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

This book doesn't have that disconnect...

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

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

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

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

Bravo!

Many thanks to Wharton School Publishing for the comp. I've dog-eared so many pages that it's beginning to look like there's been trouble at the printer (since most of the upper-outside corners appear to be missing.)
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 17, 2007 | Tate Linden
I'm not sure how I missed this site amongst the clutter of naming sites on the internet. An intriguing concept - using a marketplace of sorts to sell names that someone has thought of and wants to sell. If you're a great namer then this just might work...

...but I think that great naming must be in the eye of the beholder because I'm not so sure that the names being sold are the sort of thing I'd advise my clients to buy - even if I was the one to invent the terms.

Consider the following:
  • Juventure -
    • Supposedly an ideal name for a young venture capital firm. Someone might like to check their homonymic dictionary before grabbing this one. May work very well amongst the Hasidim, however.
  • Stringia -
    • The site lists this as inspired by string theory. We've got friends from Jersey that are already using this word to describe their hair in comparison to someone who uses conditioner.
  • Xirant -
    • The claim on this name is that it is "semantically meaningless." We don't see that. We see "tirant" with a single letter x-ed out. Or if you get creative the "t" just got lazy and flopped over at a 45 degree angle. "Fast, strong, and masculine?" Sure. And prone to genocide too!
Okay, so I'm being a little picky here. We've said it before - any name can be ripped to shreds by someone with even a little bit of experience. But these names certainly make it easier than it should be. (Perhaps if the analysis hadn't been provided we'd be less likely to jump on the issues. If the site had advertised just domain names we'd be far more kind.)

What really got our blood flowing this morning wasn't the quality of the names themselves... it was the use of the (r) after every single name listed. You see, you can't just slap an (r) on something and have it protected. Trademarks don't work that way. You've got to file for protection in specific classes and receive notifcation from the US government. NameSale has never done this for any of the listed names (that we can find.)

They did file for protection on their own name - but that lapsed on July 7, 2005... meaning that the (r) after their own name isn't there legally either.

It's a Monday so I've almost got enough ire to slap "NameSale" in my own website name just to prove a point. Sadly "The ThingNameSaler" looks absolutely horrific and makes no sense at all. It was a good idea though, no? Maybe I could sell ThingNameSaler.com(r) and make a fortune!

What should the folks at NameSale have done? Well - if they wanted protection in the US they should've used (tm) or (sm.) Perhaps someone over in Sweden can search the PRV and tell us whether some of these were actually registered over yonder. We're guessing that since there's money involved in both filing and searching that neither was done for these names...

Come on people! If you're going to play in the naming space at least come with your B game.

(Actually, the names provided aren't bad ones... they're just not great names. It's obvious that many of the names in the list were rejected by clients of theirs and they're just trying to recycle them. They're just going about it a little backwards.)

If you want to have more fun just check out The Wayback Machine.You can see how the list of names has evolved over the years. Interestingly enough, the Juventure name hasn't sold since late 2001. (But maybe this post will be the one to push it into the sold column!)

Good luck in the sale of the domain NameSalers! We'll check up later in the year to see what's goin' on.
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....
September 4, 2007 | Tate Linden
(No, We Still Don't Like Acronyms.)

Why? Because except in rare instances they're forgettable, confusing, costly, and time intensive. ...among other things, of course.

Forgettable because most acronyms (and initialisms) have no connection to the idea behind the letters.

Confusing because if someone wants to get to know the organization or product behind the letters they've got to learn two different names - the abbreviated one and the long, drawn-out one. Additionally, the pronunciation of an acronym or an initialism is often not intuitive.

Consider:
  • ICQ = "I Seek You" (instead of "Ick!")
  • IEEE = "I triple E"
  • IALA = "Eye Allah"
  • LED = "Ell Eee Dee"
  • IUPAC = "Eye You Pack"
  • SQL = "Ess Cue Ell" or "Sequel"
  • FNMA = "Fannie Mae"
Each of these examples follows a different rule for pronunciation. And this list covers less than half of the potential pronunciation issues. It seems to me that taking the extra effort to say your name, then spell your name, then explain that the letter sounds are actually letter sounds and not full words (as in "ICQ") is more trouble than it is worth. Which leads me to...

Costliness... Supporting two unique identities - the short and long version - takes money. It appears in the use of different names for internal and external documentation, or in different logo presentations, or in linear inches when writing job descriptions for publication in the paper, or - relating to the last issue listed - in time spent explaining what the acronym means.

Time is a significant disincentive for the use of acronyms. If the goal is to do something productive with the hours in your day and your staff is forced to expalin the acronym every time they say it to someone new... aren't you losing a bit of money every time conversation is side-tracked? Yes, you could argue that the additional conversation is about your company so it's "all good" but wouldn't you rather have a conversation better targeted to what you want from the person you're talking to? If it takes 15 seconds to clarify your name each time you say it and you say your name to ten new people a day... that's 2.5 minutes a day or 12.5 minutes per week per staff member. Almost an hour a month of lost time multiplied across your entire sales staff.

It seems to me that it is better to have the listener ask a question about what you can do for them or the value of your offerings intead of asking the most basic question (i.e. "Umm... what's that mean?") Acronyms have a way of making people feel stupid - they're the professional version of "AMonkeySaysWhat?" - forcing us to stop the speaker to clarify an issue that the speaker should've addressed or let the speaker go on as we focus on the fact that we have no clue what was just said. There's an old military prank that guys pull on new recruits - commenting that the hardest part of the job is cleaning up after all of the spent B-1RD (pronounced "Bee One Arr Dee") fuel in the hangar. It's a rare recruit that figures it out in the first couple days.

Want a few more reasons?

