site map


Thingnamer Banner

Recently in In The News

October 12, 2007 | Tate Linden
The Washington Business Journal has (had? It was a while ago...) a new column called "Problem? Solution" that helps business owners solve their troubles by hooking them up with area experts. Sadly, no one seems to be asking for naming help there, but I did get the chance to show my ignorance (and apparently my propensity for sentences awkwardly phrased) when it comes to designing affordable but cool office space.

You can check out the article here (from the Friday, May 11, 2007 edition.)
Problem: Tate Linden's Stokefire Consulting Group has been working out of the Business Incubation Center of the Community Business Partnership in Springfield. He is ready to leave the nest but wants some help designing and setting up a "professional, creative and stylish office environment" on the cheap. "In my business," Linden says of his branding company, "I can't afford to have all the 'coolness' limited to my marketing materials -- it has to convey via our environment too."

Sadly it didn't include a link to our little corner of the world. But what's worse is that in the words that I wrote I can almost see the "finger quotes" around "coolness." (...and I always forget that the way I talk and the way I write are different... Who says "convey via our environment" anyway? Not me.)

Many thanks to Lucy Webb and Barbara Wrigley for setting this up. Thanks as well to Dave Denny at Hickok Cole for his advice.


Amen, brother.
October 9, 2007 | Tate Linden
How do you talk about "metering" without mentioning the meter?

That was just one of the challenges we faced while working on this project.

We're proud to announce another of our clients (The Automated Meter Reading Association - or AMRA) has launched their new identity. They needed a name that appealed to their core audience of senior leaders, could double as a new name for the industry as a whole, and avoided the verbal association between "meter readers" and "men in overalls" that seemed to be a bit misleading.

UTILIMETRICS was launched on October 2nd after over a year of brand analysis, development, and design. Check 'em out.

The AMRA/UTILIMETRICS team really impressed us with their understanding of what was needed to reestablish their brand. It isn't every day that you see an association take such a progressive step. Kudos also go to Bates Creative Group for their work on the graphic identity.

Can't wait to see what's next for the organization and the technology they represent.
September 13, 2007 | Tate Linden
What would happen if Saddam's "Mother of All Wars" fell in love with Putin's "Father of All Bombs?"

"Mother of All" has become a trendy way of saying "best" or perhaps "will redefine the meaning of" (though the latter doesn't feel particularly prone to trendiness.)

How does this relate to naming? Well, there's the obvious fact that both Saddam and Putin used these lofty words to refer to important things (okay, so they weren't really products, but they still needed names...) And there's the more relevant fact that "MoA" has been used thousands of times in products and services since it was coined. MoA appears to be more commonly used in commerce than FoA - at a ratio of about four or five to one.

Of particular interest to me is the fact that (as far as I can tell) there are exactly zero products that use the phrase "Mother of All" in their names that have become wildly successful - other than the originally referenced war, of course.

I predict that we'll see similar results from "Father of All" in the coming years. We may even see it become more popular than MoA for a while. But I'd be willing to wager that no product with FoA or MoA in its name will ever crack the top 100 spots on Amazon or any other reputable mass retailer.

Could it have something to do with the fact that the terms are typically used tongue-in-cheek? Or that they're too closely linked to pop-culture and prone to becoming dated too quickly? Or is it that the logical impossibility of something becoming the mother or father of anything *after the thing is already born* is just too goofy to consider seriously?

I'll leave you with this thought. How is it that "The Father of All Bombs" could be invented more than a half-century after the nuclear bomb (a much more powerful weapon) was dropped? It seems that the FoAB is more like the smaller, better behaved nephew of the atom bomb, doesn't it? But "The Nephew of All Bombs" just doesn't have much oomph...

So much for truth in advertising....
August 15, 2007 | Tate Linden
Ever want to have a big-time title? The Republicans are ready to let you earn one. For five million dollars.

Yep. Five big, big, big ones donated (or rather offered to the RNC to sponsor the Republican National Convention) gets you:
  • A private reception with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Norm Coleman, and the mayors of the cities ear the convention.
  • A private dinner with Republican leadership.
  • Golfing with Republican leadership.
  • An opportunity to sponsor water bottles, volunteer outfits, city banners, billboards, bus signs and events.
  • Access to the media party.
  • VIP access to the convention.
And... best of all... the RNC will officially give you the title of "Finance co-chair."

(Perhaps this is because as the minority party they figure someone on the right side of the fence should get a co-chair title.)

And the Democrats, you might ask? What are they offering up?

For the bargain price of $1 million you can have:
  • Invitations to private events with the Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Mayor John Hickenlooper, Sen. Ken Salazar, and more.
  • VIP access to the convention
  • Premier sponsorship of the media party
  • Top sponsoship of the "coveted fete" media party
  • An opportunity to place products with corporate logos in delegate and media goody-bags.
  • Invitations to all host-committee events
And yes... the Dems are offering up a title. Sort of. Actually, they're selling adjectives.

The adjective in question? Presidential.

If I were going to donate a million bucks I think the more obvious title would be "Rich." It's a good thing that the title the Dems selected doesn't suggest that power and influence can be bought, isn't it?

If you don't have that top level of funds available you can consider offering up a bit less. Both parties have developed nifty - and strangly similar - levels and titles. Check this out:


What does this tell us? Perhaps:
  • There are no Democrats with more than a million dollars to spend.
  • If the Democrats win the presidency all precious metals will be cheaper.
  • For Democrats, though there's assuredly a second place, there is no third.
  • Republicans are either having their convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, or they're really big fans of Norse mythology.
  • You probably don't want to use that plane restroom after a Democrat has vacated it. Or if you do, bring some Sani-wipes.
I'm not saying that naming funding levels is easy. But "Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze" is only slightly less mundane than having "Red, White, and Blue" levels (which isn't often done on a national level nowadays since no one wants to label a donor as "white.") Why aren't we seeing a tie-in to the party platforms? Is appreciation for precious metals really that much of a key to the identites of both parties?

You want to see a spike in donations? You want to get press? You want to get people talking? Here's how:

Use controversial platform topics as your funding levels.

Imagine the Democrats having an "Equality Advocate" level or the Republicans with a "Protectors of Marriage" sponsorship. Sure it is divisive. But imagine the power of being able to show that there are 5,000 people or companies willing to not only say that they are for (or against) gay rights, but show they are committed with a dollar sign next to their name. You want more notice? Add in right-to-life issues, death penalty, and the like. How many churches and community groups wouldn't be throwing dollars at the campaigns to show their support for a cause that mattered to them?

Will it happen? I'll almost guarantee that it won't. But I'd love to actually see a party or candidate take a stand like that. If it matters to the candidate/platform then why not allow the constituency to show their support for the idea? We'd know real fast whether or not an issue had real support.

Are you with me?

Interested in more on this topic? Earlier this year I wrote a post about the terms the individual candidates used for their fund-raising efforts. I must admit that even the worst ideas used by the candidates can trump the best the DNC and RNC have pulled together.

Is it because the categories were developed by committee? Probably.

Add another nail to the coffin that contains focus groups and working committees, please. (Though "Mile High Plus" is a pretty impressive name to be approved by committee... hard to believe someone didn't choke on the sexual connotation.)
August 3, 2007 | Tate Linden
I had twardscovers.gifhe pleasure of speaking with Lillie Guyer - a writer for Ward's Dealer Business (The management magazine for auto dealer professionals) and She had dozens of great questions regarding what made an automobile tagline effective. Kudos to her for making the process challenging and fun.

On August 1st the resulting articles were published - they can be found here:

Dealers Want Good Taglines

Marketing Expert Describes What Elements Make Up a Powerful Tagline

If you've found our site through the Ward's Article - Welcome! Feel free to join in the conversation here or subscribe via the links in the upper left-hand corner. If you'd like to see more of our thoughts and you may want to peruse the "Greatest Hits" links on the right. Or just send us a note and tell us what you think...

I found the article topics fascinating - as I believe that the effect of names and taglines on the people who actually sell and/or service product is often ignored. Being the "Low Price Leader" can have a devastating effect on employee morale - and having a tagline that is out of synch with the abilities or attitude of the staff can result in lost customers and alienated employees. The same holds true for the company name. When branding, the staff must come into play both for the effect the brand will have on them and the staff's ability to live up to the standard the brand establishes. Add in the fact that the brand also is supposed to help sell the product and create a connection with the buyer and you end up with a whole lot of pressure placed upon a precious few words.

But back to the articles... Anyone want to challenge my list of the great (and not so great) automotive taglines (at the bottom of linked article)?
July 17, 2007 | Tate Linden
Here we go again.

The Chief Thingnamer of Stokefire is headed West to the city by the bay from September 4th through the 7th. Yeah, I know I'm invading the territory of just about every other namer in the United States, but I come mostly in peace (I only had one client in the Bay Area and it was a little vineyard about a year ago.) Heck, I'd actually like to visit some of you in your places of work and write about it here.

So all of you Landorians, Igorians, Lexiconians, assorted Luddites (I say that with the deepest affection) and technophiles - anyone want to give me the grand tour of your naming/branding empire? I promise I'll be on my best behavior.teddybath.JPG

In the interest of full disclosure I've gotta admit that I'm bringing Thingnamer Jr. along, though if you don't want to see him (as thus far his best behavior can't be promised, and isn't particularly good anyhow) he can stay with The Boss.

Edit: Both the photo and text above are clicky (and take you to different places) and enable those that are interested to get their "Teddy fix."

Last time I came out West I somehow ended up in the middle of a party overflowing with fellow namers. As absolutely awe inspiring as that was, (thanks Alexandra and Steve!) I'm hoping that this time I can spend some time talking to people without spilling free spinach puffs and beer down my shirt.

Stuff on my mind that I'd love to talk about:
  1. The Yet To Be Named Association of Namers and what it could do for you
  2. Is everyone as messy as I am when they're being creative? (And can I take a picture as evidence?)
  3. What pictures and totems do you keep near you when you work?
  4. Are you a Powerpoint or a Flipchart kinda person?
  5. The name you're most proud of
Anyone interested in playing host(ess)?
July 13, 2007 | Tate Linden
This Post is PG-13. Youngsters please go about your business elsewhere.

Frequent readers will know that I really do try not to slam peers in the industry over their work. I will occasionally discuss slip-ups (and we've pointed to a few from Landor), negative stakeholder reactions (Weber Marketing Group has been exceedingly helpful in bringing an inside look at a difficult project,) and bad decisions made by consumers. I did once tear apart a firm in New York for putting together a video that was so awful I couldn't help but watch the catastrophe multiple times to be sure I absorbed all of its horribleness.

After yesterday's post and numerous comments and emails on how strange Maryanna's business was, I was prompted to look into what else she has going.

Lo, she's a corporate namer.

...With an online portfolio containing "just a few of the many names created at Biz Naming Central."

This is the part of the story where things begin to go badly for Maryanna. Sadly it appears that it's the start of the story - and it pretty much stays on track from what we can see.

Maryanna has listed a slew of names - many of which are highly evocative. And most of which (again sadly) are fatally flawed. Also note that we couldn't find a single name on the list that was connected to a business we could locate online (not even a mention of the company in an online phonebook!) But maybe we didn't look hard enough.

It is obvious that Maryanna is a highly creative individual - we at Stokefire just happen to believe that creativity must be tempered by practical and experienced analysis, and we find that the latter is severely lacking. Here are a few (or more) examples:
  • "Accesstar" - Mortgage and Lending Services. Not too bad until you do a parse check and find out that that final "s" doing double duty ending "access" and beginning "star" now makes the name parse literally as "Access Tar." Might be good as an asphalt supplier, but the connotation that getting to your money might has anything to do with that sticky black substance rather ruins the name for us. It's a name that will horribly backfire the first time there's bad press.
  • "Buildonics" - Construction Planner and Developer. Okay, this one has two issues. The first is that the "bui" is an awkward grouping of letters. The eye expects to see "bul" and (two of the three people that read the name over my shoulder thought it was the latter.) The second - and more critical - issue is that the name doesn't make audible sense. Buildonics links (for us) to Ebonics (though we suppose any phonics would likely do.) We think that Maryanna was going for "We're fluent in building" but what it strangely evoked for the Stokefire staff was "We know how to mimic Bill Cosby." No, this wasn't a race thing. It's just that when you say "Buildonics" out loud it sounds just like "Bill-donics." As in Cosby. Is it just us?
  • "The Nutshell Cafe" - Organic Food Deli. This is another two-banger. First, the connotation that the organic food (already thought of as less flavorful than the bad stuff like Twinkies) might have the texture of nutshells... probably isn't going to win much business. Second - let's do a quick parse check. "Nutshell" parses into "Nuts Hell" - and again makes an easy insult when the service is a little slow. Is it so bad that we'd never use it? Nope. But we'd certainly make the ownership aware that the name could backfire.
  • "Head High Living" - Image consultant/coach. Lesson number one for an image consultant: Don't use a name that makes it sound like you're stoned. Unless that's what you are... and then we'd wonder why you didn't use "420 Living" since everyone we know who is into that can't help but giggle when they hear someone say that number.
  • "Clique Hire" - Recruiting Firm. Yeah, we get that "Clique" and "Click" are homonyms (for people who don't know how to pronounce "clique.") That's pretty cool. But there are two big problems. First, no one will know how to find the company when they hear the name unless you take the time to explain how to spell it. Second, the term "clique" brings to mind all sorts of negative qualities that one typically doesn't associate with good workers. I personally hear "clique hire" and the image of a gum-snapping, fur boot-wearing admin who can't answer the phone because she's drying her nails. Again, it's probably just me.
  • "Hyyrus" - Computer and Small Business Support. Hey look - it rhymes with "Hire Us!" Coolness. Oh, and it also rhymes with Virus. Regardless, it makes us wonder what the alternate spelling does for the company. It feels like creativity for creativity's sake, not because it has a real purpose. (We hire our computer guys because they get the job done, not because they try new ways of fixing things.)
  • "iiDon Security Associates" - Hi-rise Security Firm. We didn't know this line of work existed, but it does make sense. We have to wonder about a few things - such as how the name is supposed to be pronounced ("Two Don," "Aye Aye Don," "Edon"), what the two "i"s are supposed to mean, why they aren't capitalized, and whether or not they're supposed to evoke the twin towers (and why a hi-rise security firm would ever want to be linking their own success to such a tragedy.)
  • "Phlaire" - Unisex Hair Services Salon. Thankfully people don't need to know how to spell a barbershop to get their hair cut. However, I'd argue that any spelling of the word "flair" is going to be hard-pressed to pull in the average American male as a client of a "hair services salon."
  • Pebblethorn Landscape & Design - "High-end Soft & Hard Landscaping Company." Potential slogan - "Pebblethorn - For Quality You Feel In Your Sole" or perhaps "Another Yard By Pebblethorn - Shoes Strongly Advised"
But one name had us in tears for a good 15 minutes. Apparently there's a sound and recording company with some real... gusto... out there. Had it not been for this wonderful treasure of a name this whole blog post never would have happened. But it did.

