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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.

"Plastics!"

Amen, brother.
July 24, 2007 | Tate Linden
We talk to many marketing, branding, and graphic design firms in our area and frequently ask about where they got their name. Typically the answer is something like "It sounded cool" or perhaps "we kept searching until we found one where the website was available and made a bit of sense."

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

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

I was wrong.

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

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

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

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

Kudos, Bruce. Thanks for taking the extra thirty seconds to tell me your story. Hope others enjoy it as much as I do.
July 9, 2007 | Tate Linden
We're hiring! (Or bringing on a contractor, more accurately.)

We need a veteran business developer who has sold marketing services in the past (or now.)

But if you have read this blog before you probably know that we don't do things the normal way. We figured we might as well make the listing interesting. Here's how we're doing it:
  • We've posted the job description on the Internet
  • It ain't on our site
  • We're hoping the right candidate has the skills to find the description, figure out that it's for this position, and send us a note telling us you're interested in the position.
Time-saving hint: If you're hoping to just put "Stokefire" or "Thingnamer" and "Sales" into Google you're going to be searching for a long, long time. It'll take more creativity than that. But, no, we did not password protect or otherwise make the description inaccessible. It just doesn't have our name on it.

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

images-1.jpg
April 9, 2007 | Tate Linden
(I can say that, can't I? It's not a euphemism I'm familiar with, but I'm sure someone will take offense...)

There was a time long ago when the staff at Stokefire thought to themselves "Why is it that so many business start blogs, only to watch them fizzle and die?"

We were haughty. We were confident. We occassionally had an hour in our day in which we had time to think to ourselves how wonderfully haughty, confident, and gosh-darn right we were.

We are no longer haughty. Apparently haughtiness takes time. So do blog entries. Oddly enough, things that also take time include rewriting your entire naming process, going through a visual rebranding, responding to requests for proposals, and just plain getting your butt in front of people that want to do business with you.

We are humble.

And we now sort of understand. It happens because life happens. It happens an hour or a day at a time. Soon there's a week of no posts. And then two...

...and then you start getting notes from your clients and fans wondering what the hell happened.

We have some of the most incredible clients in the world - and we forget that one of the reasons they find us incredible (or at least they say they do...) is because of this very blog. When in the midst of a client workshop someone raises their hand and stops us - asking "when are you going to start blogging again" we know we've done something very wrong. We thought that focus on the client experience was paramount, but our clients were wanting to engage with us and see if there were lessons that our staff was learning while working on the project. They liked the fact we wove stories about them into our every day conversation. They wanted to see their name in backlights...

We were being stupid.

So... Hello to all of you out there who threatened to drain our laptop batteries if we didn't get back to it. Hello to my wife who barely stopped short of pointing out that if she can handle nurturing our unborn child in her belly while upholding our constitution and spending nights readying our home for the baby I can darn well invest some effort in keeping her entertained for five minutes of reading while she drinks her morning tea. Hello to Dana who I must also kindly beg to begin her posts again. Hello to Nancy, Denise, John, JT, Kevo, Florence, Mark, Jeffry, the five guys named Mike, Brent, Evan, Claude, and the rest of you that have been kind enough to come back regularly, comment and basically validate our online existence.

Hello blog.

I admit it. I've missed you.

And yes... I've got a whole lot to talk about. (Gotta remember to mention office space tomorrow...)

I'll start tomorrow. Promise!

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

 

 

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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 6, 2007 | Tate Linden
I'm speaking for the DC chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators Thursday night. Amongst the things I'll be reviewing in my 20 minute discussion (followed by Q&A) will be:
  • The purpose of names
  • A sampling of key aspects of a good name
  • Seven things you never want to do with your name
  • The most important aspect of a successful corporate naming project
  • How to make a bad name good and a good name great. (The trade secret of the great namers.)
I'll try to throw in some examples and audience participation if possible. 20 minutes is a bit tight, but I'll do my best to keep it interesting.

I've been told there's still an earlybird admission (through the end of the day today - Feb 6) and you can get dinner, networking, presentation, and parking for $55 (non-members.) Directions and registration are here. Add $10 for Wednesday registrations and $10 more for on-site. IABC members get in at a discount.

If you're an IABC DC member I encourage you to comment here and let folks know what to expect for the non-speaking part of the evening.

Hope to see DC some of you area locals at the Tivoli Restaurant in Rosslyn, Virginia.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 29, 2007 | Tate Linden
I read a short blurb on page M6 of the 1/28/07 Washington Post (Registration Required) that I just wanted to quickly address.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

January 9, 2007
Advancis Pharmaceutical Corp. of Germantown, MD expects to start the new year with a new name and finish it with a new product ready to market. The company has filed an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval of its once-daily antibiotic treatment for strep throat in adults and adolescents. The company’s search for a new name, now down to five finalists. Advancis hired ‘‘a couple of branding companies” to help find name that ‘‘will not step on anybody’s toes,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

National Recycling Awards, adverts feature London’s famous landmarks buried in rubbish with the strap line ‘Just when will you start recycling?'.
October 20, 2006 | Tate Linden
I'm not really sure that it can work at this stage, but I sat with veteran Congressman Tom Davis for lunch today and he suggested that the Republicans could use some help in the brand department. He brought it up with humor, but underneath the joke ("can you fix the Republican brand in the next two weeks?") was a serious issue: The Republicans are hurting.

In Washinton State Darcy Burner is having great success with her campaign. One of the reasons is that she is able to link her competitor directly to the Bush White House.

Normally you'd think that this would be good news for her opponent, but with Bush not doing well in the polls for many reasons (international reputation, the war, the economy) being seen as a friend of the White House is doing no one any favors. Except
October 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



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?

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 5, 2006 | Tate Linden

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

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

One thing really stood out.

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.