How about these:
  1. We did fine for centuries without even having a word to describe what an acronym was. It wasn't until the 1940s (shortly after The New Deal) that the mess of long-winded government programs likely forced us to come up with a way to describe the alphabet soup. Do you really want to be associated with annonymous government programs?
  2. Typically you can't trademark your acronym by itself. And you can't prevent others from using the same one that you do. There aren't enough letters in our alphabet to allow every company and association to get their own short acronym reserved all for themselves. So...
  3. You end up sharing your acronym with hundreds our thousands of other entities and no one can ever find you.
Think the big guys are immune? Think again. ABC - an acronym "owned" by the American Broadcasting Company - seems to have a bit of trouble keeping others off of their letters. On the first page of an ABC Google search we find:
  • " yet Another Bittorent Client"
  • Australia's public broadcasting network
  • The national trade association representing merit shop contractors
  • The audit bureau of circulations
  • ...and references to three different branches of the American Broadcasting Company.
If we're generous and we allow a contextualizing term like "towing" to be added to ABC we should be able to find our local tow shop, right?

Nope.

Unless you're fortunate enough to be in Hammond, Indiana. Those guys are easy to find. Most of the other 1.8 million "ABC Towing" hits are for other companies in other cities and states - and are entirely unrelated to the guys in Hammond.

Acronyms, plainly stated, are perhaps the fastest way to become permanently anonymous in business.

That said, there are exceptions. One quick look at FCUK and you'll see there are ways to get attention. But (thankfully?) there can really be only one FCUK. However, I know without even looking that even this name has been copied. I'll give ten to one odds that FUKC and FCKU are both being marketed as copycat brands... (But that is a rant for another day.)

Aww heck... I couldn't resist!
August 30, 2007 | Tate Linden
Looks like the DSCC has selected the four finalists to vote on. (See yesterday's post for context.)

They are:
  1. Sorry W - I'm The Decider
  2. Now You Know Why I'm a Democrat
  3. About Dem Time
  4. Look where voting republican has gotten us
Anyone feel moved?

Quick thoughts:
  1. The first concept references the President - even though he's not running for office. Why would we apologize to him - or use his language to justify voting Democrat? And weren't we all the "Deciders" last time (and the time before) when he won? If we're the deciders then we're worse at it than he is.
  2. The second concept makes little sense to me. I actually don't know why you're a Democrat - and the statement prevents me from asking any questions. We feel like an idiot for not knowing. Or at least I do. And the fact that the Dems already have the Senate (and haven't done a helluva lot with it) calls into question the entire statement. Lastly, I thought you voted Dem to prevent W from wreaking havoc. That's not an issue any more.
  3. About Dem Time? Cute. Slogan-like. A little bitter. And... Dems already have the Senate, so it sort of lacks punch. How can it be about Dem time when it has been Dem time for the last two years? Are we talking presidential, senatorial, or just general politics here?
  4. And the last? Where has voting republican gotten us? And why does it matter since most voters didn't vote that way in the last election? Sure there's the whole war debacle, but a Dem controlled Senate hasn't fixed it. On the plus side - if we did vote red last time then this is the only message that speaks to us. But it only has teeth if we voted red and regretted it.
We can do better.

Really.

Maybe if they started by telling us what the slogan was supposed to do for the party and the platform we could've produced something better... That of course would require the party to have someone who knew what the heck you could achieve with a slogan.

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?
August 28, 2007 | Dr. Florence Webb
Okay, I’ve had it. We’ve all grown tired of names without vowels in the cell phone industry: Razr, Slvr, Krzr, etc. [Ed.: And don't forget the Interweb!] So today I’m trolling through luggage on the Target website and what do I find? A rolling carry-on bag called the BAUER ORGNZR. I’d just like to say for the record that I don’t want my clothing orgnzd when I travel. If all the vowels were missing from my clothes, how would I bttn my shrt? Would my scks and shs still fit my ft? And I shudder to think what would happen to my laptop. I’d end up writing like an advertising geek, lose all my friends, and spend my waning years alone in a thrd-flr wlkp. Too sad.
August 22, 2007 | Tate Linden
...and another Stokefire name hits the market.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great job thus far Thom and Chace... looking forward to more great things from your team!
August 21, 2007 | Tate Linden
This is only loosely related to naming. And yet I find myself unable to stop myself from writing about it. Perhaps you can scream at me (like a banshee?) and I'll stop.

According to Web sources, a banshee is a wailing, weeping, screeching, or screaming harbinger of death.

So why is the term coming up in business? Perhaps as a warning to those that make bad business decisions? Or because of the reference to Celtic mythology?

Sadly, no. Mostly it's just because people don't know what the word means.

There's "Grow Business Like A Banshee" from the American Chronicle - perhaps a reference to the fact that when you tell people they're going to die they're more apt to buy life insurance? Chet Holmes (CEO of Chet Holmes International) wrote the article without a single reference to the helpful screeching babes. Based on the article it seems, in fact, that the term "like a banshee" is actually a stand in for "people who can multiply by two." Who knew?

There's someone going by the handle "daibebtates" on 43things that wants to "learn to type like a banshee." This is one guy I do *not* want to have in the cubicle next to me.

Though not technically business related, there's a woman who met a guy who'd "want to kiss and make out like a banshee" but never went any further. I'm tellin' you... death can be such a turnoff. Makes sense to me that after shouting into a woman's mouth about morbid stuff I'd be in absolutely no mood for hanky panky.

Only related to business when preceded by "doing my...", Kitty Foreman of "That 70s Show fame shouted "I have to pee like a banshee" as she rushed to the bathroom. We are left to wonder why we heard nothing from her once the door shut.

Professors even fall victim to misuse - saying things like "This thing will be spinning like a banshee" as if it were a subclass of dervish. Or perhaps a brand of wooden top.

The real cause for this post was something read to me by my wife (honest!) that came from O, The Oprah Magazine. The name of the piece was "Network like a banshee." Is it just me, or does everyone else also picture someone showing up, grabbing a beer, a snack wrapped in a greasy napkin, then turning to the crowd and shouting,
HI EVERYONE! I'M TATE! YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!

OH! AND HERE IS MY BUSINESS CARD - LET'S GRAB A BITE SOMETIME. BUT SOONER RATHER THAN LATER! PREFERABLY BEFORE... WELL... YOU KNOW."
C'mon - with all Oprah's money you'd think she could hire editors that catch this stuff...

