC tattoo artist(e?) that's been making waves in the corporate world. He's done work for Nike, Camel, Volkswagen, ZZ Top, and more. Personally I'm dying to talk to him. Not just about his artwork (which is quite cool) but about what he thinks about the concept of corporate tattoos in general.

sf_logo.jpg

I've still be mulling over the whole idea of what makes a brand tattoo-worthy, and considering (much to my wife's and my religion's disapproval) putting a little corporate logo of my own somewhere the sun doesn't typically shine.

What intrigues me most about Scott's work is his emphasis on authenticity. For a guy working on very corporate projects it seems like authenticity is a difficult thing to maintain. This isn't inking skin, it's painting pictures. It is a very thin line he must walk - and I must admit he seems to be doing a good job of it.

Scott - if you're listening out there - I'm curious to know if anyone has taken the corporate work you've done for posters or signage and had you ink their bodies with it. Are there people with your cool Camel logo walkin' around?

Other questions to consider:
  1. Is there a difference between the artwork done on behalf of a person and for a company? Is your process different when developing the design?
  2. How real is the danger of losing the authenticity-factor when getting paid by Nike? How do you stay 'real'?
  3. Among tattoo artists is there a level of respect given to a person getting a tattoo of their own design that isn't there if they choose a corporate logo or common rose/thorn type design?
I didn't say the questions made a lot of sense... they're just things I'm curious about.

If you're interested in this sort of stuff you might want to read this post about people branding themselves with the logos of the corporations they respect. I've heard Apple, Harley Davidson, and Nike are some of the most common tattoos out there - and there are whole websites dedicated to variations on each. The fact that most companies don't have this sort of loyalty fascinates me. Why aren't there people showing off their HP tattoos, or Safeway... or McDonalds?

I hope to have an answer to these questions later this year... but if you think you know the answer now I'd love to hear it.

Oh - and that Stokefire logo on this post - that's our new one! Here's to hoping that you can see the tattoo influence on the style...

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
March 9, 2007 | Tate Linden
Frequent readers will know that I've got problems with the way most organizations utilize taglines. The typical company uses their tagline as a way to fit in rather than a way to stand out. Consider the following examples:
  1. Making your dreams a reality (or) Turning your dreams into reality. With over a million hits for the combinations on Google it's clear that the slogans aren't doing a thing for the firms that use them. And also note that there's nothing at all here to tell us what industry the firm is in.
  2. Customers are Number One! Yep. And if they weren't you wouldn't be in business.
  3. Creativity. Strategy. Execution. Really this is a reference to the trend to have three single words as the tagline. No one ever pays attention to it. And it sounds reeeeeally pompous.
I was asked what I thought led to strong taglines last week and after a few minutes of thought I came up with this:

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

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

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

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

Answer: They Don't.

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

Contrast this tagline churn with what Saturn has done:

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 17, 2007 | Tate Linden
...so we throw the mention right back...

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

December 19, 2006 | Tate Linden
I've read many, many books about naming companies/products/people/places (etc) in my life. A rough count of books read gives me:
  • "How-to" type books on naming: ~14
  • Reference-type books on naming: ~30
  • Scholarly articles or papers on naming: ~60+
Today I found what is perhaps the best-written and most informative book of them all. While it isn't exactly focused on company naming, it provides exceptional coverage of the issues in play across all types of naming. Anthroponyms, Toponyms, Acronyms, Brand Names, and Other Names are covered. Lists of Onomastics-related organizations, journals, and bibliographies are provided (current as of 1992.)

If you are interested in the study of names or in becoming a Thingnamer you'll want to know everything in this book.studyofnames.jpg

Let me be clear - this isn't a how-to book. Rather than tell us how to name, Frank Nuessel educates us about the kinds of things that can be named, and how they have been named or classified. Seventy different sub-sections are covered in significant detail.

His quick aside about the syntax of acronyms alone is worth the price of the book. (Question: Do you use "the" before an acronym or not? Answer... It depends - but there are guidelines. Yes: Countries, Agencies, Parties, and Armies. No: Colleges, Businesses, Political Groups, and Radio Stations.) To me, exploring the reasons behind each would be fascinating, as would classifying the rest of the potential uses. (Like the unusual case where an individual might use "the" in front of their own - or someone else's - initials to connote a sense of importance, disconnection or humor - e.g. "The TJ is Hungry. Feed the TJ")

The Book? The Study of Names.