The name?


Rather than explain to you why this name is so striking to us, I will instead just list what we found in Google when we looked for the company. (I've edited the findings for our most delicate readers. If you search Google you'll likely see the beautiful/horrible truth.)
  • From "Surf Messages" - "if you stay in the south of my pants you can get access to my d*** real quick and surf my spunkwave. oh and bring some f****n weed..."
  • From "NG BBS - weirdest fetish you've heard of?" - "Watch out for the spunk wave Chun-Li! O no she's drowning!"
  • From "SENT IN THONG PICS!" - "The people on the beach wouldn't have a clue... until I c***, then they would have to run for cover cos of my tidal spunk-wave."
  • From a thread on a bulletin board entitled "I have the sperm capacity of an oil tanker" - "watch out for a tidal spunk wave..."
  • And most incomprehenibly and poetically of all - from a site called "white teen sex orgy" - "She His young hard teen archives threw many her was head other back and name let When out moan a long, deep upon moan as embraced the tidal spunk wave floor..."
We await Spunkwave's first release with, well, to be honest... a bit of anxiety.

For some creativity comes easily. Sadly it often is the case in this world of specialization that creativity and hard analytical skills aren't paired in the same person. Perhaps this is the case here.

And bringing this back to something a bit more related to what we do at Stokefire - we know that there are different skills required to name well. It's why we break our name generation process into multiple parts. We've found that the skills required to pull names out of thin air are different than those required to iterate on a single promising idea to find the best option. A mix of pure creatives and analytical types is required to discover, develop, analyze, adjust, and release a great name. Having all of one type results in greatly reduced chances for a strong identity.

That said, we did think there were a few interesting or promising names on Maryanna's list. She's certainly got creativity. But her apparent approach puts the responsibility for knowing whether or not the creative name is a good one on the shoulders of the client. We at Stokefire feel strongly that our clients shouldn't have to know what makes a good name - that's what our expertise is for. We're not cheap - and part of what you're paying for is our ability to prevent you from (and this is going to sound really bad, but we don't mean it that way) releasing your own "Spunkwave."

The names on Maryanna's list appear quite similar to the stuff that shows up during our creative sessions. Perhaps that's what the list actualy is - since there's no mention that the names are in use (only that they were created.) And for a creative list it ain't bad. But creative lists aren't what a client needs.

Clients need guidance.

What good is a big bunch of creative names if the client has no tools with which to measure how appropriate they are for their particular goals? Sure, it's better than a kick in the face (though that kick will often be less expensive) but what does it actually get you?

More on name lists versus brand development and on the creative process... to come.
May 22, 2007 | Tate Linden
Oh, cute! A whale naming contest!

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


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

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

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


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

Bring the family!
May 18, 2007 | Tate Linden
Yep. I'm addicted to The Office - and am not quite sure what I'll do to recreate those uncomfortable laughs I've become accustomed to for the off season.

But this post isn't about my love for the NBC show, it is about the website and company names mentioned on the show's season finale.

The website mentioned? Try: Yeah - it doesn't go anywhere. But you wouldn't believe the number of hits that "creedthoughts" is getting all over the internet. Someone had the foresight to register a week before the episode aired (one can only assume someone on the production staff did it to prevent someone else from profiting) but the .net and a few other sites were snapped up shortly after the line was spoken.

As far as names go - I actually quite like "Creedthoughts". I imagine that for lovers of the show the site would speak directly to those who wonder "what the hell is he thinking?" and it would attract quite a crowd of regular readers. Much like schrutespace, I suppose.

UPDATE: There IS a creedthoughts blog. It is here.

The show did have a rather uncomfortable naming-related moment when Michael Scott wraps up his interview with David Wallace (CFO of Dunder Mifflin):
David: What do you think we could be doing better?

Michael: I've never been a big fan of the name Dunder Mifflin. I was thinking we could name the company something like "Paper Great". Where great paper is our passion. We're grrrrreeeat! I dunno. Could be good. Or, uh, "Super Duper Paper". It's super duper. I dunno. Something like that.

Interviewer: Okay.

Michael: Okay.

Interviewer: Thanks for coming in Michael.
What scares me the most is that this sort of thing really does happen in conversations with prospects and clients. I'll be the first to admit that client-submitted ideas often do quite well and we can build strong identities around them. However... In this case I just was made uncomfortable on every possible level. Wonderfully so, but... still... And if anyone is interested, both and are available for immediate camping and opportunistic exploitation as of 11:47 EDT on Friday, May 18th. Imagine the peaks in traffic you'll get when the DVD launches!
May 8, 2007 | Tate Linden
It certainly beats banning them outright, doesn't it?

I'm really not quite sure how I feel about this story:
An energy drink called Cocaine that was pulled from store shelves in Illinois last week is being discontinued nationwide.

The company that produces the drink said today it's pulling the drink because of concerns about its name.
What the company doesn't say is that some states had banned the sale of the product because they felt it glamorized drug use. So - I've a strong feeling that this was less about "concerns" and more about "bottom lines."

The company is taking the step of re-naming their product.

As I think about it more I think I am leaning towards an opinion... I don't like it. There are quite a few reasons to be concerned. A few right off the top of my head:
  1. Free Speech: Do companies have a right to sell products with provocative names that do not cross the line into profanity? Heck, do they have the right to sell products with profane names? It seems to me that the answer to the first should be "yes." The answer to the second question I'm not as sure about. I've strong opinions about free speech and its value - and limiting someone's ability to say a word or sell a product is a step that I'm not sure we should have taken here.
  2. Censorship: Similarly, I hadn't heard any advertisements about the product. Only the media (and we bloggers) were giving it publicity. I can understand the FCC cracking down on this if they broadcast it - but they didn't (as far as I know.) It is fine for the press and public to criticize a product and say that it shouldn't be sold - but for the government to act on these opinions and force the company to rename is different. Opinions are one thing. Enforcing opinions leads to censorship.
  3. Where do all the bad products go?: The only reason anyone was buying this drink was to push the envelope and show how edgy they were. From the folks I know that have tried it I've heard it tastes horrible. Have a crappy product? Give it a name that pushes people's buttons. Make it collectible. It is a time honored tradition to find ways to move product. Saying that certain types of names are off limits for no reason other than that they offend some people's delicate sensibilities (there's no profanity here, remember) means that products without strong appeal in and of themselves will have a harder time selling. That's great for product quality overall, but bad for the average or below average product that loses an escape route.
  4. Slippery Slope: Okay, so we know "Cocaine" isn't allowed. What about "Dope", "Morphine", "Speedball", "Ganja", "Uppers", "Drug of Choice" and the like? Are all of them not allowed? How about naming an energy drink "Vodka?" Would that be allowed? Or "Binge/Purge" because that would glamorize a sickness. Or "Steak" because Vegans everywhere would be upset. Or "Eenryg" - because it might offend dyslexics.
  5. A Clueless FDA sez What?: In a warning letter to Redux - the folks behind the Cocaine drink - the FDA claims that the product being sold is not only a drug, but a new one:"Your product, Cocaine, is a drug, as defined by Section 201(g)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1), because it is intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, 21 U.S.C. §§ 321(g), 321(ff), and 343(r)(6). Moreover, this product is a new drug, as defined by Section 201(p) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 321(p), because it is not generally recognized as safe and effective for its labeled uses. Under Sections 301(d) and 505(a) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. §§ 331(d) and 355(a), a new drug may not be introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce unless an FDA-approved application is in effect for it. Your sale of Cocaine without an approved application violates these provisions of the Act."
Yes, Cocaine is a provocative name. It was named purely as a PR stunt and it worked. (Sadly.) But no one is claiming that there is actual cocaine in the product. Note that the FDA hasn't taken action against Sunny Delight - and these people are selling cancer (or is it instant immolation) in a bottle! Imagine if a piece of the sun were to get into the hands of an unsuspecting consumer! Oooh! Or what about Victoria's Secret? What if her secret was actually cocaine? Sounds like we'd have to ban it, right?

Both the FDA and consumers at large are smarter than this, aren't they?

The real reason I'm a bit up in arms about the action taken here is that there is no law that I know of that prevents people from selling products named after illicit drugs. I remember there were nail polishes a couple years back that referenced illicit sex and drug use. Why didn't we ban them?

C'mon US and state governments - if you're going to ban something with the backing of the government YOU NEED TO PASS A LAW MAKING IT ILLEGAL. Until that time you're just using knee-jerk censorship.

So knock it off. Let Cocaine (the non-controlled energy drink) be sold. Figure out how to limit commerce in a way that isn't going to backfire (no "I know it when I see it" stuff) and put it on the books.

Namers across the land will thank you. Or at least I will.

And if I'm mistaken and there IS a law about names that glorify certain substances I'd love to hear about it.

Tate Linden Principal- Stokefire 703-778-9925
May 8, 2007 | Tate Linden
This is from page 75 of the May 2007 issue of Associations Now (Published by ASAE and The Center for Association Leadership.)

I suppose this means that I have to un-pause the association-building process soon...
Community now Building an association—and community—from scratch ASSOCIATIONS NOW, May 2007

By: Randi Hicks Rowe

About 30 namers—those individuals and companies whose specialty is to help companies develop the best name for their organization or new product—met informally in San Francisco in February. As far as anyone in the group knows, it was the first time that so many namers gathered in one place before. Their purpose: forming an association with a name they can call their own.

“We had a great time and took a positive step toward developing a group identity,” says Tate Linden, principal of the Stokefire Consulting Group. “Almost every other profession has an association except ours. Quite a few of us talked about creating our own vehicle for sharing best practices and to advocate for and support excellence in our industry.” About a dozen naming professionals and companies have indicated that they like the concept of the association and hope to move forward.

One of the ongoing discussions is how to define the membership. Linden says one way would be to make the association exclusively for namers—a group of perhaps a few hundred worldwide—who are not represented by any association. Another option would be to also open the group up to those people who create identities for organizations or products, which would be a larger group consisting of namers, branding experts, and graphic designers. However, some of these groups are represented in other associations. The tradeoff would be less control for the namer founders in the larger group but more power for the association as a whole, Linden says.

One thing not on the table yet, surprisingly, is what to call the association. “I figure with all the potential brainpower we’ll have available as we near our filing date [that] it is better to hold off. Imagine having all the best painters in the world create a painting together... I’m not sure it’d be pretty, but the story around that picture would be legend for centuries. Not sure that this concept will transfer well to the world of descriptive association names, but I can always dream,” says Linden. “No pressure, of course.”

Randi Hicks Rowe is CEO of Rowe Communications of Alexandria, Virginia.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooter Hiders(tm)

Really. That's the name.

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

I must admit that the name is quite descriptive.

But, no, I don't like it.

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

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

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
March 29, 2007
The RelaxOne. The RelaxOne Massage chair offers dynamic relaxation by listening to the peaceful music, through the5999_1_230.jpeg audio system of the chair. Its dome-like style is intended to plunge you deeply into the music to rouse a natural relaxation. Created by Swiss inventor and experimental psychologist Hugo B. J. Soder, it is equipped with multi-dimensional sound system, a CD player and an internal ambient lighting for reading. Is is it not deserving of another name?

[Brought to us by Trendhunter]
March 27, 2007

Time Shutters Life

Three years after relaunching Life magazine as a newspaper supplement, its third incarnation, Time Inc. said it would fold the title with the April 20 issue, citing the decline in the newspaper business and outlook for ad revenue in the newspaper supplement category.

The iconic titles name, which will continue to operate online and through its books, had begun to find its footing after rocky start since its most recent reincarnation.

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

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

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

Washington, D.C.: Guns now welcome

Washington, D.C.: More bloggers than rats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monster launches new product


Monster Worldwide Inc. launched a new recruitment media product designed to aid employers in seeking people who are not actively looking for a job.
March 22, 2007
Tech products get a shot of bling with the new line Active Crystals which named between a partnership formed between Phillips electronics and Swarovski Crystals. First itmes to come out will be a flash port and headphones. Smiliar items that use the Swarovski crystals can be foundn on


March 21, 2007
winepod.jpgThere is a new San Jose-based company behind an elegant new product taht makes wine in your kitchen. It is called the WinePod. It is digitally networked, 4-foot-tall machine that ferments, presses, and ages wine in one self-contained device, the $3,500 WinePod can produce varietals in batches of up to 60 bottles, controlling temperature via a wireless connection to the owner's personal computer. Wine experts who've tried the first batch from a WinePod--a light pinot noir--give it a thumbs-up, but to get upscale oenophiles to take him seriously, Snell tapped product designer Loren Sterling to create a brushed-stainless-steel and white-oak cask that looks right at home next to a Viking range.

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

Now the downside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To deliver this punch, Jackie Chan, kung-fu master, backs the product with his name and verve.instagreenblob.gif
March 16, 2007
The Three Little Puppies. That's what one British school renamed the traditional Three Little Pigs story for a school play, so as not to offend Muslims in the community, London's Daily Mail reported.
March 13, 2007
Shot Dog Camera. No, not named after dog that throws back alcohol shots, but a camera that lets you see life from your K-9's perspective. Brought to you from Japan by Takara Tomy.