At least Yamaha got the name/sound connection right. (Though the whole ATV as symbol of impending death is a little distasteful to me given the safety issues it has...)

Lesson in naming:(?) Don't use a word just because it feels right. Make sure you spell it right and don't unintentionally choose a homonym or eggcorn that makes you look foolish or uneducated. The ear isn't always right...
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:

repdem.jpg

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
While researching our peers in the naming industry we came across an interesting situation. Every month we swing by all of the naming sites we can find to see where the competition and the industry as a whole is headed. You'd be amazed what you can anticipate by looking at the lists of recently named companies out there. (Evocative single-word names, anyone?) Or the stances that companies take on what sets them apart. (In this industry attitude is apparently just about everything. Well, that and your portfolio.)

Anyhow, we came across a site that listed a name that was very familiar to us. In fact, one of our friends in the naming industry had also claimed they had given a firm the same label. And when you clicked the links provided by each naming company they both brought you to the same site!

How can this be? Did the two companies work together on developing the name and not tell anyone?

The answer? No.

It appears the following occured:
  1. Company "Alpha" had a naming contract and developed a name that the client liked but for which the .COM address was camped.
  2. Company "Beta" (also a naming firm) was squatting on the website and was willing to sell it.
  3. Alpha brokered the sale of the website from Beta to their client.
  4. Alpha lists the company name and the story behind it on their website, along with quotes from the client, and provides a link to their client's website.
  5. Beta lists the company name in their portfolio, provides a link to Alpha's client, and provides no context about what services were provided. (Note that Beta does not say they developed only the ".COM" - they list the name without any URL suffixes.)
This, to me, is a sticky ethical issue.

Alpha obviously selected the name as right for this client, but Beta seems to have been the originator of the name concept and was savvy enough to reserve the website.

Which one counts? Legally it would seem that each has a claim to the name, though one has a claim to naming a ".COM" and the other a company.

A couple weeks back I found a corporate namer that listed numerous names that were obviously fictional. (Spunkwave, anyone?) This isn't quite the same. Korwitts hadn't even reserved the websites (which were often still available, mind you) so the names were purely theoretical. In her case she's just slammed some letters together and put them on the web. There's no registration and no ability - should she have actually come up with a strong name - to defend a name as her own.

So, putting aside the previous example, can someone claim credit for naming a firm if they weren't the ones to work with that firm? Does camping on a website name give you the right to claim that you named the company that buys it from you? If so, at what point does the claim of "inventing the name" not ring true? If I just write a word on my blog (e.g. "Alacabraxify") and someone comes along and uses it for their company name can I say that I named the firm?

If I hire a group of punters to help come up with ideas and one of 'em says the name that we eventually use (note that we don't typically hire punters) must I say that the hired hand came up with the name? Can the hired hand claim it (barring any signed documents preventing said claim?)

Where is the line? And what would you advise Alpha and Beta do to resolve this?

Update 1:38 EDT - Alpha and Beta came to an agreement after this post was written but before it was published. Beta has kept the name on their list of names they've created, but they've removed the client link.

Anyone out there have an opinion as to whether or not this is satisfactory?
August 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
It's getting pretty crowded in here, ain't it?

Athol Foden - head namer over at the descriptively-named Brighter Naming - has started up the Name Awards blog.

While I haven't yet figured out what the Name Awards have to do with the content on the blog, it is obvious that Mr. Foden has considerable experience he brings to the table. His opinions are interesting even if they're often on the opposite side of issues from the opinions we (or more accurately "I", in this case) hold. (I wasn't immediately attracted to the name Alinghi and am not a big fan of Blu-Ray.)

Side note - Stokefire was named during the "blue craze" that is still echoing on today. In fact, Bluebulb was one of the early concepts we came up with. We ditched it because it wasn't deep and felt like a "me too!" response to the naming environment.

Mr. Foden is asking interesting and unusual questions - such as how you would market the Osama brand in light of recent world events, and how Adam and Eve got their names. (We think we might know a guy who could help with that last one. But he hasn't talked for a while...)

Welcome to the conversation Mr. Foden. Looking forward to getting to know you through your words...
July 26, 2007 | Tate Linden
To those of you who are on the executive team, board, and who assisted in the development of today's newly named association... actually now an alliance... I just wanted to publicly say "thank you." You did a great job coming to a unanimous decision after so many diverse opinions were voiced. Having so many people who start with diverging opinions coming together to further their organization is a beautiful thing. Especially when you select such a versatile name. Can't wait for the launch later this year.

Hope you enjoyed both the process and the result.

Waiting is the hardest part. Especially when we're wanting to talk about you out in the open already.

Kudos!

And to everyone else... you'll have to wait a few months until we pull the wraps off this one. But the wait will be well worth it.
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 23, 2007 | Tate Linden
We're occassionally asked how important it is to have a unique name - as in one that exists nowhere else in the world. And our response hasn't changed much over the years.

Unique in your industry is likely important. Unique in the world is not.

While it isn't necessarily a bad thing to coin a new term, it certainly makes a naming project more challenging, and the resulting marketing campaign will likely cost more. (You're not only paying to put your name out there, you're also having to use 'air time' to explain what it means or ensure that people spell the name correctly.)

How hard is it to come up with a unique term?

Taking a look at the US Patent and Trade site we find that it's actually pretty easy to find a combination of letters that have only used once. Just starting with the letter "A" we quickly discover some unique opportunities.

There are 1,326,511 documents filed with the letter "A" standing alone. (Note that this doesn't mean that the word is in the name, only that it is in the filing somewhere - perhaps in the description... but since we're looking for something unique we don't even want to see the word in the description.)

Moving on th "AA" we find we're down to 1122 documents.