This is not an easy read. It contains high-level terms and references to everyone from Franz Kafka to Hopalong Cassidy. If you are serious about the field (or are a current practitioner) then buy the book. If you aren't - go buy something easier and come back when you're ready for the next step.

Note: The seven reference pages could keep an avid onomastician busy for years.

Happy reading!

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the find while it lasts!

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
November 27, 2006
The Jedi Religion and How to Start A Religion. Last week, two self-proclaimed Jedi Knights appealed to the United Nations to recognize their faith as an official religion and accordingly rename the International Day for Tolerance to Interstellar Day of Tolerance.

Time to Rename the Cell Phone? They're not just for making calls, and they don't have a lot to do with cells. Maybe it's time to name the ubiquitous gadget something else.

USATODAY.com - Cingular will be sold under name of AT&T. SBC, which closed its merger with AT&T on Friday, plans to sell Cingular Wireless under the fabled AT&T name.

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

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

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

Christmas Crackers. The Beeb's strapline "The One to Watch this Christmas" has never been more true than this year, with a cracking line-up of goodies on all Auntie's channels: terrestrial and digital.
November 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 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 14, 2006
Japanese Knotweed Solutions is the UK's leading invasive weed treatment company. The new HQ has been re-named Itadori House - "itadori" is Japanese for "strong weed".

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

November 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 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 27, 2006

Hell.com domain up for sale. It is estimated that the name will sell for over $8 million. It is assumed that people will just about pay anything to tell their customers to "Just go to hell.com."

Magners cider advertising campaign with its 'Time Dedicated to You' tagline hopes to continue the trend across the UK of drinking cider over ice. The hope it is believed is to abolish the image of cider as the lowest common denominator in the world of booze.

Hot Dogma, Pittsburg, PA, legally forced to relinquish its name due to copyright infringement with Miami, FL, Dogma Grill. They will not be shutting their doors forever but instead will rename to Franktuary.

Lightborne Design & Animates creates new campaign for Hasbro, with ad agency Wondergroup to make robotic "pets," I-CAT, I-DOG, and I-FISH come to life. The commercials will show the toys' unique abilities to move and groove to music. The spots conclude with nifty taglines such as: "Cat scratchin' the beat," "Beggin' for the beat," and "Swimmin' in waves of music.".

"It may be Carlsberg that uses the advertising strap line 'It's so good that the Danes hate to see it leave,' but it seems Heineken is pretty keen to know where its beer is going too." IBM tests "Beer Living Lab" will NOT be a study of college age drinkers, but will trial a wireless tracking system of cargo shipments of Heineken beer from Europe to the United States using satellite and cellular technology.

Sam's Club, hopes that it's new 'affordable luxuries' sales effort brings in new business. The Wal-Mart warehouse unit now will add to their product assortment, extravagant diamond jewelry and a 2.6 million dollar jet. Refreshing their logo and eliminating the tagline "We're in business for small business," analysts question if the move is headed in the right direction.

October 26, 2006 | Tate Linden
Finally, someone out there is starting to talk sensibly.

I'm guessing that no one East of the Mississippi has a clue what GVRD stands for. And that is a problem - especially when the folks in the GVRD want our tourism dollars.

If you are a frequent reader of this site you know that we strongly advise against using acronyms for your full name since they dilute your identity. Very few people can pull this off in their own identities - JFK, LBJ, and MLK seem to have posthumously claimed ownership. And a select few cities have done it too - NYC, LA, DC. These people and cities effectively own the initials and there is no confusion as to who or what is being referred to when they are used.

When other cities and people (and companies) try to use initials, however, things can go badly.

At a meeting of Governance Greater Vancouver Regional District someone evidently raised the point that the name is a little awkward. The mere fact that twice as many people are using the acronym on the web (as compared to the full name) should've indicated that the name is ungainly.

Yep. We agree that it is awkward. And we and our tourist dollars would have no clue where we should bring our money if we saw an advert showing our dream vacation was in GVRD.

The proposed solution
October 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 16, 2006 | Tate Linden
adidas may have found the Kryptonite to weaken the Nike hold on basketball-shoe dominance. At least in theory. You see, they've put two different ideas together - a cool brand idea and a trendy alternate spelling of a number.

We like one of 'em... but the other smacks of highscool cool-kid tactics.

The adidas brand is being recentered on the idea of a team - a "we, not me" approach. This is a direct attack on the current market leader - Nike. Nike spent millions of dollars pushing the idea that being an all-star is the ultimate goal, and that to be an all-star you gotta be able to humiliate your opponent - freezing them, dunking over them, putting the ball between their legs... The goal was to out hustle your opponent one-on-one.