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

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

Well put Mr. Armstrong.

March 12, 2007
Starbucks to launch its own music label named Starbucks Records. It is unlikely however that they will sell any records at all that the name is just marketed to consumers who remember the vinyl days of past. Paul McCartney rumored to be the first to be signed. Full story here.
March 9, 2007
In a Global Marketplace, Claiming a Name Becomes an Art in Itself.loius.jpg

When a snazzy new product goes on sale in many countries, its name must be one of a kind. Yet today it has become increasingly difficult to find a name for a company, a product, or shade of lipstick that has not been taken.
March 8, 2007
picture-14.jpgAgroLabs, Inc., announced today its new product line of single-serve, exotic The lead item in the Bali Island line is White Peach Juice made from peaches grown only in China.

March 7, 2007

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

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


Source: click here

[Thanks for the tip Denise!]
March 1, 2007 | Tate Linden
logo_iowa.gif...I'm sure I could think of a better parody given time, but... well... this result doesn't really fill me with joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few links for you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 22, 2007
Cisco, Apple Settle 'IPhone' Dispute

Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007 they haveCisco Systems Inc. and Apple Inc. said settled the trademark-infringementimages2.jpg lawsuit that threatened to derail Apple's use of the "iPhone" name for its much-hyped new iPod-cellular phone gadget. Cisco Systems Inc. and Apple Inc. have agreed to share the "iPhone" name, but both companies are staying tightlipped about what future products might come from the resulting deal to collaborate on "interoperability" between the companies' products.


Redrock Oil Sands, Inc. has changed its name to Redrock Energy, Inc., effective immediately.

February 22, 2007 | Tate Linden
serveimage.jpgI just watched an advertisement about five minutes ago for Special K2O - a fruity protein-water drink.

I am truly saddened for 2(oh) reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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




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


viewmedia.jpgBioPharm Informatics LLC, a premier provider of Laboratory Information Management Systems consulting services and lab technology solutions, announced today that its name will change to LabCentrixSM. LabCentrix is a coined word that connotes putting each lab at the center of everything the firm does to ensure the very best technology solutions are deployed for each customer.
February 19, 2007 | Tate Linden
optivacolor.gifYou'd think that enough had been said about the renaming of the University of Iowa Community Credit Union to Optiva (effective March 1, 2007.) Even our little corner of the world racked up dozens of comments about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 19, 2007
logohome.gifCoty Inc., the world's largest fragrance company, announced today the creation of a new global business unit which they have named, Coty Beauty, which will combine the mass businesses of the Americas, Europe and Asia.
February 15, 2007
Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company Changes Name

The name change affects only the mutual insurance company that carries the Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company label. See video of announcement.
February 13, 2007
hob_logo_nav.gif One of Chicago's more widely recognized inns, the House of Blues Hotel, will take a fresh name and image this spring as new operators attempt to push the 353-room hotel further upscale.

Gemstone Hotels & Resorts International LLC, the hotel operator, said a $17 million renovation will transform the Marina City property into a more chic and luxurious destination, to be renamed in May as the Hotel Sax Chicago, in deference to the city's musical traditions.
February 9, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the pointer to the new loge Denise. Much appreciated!!! >>>>>>
February 7, 2007
racecar.jpgPork Racing Starts its 8th Season with Frank Kimmelarca5076.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

"Sleepy excrement"

The product? Huitlacoche. (or Cuitlacoche)

Hunghuitlacoche2.jpgry yet? Just wait!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This one is beyond my pay grade.

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

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

Photo - Ford Motor Company President and CEO Alan Mulally introduces the 2008 Ford Five Hundred at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 7, 2007. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES) 9:37 a.m. ET, 2/6/07
February 5, 2007


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

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

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

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

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





February 2, 2007

Toyota Tundra to be Unveiled Super Bowl Weekend:

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

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

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

Not the best tagline in any language. I suggest: As strong as the man (believes he is) who drives it. Ok, still not the answer but I am working on it.
February 1, 2007

Cartoon Net Promo Sparks Boston Scare

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

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

- Adweek, February 01, 2007
January 30, 2007

BrandChannel just released their top brands results from all continents around the world. Here is what's in and what is out: In and out in 2006 Winners: Google Las Vegas iPod YouTube eBay Yahoo! Target Oprah Winfrey Sony NFL Losers Nicole Richie Britney Spears Havana Paris Hilton Hand-hand combat Mumbai Boxing W Hotels Bangkok NHL Source: ImagePower Newsmaker brands survey
January 29, 2007 | Tate Linden
I read a short blurb on page M6 of the 1/28/07 Washington Post (Registration Required) that I just wanted to quickly address.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When asked, Miller executives said they believed "man laws" would gradually seep into the popular culture and eventually boost sales. But their patience appears to have run out.
January 25, 2007
canada.gifBack in the news (see our previous blog entry). As per the Minister's Office of Canada, effective immediately, the words “Canada's New Government” are to be used instead of “the Government of Canada” in all departmental correspondence. **Please note that the initial letters of all three words are capitalized.
January 23, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 18, 2007
Joost is the new name of Skype founders' video venture. Skype founders have given their online TV service a new name, Joost.

Joost -- pronounced "juiced" -- may eventually try to move onto television sets, but it will initially focus on making it easier and more fun to watch TV on a computer.
January 17, 2007 | Tate Linden we throw the mention right back...

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

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

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

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

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

January 16, 2007 | Tate Linden
The number of people who insert random letters into their childrens' names continues to rise. Not coincidentally the number of people who can't spell these names seems to rise in tandem.

The latest example? Jennifer Freeze of the Southeast Missourian wrote an article about this very thing - citing examples of people taking names already in use and making them their own. Consider the statements that she made - including:
It was Hollywood movie star Keira Knightley's name that inspired Hobeck to name her baby Kiarra, who was born in August.
Eleven baby girls born last year at Southeast Missouri Hospital were named Hailey, Haley, Halie, Hayleigh or Haylie -- each name pronounced the same way.
"With Jordynn, my husband and I each knew a male named Jordan. We wanted to separate her name from a manly version," Rash said. "My mother says I will pay for that later since there will be nothing with her name printed on it."
But in this very same article Ms. Freeze says this:
And Brittany Spears' second son, Jayden, sparked the use of "ayden" in baby names like Hayden, Cayden and Brayden during the past year.
There are two problems with this statement. The first is evident when you use Google to search on this name. The first hit says: Did you mean: Britney Spears'?

The second problem involves the name Jayden being more common after Britney used the name. It may be the case - but other stars used conventional spellings of the name first - including Will Smith.

...and before this these "-aden" and "-ayden" type names were known as Gaelic, Old English, and Hebrew options.

Please... parents... knock it off with inscerting random letters (or removing importnt ones) from conventional names. Kids are not Web 2.0 products.

And besides... how many weeks of their lives do you think they'll spend correcting the world on their spelling and pronunciation of "Jhaydien." (It's not like they're going to forget who stuck 'em with the name.)

And last. With everyone now naming their kids with off-the-wall monikers, the only way to really have your kid stand out is to give him a name like Mike, or maybe Joe.

Unless it's a girl, of course.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 12, 2007

AOL. Napster. Partnership. Imagine if those three words had been put together in a sentence way back in 1999. It would've been something out of The Onion. AOL was the massive, dominant corporate giant, and Napster was pretty much a bunch of punks who were raising hell. But times change, and companies change, and today AOL has announced that it has inked a deal with the music subscription service-- formerly, a name, synonymous with cyber-piracy--as the power behind the download service on its AOL Music site.

McCarthy, Carolin,. “AOL Ditches Dowload Service to Partner with Napster.” Weblog. Webware. 12 January 2007.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Ed. - Thanks for the fixed logo Randall]
January 11, 2007
Cisco sues Apple over iPhone citing trademark infringement. The two Silicon Valley giants apparently are going to duke it out. Apparently San Jose-based Cisco, the world's largest network-equipment maker, has owned the trademark on the name "iPhone" since 2000, when it acquired InfoGear Technology Corp., which originally registered the name. Apple argues that since their technology is 'materially different' that it has they are entitled to use the name.
January 11, 2007 | Tate Linden
Heard this on the local NPR affiliate this morning (text taken from the Sydney Morning Herald):
A travel poster spotted in India reads: "Have You Seen Nepal?" but the mountains pictured surround Peru's own Machu Picchu, according to Peruvian mountain climber Ernesto Malaga.

The official news agency Andina reported that Malaga was in New Delhi when he saw the poster, meant to promote visits to Nepal's Himalayas, 16,000 kilometres in the opposite direction.
Lesson number 142 in developing location-specific taglines: Always check to be sure that the location is actually where you say it is and has the stuff in it that you say it has.

This message provided to you by Stokefire, Canada's leading Australian Rules Football Team from Venice, France.

January 10, 2007
Apple Computer Is No Longer. Steve Jobs announced after the announcement of the iPhone yesterday, something seemingly subtle, but actually really big: a name change. Apple Computer, Inc., will from now on forward be called Apple, Inc., reflecting the fact that Apple is more and more turning into a general electronics company instead of a computer/software company.
January 9, 2007
Advancis Pharmaceutical Corp. of Germantown, MD expects to start the new year with a new name and finish it with a new product ready to market. The company has filed an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval of its once-daily antibiotic treatment for strep throat in adults and adolescents. The company’s search for a new name, now down to five finalists. Advancis hired ‘‘a couple of branding companies” to help find name that ‘‘will not step on anybody’s toes,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 5, 2007
According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, as many as 1.5 million Americans suffer illness, injury or death annually because of mistakes made in prescribing, dispensing and taking prescription drugs. To reduce medication errors, the IOM recommends the improvement of drug product naming, labeling, and packaging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal Thingnamer Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 3, 2007 Says It's Okay To Look. has launches a new website design and multimedia campaign introducing the tagline "It's okay to look." Apparently this catchphrase supports a users ability to use Match's free browsing capabilities without having to register.

According to Jim Safka, CEO of, "From a marketers' standpoint, it's the packaged goods equivalent of the free sample. You don't have to sign up for a subscription; it's okay to look." Wonder what Dr. Phil thinks about this.
January 1, 2007 | Tate Linden
Happy New Year everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cars: Ferarri, Lamborghini, Hummer, Mercedes, Porche

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Last Day of 2006!

Tate Linden
Principal Thingnamer
Stokefire Consulting Group

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

No, Virginia, there really is not a Betty Crocker. Even though at one point in time she was voted the second-most famous woman in America. Betty was invented in the offices of Washburn Crosby Company in Minneapolis in 1921. The company had been receiving hundreds of questions from consumers about baking with its products. To make it’s replies more interesting more personal, the company invented the character Betty with the surname of a former Washburn executive, William Crocker. Take creative license when you can.
December 19, 2006 | Tate Linden

Aztar to open hotel 'by the water'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Job applications still are being accepted for certain positions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make that a triple: whisky maker back for another round Johnny Walker has a new commercial that will air next week. It features the global tagline "Keep walking", which has been in use since 1999 and is based on the proposition that a drinker who is "moving up" to scotch is making progress in life.
December 15, 2006 | Tate Linden

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

Her name?

I'll get to that...

First names are tricky. Last names are even moreso.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group

December 14, 2006
Residents of Fjuckby demand new name. Having stoically accepted years of relentless badgering, the people of Fjuckby have finally had enough. Globalization has led to rude English-language associations that the villagers could do without.

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

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

(This space intentionally left blank!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...or at least think creatively...

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

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
NBC had a contest to name Carla and Turk's baby. Of the final ten names, how many of them are just various forms of Carla and Turk being munged together?

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

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
December 8, 2006
An Unreasonable Fear of Christmas? It used to be that people wrung their hands about the over-commercialization of Christmas. These days we have almost the opposite problem—Christmas is disappearing entirely. Advertisers still want the huge spike in sales that Christmas provides but they're afraid to acknowledge the holiday itself. It's almost funny to watch them trip over themselves trying to find politically correct substitutions as they avoid saying the dreaded "C" word. But "happy holidays" and "season's greetings" only go so far.

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

As part of this years 'Don't drink and drive' campaign, England's Road Safety Team are distributing posters with the strap line, 'Whose bed will you end up in after the Xmas party?' to all pubs and clubs in the county. The poster will feature a picture of a prison cell with bed in it.
December 7, 2006
Freelander 2 Rebranded as a Range Rover? Land Rover is considering rebranding its recently launched Freelander 2 (AKA LR2) SUV as a Range Rover to improve its perception as a luxury vehicle. Land Rovers are considered to be utilitarian vehicles in all countries, but more so in some than others. In parts of Europe, for example, a buyer may look down upon the Land Rover branded Freelander when comparing it to premium marques such as BMW. The other reason behind the name change would be to allow the Freelander to punch above its weight in terms of prestige despite being priced below many comparable vehicles.

'Orbital Outfitters' to Provide Space Suits for Next Generation. "Have Spacesuit -- Will Travel," from the famous Robert Heinlein novel, is also the tagline of a new company that intends to do just that -- make sure a new generation of commercial civilian Space travelers, adventurers and explorers fly in style and safety in Space suits like none designed before. reports the UK's "The Wrestling Channel" is to be renamed to TWC Fight!
December 6, 2006
AB Launches Branding Campaign for Interactive Advertising. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) this week announced the launch of a new integrated interactive brading campaign - featuring the tagline "Media More Engaging."

Ford's Bold Moves. With its tagline "Document the Future of Ford," the site presents videoclips, blog posts, comments from readers and recent headlines regarding Ford. As you may or may not know, Ford recently bet the company, putting pretty much all of Ford recently bet the company, putting pretty much all of its assets (even including the Ford logo itself) up as collateral for an extremely large bank loan, simply to keep itself afloat and give it a chance to stave off bankruptcy.