AAA gives us 780, AAAA has 28, and AAAAA finds just 3 filings. If you want to find an existing unique name you're looking at SIX letter As in a row. And it looks like there've been a few people who noticed that six As were taken and moved even further. Check out ACTIVE LIQUID MINERALS AAAAAA, STAR-ZYME A AAAAAAAAA, and even more impressive, "AAAAAARGH! Inc" - the registrant for the mark "COMEDYCITY."

While computers are getting better at suggesting the right spelling for a name we're searching for, we still occasionlly rely on correct spelling to find things - such as in a phone book, an off-line index, or even when searching online in a search engine like the USPTO.

Imagine having a name like "AAAAAARGH!" How would you explain how to find your firm online? Would you say "Just type in ARGH with six As and an exclamation?" (That's the way we'd do it if we were saddled with the name, but it's still a mouthful, and who is to say anyone would remember the number six here?) Maybe it's better to say "Sextuple-Argh!"?

A decent rule of thumb: If your average ten-year-old doesn't know the short-hand for the number of letters (e.g., "double" or "triple") then you've probably put too many of the same letters in. Anything more than three in a row is hard to count quickly, and the short-hand for them would be unfamiliar. How many Americans could find an organization that went by the shorthand - "Nontuple-A?"

Unique can be found through the use of repetition, yes. But a company that works this hard to be unique may be expecting too much from their audience. And additionally, in a world where every website misspelling is camped, having seven or eight As in your name just means that you'll lose traffic to the guy with six or ten of 'em.

Originality ain't easy. And it takes more than math to get there.
July 20, 2007 | Tate Linden
We don't have the answer yet, but we're checkin' it out.

We've identified a few patterns and we're lookin' to see which one takes the cake as the all-out-overused champion of them all. We'll look to Seth Godin's list, TechCrunch, and a few other places to see what we find. Is it:
  • Peri.ods.inweirdplac.us
  • Trunkatn Wrds
  • Zwitching Lettorz
  • U51ng Numb3r5 4 n0 r34s0n
  • Using "-ster"
  • iThink uKnow dPrefix thing...
  • Calling yourself a ".com" (kinda like we do... only serious-like.)
Or something else? Come take the survey and tell us! And if you don't want to hazard a guess at which is most common, at least grace us with your opinion as to which is the most annoying.

My peeve? I'm pickin' truncation. Flickr be damned. And I'll go out on a limb and pick truncation as the most common fault as well.

C'mon folks - show that you care! We might not be able to stop the madness, but at least we can show we won't go quietly.

Results of our back-of-the-napkin research to come next week.
July 19, 2007 | Tate Linden
The folks over at Igor's Snark Hunting site have been sending us a bit of traffic due to the fact that our site may have had a bit of social networking overkill.

We have a popular post here from February that discusses and rates the trends in Web 2.0 naming and might be of interest to you.

But if you're clicking through just to see the offending links you're going to be disappointed. We'd been quite fond of them as they were colorful, pretty, and acted as a nice visual indicator that one post was ending and another was beginning. (Okay, so when I think about it a bit more I've gotta agree they were just clutter and there for absolutely no reason at all... but still... It made me feel popular. Or at least potentially popular.)

Sadly, I have thin skin (and little talent) when it comes to my blog-designing skills so I have put my tail betwixt my legs and removed the ninety-dozen links that got the hump-backs on my case.

I was going to say something witty here about the hatin' being directed at us due to Igor's fear of fire, but realized just before I hit the "publish" button that Mary Shelley might've risen from the dead to correct me.

So, Igorians... if you think of any appropriate comebacks you can feel free to pretend they were hurled by us and be suitably humbled and intimidated.

Yeah. We roll like that.

Maybe it'll have something to do with 'stooping to your level' (Oooh snap!) Though we'd appreciate it if you could make it a bit more witty and significantly less obvious.

We'd be more agressively peeved if it weren't for the fact that they called us "an actual blog" - thus alleviating our fears that we were only hypothetically a blog, or worse, only metaphorically blog-like. Here's to hoping that the "actualness" of our blog was not inextricably linked to our abundance of clicky bookmark art.

Anyhow, thanks for the tip, Igorians. You're enabling positive change from afar.

And maybe... just maybe... tomorrow I'll be back writing about names and stuff.
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?

"Spunkwave."

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.
July 12, 2007 | Tate Linden
I'll be the first to admit that naming your kid takes a lot of effort, thought, and in most cases comprimise. I would even go so far as to talk with someone - perhaps a historian or psychologist - about whether or not the name has any negative connotations. You could even open up any one of hundreds of naming books that tell you what every name means - or one of dozens of websites that allow you to search for names by their meaning.

One should also take the thirty seconds necessary to ensure you're not creating a catastrophe down the road when little Albert Sammy Smith is asked for his initials.

For me, naming was an intensely personal thing when it involved my own son. The question of who we wanted to honor (a great grandfather and both of his grandpas), how we wanted him to have options as to what he would use (Ted, Teddy, Theo, Theodore, TJ, etc...) to express his own personality...

Now that you know my views - read this article.

Yes. People really do that for a living.

Once you close your mouth (or stop laughing - if you're a corporate namer) I'd love to know what you think. Is there a place for people who offer a baby naming service where the names "Liz" and "Doug" are seen as first and foremost pertaining to fat kids? (Our new intern, Liz, would prove an exception to this rule, by the way.) Sure, almost every name is going to have connections for people - but if you know a Doug from decades ago who was the brightest and skinniest kid in your 3rd grade class aren't you going to have different thoughts about the name?

For me, I'm hoping that little Teddy doesn't select Theo as his preferred name. People in generations before and after mine don't understand why. But ask a Gen-Xer and you'll get the same answer every time: "Oh yeah - that's way too Cosby." If you only know one person with a name, then that name will be inextricably linked to that person in your mind. I only know one Theo - and though I did think he was pretty cool in the eighties - I don't really want that in my mind when I think of my son.

I'll make my question more clear. Is there a reason to pay $350 to get someone else's prejudices and experiences applied to your own flesh and blood?

Whaddaya say? Are you going to hire self-named "Nameologist" Maryanna Kowitts?
July 5, 2007 | Tate Linden
It's a rare day that we get to offer our blog readers something more than just information.