People weren't wearing Nikes because they wanted to be team players, they were wearing them because they wanted to "Be Like Mike." Sure, Jordan was one of the best team players ever, but there's a reason why the posters plastered on the walls of aspiring ballers never seemed to contain thrilling pics of him passing off the ball. Think Jordan and Nike and you get high-flying, toung stickin' out, in your face skill(z).

That adidas would go in the other direction and point out that one person can't make a team (as evidenced by Jordan during his time with the Wizards) points to how seriously they're taking this. Not many people go against what Nike does. They've had a magic touch of lately.

What I personally like about this is that they're actually going after a larger market than Nike is. Sure everyone thinks that they're all-stars, but
October 13, 2006 | Tate Linden

There's a new slogan in town. No longer do we have An Army of One to kick around. The Army has changed tactics.

The new slogan: "Army Strong."

We think McCann Worldgroup has done a great job with this. It's inspiring, it's self-referential, and we can even hear the drill sarge yelling "HOW STRONG?!?!" to new recruits until they scream "ARMY STRONG!" in response.

We, however, are apparently not in the majority here. Just check out a few of these links.

Want to know why we think that this is worth every penny of the investment the Army has made in the slogan? Click here - and just try not to have every hair on your body stand on end when you watch the video.

Better than any of the rest of the slogans we've seen for the organization:

“Today’s Army wants to join you”: 1971-73.

“Join the people who’ve joined the Army”: 1973-1979.

“This is the Army”: 1979-1981.

“Be all you can be”: 1981-2001.

“An Army of one”: 2001-2006.

If this had been around when we were 18 to 22 our lives might've been very different...

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

October 13, 2006 | Tate Linden
Our blog has become pretty popular amongst the Real Estate crowd. We get a half-dozen hits a day through Google and Yahoo search engines from people looking for help with Real Estate, Realty, and Realtor taglines or names. We also get a few links from realty professionals that seem to like our stuff. (Thanks folks!) Sure, it isn't a deluge, but the flow never seems to stop.

Interestingly, of the hundreds of realty visitors we've gotten on the blog we've never had a single inquiry about how we can help - other than one of the following questions.
"Can you point me to any FREE name and tagline resources on the internet?"

"Can you show me where the free real estate slogans... Or free real estate taglines are?"

"Do you provide free Realtor taglines or free Realtor slogans?"
Not much variation, is there? We get these questions a lot. And we never hesitate to provide links to those resources. (In fact, you can click right here and here and here and here and here and even here if you just want to get that free help right now. Just be aware that some of the help provided may have trademark or other legal issues for you to wrangle with.)

Okay... now that everyone except for you has left our site I'll get down to my real issue.

Here's my question for the realty folks:

How is it that people working in an industry where they are constantly fighting against low-cost or free resources (such as the "Save 6%" and "FSBO" options) such a huge number of professionals try to boost their own business by using the exact same class of service (free) they warn their own clients against using? Is it that they don't see the value?

Not only this - but these same professionals ask for help - and they leave a trail of crumbs that prove they're using free services.

Let's take a quick look at the type of advice being given on the free sites. Here's a real-life sampling of suggsted taglines from the free services:
Let our experience work for you Take a Q from the crowd and call Que Scott first Experienced in Living and Loving Bucks County making sure your real estate needs are met Trust us to find your dream Home
See anything here that sets these agents apart from their competition or gives their prospective clients a reason to do business with them? I'm not sayin' that these slogans can't work... I just don't see that any of them are adding any value. Just check how many hits you get for the key phrases like "Let our experience" "your real estate needs" and "find your dream home." When you see tens of thousands - or even millions - of hits you know there's a problem. No one will remember your slogan, and no one will think about what it means since they hear it just about every day from every other business.

One of our recent projects involved coming up with a slogan for a local real estate company. The owner of the company worked with us over a period of two months to develop (among other things) an effective slogan that has never been used in real estate previously. The slogan speaks directly to the target market, suggests a whole suite of unique services, and allowed the firm to develop a concrete personality that compells target prospects to do business with them. It also filters out clients that won't appreciate what the company offers. Last - the slogan takes advantage of key aspects of the company owner's personality... so very little work was needed to implement the slogan across the brand.