Yahoo and Reuters Welcomes You to the "Human Network". Cisco's new tagline is "Welcome to the Human Network." Not everybody knows what a network does, so by extension would they know what a "human network" does. The New York Times reports that the network thatis "hoping to turn the millions of people with digital cameras and camera phones into photojournalists. Introducing a new effort to showcase photographs and video of news events submitted by the public."
December 6, 2006 | Tate Linden
We're in the midst of a book project in our "spare" time here at Stokefire. One of the things we're looking to provide are real war stories or horror stories about naming projects from around the globe. We've already got the goods for the major stories - the ones that are easily found via Google or Technorati or in any one of a dozen books on corporate names and histories (or even from our own experience.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds like they both work to me...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beer for all. There is beer for dogs, kids and even beers are that is certified kosher, like HE'BREW, a Jewish-themed label from Shmaltz Brewery ( Billing itself as "The Chosen Beer," the half-jokey, half-serious gourmet kosher microbrew has a boozy rabbi cavorting on the label. There is also Layla (, a dirty blonde lager with the tagline "Israeli for Beer".
November 29, 2006
Corporate Chickens. KFC implements new store designs and will continue to use the famous "Finger Licking Good," and "11 Secret Herbs and Spices" as taglines. The Colonel, an icon known around the world, will appear in a red cook's apron, rather than the iconic white suit.

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

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

New Beverage Product Names Focus on Health and Wellness. An excellent article in Drinks Business Review Online alerted us to some truly interesting drinks that ought to help us all survive the usual overindulgence that comes with the season. Content Stampede Brewing's new beer brand, 'Stampede Light', is one of the first brands to mention hangovers in its marketing. The reduced hangover claim stems from Stampede Light's added vitamin B content, replacing vitamins which the company says are lost after drinking alcohol.
November 28, 2006 | Tate Linden
The good folks over at the American Name Society are ending their Name of the Year contest today. The winning name should best illustrate (through its creation or use over the last 18 months) important trends in North American culture. All types of names are eligible - including brands, places, surnames, first names, building names, pseudonyms, ficticious names, and just about anything else you can think of. A committee of ANS representatives will select three to five candidates from the nominees to be voted on by the members of the ANS next January at the annual meeting.

Nominations must be received today, November 28, 2006.

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

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

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

November 28, 2006
New supermarket format store introduced for pharmacy. Life Pharmacy introduces new supermarket format store under SupaChem™ brand. The SupaChem pharmacy combines traditional pharmacy service and healthcare with supermarket accessibility, convenience, scale and value. This is reflected in a three-part brand proposition: value on pharmacy lines; a multi-tiered pricing structure; and professional dispensary and consultation services under the strapline “SupaValue. SupaPrice. SupaCare.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A SPICY sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards’ officers warned the manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon. Blogger asks "Do girl scout cookies contain real girl scouts?"
November 17, 2006
Next, who isn't intrigued about growing old, as we all, hopefully, have to? One guy who's cheerfully there already is Pete Lustig, an e-marketing manager, aged 84, in Illinois. He shares the journey and time traveler tips in his lively Late Life Crisis blog. It bears the tagline, "Too soon we get old; too late we get smart," so here's where I go in search of some short cuts to the smarts, before it's too late.

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

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

Woman with heartburn sues Coke and wins. How’s this for an ad slogan: “Things go better with (a reasonable amount of) Coke”? Coca-Cola may have to think twice about certain taglines now that a Russian woman has sued the company, and won, for allegedly getting heartburn from signature product. tries to convince smokers to quit with guerilla marketing campaign. Using the tagline on stickers they hope get plastered around on cigarette ads: 'Contains Urea'. Urea is constituent of urine, and apparently is contained in cigarettes. Urea, is universally known as carbamide, as recommended by the International Non-proprietary Names (rINN).
November 16, 2006
Auburn. Minnesota to vote on name for New Elementary School. Students and staff members will also get to vote on the new name. Since the start of the school year, students have been working to put this election together. Four finalists are being suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DulcoEase strapline tells you the secret strapline to her beauty.

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

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

November 8, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imelda Marcos has given her name to a new line of jewelry designed by her kids called “The Imelda Collection”.
November 6, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 3, 2006
Naming pickle. A company naming dispute between two New York City pickle peddlers is headed to federal court.

Australian pop star Kylie Minogue returns to the stage on November 11 in Sydney to resume the tour she was forced to abandon last year after being diagnosed with breast cancer, her record label said on Wednesday. The tour has been re-named the "Showgirl Homecoming Tour".

Do people realize what t-shirts with taglines actually say?. Universtity of Dayton student is concerned about students donning Abercrombie & Fitch shirts that reads: Who need brains when you have these? Or an American Eagle shirt that blairs: Awkward mornings beat boring nights.

The National Irish Lottery has a new strapline 'Think Bigger' for their new ad campaign. What is less heavily advertised is that the pick of numbers is now six from 1 - 45. The odds of winning are now 1 in 8145060.

Comet’s latest strapline: “We Live Electricals”. What? What does that even mean? It’s not even a sentence, as far as I can make out. Surely adding industry-speak to a public ad campaign can only serve to alienate your potential market.
November 2, 2006
Co-operative Insurance (CIS) is set to bolster its new ‘green’ Eco motor insurance by unveiling a national television campaign which will feature images of CIS’ innovative Grass covered Car accompanied by the strapline, ‘now you can get green car insurance that doesn’t cost the earth’.

It appears US citizens have been segmented and tagged as consumers along neighborhood lines. Carnegie Communications has conducted a geodemographic analysis and has determined 66 different market segments, or "clusters". What have you been dubbed? A "Shotgun & Pickup" perhaps? IT hub Bangalore renamed (back to) Bengalooru, which translates to 'town of boiled beans'. Move seen as a bid to appease locals upset at the influx of outsiders.

Bud Light Beer television commercial filmed expediently to stick to the tagline ‘Always worth it’.

John Mellencamp has done more rebranding than just taking the "Cougar" out of his name. Seems that his stance against corporate greed has faded as he aligns his new song "Our Country" with the new General Motors, Our Country. Our truck” campaign.

"Circle K rebrands to Stripes," the Texas Susser companies decision to end its relationship with Circle K should be complete by the year’s. The new Stripes brand is Susser's own creation. The company raised $107 million in an initial public offering this week. The change over will be slow due to federal rules that prohibit promoting a new brand during the process of an initial public offering.
November 2, 2006 | Tate Linden
Naming ain't easy.

Claude Labbe (and quite a few other folks) alerted me to this story:
Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment Corp, a small Ohio-based manufacturer that employs just 17 people, claims its website became a victim of YouTube's success after being engulfed by 68 million hits in August.
68 Million hits. And I would bet that of those people that accidentally went to the wrong site - exactly none of them thought "Wow - this is such a coincidence! Even though I was looking for sophomoric videos I could really use some industrial tubing right now. Where can I send my money?"

UTube is suing YouTube to cover the costs of the misdirected traffic.

This should be an interesting case to follow. While YouTube could get some positive press from helping UTube, I wonder if UTube could've prevented the entire debacle by using forethought.

When picking your domain name we advise
November 1, 2006

On-line dating sites, such as, let you choose a long screen name and long personal taglines. Just what do you have to say for yourself?

Premium dog food launches and is named after fictional vet called Wainwright. The brand is particularly aimed at dogs with food intolerances and is tagged as "dog's best friend".

Google purchases JotSpot. There’s also no confirmation as to what the new name will be, but suggestions are afloat.
Beverage makers try to find refreshing drinks that do not (like those of yesteryears) have to be re-named to cover up the use of illegal drugs.

Glenfiddich, the family-owned Scotch whiskey brand looks to increases holiday sales. New marketing campaigns, include the strapline "inspiring great conversation since Christmas Day 1887".

Premium Bonds celebrates it's 50th in London. Cake celebration due to parade through Trafalgar Square announcing "saving with a thrill". What's exactly going to come out of that cake?

October 31, 2006
Americans blame Cookie Monster for obesity in children. Producers change Cookie's tagline to "Cookies in Moderation!" [Tate sez: Picture the Cookie Monster stuffing cookies into his mouth in moderation... Doesn't work, does it? If this is true then we've just killed off an American icon with an overdose of Political Correctness.]

Second Helpings, a group that rescues prepared and perishable food from stores and restaurants has updated its image and has renamed its newsletter "Peas and Carrots," followed by the tagline, "Little Bits of News That Go Great Together." The group's new logo features a chef lifting a pot with heart-shaped steam rising from it. [Tate sez: Nice... it's okay to have "second helpings" if it is for charity? Where's my moderation now?]

Millionaire Fair an exhibition opening in Moscow this weekend. Organizers estimate the fair has attracted some 10,000 visitors every day -- fulfilling the event's unofficial tagline "Millionaires of Russia unite!". Ironic nod to an old revolutionary call for the world's working proletariat.

Bikini Ban. An appealing Britain ad campaign showing a Latvian model photographed in a bikini in Eilat, the Dead Sea and Tel Aviv. The photo taken on the Tel Aviv beach includes a tagline reading: The 24 hour Mediterranean city, Tel Aviv. Ads pulled by the Tourism Ministry as not to offend orthodox sentiments in cabinet.

Van delivers tire service to your car. The tagline on the back of the truck is usually what catches people's attention: "Notice: Driver carries no old magazines or burnt coffee."

Hachi Tei Restaurant uses Pelicans, Shark and Walrus' to go for the obvious. Restaurant uses strap line: ‘For those who like their sushi really fresh’.

Patt, White GMAC Real Estate office has changed their name to Pocono Advantage Real Estate. Now they can not even be located in the forest of Pocono related sites.
October 31, 2006 | Tate Linden

Lane Bryant (a plus-sized women's clothing catalogue) is changing its name. New Name: Woman Within.

On the surface this is a fine name. We like the empowerment aspect that the label brings - wear our clothes and honor your feminine side. For a group of people that sometimes don't feel feminine at all (because of public perception) the name serves as an affirmation. It is also an existing brand name that the target clients are comfortable with.

The Woman Within brand has been around for fifteen years.

The name certainly has risks, however. If you take a cynical view the name can even be insulting. It took a leap of faith (or perhaps an act of putting on blinders) to adopt the name in the nineties. This is the sort of name that ends up on the lips of offensive comedians and talk-show hosts. It isn't a difficult leap to turn this empowering name into one that could tear the target customer down.

How might this be? For someone sensitive about their weight the suggestion that they are hiding a woman underneath their girth probably wouldn't be taken kindly.

I find it intriguing that the name went forward anyhow, and that the public hasn't pushed the negative aspect. We'll see if the added visibility of the Lane Bryant marketing machine puts this on the radar of the cynics (other than me.)

If there's a lesson in this it is that you can succeed even if you have a potentially risky name. Companies often agonize over names that might be taken the wrong way - to the point that they create meaningless Latinate names that avoid both offense and connotation. We've had a client that avoided a name containing the word "touch" because they thought it sounded pedophillic...

If you look hard enough at any meaningful but innocuous word you can find a negative. We have had people write our own name as "Strokefire" a few times - which connotes an entirely different sort of butsiness to us. But it isn't enough of an issue to abandon our name. We've also heard that some folks use the word "stoke" to mean "have sex with" but we're still not going to change. At some point you must accept that the target client isn't going to interpret the name badly and just move forward. The key is to be aware of the risks and associations and be able to respond and adapt to them.

Simply put... Avoiding risk leads to avoiding success. And that's not why we're in business.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group

October 31, 2006 | Tate Linden
Back in April of this year I started the Stoked Brands blog as a bit of a test for myself. Would I be able to write consistently about my area of expertise day after day? Would I find new and interesting things to discuss? Would I be able to help others understand the complexities of naming and branding?

Evidently I've passed the test. Numerous thank-you letters have come in from thought-leaders, clients, and peers and along the way we've even had some great conversations between the people that named a company and those that provide advice to the industry. We've had visitors from NASA, the United States Senate, Big Tobacco, local government, Fortune 500 firms, and more than 60 countries.

In passing the test I have convinced myself I'm ready for the next step: writing a column in a paper. I'm starting locally with a good friend of the Community Business Partnership - the Del Ray Sun - and may branch out to other news outlets if I can figure out how to tighten up my writing. Craig Lancto - the editor of the Sun - has agreed to help me out in this effort. Editors are apparently good at stuff like that.

Other happenings:
  • Stokefire is working with an award-winning Canadian firm - Compass360 - on refining our visual identity. The work should be done by January in hard-copy, with an online update coming shortly after that. Our existing visuals are good, but don't really reflect the hand-wrought aspect of our craft. We've become less corporate and more creative. However, even with all our creativity we still haven't progressed past stick-figures in our artistic abilities, so Compass360 is the answer. We're looking forward to great things. (And a shout-out to our Canadian friends... since we've engaged with Compass360 our Canadian readership has gone up about 1000%!)
  • The blog name will begin a slow change from the existing "Stoked Brands" to "Thingnamer(sm)." The focus of the blog has changed from the original general brand analysis to a more specific analysis of names and taglines, so the new name fits a little better. I'm still poking stuff with sticks, but the new name also reflects the fact that I'm doing more than poking and analyzing, I'm naming stuff too. Beginning today you can reach the Stoked Brands blog via the Thingnamer website. The transition will be made official with the web update in 2007. (Tip of the hat to Bill McCready of Santana Cycles. I may not understand the intricacies of fluid dynamics and hydraulic brakes, but I know a good name when I see it.)
  • On December 1 (8 AM - 9:30ish) I will be giving a twenty-minute presentation at the Community Business Partnership on the topic of blogging. It seems many local business owners are trying to figure out if they should give it a shot, but aren't sure what the benefits might be or even how to get started. I'll be handling the business-side of the conversation and my good friend (and Stokefire client) Rachel Pastirik of Netdrafter will be handling the technical aspects. If you own a business (or work in marketing) in Fairfax County, VA I would love to see you there. In addition to the discussion on branding there will also be networking (last time I spoke here it was standing room only - and I've heard some great partnerships were made) and even a bit of breakfast. The event is called "First Friday Breakfast" and you can reserve your spot (for $5) by clicking here and scrolling until you find the event. Or you can cut directly to the reservation page by clicking here. Directions can be found here.
  • We're just starting to look for long-term office space in the Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria areas. We've outgrown our current digs and need a nice open setting. We're looking for something non-traditional - like an old firehouse, foundry, garage, or small warehouse. Bonus points if it is a firehouse and still has that cool pole thing. We need about 2000 square feet right now, but can go for something larger if we find the right space. If you have a potential candidate for us to look at you can send us a note here.
That's enough news from Stokefire HQ. Check back later for more of the stuff you actually come here to read...