Today is a rare day. Stokefire's Southern retreat in OBX (North Carolina) just finished renovations and we didn't schedule anything there for the next three weeks on the off chance the work wasn't finished in time. The property is located in Corolla Light in the outer banks. Sleeps ten, has space for seventeen eaters (more if you eat on the couch), less than two minute walk to the beach, small shopping area, and the local private clubhouse (access is included.)

While we typically only discount for business partners (and we offer a week's stay to clients engaging in major contracts) we're opening up the discount for the next few weeks to anyone that's interested in staying at our little corporate playground. So - if you're interested in staying here just tell 'em that Tate sent you and they'll agree to the discount.

Naming Content:

There appear to be some hard and fast rules when naming a resort home. You can pick:
  • A name that has a deep emotional connection with the owners (Alma mater, a child, parent, pet, etc.)
  • A name that describes the experience or atmosphere (Refreshing Breeze, Ocean's Friend, Beachcomber, etc.)
  • A name that is cute or a pun (Beez Neez, Noah's Arf, Ocean's Ten, or Prow'd Mary)
Why did we name our property Prow'd Mary? Because it's a prow front home that isn't within view of the ocean (thus giving us a reason to name it after the view.) There are three homes between us and the ocean and we didn't feel as though "Fourth In Line" or "Awaiting 300 Feet of Erosion" were really appropriate for the area. The place is a prow-front home (looks like the front of a ship) and it's the major feature of the building. We were shocked when the first name we thought of wasn't taken (given the enormous number of prow-fronts in the area) and since we happen to really like the homonymic song by John Fogerty it just felt right.

And as an extra bonus, there's a mondegreen in the song that has been interpreted as:
  • "pumped a lot of pain"
  • "pumped a lot of 'pane" (as in propane)
  • "pumped a lot of of 'tane" (as in octane)
So the name of the home and the line in the song are both a little difficult to get right. (Thankfully, people don't look for our resort property by trying to spell it.) Can't say that we meant the name to be a lesson in naming, but we takes what we can gets.

We wanted fun, we wanted memorable, we wanted not to offend our neighbors.

Check, check, and check.

Done.

(Should we have done a contest?)
July 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
Quite a few of our clients often call into question one of the most basic assumptions we tell them to make. The assumption? If a name can be shortened in any way - via acronyms, dropping syllables, or just using the first portion of the name - your customers will find and use it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seems to be working well for Google, doesn't it?
June 28, 2007 | Tate Linden
I received a letter in the mail from one of my representatives yesterday. It contained a newsletter with the title "Whippletter."

As you can probably guess (since you're one of our highly intelligent readers) the esteemed Senator's last name is "Whipple" (First and middle names are Mary and Margaret.)

My question: Does this cramming together of words actually do anything positive for the Senator's brand?

My follow-up question: Since no guide is given to how to pronounce this munged word what would you think the pronunciation should be?
  1. "Whipp-Letter" - ignoring the emphasis and going with the intuitive identification of word parts.
  2. "Whipple-TER" - going with the change in emphasis as the type indicates
  3. "Whipple-Letter" - ignoring the shortening entirely and forcing the word to make audible sense.
Potential lesson in naming:

When looking for creative ways to conjoin two terms you should consider the impact to more than just the way the words look on the page. Show them to people and ask how they'd pronounce it. If people stumble (as most did when I asked around the office) then consider getting rid of the confusing bits. (This is related to a widely accepted concept - that the human brain will look for familiar patterns when trying to figure out how to pronounce something. But sometimes the model identified doesn't provide clear guidance - like the brand "Vild" - is it pronounced like "Wild" and "Mild" or like "Sild" and "Gild". Interestingly most people hit on the latter pronunciation even though the former is more common.)

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

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

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

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

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

Forget the All-Everything name. Just try to get one that is good at something while avoiding any major pitfalls. You'll be so far ahead of most other companies that you'll forget you ever wanted anything more.
June 15, 2007 | Tate Linden
Here's a quick aside - since I'm still getting back into the swing of things after spending time with Theodore (more on the story of his name another time.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No. Sorry."

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

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

A special thanks go to these kind anonymous people.

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

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

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

Oh... wait... that was me.
June 6, 2007 | Tate Linden
If you attempt to make any comments on our blog in the future you'll note that we've added a CAPTCHA plug-in that will ask you to input a couple words before your post is approved.

Normally we find these programs annoying and would avoid them. Sure, it only takes an additional 5 seconds or so - and given that we've had less than a thousand valid comments on our site it would have been less than an hour and a half of time wasted for you readers. The only benefit is that it would save our precious time and effort. We use Akismet - so most of the comment spam doesn't get to us - and the stuff that gets through takes us about 30 seconds a day to eliminate.

So, why are we giving reCAPTCHA a try? Because we love the name and the idea behind the company.

The idea is this (taken from the reCAPTCHA website):
About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that's not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into "reading" books.

To archive human knowledge and to make information more accessible to the world, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then, to make them searchable, transformed into text using "Optical Character Recognition" (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult to store on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.

...

reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.

But if a computer can't read such a CAPTCHA, how does the system know the correct answer to the puzzle? Here's how: Each new word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is given to a user in conjunction with another word for which the answer is already known. The user is then asked to read both words. If they solve the one for which the answer is known, the system assumes their answer is correct for the new one. The system then gives the new image to a number of other people to determine, with higher confidence, whether the original answer was correct.

Currently, we are helping to digitize books from the Internet Archive.
How cool is that? This company is trying to "recapture" 150,000 hours of human labor per day. Of course their product isn't omnipresent, but still - going after that much lost productivity is admirable - and the cause is worthy. Capturing the text of books in the public domain and making them available online is an admirable goal. Thousands (or even millions) of texts can be made available to those without the ability to read or see - the digitized text can be read or translated far more easily when in electronic form.