For those of you that think the "filtering out" aspect is losing you business, think again. If you could get rid of all the tire-kickers in your business wouldn't that allow you to spend more time either with your existing valued clients or working on finding prospects that are more likely to sign with you? This is more than just focusing on a neighborhood - it involves finding a lifestyle or life-stage that is in need of your services. And one would hope that no one else is actively serving that lifestyle right now - and there aren't many lifestyles that fit that description - especially when it comes to realty.

If any realtors are still reading this and think that good slogans can still be found for free we encourage you to go for it. In fact, if you can find a good source of free slogans we'll add it to this post so others can benefit - and we'll provide examples of the slogans suggested.

But of course we're always willing to take on new realty projects if you feel you can't get what you need for free.

...Oh... and what's the slogan we developed for our client?

Why not ask them yourself? (We reserve the right to remove the link if too many folks write to 'em.)

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



October 12, 2006


We scour the web for branding stories so you don't have to. And because it's our job.

Truck ads exhort men to be aroused. By trucks. Beer-company women are nowhere to be found.

Chinese company tries new formula for success: Take existing powerful American brand, translate to local language, put the word "new" in front of it, wait for money to roll in. If this works the strategy will multiply like... bunnies.

Amadeus gives us a program guaranteeing best available rate for hotel rooms. The name? "Best Available Rate." See, the right field can provide names sometimes...

'Texas Forest Country' name being touted to attract retirees. Little Red Riding Hood expected not to visit as often.

We stand corrected. Patrick Ramsay's tagline "Wines you can swear by" is an effective use of profanity. But we're not sure that "Arse" is really swearing on this side of the pond.

Microsoft cares about your family. "Saftey is no game" campaign gets real. We anticipate even more eight-year-olds will keep the virtual world safe by upping their quotas of gangsta and pimp killings. If only GTA citizens would say thank you.

We bow our heads and thank the 911th United States Army Technical Rescue Engineer Company. Sure it's a mouthful, and will inevitably be shortened to 911 USATREC... but when you risk your lives for your country you can name yourself whatever you want.

PalmSource - the spinoff that made the Palm Operating System was acquired by ACCESS. Since resistance is useless PalmSource prepares to be assimilated. PalmSource shall henceforth be named... ACCESS. Of Borg.
October 11, 2006


ABC World News drops "Tonight" from name. Nation tries to tune in yesterday, tomorrow, and this morning but fails to find Charles Gibson anywhere.

Halloween Action Committee makes effort to rename Halloween to "Freakfest". We say that the name Halloween Action Committee is no Prince Charming itself.

Eric’s Family restaurants change their name to Love & Hunger. We thought Hooters had a lock on that. Oh... nevermind. That's lust.

A new brand of baby food starts with all the different foods mashed up together already - saving your kids all sorts of time. We're hoping that "peas with mint and fruity rice pudding" are two distinct offerings, but even so... peas with mint? Naming content: What's a Piwi?

Snatch Master as name for a data mining tool? Why are you laughing? No, really. Why?

MacAddict wants to re-brand as Mac|Life. Because when was the last time you used the | key anyway?

Can Kohl's target Target? Uninspired minds want to know. And as far as cage matches go, we think "a battle with J.C. Penney for middle-income clothing buyers" is something we'll not be watching on Pay-Per-View.
October 10, 2006

Leo Laport, "Podcaster Of The Year", presumably wishes his new title was "Netcaster Of The Year".

Hotel Istana rebooks rebrands itself to fly business class.

Banks spend less on advertising this year as BB&T doubles it's media spending– a buck to the market trend, but what's with BB&T's new 20 million dollar branding effort: "There's Opportunity Here?" Is it worth the money?

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who's the most excited of them all? Mirror Mirror Imagination Group that's who (key the theme music!) The world's only beauty and lifestyle futurist agency implements new Brand Excitement division (in addition to their Crystal Ball Trend Surveillance & Navigation Tours). We like the concept, but wonder about the implementation...

Can astrology be used to name a store? We call Bullfish on it. What do you think?

Staying with the profane theme: EFMARK-Bantek dropped the F-bomb and went for "The Value of One" a.k.a. Pendum, Inc. Sounds almost Pen-smart...

October 10, 2006 | Tate Linden
We've amassed quite a library of books on names and naming over the years, and thought it might be interesting to analyze the names the expert namers have given their own books. We were thinking that the best in the business would show their expertise by using the name of their book as proof of competence.

Overall we've been pretty disappointed.