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

October 30, 2006 | Tate Linden

Ever hear of personal branding? We've spoken a little bit about it here, but at nowhere near the depth that it is covered in this week's Time Magazine.

I've held the belief that everyone has a brand and can't avoid sharing it with the world. Think you don't?

Ask yourself a few of these questions:

  1. Do you have kids?
  2. Are you energetic?
  3. Do you eat everything on your plate?
  4. Did you study in school?
  5. Do you have an iPod?
  6. Do you dress comfortably when traveling?
  7. Are you the life of the party?
  8. Do you like playing videogames?
  9. Do you have a blog?
  10. Do you own a pet?

Did you answer any of them?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions you've branded yourself. If you answered "no" to any of the questions you've also branded yourself. Heck... if you saw the list and thought "I don't have time for this" or "this is stupid" or "I want to see where he's going with this before I answer anything" then... yes... you've branded yourself.

Oh, and for you wiseacres that think by shutting yourself in a room and never talking to anyone you'll avoid branding yourself... Hope that you enjoy being branded as a recluse.

You see, anything about you that you communicate to other people becomes part of your brand. Even if you don't say a word or move a muscle you can still establish your brand solidly. As soon as you walk into a crowded room you are immediately checked for your brand by everyone that sees you. They see if you're stylish, confident, good looking, healthy, happy, and just about anything else that you might be showing. They're even potentially filing away bits of data about you like, "You're that guy who wore stripes and paisleys together" or "the woman that fell into the cocktail sauce."

Why are people looking for shorthand? Because we can't handle the complexity presented by human beings. We need a mental shorthand to help with recall. (Suddenly all those high-school nicknames like "Shorty", "Freckles", and "Pig Pen" begin to make sense...) We find one or two things that are distinctive about a person and we use them as the tabs on our mental folders so we can always find who we're looking for.

So - even before you spend a dime you probably already have a brand. It may not be good, but it is certainly there.

The idea presented by Time (that companies can help you with your personal brand) is pretty interesting to me. People often see themselves as so multi-faceted that they couldn't possibly simplify themselves down to the one or two things that will lead them to success in life. In job interviews we often throw dozens of great things about ourselves at the interviewer - hoping that at least a couple of 'em hit the right spot and get us hired. So we say we're confident, we're organized, our only flaw is that we don't know when to call it a day, we get along well with everyone, we're a natural leader who knows how to be a team member, we're looking for a job that helps us grow but we have all the skills we need to do it perfectly today.

Not only do most of us not say anything that will help to create a compelling shorthand in an interviewer's mind, we often contradict ourselves in the hopes that one of the two things we say will match with what the hiring manager is looking for.

So - the idea than an industry would spring up to help people land jobs, write personals, and basically be ourselves(only in higher concentrations) actually seems useful. It helps us carve out mental space in the minds of the people we interact with. If you carve out the right mental space with the right person you can end up with your dream job, the perfect spouse, or the best friend you've always wanted. Isn't that worth a couple thousand dollar investment?

But there are downsides. Once you've branded yourself to get that dream job you must find ways to live within that brand. If you've misstated yourself at all it can come back to bite you. Did you say that you were "detail oriented" when you should have said "aware that there are details?" When your copy isn't flawless it isn't going to go over well with the boss.

Even if you nail your brand perfectly it may lock you into a role that doesn't allow you to grow in ways that you want to. Branding is usually about finding the compelling differences between you and everyone else - and the desire to do a little bit of everything doesn't help you stand out. Everyone says (or thinks) it - and most also say they're interested in personal growth. Once you pin your brand to your chest you're going to have to live with (and as) it for a while. Are you comfortable with that? Does your life-history tell the same story?

Remember in today's world we now leave a trail of bits and bytes behind us and Google is there to sweep them into little organized bins. In looking for my name you'll find hundreds of hits, including articles I've written, my own blog posts, memberships in online forums, and even stuff that other bloggers and thought leaders have said about me. If I were to suddenly decide that I wanted to spend the rest of my life as an accountant I might find that my online identity would prevent any reputable accounting firm from hiring me. Anyone with knowledge of computers and the Internet would know in an instant that I had no experience. (You can read numerous stories about bad stuff happening and being found online if you look for 'em. You can't outrun your online identity.)

Is personal branding worth it? Actually I think it is - if you aren't doing as well in life as you think you could be. If you're happy then why bother? Same goes for big business - if you're happy with where you are (and where you're going) then why would you ever invest money in changing that?

(This is actually a pretty big problem for companies that are about to encounter bad times - they don't see that they need to change and are caught flatfooted when times change and being the best record-player manufacturer goes from being something to boast about to something worthy of shame.)

Here's the real key, though. Investing in your brand won't do a darn thing for you if you don't know who you are or what you genuinely want to do with your life. If you don't know what direction you want to go then chances are good that improving your directionless brand will improve your chances of landing a job (or mate) that you probably don't want or can't support for the long term.

How do you figure out who you are and where you want to go? You could hire an expert. Or if you're saving your money you could just take a look at your own life. Just by walking around your house you can learn a lot. Are all your cosmetics lined up on the counter? Do you move your furniture when you vacuum? Do you have a piano? Do you use it? How many dirty dishes are in your sink? Do you have art on the walls? Is it original or reproduction? Each one of these questions points to something that you are or believe in. Even seeing where you put your money (electronics, politics, baby-food, your church) could help you figure out who you are.

It's what you do with the things that matter to you that probably define you best of all. So - you've got time, money, and effort. Where have you been investing them? Once you figure that out then you may be in a better position to develop a brand that can support your real goals.

In closing this exceedingly long ramble, you should consider how effective companies have been in trying to rebrand themselves as something that they are not. We've talked about how Altria (Philip Morris) has a name and brand image that doesn't really support who they are - and the response from the public has been overwhelmingly negative. Aspirational branding (when you aspire to be something, but aren't yet there - like the "altruistic" cigarette maker) doesn't work for companies. And it doesn't work for people either.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group

October 27, 2006 domain up for sale. It is estimated that the name will sell for over $8 million. It is assumed that people will just about pay anything to tell their customers to "Just go to"

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

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

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

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

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

October 27, 2006 | Tate Linden
What do you do if, after giving your business a try for two years, your leader resigns and a division of your business undergoes "voluntary administration?"

Well - if you're Retail Cube you try renaming yourself to something forgetable. Something like (okay, exactly like) RCG Ltd.

Let's see. How easy will it be for people to find this company? Well, a search in Google finds more than 3 million hits. So at least we know they'll find something.

Who uses the name already?
October 26, 2006
Ottawa, Canada. Michael Ignatieff has indicated his willingness to recognize Quebec as a nation within Canada. Is a new name needed?.

DispenseSource® changes name to Nexiant. New name reflects strategic mission of company and growth from a small, five-person operation to a fast-moving, multi-million dollar business.

Local Iowan Millstream Brewing Company looks for new beer name for their best-selling beer.

Mbabane, Swaziland. Chicken Licken outlets close, to re-open, however, under a new trading and company name altogether. The closure came into effect after Chicken Licken-South Africa failed to supply them with some products such as the popular 'Hot Wings'. Owner of four franchises feels bad that there will no longer have Chicken Licken in the country.

Intercontinental Hotels Group Plc. is setting up a joint venture with Japan's All Nippon Airways Co. to manage hotel business in Japan. The venture, to be called IHG ANA Hotels Group Japan. TelePlus Enterpises, Inc. re-brands to TelePlus World, Corp. Change reflects companies focus on their operational objectives, which are to deliver wireless and telecom services to market niches in select markets in the United States, Canada and abroad.
October 26, 2006 | Tate Linden
Finally, someone out there is starting to talk sensibly.

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

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

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

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

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

The proposed solution
October 25, 2006
Washington, DC Communities Get New Name "The Yards". Many question whether the new name would be confused with Baltimore's Camden Yards. Mayor Williams says: "You know you have the birthplace of the United States Navy right on this site. So, if anyone is entitled to use a nautical expression, I think they are."

Alienware celebrates 10th anniversary. Still, "truly believing that the stars really are the limit. After all, they didn’t name the company ‘Alienware’ just because it sounded cool.”

Glendale Arena renamed Arena, a company which hosts career fairs and allows people to post resumes and search for jobs.

New Delhi, India. Reebok's tagline 'I Am What I Am', and sub-brands Fish Fry and Scarlett Johansson's, 'Scarlett "Hearts" Rbk', help make Reebok out sell competitors.

Drug Free America Foundation launches national "'True Compassion' campaign. With vigorous taglines such as 'It's Not Just Alcohol Anymore;' 'Still Think Drug Abuse is Somebody Else's Problem;' and 'Now That the Smoke Has Cleared'.

National Recycling Awards, adverts feature London’s famous landmarks buried in rubbish with the strap line ‘Just when will you start recycling?'.
October 25, 2006 | Tate Linden

According to a group of doctors in London,

"The term schizophrenia should be abolished as it has become incorrectly assigned to a range of disorders and has stigmatising connotations within society."

Schizophrenia appears to be headed the way of countless afflictions that have somehow become more deeply meaningful (and offensive) than initially intended. While the article sites the factual incorrectness of the term schizophrenia, this doesn't address why the name should be changed. If people are misdiagnosing the problem isn't in the name, is it?

Consider: You are sick and you go to the doctor. Doctor says "You have a cold" but in fact you have the flu. Do we change the name of "cold" to something less confusing so that doctors don't mess up?

Okay... maybe that isn't the best example. Perhaps colors would be better. If I call something that is obviously red another color (say, "blue") you wouldn't consider renaming red to something else so that I stop calling blue "red."

That seems to fit a little better. It points out that the incorrect assignment noted in the quote above isn't the issue.

The real issue here with the name is that

October 24, 2006 The site’s tagline, "Video for Travelers", tries to eliminate any confusion between it and a travel agency site.

Wanna be the next Web Star? Win $50,000? Enter Yahoo's talent show named: "Save the Web from bad videos."

PepsiCo stays on course with current sales plan despite decline in soft drink sales in North America. New packaging graphics– not a drop in price points, will rotate every few weeks in addition to a new ad campaign with the tagline are "Feel the Pepsi".

"IF a rose would smell as sweet by any other name, will trial lawyers smell better with a new one?" Association of Trial Lawyers of America becomes after election day the American Association for Justice.

Globalization think tank re-thinks it's name to honor the former Nixon administration commerce secretary.

“Maybe she’s born with it…” this classic Maybelline tagline offers more truth than we realize.
October 19, 2006

If it is named and notable it is probably here:

"Colour, like no other" is a pretty apt description of what Fallon has created for Sony Bravia. It's like that movie "Colors" from way back when, only with the actors portrayed by exploding paint.

Tagline "Set yourself free" used by Sony's Vanguard MMORPG seems a wee bit counterintuitive, given the number of intervention groups there are for MMORPG addicts. Perhaps they were suggeting being free from showering, daylight, and socializing with real people?

Sarah Lee's slogan "The Joy of Eating" focuses in on "how food plays a central role in our lives." Evidently the hunger-striker market was worth losing.

The digital-tv and broadband company UPC Norway changes its name to Get. ... We actually like the name, but boy does that sentence look strange. We are dying to ask "To get what?!"

Travel consulting firm gets a new name:

The Advito name links the concept of “advice” with “ito,” a form of the Latin root for “journey” or travel. Together with Advito’s strapline, “Good advice travels far,” the name perfectly expresses who Advito is and what its consultants deliver.

  • Okay... but how do you say it? Advice + Ito = "Adv-eye-tow", right? Or is it "Adveeto? Or perhaps Ad-vih-tow? We could use some adveesing ourselves.

Not to be out fake-Latinized, Diagnostic Ultrasound Corp changes name to Verathon Inc.

The Verathon name is a unique fusion of two ideals that embody the company’s mission and beliefs. Veritas (from the Latin for “truth”) reflects the company’s commitment to being true to the needs of patients and health care professionals, and Marathon describes the company’s passion for enduring achievement over the long run.

We're pretty sure you're going to figure out what we don't like about Verizon's latest press release (Hint):

The spin-off will result in a new public company that will be separate from Verizon and that will be called Idearc Inc. (pronounced EYE'- dee-ark)

AllTheRage renames to ATR warehouse, thus averting widely predicted acronym shortage.

October 19, 2006 | Tate Linden
Lesson in Latin: There's a Latin root word which means ‘to open’ or ‘to give access to’.

Lesson in English: Regardless of what a word means in Latin, if it may mean something else in English you should probably pay more attention to the English connotation than the Latin one.

...and here's the company we suggest needs to learn the English Lesson: The formerly named MeridianEaton that today announced their new name... Aperian.

We can't get over the similarity between "Aperian" and what we imagine our president might pull out of his brain when reaching for the word "Apelike."

Aperian LogoThe full name (and therefore the website) is Aperian Global - which makes us think of someplace that Charlton Heston would damn to hell. We might've considered
October 18, 2006
Hot dogs. Armour hot dogs. What kind of kids eat Armour hot dogs? Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks; tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chickenpox" was an American institution. So why is it that Armour sausage isn't sticking with their own name (which was instituted in 1867). What kind of people let this type of brand recognition go? We'll let Ahnold apply the appropriate verbal smack-down.

Broadwing's new name rings a... Cincinnati Bell. Evidently naming a US company after an Antiguan hawk that strikes small rodents and often strays to hunt young chickens didn't fit with their image...

Marion Manor adopts 'Golden Living Center' as its new name. Current Google hits for Golden Living Center: 13,300,000. Perhaps someone has tried this approach before?