As for the name itself... It has just a touch of wit to it - since it sounds an awful lot like a New Englander saying "recapture" - and recapturing is exactly what the service does. We are recapturing words that would otherwise be lost to the printed page.

And for those that are interested, CAPTCHA is an acronym/initialism coined at the turn of the century. It means: "Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart", and was trademarked by Carnegie Mellon University. (And yes, "CAPTCHA" is a bit of a stretch, isn't it? Shouldn't it be CAPTTTTCAHA? Or Maybe CAPTTCHA? I suppose aesthetics count for something...)

Any other naming blogs (or other blogs...) that are looking for a way to reduce comment spam and make the world a better place... I can't think of a better way to do it than getting reCAPTCHA going on your own site.

Given all this, I think that an apology is no longer warranted for putting a CAPTCHA on our site. Sure, you're taking five seconds longer... but somewhere and sometime there will be someone who hears or reads that word you identified and will be unknowingly appreciative... And isn't that payment enough for your time?

Wiseacres need not answer.
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
May 22, 2007 | Tate Linden
Oh, cute! A whale naming contest!

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

Right.

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

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

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

Whee!

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

Bring the family!
May 21, 2007 | Tate Linden
I've had a few emails this month from readers who were interested in hearing what was on my bookshelf. It's probably been about a year since I wrote anything about our reference materials, so I figure it's about time to update.

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

Here’s a list of the current "How-To" type books on my desk that are dedicated almost entirely to naming. The snippets of information aren't really reviews. They're just a bit of context to help you understand how the book is used:
  1. Blake, George. Crafting the Perfect Name: The Art and Science of Naming a Company or Product. USA: Probus, 1991
    1. An excellent, if dated, reference for people looking to name their own company. As with most of the books here, it does a great job educating you on the basics of naming, and even provides lists of source material in the appendix so you can start naming immediately. Unfortunately the lists are far short of what would be needed to perform a comprehensive naming project for a mid-size (or larger) firm. The age really shows when it addresses the legal aspects of naming - including the hoops one must go through to check if a name is registered. I refer mostly to Chapter Six when I crack the cover - the chapter on Names to Avoid.
  2. Barrett, Fred. Names that Sell: How to Create Great Names for Your Company, Product, or Service. Portland: Alder Press, 1995 (Amazon Rank = #993,472 in Books)
    1. A book aimed at people who have a basline of experience in naming. Barrett runs through all sorts of criteria for how to name companies, but in his effort to cover everything (he does come close) he drops any sense of order. He provides Twenty-Five different techniques for developing names - and these appear in a jumble of methods we've been unable to untangle. There's gold here - it's just a little hard to find. Barrett also provides another list of source words at the back of the book - and again the list is a bit lacking. A bit of a peek inside a namer's head - all sorts of information but not in a structure that aids in learning. We've opened it a few times in the past year - mainly to remind ourselves how another namer might approach a particular problem.
  3. Cader, Michael. The Name Book: A Unique Reference Listing of Everything Imaginable That Has a Name (Except Babies!) New York: Random House, 1998 (Amazon Rank = #505,676)
    1. A book of lists that goes quite well with the how-to books. It offers very little how-to and a whole lot of reference. What's great here is that the lists are intuitively sorted into groups. Interested in a powerful name? Perhaps you want to examine lists of Spanish monarchs, or Roman emperors, or military ranks... An amazing number of ideas to get the mind moving. Feels a touch dated, but when referencing historical stuff this might be a benefit.
  4. Charmasson, Henri. The Name Is the Game: How to Name a Company or Product. Homewood: Dow Jones-Irwin, 1988
    1. Charmason may be smart, but he suffers from the same affliction that Barrett does. There are some interesting methods listed here, but the book is dense and cluttered. Again suffers from age as major passages of the Trademark section are no longer applicable. Charmasson has some interesting takes on naming, though after the first couple reads I must admit I haven't gone back to this one. It's just not that useful and has been overcome by better and more readable books. (We're putting it back on the shelf today.)
  5. Frankel, Alex. Wordcraft: The Art of Turning Little Words into Big Business. New York: Random House, 2004
    1. Prior to meeting other namers at Alexandra Watkins' party I had little idea how the other namers worked. This book brought new insight into both the process of naming within major branding firms and the presentation of fully developed names. It is rarely cracked other than to illustrate a point to a client who wants to know how others do something. Incidentally, this is likely the best book ever written about the naming industry (in my quite humble opinion.)
  6. Javed, Naseem. Naming for Power: Creating Successful Names for the Business World. Toronto and New York: Linkwood, 1993
    1. You may be sensing a pattern here. The How-To books just seem jumbled. Javed is a famed speaker and columnist and this book appears to be a compilation of his speeches and writings. Again no real order here, and no overarching messages or lessons. Add in the fact that I can't personally follow what he is saying much of the time - and that time has proven quite a few of his examples false - and this has little value. Why is it on my desk? Because I can use it to show how our views, practices, and opinions differ from the mainstream. Some of the names he really likes fall into traps we try to avoid - and having an expert advocate for names a client likes (and then have that expert proven wrong) adds power to our words.
  7. McGrath, Kate, Trademark: How to Name your Business & Product. 1994
    1. We use this only as a primer for the basics of trademark law. It is not up to date at all, but the terminology it uses and the classes of names referenced haven't changed much. If you want to understand what sorts of names can be trademarked and why then this baby is a good bet.
  8. Morris, Evan. From Altoids to Zima: The Surprising Stories Behind 125 Famous Brand Names. New York: Fireside (Simon & Schuster,) 2004
    1. Not a how-to, really, but a "how they did it." Fun to read and a good reference to trot out when a name covered within the pages is in the same industry as one of our clients. It usually helps expand the thinking at the brainstorming meetings. (We have a long list of books that cover the etymology of corporate names - we'll get to that another day.)
  9. Nussel, Frank. The Study of Names. A Guide to the Principles and Topics. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1992
    1. Really only on our desk as a reference, this book helps us remember the science of naming - especially some of the more obscure terms and their full definitions. Can't remember what Morphosyntactics are? This is the book for you. I personally open the cover about once a month to a random page. It's helpful in getting my mind onto a different path when naming. The whole book explains terminology in naming and lists examples of just about every type of name known to man. AND it is highly organized! Oh - and the reference materials cited contain some of the hardest to find and most useful older research documents on Onomastics.
  10. Rivkin, Steve. The Making of a Name: The Inside Story of the Brands We Buy. New York: Oxford, 2004
    1. Perhaps our second-most-favorite book on naming. Somewhere between a how-to and an industry overview. Fun to read. Can't say I read it that much, except for the appendix containing the reference materials. We actually found many of our materials here. If you want to create a library of easily accessible naming books this isn't a bad place to look for titles.
  11. Room, Adrian. Trade Name Origins. Chicago: NTC, 1982 (Amazon Rank = #1,006,067)
    1. Similar to the Morris book, this one does the same thing, but for more companies in less detail - and twenty (plus) years earlier. Great for finding patterns in naming that you want to latch on to or avoid.
  12. Wegryn, Jim. Funny Thing About Names. An Entertaining Look at Naming in America. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2005
    1. This is a new addition. It's on my desk mainly because it's new - and because Wegryn appears to be just as much of a statistics geek as I am. Nice list of more recent research papers at the back, and a strong index that helps me to find relevant examples to share with clients and partners. A little more humor here than I'd like to see - but the title does warn us. I'd be more interested in reading the pure research behind this - because it looks like he did a lot of it (including an interesting bit on the history of street names that have impacted the English language.)
  13. Williams, Phillip. Naming Your Business and Its Products and Services: How to Create Effective Trade Names, Trademarks, and Service Marks to Attract Customers, Protect Your Goodwill and Reputation, and Stay out of Court! (City Unknown): P. Gaines, 1991
    1. Horribly out of date book that attempts to cover everything under the sun about names and trademarks in 90 large-print pages with lots of clip art. Covers some interesting territory with its random list of things you can name your product after (symbols, mythology, history, bible, geography, literature, and puns... yep, that's it!) This is my "there is no one book that can show you how to name" book. From what I have seen so far there isn't even a good list of name classifications in print yet. There is an interesting appendix at the back that shows all the pages of an old trademark application, but it bears little relevance to naming today.
May 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: www.creedthoughts.gov.www/creedthoughts. 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 creedthoughts.com 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 www.superduperpaper.com and www.papergreat.com 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 16, 2007 | Tate Linden
I'd never 'cracked the spine' of the online OED before. I'm not quite sure why. Especially after looking at my own name.
c1375 Sc. Leg. Saints iv. (Jacobus) 328 For scho had bulis wilde and tate,