Here's a quick sampling of books on our shelf that are dedicated almost entirely to naming:
September 20, 2006 | Tate Linden

This is an older news item, but it provides a nice touch of back-story...

Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? had this to say in a story from PROFIT Magazine

"Just before I rebranded my company from The Rubbish Boys to 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I called Al Ries, the author of The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR and The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. I wanted to ensure that my new company name obeyed his 22 laws. Al told me it did, and 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was off to the races."

We like the new name. A lot. (At least a lot better than the old one that used an arcane term for trash that would leave most people running for a thesaurus when they tried to find 'em. "Was it TrashGuys? Or GarbageMen?")

A few reasons we like the selected name:

September 19, 2006 | Tate Linden
Yesterday Adobe announced the pending release of Acrobat Connect - a rebranded version of Acrobat's Breeze service.

We see this as a pretty good move. Given the ease with which most of the competition in this $1 billion market is able to set up conferences, calling attention only to the ease of use (as the name Breeze seemed to indicate) is a bit weak. It doesn't tell you what is a breeze, and it doesn't really hint at any meaningful benefit of the service. (People don't conference because it is easy - they conference because they need to communicate...)

"Connect" (as a concept) doesn't exactly stand out in the field of web conferencing tools, especially since the word is used by almost every competitor in their description of services (e.g., "We connect you seamlessly to your peers...") But
September 15, 2006 | Tate Linden

Inpatient Medical Services announced a slew of changes this week - including a new name and new leadership. While we can't comment on the new leader, the name is worthy of comment.

"Our new name is more reflective of our services and the timing of this re-branding initiative coincides perfectly with the addition of Ted as our new CEO," noted company founder, Dr. Philip Sanger.

The new name? Intercede Health.

While the word "intercede" doesn't scream "immediate branding success" to us,

September 12, 2006 | Tate Linden

We at Stokefire HQ often wonder about the many associations in our area. All of them are doing their best to represent their constituencies - but so few of them are doing one easy thing that could help them spread the word. Instead of telling people who they represent they hide their allegiance in a jumble of letters.

If the MLA knocks on your door would you know who they're representing? We wouldn't either. And the same goes for ICRA, FAB, and until today, the ECCA.

Why?

August 28, 2006 | Tate Linden
This post is for the many Realtors that read our blog, and for anyone else that might be interested in finding an incredible Realtor to help you purchase your next beach home.

Some of our regular readers may remember that we somewhat recently purchased our Stokefire Southern Branch in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We wanted to acknowledge that we received an exceptional level of service from... yes... our Realtor.
August 15, 2006 | Tate Linden

Not that we're complaining, mind you. We love all the responses. We had no idea that there were so many people yearning for creative freedom. Some very respectable types - senior government officials, directors of software firms, futurists, Ivy Leagers...

We feel like the gatekeeper at Mr. Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

August 4, 2006 | Tate Linden
Ever wonder who really sets up your brand for success or failure? Most folks think it is the CEO, or perhaps the spokesperson for your brand.

My opinion? Neither.
August 4, 2006 | Tate Linden

I wasn't aware of it previously, but I just learned that the company that owns POM also owns Fiji Water. Upon taking over Fiji they developed a new tagline:

"Untouched by human hands. Until you drink it."

To me this is a brave and bold move. I don't think the tagline would make it by a focus group

July 7, 2006 | Tate Linden
This just in:

We now have access to a five-bedroom sea-side vacation home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Not bad, eh?

Stokefire will primarily be using the home as a corporate retreat, entertainment facility, and even as a location where we can help our clients get away from their busy lives a bit to focus on their naming, tagline, and branding issues. The fact that it is four lots away from one of the best beaches (and golf courses) in the East is an added bonus. (Few things clear one's mind better than a dip in the Atlantic.)

Who ever said that naming your company had to be done under florescent lighting? Or while wearing a tie?

It sure as heck wasn't us.
July 5, 2006 | Tate Linden
What if you could write a tagline that would only appeal to those that were actually qualified to use your service?

Perhaps you'd say that the tagline should be accessible to everyone and shouldn't make anyone say "so what?"

Based on what I've seen from JDate.com I'd suggest that you'd be wrong.

JDate has developed a tagline that really only makes sense to potential users of their product. Their tagline is
June 28, 2006 | Tate Linden
Once again William Lozito has dug up some interesting stuff over on his blog (though he admirably credits Jean Halliday of Advertising age for the original material.)