Ecom, Inc.SM, the managed care leader announces it’s now doing business as Ecom PPO Advisors, Inc. to reflect the company focus on consulting. We're left wondering which word is ignored more by consumers - ".com" or "advisors." Probably a toss-up. (Actually this is a pretty good move since .com went out of style in 2000...)
October 17, 2006
Dementia centre gets new name - New Tyne. (Yes it is a bit offensive, but one has to wonder if clients notice.)

Horizon Technology renames five divisions to clarify their holdings. Interestingly, Clarity used to be their name...

"With the development of Bilfinger Berger into a Multi Service Group, the name Rheinhold & Mahla AG was changed in October, 2006 to Bilfinger Berger Industrial Services AG." Okay... not only did we not understand this, we're strangely amused by the word "Bilfinger." How do you get through your pre-teen years with a name like that?

Guardian Newspaper, which comprises The Guardian, Observer and Guardian Unlimited is to be re-named Guardian News and Media. We wonder if this is the beginning of a trend... Can you picture the WSJ as WSJaM? Is it really necessary to say that you have a website in your name? We vote "No."

Following on our pithy Acronymic naming, a company tells us we're misguided. Or maybe it is just the company owners that are misguided. We like the core message, but take offense that we can't name our own damn company. Company owners should not read this article.

Florida Grand Opera has scored hits with ads boasting catchy taglines such as: "Super Human" - referencing the athleticism required to stand on toes for... like... hours.

Looking to help customers better differentiate among its various versions of Linux, Novell said today that it will now call its free, open-source version 'openSUSE'. We say the name Susie will become much less popular with chaste women.

Cocaine. Because everyone wants that energy boost, and associated weight loss from not eating and having their teeth fall out. Hey... are you thirsty?

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are not representative of anyone working for or against Stokefire. We're really just trying to make names and taglines cool, and that's pretty darn difficult on some days.
October 17, 2006 | Tate Linden
We at Stokefire are not big fans of purely reactionary naming. Heck, we're not fans of aspirational naming when the thing you aspire to is something that people already expect from you either.

That doesn't stop it from happening, though.

That is why we're doubly disappointed in the name coming out of the merger between Peoples Energy and WPS Resources as reported in the Chicago Sun-Times today. (And an even better article by Robert Manor containing expert analysis was released in the Tribune. Stokefire wasn't quoted, but we had a nice email exchange with Mr. Manor - one side of which can be found in the comments section of this post.)

We made up the term "reactionary naming" on the spot, but we could just as easily have called it knee-jerk naming, reflex naming, or any of a dozen other options that hint as to the cause. What we mean by our term is that the name is a quick response to an external market force. Anyone else remember when a major network news organization quickly rebranded itself with the tagline "Real News" after a story they broke on automobile safety (real lesson: don't drive with lit model rocket engines strapped to your vehicle) turned out to be faked? (We can't find the story, but we think it happened in the early nineties.) We're pretty sure that the new tagline didn't make people believe the news any more than they had prior to the scandal.

Reactionary naming results in companies pointing out that they're not as bad as whatever they're trying to distance themselves from. This, in turn, results in making the populace think about the negative issue in conjunction with the company trying to avoid this very connection. A company naming itself Unron would by its very nature be calling up imagery of the scandal.

Aspirational naming can work when the thing aspired to is extraordinary or unique. Aspirational doesn't work when it points to
October 16, 2006

The Media Vault breaks out to be the first Hewlett-Packard product to steal the company's new tagline"- "Computing is Personal Again.

Naming your business after your kids, or your dogs, may be cute, but probably only to you.

Wyndham Worldwide announces rebranding of timeshare resorts to run with the 'Wynd'.

Is India game? Xbox 360 global tagline is, 'Jump In' may need a 'jump start'.

CarMax enters the used car race with new tagline: "It's amazing no one's thought of this before."

Miller High Life Beer ad with 14 kt tagline hopes to reposition the beer as a man's man beer. As for the seasonal chocolate beer? We wonder if men will have the craving.

How using acronymns to identify your business does not lend itself in creating initial success.

Binge drinking takes a deep beating with new strapline.

Malibu, CA residents try to dodge De Butts.
October 13, 2006

Fans SHIVE(RED) as Oprah and Bono IGNO(RED) them. How a Gap in brand aid can leave a nasty, (RED) rash on customers.

How a bad tagline (could) ruin a station. 107.5 FM: Movin' In The Wrong Direction. B-i-n-g-o, B-i-n-g-o, B-i-n-g-o... Bingo was it's Nanaimo! (British Columbia that is). Local Lantzville Rotary Club renames it's auction to Big Rotary Auction.

A cure for depression? Butter try.

Utterly Yours breast pillow. Holly Cow. The depth of imagery possibilities here.

Brand Health = Wealth. PepsiCo's new CEO, announces profits from "healthier" brands.
October 13, 2006 | Tate Linden

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

The new slogan: "Army Strong."

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is the Army”: 1979-1981.

“Be all you can be”: 1981-2001.

“An Army of one”: 2001-2006.

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

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group

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

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

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

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

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

Here's my question for the realty folks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 12, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PalmSource - the spinoff that made the Palm Operating System was acquired by ACCESS. Since resistance is useless PalmSource prepares to be assimilated. PalmSource shall henceforth be named... ACCESS. Of Borg.
October 12, 2006 | Tate Linden
Apparently so.

Business naming firm Dynamo [site down at time of post] stands to earn this much for the sale of the domain name - a registrar of wiki sites.

We at Stokefire are amazed at the value placed on the domain by John Gotts. We think there's a bit of a disconnect here. When people are trying to build websites they don't go to When people want to buy pizza they don't go to And when was the last time you went to
October 11, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Kohl's target Target? Uninspired minds want to know. And as far as cage matches go, we think "a battle with J.C. Penney for middle-income clothing buyers" is something we'll not be watching on Pay-Per-View.
October 11, 2006 | Tate Linden

Industry research is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Someone likely paid a tidy sum to Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell to learn the following:

"Less affluent travelers want the basics," said Gary Sain, YPB&R's chief marketing officer. "The more affluent the traveler, the more important individualized and personalized service is."

Okay. Not particularly ground-breaking there... In case anyone didn't know that people with money tend to be the ones that populate first-class, we now have a statement in writing saying so.

Perhaps more interesting is their finding that people with money pay more attention to branding than people without money. This seems somewhat self-evident to us as well. People with money can afford to pay attention to branding. Those without money have to settle for whatever low-priced crud is available.

This links in with something I lecture about. During my speeches I often talk about price and branding - and the fact that having a strategy of having the lowest pricing is one of the least defensible brand positions. It also makes your brand look like every other price cutter on the market. Lowering your prices is not branding. Lowering your prices is a sale - and you can't have a brand that is all about continually making your prices lower. At some point you cease to make money.

As for the power of brands... according to the survey, affluent travelers enjoy the Hyatt Regency, Park Hyatt and Ritz Carlton for their stays while the budget crowd showed affinity for Marriott and Holiday Inn. I have to wonder if YPB&R actually thinks that this means that the budget crowd would still stay in the cheap places if they had money. I'm thinking that the budget crowd probably doesn't want the basics, but they can't justify anything more. I don't know anyone who would forgo a first-class seat (assuming the rest of their party went with them) if offered for the same price as coach. Brand matters to just about everyone - but some people can't afford to use the brands they want.

Don't think brand matters to you? What if I give you the choice of wearing a shirt made by a local artisan versus one that is made by a sweat-shop in a third-world country. And the latter one also funds terrorism. And they kill cats. And... they want to raise your taxes. And... more bad stuff. At some point you must realize that a brand is affected by everything the company does. It doesn't matter whether you're poor or not - just some people can't afford not to do business with companies that have lousy brands.

Let's look at this a little differently. If I'm trying to create a brand that appeals to people that are looking for the lowest cost then I'm throwing away business from people looking to create a lasting relationship with me. Does anyone actually think that people who shop on price alone are likely stop shopping on price once they find your business? When a business no longer has the lowest price the business is no longer favored and the penny pinchers go elsewhere. You don't see dollar stores converting to two-dollar stores, do you?

So... knock it off with the whole "my brand is about having the lowest price" approach. Even if it is only partially related to the survey, both Stokefire and YBP&R can show you (in very different ways) that it just doesn't have much hope of being profitable.

Wow... that's a whole lot of rambling for what was supposed to be a one-liner response to an apparently pointless survey.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultant
Stokefire Consulting Group

October 10, 2006

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

Hotel Istana rebooks rebrands itself to fly business class.

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

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

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

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

October 6, 2006

We will be out doing some research for our blog (as well as relaxing) the next few days. We'll be back in on Tuesday to blog back in. Until then here are some stories we found in the branding world today.

Shaw Enough: Shaw Communications re-brands its subsidiary companies and changes Cancom Tracking to Shaw Tracking. Why? Find out why the Shaw brand is on course to drive this new commercial vehicle communications business with this strategic brand alignment.

Whirlpool Canada gives Maytag a welcome home. Where has that iconic repairman been?

Babies "R" Us looking to grow into SUPERSTORE with their sibling, Toys "R" Us. Look at the steps that got them up and sprinting ahead.

JC Penney throws a few cents in to increase their refined brand assortment by adding Liz Claiborne's, Liz & Co. women's fashion line, and CONCEPTS by Claiborne men's line.

October 5, 2006 | Tate Linden

Today's links to stories on names, taglines, and branding.

It's a good thing that everyone agrees on what a name should be - especially since evocative, easy to say, descriptive, creative, web-available names are so easy to come by.

Think to yourself about counterfeit branding. Okay, how many of you thought about cows? Forget about fake Coach purses - how about fake Bessie?

Thinking about naming your firm after yourself? Great, but what happens when you leave?

Recruiting firm brands itself after the color of the lumps most people get from employers.

Can rebranding be as easy as putting an umbrella in your drink? Conservatives seem to think so. hates branding, but we're too cheap to find out why.

If we're ever traveling in South Africa we're going to have a really hard time figuring out where to have our tires changed. National chain rebrands and gets a new tagline. We wonder... what exactly is a "Fitment Professional"?

Japan says Light and Mild Cigarettes may be illegal because the terms are descriptive... Excuse me... Not descriptive... Deceptive. Unfortunately "Cancer Sticks" is already taken.

Canada and Australia discuss branding on an international level. If you read it backwards it says "We're not American."

October 4, 2006 | Tate Linden

Durham gets a new tagline - "Where great things happen." Citizens everywhere check their history books to figure out what the heck actually happened in Durham. Kevin Costner gets an unexpected PR boost.

NVIDIA Renames the 570 SLI and 590 SLI Intel Editions (because adding about 100 to a name just makes it seem that much better?)

Ask gets Asked about Jeeves and why they did it without the butler.

New South Wales Prime Minister Brands Government as "Most Incompetent." While we like the ambitiousness of "most", we're not so sure that this will help him in the polls.

Brit Says "No" to Brands, Gets Really Bad Breath.

School District rebranding held back for a year.

Toshiba to lead innovation except for when it comes to taglines

Travel expert Simon Calder learns the importance of naming when he mixes up Luftwaffe and Lufthansa. One of those two organizations may not be amused.

Palm splits in two and renames self. Now must legally say "Give me two-and-a-half" when giving kudos.

October 4, 2006 | Tate Linden
We direct you to this bit of PR.

If you don't have time to read it just check out our Abridged and Bulletized version (Really, it is shorter):
  • Sinus Buster is first FDA registered Capsaicin nasal spray
  • Sinus Buster is on its way to becoming a household name
  • Sinus Buster is outselling their closest competitor by 3 to 1
  • Sinus Buster is outselling their closest competitor by 24%
  • Price Chopper is an upscale store
  • Sinus Buster costs twice as much as their closest competitor
  • Sinus Buster isn't spending much on advertising
  • Sinus Buster is unique because it contains the same chemical that provides the heat for hot peppers.
  • The inventor of Sinus Buster is a wild self-defense instructor who teaches women how to destroy attackers.
  • The inventor has done more than 50 live demonstrations that involved him getting sprayed in the face with pepper spray
  • The inventor has been on Oprah
  • The inventor suffered from cluster headaches and a runny nose.
  • The inventor tried every modern medicine but couldn't solve his problem
  • Someone sprayed the inventor in the face with pepper spray when he had a headache and the headache went away.
  • The inventor finds this promising.
  • The inventor invents pepper spray designed to be shot up the nostril willingly
  • The inventor squirts hot pepper up lots of noses and the owners of the noses love it!
October 3, 2006 | Tate Linden
Weyerhaeuser Employees' Credit Union will officially change its name to Red Canoe Credit Union on Jan. 1.

We at Stokefire HQ had to do a bit of research before we understood the context (prodded by a quote in the press release.)
"We knew the name had to be something uniquely Northwest, representative of our existing membership base and appealing to future members and our community," WECU President/CEO Bob Kane said in a news release.
Okay, so we Googled "Red Canoe" and "Northwest" and found This Book, which referenced a red canoe. It also mentioned the Yukon River located in the Pacific Northwest (we know this because we found it in Wiki.) It's mostly in Canada and Alaska, but we suppose those are technically Northwest...

We think this name is actually quite catchy and approachable - mostly for the local flavor, imagery, and potential backstory. But it has a few issues that we would traditionally try to avoid.

Primary among these is
October 2, 2006 | Tate Linden

Show of hands... how many of you think that it would be okay to name your new communications company by combining the names of two of the biggest energy providers in the world?

Anyone raising their hand should pay less attention to directions on the internet, should send us $20, and should know that they are quite wrong in holding their opinion.

Enter the folks at Texxon.

September 29, 2006 | Tate Linden
[Ed: After an hour of typing the original post was eaten by the Internet Explorer gods. This is but a pale and uninspired imitation of the original creation.]

Here's the gist of what I wrote about: Virgin Airlines created Premium Economy - but called it Mid Class in 1992. Enter unremarkable results. Then... in 1994 they renamed it Premium Economy. Success! (If I was patient I'd put back the half-dozen links I had to the history of the change here... I am currently not feeling patient.)