{Th}at scho nocht trewit mycht {ygh}okkit be In carte, na wane, be ony degre.

What does that mean? Those that work with me probably could figure it out if they thought about me a bit. Also, I'm guessing my lovely wife could figure it out... My name (according to the OED) means "wanton, brisk, untamed".

How cool is that?

Was I predestined to be like I am by my name? Or is this just a grand coincidence? Bah. Doesn't matter. I'm going to play it safe...

In light of this new (to me) definition (and the fact that I've found a way to live my life in a way that fit the definition of the word) I am going to reconsider the list of names I've been advocating for my soon-to-be little tyke.

Out:
  • Jezebel
  • Twitchy
  • Hebetude
  • Pigpen
In:
  • Pension
  • All-star
  • Dad's Hopes and Dreams
It's not like this could backfire or anything...
May 15, 2007 | Tate Linden
No... not with Stokefire. (We're done hiring until we find a bigger space.)

Try Landor - the Grand-daddy of the industry. I received this in my in-box this morning with no mention of copyright or non-distribution policies. So I'll help a competitor out... (They're not competing in my space at the moment so I'll play nice.)

If I were in New York and didn't have my own firm I'd consider talking with them about it... But I'm not and I do, so there shall be no talks.

Landor isn't currently known for their creativity in naming, so perhaps the new person can bring a little spark to the organization. (If I'm gonna help 'em I gotta get a little dig in, don't I?)

If you're applying I'd love to hear about it.

Applied Linguistics & Naming Architecture: Director, Naming & Writing, Landor Associates/Young & Rubicam Brands, NYC, USA

Organization: Landor Associates/Young & Rubicam Brands Department: Naming & Writing Web Address: http://www.landor.com

Specialty Areas: Applied Linguistics; Verbal Identity

Description:

In the 'agency world' and among marketing professionals on the client side, Landor Associates is known as the world's most accomplished and internationally recognized branding and design consultancy. For 65 years we've delivered a multidisciplinary range of brand strategy, design, naming, interactive, and research services, helping clients around the world create, renew, and strengthen their brand power. Besides being a solid career credential for the best designers, marketers and all sorts of advertising, strategic and creative professionals, Landor is also well known as a fun, collaborative, and intellectually stimulating place to work.

The Director, Naming & Writing, based in Landor's New York City office, will be a strategic thinker and doer with expertise in developing branding and naming architectures, nomenclature systems, and naming guidelines for complex corporate and product/service projects. You will also be an expert in name and tagline development and brand voice strategy and guidelines.

Here are just some of the other things we expect from you: - help clients make decisions about strategic and creative work - sell naming solutions and bring ideas to life - provide clear direction to team members for creative efforts, helping them to optimize creative output - identify and take the lead on developing new products, methodologies and processes - be the problem solving "hired gun" on relevant client engagements and function as client leader on all types of Naming and Verbal Identity engagements - have strong and lively facilitation and moderation skills - manage, mentor and develop multiple direct reports - take the lead on creation of proposals and pitches - formulate, assess and manage overall department budget - handle day to day management and operational issues related to the Naming & Writing practice in Landor's NY office.

Qualifications: - The ideal candidate will have a Bachelors Degree in English, Linguistics, Liberal Arts, or related studies with a minimum of 8 - 10 years of Naming/Writing/Verbal Identity experience (on the agency or client side). - Must have leadership experience and worked in an organization as a Naming/Verbal Identity Consultant. - Significant experience with naming and nomenclature strategy is an absolute must. - A "wide angle" view of branding and ability to represent Landor's range of offerings to clients is necessary.