Based on the research displayed on William's site it appears that car manufacturers are bowling through taglines and marketing strategies at a rapid pace. Every few years there's a major change in direction - such as Buick's alarmingly fast transition from "It's All Good" (2001), to "The Spirit of American Style" (2002), to "Dream Up" (2004), to "Beyond Precision" (2005.)

William suggests that this is proof that "even the biggest and the best have difficulty sticking to a marketing strategy and related slogan or tagline." We agree with him.

But we also note that
June 27, 2006 | Tate Linden
Okay, so they don't say that exactly, but it sure feels like it.

Philadelphia's new slogan - "Forever Independent" does a great job of reminding people of the major historical events that occured there, and I'm actually pretty fond of the sentiment and the potential that the slogan holds.

While the potential is there for some great programs, Philly has chosen only one option - pointing out the centuries old events. Kind of makes me wonder how they could justify the use of "forever" when they pretty much stopped with the independence-type activity shortly after our nation was born. Since then one could argue that Philly has been a center of conforming influence for the good ol' US of A.

So, why I am I still fond of the slogan?
June 26, 2006 | Tate Linden
Regular readers know that Stokefire rails against most real estate agents who hold up their pets in photos as if to say "Oh, and I like cute things too!"

A quick summary of why we don't like this technique in most cases -
June 20, 2006 | Tate Linden
We're fully booked on projects for the moment and almost forgot to post!

There's a bit of news today - we are now proud members of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce located just up the road. We had a couple people ask why we were going to join and for us it came down to branding, (no surprise there.)

Two things stick out for us here...
June 5, 2006 | Tate Linden

I went to the International Franchise Expo in Washington DC this weekend. I walked the floor for about three hours, talking with CEOs, presidents, marketing VPs and sales reps. Every moment was informative, whether it was because some of the companies weren't really ready for prime time, or because I was able to see how a well branded franchise concept can draw attention.

Certainly the first thing in evidence is that once a single franchise has gone out and made a name for itself (see Coldstone Creamery and PODS) a raft of copy-cats will rush in and attempt to get part of the cut. There appeared to be two or three mix-in style ice cream shops, and a few modular storage facilities as well. Other trends include coffee shops, wings shops, and barbeque chains. I'll be going through some of the actual companies and the strategies they used to attract franchisees over the next few weeks. (With so many shops and so much reading material it'll take me a while to figure out who is well branded and who isn't...)

One thing really stood out.

June 1, 2006 | Tate Linden

William Lozito over at Strategic Name Development talked about Edmonton's new campaign. Simply put, he didn't like it. The slogan is "Edmonton - It's cooler here." To unjustly distill his message down, he posits that since people already know Edmonton is cold (uncomfortably so, even) there's little point in reminding everyone of this fact.

I'm of a different mind than William on this one. It isn't that he's wrong, per se. I just think that the slogan isn't aimed at him - or at anyone in the North.

May 24, 2006 | Tate Linden
We at Stokefire have been in the market for a nice economical vehicle that not only can get us to where we need to go, but can do so with a bit of panache. While the SUV is great for driving clients and consultants to meetings, it isn't so great for driving solo to work, nor for finding parking spaces in DC after 8:30 AM.

VW Garageinator

I've been looking at a couple VW models and at the Mini - and was leaning towards the Mini until I saw the picture of the VW garage (courtesy of weBranding and The Cool Hunter.) Can you imagine how powerful an experience getting your car from the "Garaginator" (my term, not theirs) would be?
May 19, 2006 | Tate Linden
I just got back from the awards banquet and it was quite a show. Great to see so much support from the community - there were 29 sponsors of the event for 16 entrants. The event was hosted by the Community Business Partnership and is part of Business Appreciation Week (an event sponsored by Virginia's Department of Business Assistance.) Lots of people there, and some great concepts were presented.

The three equal winners were
May 12, 2006 | Tate Linden
ifyoutalkedtopeoplethumb_1.jpg

Hugh is at it again.

Okay, not really, since I think this design came out before the last one I put up, so I guess technically Hugh hasn't stopped being at it for quite some time. Nonetheless, Hugh and the state of being "at it" have been closely intertwined for a good long while now.

What do I like about this design?
May 10, 2006 | Tate Linden

I came across this little cartoon today. (Click for higher quality image)

Sliver

It made my day.

April 14, 2006 | Tate Linden
“Flip-flopper.”