The model has been copied by countless airlines. Singapore, ANA, bmi, SAS Airlines, Air New Zealand, and United all use the name, but the American companies haven't been adding to the equity of the concept.

The US airlines - especially United - have taken the term and bastardized it so that
September 27, 2006 | Tate Linden

Apple is starting to look an awful lot like a mega-corp. Remember all those stories about McDonalds, Disney, and Microsoft coming down hard on defenseless non-profits and day care centers that either use part of a name or a visual likeness one of their characters? Now it is Apple's turn...

This is pretty odd when you consider that this is the same company that released "Sosumi." They went from challenging the establishment to being the establishment.

The latest? Apple is going after a startup firm for using the term "Pod." Even when "Pod" is part of a larger word...

This smacks of the trouble Apple got into when

September 25, 2006 | Tate Linden

How much power is there in the letter patterns you use to make your company or product name?

We believe that there's a huge amount - but the problem is that as soon as a pattern is established in the marketplace the power quickly turns to the dark side. (Remember when everything ended in ".com?" Other than - The first major company to name itself thusly - how many of those guys are still around?)

Nancy Friedman over at Away With Words got us thinking about this one today. In her post about Web 2.0 Naming she points out that "The names of most Web 2.0 companies are derivative, poorly constructed, and just plain silly"

Thank you Nancy. We agree.

Specifically she blows the whistle on "oo", "ee", baby-talk, and name truncation.

What's interesting to us is that folks like Seth Godin (a pretty smart guy in our opinion) are so much in favor of the types of names that Nancy - and Stokefire - oppose. Seth's post about how he named Squidoo is quite illuminating. Note his use of the double-o.

In the post Seth talks of how Squidoo came to be and why he likes the name so much. He also points to Flickr as an example of a good name.

Seth - a much read author and trend setter - may have done more to affect the process of naming-by-amateur than anyone since Bezos. Note that Seth's article was written in 2005. Since that time Web 2.0 has flourished (or at least the idea of it has) and companies have done their best to look an awful lot like the pioneers of the concept.

We imagine the average company-namer thought something along these lines:

  1. Seth thinks Squidoo and Flickr are cool?
  2. ...then using double vowels and truncating words must be the key to a good name!

What these namers missed was that it was the fact that the names were unique that made them good. People put a jumble of letters together and then check Google to be sure that there aren't many hits (as suggested by Seth) and PRESTO! New Web 2.0 Compatibr Name! It is a template approach that leads to copy-cat names that are hard to tell apart.

Pop-Quiz time! Can you tell us what naming convention led to the creation of Frappr, Preloadr, Blogr, Weekendr, and Resizr.

We think your flickering imagination can answer that pretty easily.

We agree that Flickr and Squidoo are indeed cool - especially when you consider that they were on the leading edge of the naming trend. But we sincerely hope that Seth doesn't think that the slew of e-less names (or double letter, or child-speak - each a derivation of a pattern he advocated) is helping anyone.

Seth - if you're listening/reading... A follow-up to your original post about the new rules of naming would be helpful. We think that people are focusing on the wrong part of the lesson. Your readers are copying the form and not the intent of your words. It's time for you to start taking some vowels from the double-letterers and give 'em to the truncatrs.

As the probable father of Web 2.0 naming we feel it only appropriate that you be the one to end it. Faair is Fr.

Tate Linden
Principal Consultr
Stokefire Consultr Group

September 22, 2006 | Tate Linden
About two months ago we heard about this story - but we didn't know what it entailed. Back in July Coles Myer said they were preparing to rebrand and rename their company. What they didn't say back then was that Coles Myers is spending $900,000 per month on the project. And now the project has lasted five months, leading to a $5 million bill.While we haven't seen any official press releases - The Australian News says Mccann-Erickson and Futurebrand are leading the project.

One may wonder how the company is paying for this. Perhaps the "retrenchings" of about a dozen marketing general managers (saving $3 million) and 2500 other employees (saving an undetermined sum) is part of it.

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

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

"Connect" (as a concept) doesn't exactly stand out in the field of web conferencing tools, especially since the word is used by almost every competitor in their description of services (e.g., "We connect you seamlessly to your peers...") But
September 18, 2006 | Tate Linden

We're not actually sure that this was a direct consequence, but the timing sure seems to link this up rather nicely.

Stingray Brewery is renaming to The Cayman Islands Brewery. (Release found here.)

(For those that don't know, Irwin was killed by a Stingray off the coast of Australia in recent days. He will most assuredly be missed - and we could easily see him tipping back a pint of Stingray brew up in the clouds. Hair of the dog, and all. Rest in peace - or perhaps perpetual child-like amazement, Steve.)

Regardless of the cause, this may be a decent name change. Sure, Stingray has some strong imagery (though

September 15, 2006 | Tate Linden

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

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

The new name? Intercede Health.

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

September 14, 2006 | Tate Linden

Based on this press release, Stokefire is tempted to put out daily press releases stating "Yes, we're still Stokefire."

What happens when your government tells you to change your name - and you refuse? Probably something a lot like this:

September 12, 2006 | Tate Linden

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

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


September 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
How would you like it if a world-famous rap star adopted your nickname as his own? Well, Richard Dearlove doesn't like it one bit.

Richard "Diddy" Dearlove had been flaunting his Diddiness since 1992 - about 14 years before Sean Combs decided to take on the name.

But before we go into his current issues, let's take a quick tour of Sean's name-sploration.
September 6, 2006 | Tate Linden

In an apparent effort to make the glass half-full, Canada's government... wait. Nix that. "...Canada's New Government" begins its sixth month in office.

I'm a little perplexed here. If I go to buy a car and note that it is six months old and has five thousand miles on it I'm certainly not going to consider it new. Not even almost new. In fact,

September 5, 2006 | Tate Linden
Hey folks -

Just wanted to let you all know that we are indeed alive. We closed for the holiday weekend and are prepping for most of the company to travel offsite for the end of a contract we're working on.

As for the naming news of the day - how's this:

Philips Semiconductors rebrands and develops (subscription) - UK Philips Semiconductors is to be re-branded for its future development as 'NXP', marking a milestone in the company's 53-year history as it becomes independent ... (clip truncated by Google.)

Let's go through this again folks: Three Letter Acronyms are Evil Incarnate.
August 29, 2006 | Tate Linden
We wish we could have been a fly on the wall for this one:
National Healthcare Technology Inc. (OTCBB:NHCT) is pleased to announce that the Board of Directors has selected a new company name -- Brighton Oil Inc. The Board has approved the name change and will recommend that the shareholders approve the same, and upon doing so the company shall officially cause the name change to Brighton Oil Inc.
Talk about a change of direction. One day you're curing cancer and the next you're drilling for oil?

Actually, after looking at this one a bit more we're even more confused. Yahoo says they're a 2 person drug company that makes stone veneers. Another site lists them as in the "professional and management services" business.


Anyone care to venture a guess as to what this company actually does well?
August 25, 2006 | Tate Linden
What happens when a naming consultancy goes rogue? They put all their hard work and creativity into naming an organization only to find that their masterpiece is wasted on a still-crappy company? They'd want payback, right?

That has now happened. But before we get to that story, let's take a quick look at the precedence for renaming companies in trouble.

The temptation is certainly there. When a company has something to hide there's a strong inclination to find a quick fix. What could be easier than a name change? Philip Morris and WorldCom certainly found something attractive enough in the concept to take the chance. Now known as Altria and MCI, the two companies are working hard to show they've changed.

Okay, that's not quite right.
August 17, 2006 | Tate Linden

In a bold move, the Republic of Nauru's (an island nation in the Micronesian South Pacific) air carrier "Nauru" will be renaming itself on September 4th to "Our Airline."

Though we at Stokefire are admittedly not very familiar with the Republic of Nauru, and likely never would have posted about them unless they'd chosen this particular name, we've caught ourselves smiling a bit about this story nonetheless. This is not to say that we like the name. We're mostly in a state of not liking it, actually. But,

August 14, 2006 | Tate Linden

Yep - we're looking for some local folks to join in our brainstorming sessions and keep our ideas and viewpoints fresh. Take a look here to see a few details about what we're looking for. (The position will be posted for 1 week.)

Want to know what you'll be naming?

August 10, 2006 | Tate Linden
This is the first post in what I hope will be a regular feature of the Stoked Brands blog. We'll find new or noteworthy names in the news... and poke 'em a bit with sticks to see what happens. Sometimes it'll be the big names, other times (like now) it'll be the stories that fall through the cracks.

Yesterday it was announced that Winona Excavating was fined $100,000 for naming a company in bad taste. How bad? Well, the fine was levied by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (or MPCA). Winona Excavating's spinoff company was named... Wait for it...
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 6, 2006 | Tate Linden

You must admire the power of a brand that gets invoked in the midst of a political debate.

Here's an exchange excerpted from the Sacramento Bee's coverage on yesterday's border debate on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray, a Republican representing Carlsbad in northern San Diego County, asked what Griffen and the Border Patrol were doing to protect his local Home Depot store from dozens of illegal immigrants harassing shoppers for work.

"Chief, in my neighborhood, the Home Depot is an 'illegal hub,' " said Bilbray, whose victory in a race for a House seat last month was fueled by voter anger over illegal immigration. "Is it too much to ask to have a few agents go to a place known to be frequented by illegal aliens?"

Bilbray was interrupted by Sherman.

"Our subcommittee focuses on terrorism," the Democratic congressman told him. "I don't think there are many terrorists at Home Depot."

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 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 8, 2006 | Tate Linden

Generic products (e.g., Tinfoil made by Safeway, Aspirin made by Tesco) seem to exist merely to capture the dollars available from people who merely need an item's function, not a brand's reputation. Tinfoil from Safeway will probably do exactly what a consumer wants it to do - even though it isn't backed by a famous kitchen-wrap brand such as Reynolds.

An article written by Rob Walker in the New York Times Magazine this weekend brings up two very interesting aspects about generics.

First, the traditional generic approach is to make your packaging look as close to the name-brand as possible.

May 1, 2006 | Tate Linden
I'm a bit puzzled over recent comments posted about Darcy Burner on Real Clear Politics. RCP's Tom Bevan, an apparently right-leaning commentator, wrote a position piece on Washington's 8th Congressional district race.

Bevan lays out Reichert's plan of action
April 26, 2006 | Tate Linden

Why is it that Branding is the new "it" topic for insults in the media? In the last couple months I've seen it dissed by three shows I enjoy:

Big Love - an HBO series
Boston Legal - an ABC series
and "Thank You for Smoking" a movie in wide release

In each case I think that the power of branding was conveyed very well. The protagonist in Big Love realizes that he needs branding if he wants to grow his business (though whether or not it will work isn't yet known.) Denny Crane (played by Cap'n Kirk) uses branding in Boston Legal to establish one of his clients as a "common" housewife rather than someone more malicious. And "Thank You For Smoking" is an exceptionally funny movie that spends the entire time showing how effective branding efforts can be when run by the right people.

Great, right?

April 25, 2006 | Tate Linden
I like the idea of people "taking it" to the gas companies, as this begins to pertain to the effect of a brand on the populace. Exxon is seen as an uncaring, price-gouging behemoth (mainly because it acts like one) and people are fed up.

A chain letter has circled the globe suggesting that we boycott Exxon/Mobil to make them lower their prices - in hopes that this will result in the corporation lowering their prices. Good idea for some industries, but not for gas and oil.
April 20, 2006 | Tate Linden
A week ago I was lamenting the lack of any real branding effort for candidate Darcy Burner in Washington State's 8th Congressional district. Apparently I was premature. Ms. Burner and her team have turned a comment made by the Vice President (Dick Cheney) to her Opponent David Reichert into one of the biggest political PR wins in a good long while. (I'll get to why this relates to branding in a minute.)

Cheney jokingly offered to Reichert that he would be willing to campaign for Burner if it would help Reichert win. No harm no foul, right? Most opposing politicians would probably laugh it off or ignore the comment. But Burner didn't. She latched on to the statement and used it to great effect - and it has brought her campaign national attention in the blogosphere, and I'm betting it will boil over into the more established national media soon. Why? Because she took cheney up on his challenge. (Click the link to view the text of the letter.

This seems to be Darcy's first move into branding herself on a national stage and I think it went quite well. She got many of her main points across and did it in a way that can't be answered directly without political risk. It will be interesting to see if either Reichert or Cheney responds. Here's why I think this was genius: The Republicans invested a large amount of money to get Cheney out to Washington to support his team. They publicized the event, worked hard to make their candidate look good, and after all that time and effort… it turned into a PR vehicle for the Democrats. How does this relate to branding? Well, think about it – Here Reichert was essentially trying to show that he knows how to play the game by telling cute stories to get laughs, and he tells the one story that turns out to make him seem a little unintentionally oafish. He was branding himself (and the VP) as sly and humorous and ended up branding himself as politically naïve. His ‘off-the-cuff’ remark was perhaps worse than saying he wanted to raise taxes. (“Off the cuff” is in quotes, since we know wasn’t off the cuff. NO ONE would ever slam one’s own party VP even as a joke without getting permission first. To do it with permission is funny; to do it without permission is political suicide – especially when the VP just spent a whole lot of time and money to come out for an endorsement trip.) How else can the Democrats tell it is a win? Well, no Republican has commented on it, for one. Both parties know that the first thing you do when someone does something that makes your party look bad is… nothing. You gotta wait and see if it blows over. If the Republicans are lucky it won’t get picked up in the papers. What can Reichert do to preserve his brand? The traditional misdirection play would probably be the easiest. I would not be surprised if we saw him back a Bill, put out PR about fund raising levels, or make a statement about our dire need for more security in our seaports and airports. For someone so connected to the anti-terrorism movement it is probably difficult to keep the hand off the switch that can raise the threat level... okay, this probably doesn't warrant that much action, but stranger things have happened.

If he wanted to play Burner’s game he could actually respond on behalf of the VP (again, with permission – since he likely got the Veep into this in the first place) letting Burner know that the VP’s calendar is suddenly quite full until after the election, but he'd be happy to go on the tour with her after she has more free time. It’d be a minor recovery and would show that he has responded in kind...