Everyone knows what that means and who wears the label. It’s a strong brand invented by an opposing campaign and worn unhappily by John Kerry. Why did it stick? Because it was easier to quickly understand that the lengthy discussions that justified Kerry’s actions. Which do you want to hear – the two second sound-bite or the two-minute well-reasoned response? Kerry was too smart for his own good. “Flip-flopper” turned out to be a compelling brand that connected with the intended audience even though the guy that was stuck with the brand didn’t want it in the first place.

I’ve often said that if you don’t enforce your own brand then someone else will invent one for you – and this is an excellent example...

Well, there’s another candidate in a small race in Washington State’s 8th Congressional district who is beginning to be painted with the branding brush by her opposition. Darcy Burner is taking on first termer David Reichert for a seat in Congress. Mr. Reichert’s supporters have jumped on a few issues, calling into question the integrity of Ms. Burner.

Why am I interested? First, because I know Ms. Burner quite well (she isn’t technically family, but I consider her as such) and know most of the claims to either be untrue or so vague as to be irrelevant. (I say the following in the interest of full disclosure. We’re not related by blood, but we’ve got strong ties through adoptions, in-laws, and a few other twists and turns. The exact details are available if anyone wants to listen.)

Second, this appears to be an excellent case of opposition branding, and it gives me a chance to point out some of the strengths and weaknesses of a grass-roots (or even campaign sponsored) effort along those lines.

Here are the attacks I’ve seen (as best I can summarize them - you can find more here, here, and here):
  1. Ms. Burner inflated her title to “Microsoft executive” when she was in fact a manager of some type. Tell the Truth.
  2. Why won’t Ms. Burner come clean about why she left law school? Did she flunk out? Tell the truth!
  3. Ms. Burner is inexperienced and trying to cover it up! Tell the truth!!
  4. Ms. Burner hasn’t voted in every local election so why should we believe she’ll be active in representing us in Congress? Tell the truth!!!
I’m sure there are many more statements being made, but these are the ones that are making their way around the blogosphere most aggressively in the last few days. I must admit that the theme being used (Ms. Burner isn’t telling the truth, or is hiding something) is quite clever (even if a bit cliché for political campaigns.) She can’t refute it without appearing to be hiding something. You can never prove that you are completely honest, so by perpetually accusing someone of dishonesty you can keep them on the defensive forever.

Unfortunately for her detractors, Ms. Burner seems to have right on her side. I spent a few hours digging around to see what I could find on the claims, and this is what I unearthed.
  1. The “Microsoft executive” angle. This one seems to be getting the biggest press right now. The argument is that Ms. Burner intentionally stretched the truth of her responsibilities at Microsoft by calling herself an executive. Many came to her defense by pointing out that every dictionary they could find defines an executive as something like “A person or group having administrative or managerial authority in an organization.” That should be the end of the story, since Burner was a Program Manager – and thus had the qualifying managerial authority the definition requires. So, the follow-up argument has been that when people actually employed by Microsoft are asked if Program Managers are executives many have answered negatively (thus proving that contextually she’s stretching the truth, even if factually she isn’t.)

    That’s fine, but in press releases and articles from Microsoft and about Microsoft, positions from Business Development Manager to CEO were referred to as executives. If Microsoft’s PR department calls someone of similar rank (a non “lead” manager) an executive I would think that the title would apply to Burner as well. This should be the end of it, but it isn’t – and here’s why being right often doesn’t matter. Attacking is far easier than defending – even when the attacking claim is wrong. This is why candidates and companies must establish their own brand before someone else does it for them negatively.The attacks on this issue now approximately are summarized as “even if Microsoft and the dictionary both essentially state that Burner is right, we all know that only the top people in the company are really executives, and everyone else is just a manager, a director, or a VP. It's all about common use, not technical correctness. Let me put this one to bed (until the attackers change their angle.) In looking through the first 50 hits on Google for the words “Microsoft” and “Executive” there were multiple examples of non-senior Microsoft employees being identified as … Microsoft executives. Here’s the kicker – when an article wanted to make it clear that a really high-level executive was involved they used one of three basic identifiers: “senior executive,” “top executive,” or “chief executive.” There were even cases where lowly directors were labeled as top executives, which in my own eyes seems to really be somewhere on the slippery slope to puffery. Using just the tag ‘executive’ is not. Microsoft even hires for “non-executive” executives on their own website, and refers to upper management as “senior executives” on their website. So – tell me again why this isn’t a dead issue? Oh yeah… “Tell the truth” is easier to remember than “Even by Microsoft’s own hiring practices, PR group, dictionary definitions, and common usage, calling myself an “executive” is correct.”

  2. Unfortunately for Ms. Burner, questions about why one leaves school can only be answered in two ways. Either she opens up her report card or she ignores or deflects the issue. The problem with opening the report card is that it is again the start of a slippery slope. If the report card can be called into question, then everything that she’s ever done on the record can be brought forward and the onus is on her to deliver it. Why did she move to the West coast? Is there a documented answer? Why is she really running for Congress – is there something conflicting in her public statements? It becomes a witch hunt (which isn’t surprising in a political race, I know…) that she can’t win because even if the opposition can’t find anything they can always say she’s just too good at hiding it. My take – Burner should be as open as possible without detracting from her own messages. Let ‘em ask the hard questions and she can provide the hard answers. Let ‘em keep asking until they’re done. Being honest with one’s constituency should be at the core of any solid political brand. How can you get reelected if your base doesn’t know when you’re telling the truth?
  3. When it comes to experience, I find it intriguing that a first-term candidate would have anyone on their side of the fence shouting messages about inexperience at the opponent. Sure, one term is experience, but if Burner wins she’ll have just as much at the end of her term. Her Harvard credentials probably mean she’s a fast learner too. An alternate attack has also been tried – Reichert’s “decades of public service” capped by the arrest (and widely publicized prosecution) of one bad dude. Yep – the constituency knows of this and will be reminded repeatedly by what is actually a very astute team of marketers on Reichert’s staff. Unfortunately for Mr. Reichert, Ms. Burner is a likely better representative of, by, and for the people she will be representing than he is. Why? She understands what it is like to be a Microsoftie, is familiar with military family concerns, and in about a dozen other ways can relate to her constituency in ways Reichert can’t. Sure, Reichert has a big arrest and has served his time as a public servant, but he’s not taking the time to connect on anything other than family values and national security. To solidify his brand he should be connecting with something that resonates more with his constituency – and probably should be spending more time at home. Regardless of how little threat he thinks Burner represents, the idea that he’s not home protecting his turf or listening to his constituents (now or in the past) opens up some big soft targets for Burner.
  4. The public record of voting in the community is an interesting attack. (I do not have any first-hand knowledge of when either candidate voted, but you can find claims here. I consider myself to be involved in politics and a frequent/regular voter, but I know I’ve missed a few elections along the line. My reasons are my own, and I would assume that Burner’s are her own as well. I know there are all sorts of messages on the airwaves about how voting is a responsibility, but realistically in our system voting isn’t a responsibility at all. Voting is a right and anyone can choose to vote or not vote as they see fit. If voting were a responsibility then most of the country would be thrown in prison during every mid-term election. Heck, if I remember my history right, when fewer voters turn out it results in elections skewing to the Republicans. Why complain about one less Democratic vote. Were I in Reichert’s (or the conservative’s) shoes I’d be playing this exactly opposite. Why not laud the competition for handing a victory to the Republicans? (I’m sure there’s a close election that she didn’t vote in that went to the Repubs, and this would be a more compelling message than pointing fingers and saying “shame shame!!” It would be a far more sophisticated attack with a much simpler and compelling message.
Personally I’d rather work on the Burner campaign, because I see it as more connected to the community. Reichert needs to play defense by playing offense, and that means finding ways to stop meaningful dialogue before any points can be scored by Burner. Reichert’s brand is established (Family Values and Security) but very shallow. Burner’s is more of a challenge, because she’s less slick and produced. She needs to find a way to deepen her connection to her constituency as “of the people” – and find issues that a disconnected leader (such as she could brand Reichert) can’t easily respond to. Examples include addressing issues of concern to Microsofties, mothers, families with adopted children (or that have given up adoptees), and people that are a bit fed up with the ultra-security focus that is being shoved down our throats. (I mean, really… when was the last time you remember when our threat level wasn’t “elevated”? At some point shouldn’t “elevated” become “normal” so that we can make it meaningful? If the threat level never changes then why have it in the first place…)

There appear to be a plethora of branding issues and opportunities for both candidates, though currently Burner isn’t taking advantage of opportunities to set the perception of her opposition. Reichert and his supporters are doing just that, and until Burner can come up with a way to get the spotlight off of her (and defense) an onto either real issues or her opponent I fear that she’s going to be playing at a disadvantage.

That’s it for today.



Final disclosure - I’m not working for either campaign, and no one involved in either campaign knows that I’m posting this.