Best case for Burner is that Reichert gets fighting mad about this. I truly doubt it will happen, but it would bring national attention to this little race. Burner likely has the local press in her favor, and I’m betting that the local bloggers are going to be pestering their buddies with press cards to ask Reichert what he thinks about the letter, or about the prospect of the VP coming to visit on behalf of Burner. If anything can peeve a candidate or politico it is a press corps that won’t drop a meaningless issue. And yes, this is – however entertaining – really a meaningless issue. It’s an incredibly effective one, one that establishes Burner as a force to be reckoned with as a political player and strategist on a local level, and one that will probably have Reichert scrubbing his speeches to ensure Burner doesn’t win more easy points – but the subject isn’t important. Here’s what is. The voters got to know Burner through the letter. She’s got moxie, spunk, or whatever you want to call it. So, even though the issues she is talking about may not win her many votes (they’re polarizing issues), the manner in which she got those issues out in the open very well might. Burner just sent up a fireworks display that may well have gotten some “ooohs” and “ahhhs” from fence-sitters in the district. That’s just about perfect for this point in the campaign. Now she can get back to the core values of her brand (deeper than moxie) to try to get ‘em to stay for the picnic when she takes office. This one gets two thumbs up. (And will likely lead to another missive from me on how to recover from something like this after we see what Reichert does…)
April 14, 2006 | Tate Linden

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.
April 13, 2006 | Tate Linden

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

April 12, 2006 | Tate Linden
This job posting came across my desk today:
Account Executive
Groovy, gregarious ACCOUNT EXECS needed to help expand an exciting, stable business specialising in an innovative service for retailers and franchisees. STRONG UNDERSTANDING OF BRANDING required. Working within a small Sales/Marketing team, you will be responsible for sustaining and building relationships with A-LIST clients subscribing to this TOP NOTCH, unique service in South Africa. This is a DREAM POSITION for experienced, Degree holders with a passion for BRANDING/SALES/MARKETING. Do not delay!!! Contact Barry or Katie at [Name Removed to Protect the Guilty] NOW to find out more...
Let me catch my breath. They mean to tell me that I could have the job RIGHT NOW? And that this REALLY is my DREAM POSITION in which I WILL be working with only A-LIST clients SELLING them TOP-NOTCH services? WOW!!! (It's almost like they're trying to force us into rhythmic verse by visually emphasizing every other syllable.) I'm guessing that if underlining and italics were allowed that these only would have added to the effect(!!!).

Without looking into the company (sorry, not ready to work South Africa yet) I’d wager good money that the service they provide has something to do with a deposed African prince (or perhaps a persecuted bishop), a large sum of money held by the government, and your own personal bank account number.

The only thing that rings true in this job posting is that they need branding help. Sure, they could be a respectable luxury service in South Africa, but they talk like a local auto dealership commercial played on late night cable. You know the kind; high volume, lots of flashing graphics, low production values.

If you were going to work for this firm and were actually good at branding, how confident would you be that your performance review would actually be based on your skills? I can picture my own 360 degree coming back with “INSUFFICIENT use of EMPHASIS CAPITALIZATION and PUNCTUATION!!!” (Note that whole sentences in caps aren’t as effective. One must EMPHASISE ONLY the words that you’d POKE YOUR FINGER into a GUY’S CHEST on to MAKE a POINT.) How would they know when the company had actually made the genuine and compelling connection between who the company really is (LOUD!) and who their target client is (Naïve and HARD of HEARING)?

Is there a lesson in this somewhere? I think there are a few:
1) Unless you are actively trying to annoy people you should try to abide by the advice given in Strunk and White">Strunk and White's infamous book. I have two copies (rarely opened) that remind me not to get too crazy when I’m feeling creative or edgy. The idea is to help people experience your words internally without realizing they’re reading them, and DOING THIS!!! DOESN’T HELP!!!

2) Remember that job postings are advertisements too. You can reinforce or destroy your brand with just a few words. I’m pretty sure you won’t find Rolex or Tiffany using emphasis-caps in their advertisements, and I’m doubtful that this company offers services that are more TOP-NOTCH than either of them.

3) Even if we give the company the benefit of the doubt and assume that the business is legitimate, this does show that taking a contrarian approach to advertising is not always a good thing. Stokefire almost always fiddles with unique approaches rather than doing what everyone else does. Sure, you can ride the coattails, but someone else is wearing the coat, and that’s who we want our clients to be. Creativity is good, but make it an intentional reinforcement of the brand, and not (as in the best possible interpretation of this job posting) an annoying flurry of words that don’t do anything but show your targets that you can cheer-lead.
I’m sure there are more lessons, and hope that some of you feel confident enough to post some (genuine or humorous, it’s all good…)

Oh, and to anyone that wants to point out that my own punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and grammar could use a little brushing up, [scathingly beautiful and perfectly worded retort removed after reports of uncontrolled crying, temporary blindness, cats and dogs living together, and Rapture-like experiences were received. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.]
April 10, 2006 | Tate Linden
I just read the Wall Street Journal's ego piece on Armani. I think he's dissing me personally... or if not personally, he would be dissing me personally if he knew me, or knew of people like me, or saw that I had a Ficus-naming contest.

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

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

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

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

That is all Giorgio. Rest assured I could have gone on far longer, but feel you have been suitably upbraided for now. Be glad this one was just between us.
April 10, 2006 | Tate Linden
I never owned a Barbie, though I think my older sister did. I was a big fan of the 12” G.I. Joe figure with real clothes, velour-covered head, and clunky plastic boat with plastic guns that only made noise when you went "ptchoo ptchoo" with your own mouth, however. Unfortunately, G.I. Joe is not the subject of the blog today – though I will take a moment to internally reminisce about the old days. Ahhh… Good times.Alright. The brand I’m poking today is Barbie. I guess this is the first official poking via the blog, since my Realtor rant wasn’t really against the brand, but against the practices of the individual practitioners under the brand heading.

So, why Barbie? Because she was written about in Harpers Magazine this month. (Sorry, no direct link to the article because they apparently want you to buy the magazine and not freeload.) You can see comments *about* the article here. The portion of interest to me begins near the top - where Barbie begins to lose limbs.

Why would girls around the world (or at least in Bath) be ripping apart this doll? Oddly (or perhaps unsurprisingly, given the nature of this blog) I believe it is branding. The probable purpose of the doll was initially to act as a visual role model – always proper, always high-heeled, always skinny. Barbie could not physically do anything wrong – she couldn’t bend enough to get nasty. Bad things started happening for Barbie somewhere around the 70s (but don’t quote me on this – I was only just gaining consciousness then) when ERA started to mean something outside of baseball. Women did not want to be represented by the skinny stiletto-heeled darling. I even remember the day in the mid-seventies my own mom talked to my older sister about Barbie and how she wasn’t a real representation of women. My basic takeaway from the conversation – that Barbie was a bimbo and not someone she should try to emulate (or whatever word a six-year-old would use instead of “emulate”.)

The reaction from Mattel/Barbie was rather predictable. “Let’s get us some positive role models!” They made Barbie good at math, an astronaut, a teacher, a college student (attending at least a dozen schools, no less,) a world traveler, and more. Interesting concept, but Barbie wasn’t really ‘built’ for the types of activities she was dressed for. Sprinting, perhaps (since heels don’t touch the ground in that sport) but I’m guessing that even in low-gee environments she’d need to stand flat-footed eventually.

I’m going to stop the brand poking at this point today to ask a question. Who is Barbie really marketed to today? If the backbone of branding is based on specialization, then we should be able to identify a limited set of target consumers/buyers for the brand. Any ideas?

My guesses:
  1. Obsessive-compulsive collectors. People that want to own every piece of clothing and every doll available. I submit the inclusion of Barbies themed with Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, and other collector-desirable brands – as well as tie-ins with popular collectible trends such as troll dolls and pogs.
  2. Beauty-queen moms. Former pageant types that want to convey the importance of looking good to their daughters. Why else would there be so many hundreds of Barbie's dressed in glittery stuff, while no well adjusted five-year-old would wear such a thing outside of the talent show circuit?
It is rather strange to think that with one core product (a single plastic doll) Barbie may have diversified its offerings to the point that it can no longer effectively market to the core (originally targeted) user of their product. They’ve spent so much effort trying to appeal to every possible consumer that they’ve alienated just about everyone except people that like to collect everything.

As for the violence aspect mentioned in the article... I was going to write today’s entry entirely about that, but about two paragraphs in I realized that the violence was not necessarily a function of the brand focus, but in fact a function of the company's inability to create products for the end user. It is the lack of focus on the right market that (in my opinion) is causing the girls to rip the dolls to shreds.

Why treasure something that doesn’t represent what you want to be, is completely disposable, and comes apart in seconds, but is presented in a box dressed exactly the way you are? It’s about as genuine as me dressing up in heavy chains, a muscle shirt, and pants that say to the world “I just wear a belt to keep my waistband above my knees.” No one would be fooled into thinking I was a gangsta. The little girls aren't fooled either...

Obscure closing thought: It doesn't matter what sort of fun and colorful label you put on a hot cup of coffee, nor how much an adult may like it - if you give it to a kid they're not going to use it the way you want them to. A sip, maybe two - and then the coffee will be poured on the carpet - or more likely on the little brother. Give them grape soda and, barring a visit from Murphy and his law or sibling rivalry, you'll have to surgically remove the kid's tongue from the bottle after they try to get the last drop. At the core of the brand there's got to be an identity that connects with the target - and Barbie just doesn't have it today.

April 3, 2006 | Tate Linden
The Washington Post had an interesting article on Real Estate agent advertisements over the weekend. Follow the link to: Answer Man: Grimacing Over Real Estate Agent Ads.

Stokefire has helped quite a few Realtors and brokers craft their brands and we've yet to be convinced that a picture in an advertisement or business card is critical. The referenced article seems to back us up on this.

The current thinking in Realty seems to be that one doesn't sell a house, one sells one's self. Anyone can get you the house of your dreams, but only I (Blonde haired, dimpled, smiling) can get it for you in my uniquely personalized way.

This thinking may have worked a few years back, but now with more than 70% of Realtors (Coldwell Banker's numbers from ref'd article) putting pictures on their cards you may be more unique without a picture than with one. I've sold three homes in the last decade and have witnessed the change by looking in the 'card tray' after a showing. Everyone's cards used to look the same because they were conservative and respectable. Now they look the same because they have a picture, tagline, three phone numbers, and are essentially a jumbled mess of information. Obviously I don't think this is an improvement.

This is not to say that I think personal branding is bad (I don't.) Personal branding is great, but I just don't see a picture as critical for business success unless you're a) a model or b) a personal trainer. These are two industries that really do depend on looks for success. If 70% of the competition wasn't doing the same thing in Realty then perhaps this method would work, but as it is, each new photograph makes all the rest less impactful.

So, if a Realtor's smiling face isn't enough to reinforce a brand, then what is? How about using an original (or at least regionally unique) message? Search Google for Realty taglines and you'll find thousands or even millions of hits for things like "Home of Your Dreams" and "Find You Your Ideal Home." How do I feel about tags such as these? How should you, the target client, feel about them? How about insulted? *All* Realtors should be trying to find you the ideal home, so saying it in the valuable space of a business card or advertisment is wasted space. It's like Stokefire having an ad-blitz with the phrase "Stokefire - We Breathe!" [Ed. - that's a keeper!] There's no added value - you're just telling people you provide the same service as everyone else - and worse - that you're not as creative as the better ones.

Here's another way to see this. If you were going to sell your house, wouldn't you want to know that the person selling it was going to be able to have your house stand out somehow from all the rest for sale in the area? If a Realtor can't get themselves to stand out, then how the heck are they going to have your home do so?

Don't even get me started about the big Realtor campaign hitting the airwaves now that essentially shouts "Use Realtors - We've Taken An Ethics Course!" Not only does this not say that Realtors are ethical, it points an unflattering light on the fact that Realtors might have been unethical in the first place. Just because someone sits through a four hour lecture on what it means to be ethical does not mean that they have achieved a state of ethical being once they're done.

I truly value the services that good Realtors provide. The ones that get it - that Realtors can increase the value of a home, that they can take care of most of the difficult aspects of a home sale (such as negotiations, paperwork, prepping the home for sale, etc.) - are worth far more than the six percent that they frequently charge. The ones that don't get it are worse than going it alone.

That's enough brand poking for today. I may come back to this at another date to get into some of the finer points of Realtor branding and why a bad agent is worse than no agent, among other things.
April 1, 2006
Welcome to the Stokefire Blog! Due to popular demand we’re going to start up a forum where our clients and friends can view and comment on the various topics that are pinging around our brains.

The first ping? Well - we were just selected for admittance to the Springfield Business Incubation Center in… Springfield! Yep - we’ll be moving into our new digs on Loisdale Drive (Near Springfield Mall) next Thursday, so next week will be busy with packing up our old office and humping it over to the real-world office.

My thoughts on this - I’m truly excited. We’re great at branding, but there are aspects of business that we haven’t mastered, such as the day-to-day aspects of running an HR department, how to select the right health plan, how to set up a boilerplate contract that will work for most of our client engagements, and the like. The incubator will help us with those things that aren’t our main focus, and that should keep us from being held back.

It’s interesting, since our main purpose as a business is to help others reach or exceed their potential I would’ve thought that we’d have no problems initially in this area, but we’ve had our share. Having a compelling brand only works if you have the infrastructure to support the success that brand creates. So we’re going to spend a bit of time building up the infrastructure while continuing to do the groundbreaking work you’ve come to expect from us. The folks at the Springfield Business Incubation Center (click for link) are a talented and dedicated bunch, and we are positively ecstatic about the opportunity they’ve provided us.

So “Hello World”, hello clients, hello friends, hello business associates, and hello family. I’m glad you took the time to stop in and see what’s going on. You'll be hearing much more from me and the rest of the team at Stokefire if you keep tabs on this blog.