Landor Associates, part of the WPP Group of companies, provides a competitive compensation and benefits package.

To apply, please visit our company website listed below. Please create a new member profile and upload a copy of your resume (Word or PDF format is preferred). If you choose, you may submit samples of your work by clicking on the 'Add Documents' link after creating your profile.



Application Deadline: 30-Jun-2007 (Open until filled)

Web Address for Applications: http://www.landor.com/careers

Contact Information: Manager, Human Resources: Ira Beckman Email: ira_beckman@nyc.landor.com
May 14, 2007 | Tate Linden
This is something I often have trouble with. As namers we are in an odd place - we are held responsible for knowing all sorts of words (both English and otherwise) and yet if we're any good we know that most of these words are not only unsuitable for use in naming, we can't use 'em in conversation either.

In the past few weeks I've been told numerous times (maybe five?) that one of the things that I need to portray to my clients is that I'm smarter than they are.

Where does this come from?

I have no clue if I'm smarter than my clients. My intelligence shouldn't matter. My facility with words and knowledge of naming is what matters. And in my humble opinion that facility must include an ability to prove itself without sounding like a pompous human thesaurus.

Yeah, I think I probably just sounded pompous right there.

It's tough. A namer shouldn't have to 'dumb down' their language to be understood, but they also can't speak a language that only naming geeks understand. We don't name companies to impress other namers (okay, so maybe there's a little of that sometimes) we name them to help our clients meet their goals.

So... blog readers. Tell me. What do you expect from your namer? Do you want to see the dictionary-reading word-nerd? Do you want an every-man (or every-woman) that you can relate to? Do you want someone smarter than you are? What is it you look for?

I'm thinkin' that you actually don't want someone smarter than you - you want someone better at naming than you are. I don't want my chef to be a genius - I want my chef to be a good cook. And they can do that without needing to make me feel like an idiot when I talk with them about what they do...

Right?
May 11, 2007 | Tate Linden
This will be a short post.

It's just a question:
  • Other than "acme", has a company name ever changed the conversational use of an existing word?
I thought that "standard" might qualify, but have had troubles tracking down when the term started to adopt the "ordinary" connotation (instead of what appears to be the older connotation of "excellence.") The etymology of the newer meaning is something I just can't find.

I suppose you might disagree with my supposition that the word acme has been affected. And you'd have a point... the dictionary doesn't take note of the connection between Acme and generic, confusing, or sub-par products.

The idea that names can become a part of the lexicon has been proven many times over (Google for "look up", Cadillac for "best", Coke for "soda", and more... ) But has there been a strong case for a real word being assumed by a company and then redefined?

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
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 4, 2007 | Tate Linden
Stop with the emailing! I will write about it. (But I do so under protest.)

Yeah, you all are exactly right. I don't like it. There are so many reasons for me to potentially be displeased that it becomes even less likeable due to the fact that I have to sort through the pile of bad stuff figuring out what reasons I want to share...

Whatever... Let me start digging.
  1. Where the heck did Google pull the "i" prefix from? I don't see it on any other products or services provided by them. iGotnoidea.
  2. Okay, so I know where they pulled the "i" from. They got it from Apple. (And I suppose until recently they might have gotten it from Cisco too.) Note that only the iMac, iPhone iTunes and iPod are well known - and Apple has tons of stuff with the iPrefix that we don't talk about much.
  3. Five years after they send a cease and desist order to WordSpy for verbing "Google" they appear to be verbing the word themselves. If I'm not mistaken, if you hear "I Google" doesn't that imply that Googling is something that one can do? Think about it... if someone says "iGoogle" couldn't a logical response be, "you do?"
  4. With all the great new ideas Google puts out there, where do they get off using a copycat name? (Is it because they're trying to disprove my theory?)
The only way I can see this name as being good for Google is if there's a merger coming up that we don't know about.

I have about five other reasons why this ain't a good thing, but I'll leave it to the many other bloggers who have already covered this. Just rest assured that I'm probably as peeved as you all thought I'd be about it.

I'd be more peeved if I didn't just get "Shaun of the Dead" for a birthday present from my wife. (Yeah, I'm probably the only person in the world that has this on his top ten movies list, but I wear that badge proudly!)

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
May 3, 2007 | Tate Linden
...or maybe by both "A" and "E". We're not really sure.

The English language is a funny thing. You see, we English speakers have this strange way oflettera.jpg turning the letter A into a diphthong. (This has a lot to do with something called "The Great Vowel Shift.") So even though we mentally think we're only saying one thing when we pronounce the letter "A" we're actually using two quite distinct vowel sounds - both "ehh" and "eee" (shown as /eɪ/ when the educated linguist folks write it.) That nice bright mental A sound you get isn't a single sound at all - it is a blend.

Still need more proof? Try pronouncing the letter "A" without moving your jaw, lips, or tongue. Can't do it, can you? (And yes... those of you who just did this out loud in your cubicles... your neighbors do think you're going insane.)

What does this have to do with naming? Not a whole lot, unless you're considering an acronym. Specifically an acronym with the letter A followed by the letter E. And further, it is only for acronyms that can't be pronounced as words in and of themselves.

Consider the following potential acronym of "AEDP." You can't pronounce it easily in the English language (though if you tried it'd likely come out as "Ayeedipuhh".) Since the word doesn't work the reader or speaker is forced to sound out the letters themselves as "A-E-D-P". Seems okay so far anyway, right? Well, not really.

Here's why:
  1. As noted, the letter A is a diphthong containing the sounds of both the letters A and E.
  2. There is no intervening sound or disconnect between the first and second letters (like a glottal stop or a percussive burst, or anything to indicate that a new letter is starting.)
  3. Since the letter A sound ends with E and the following letter is actually an E there is no indicator that the second letter exists at all unless:
  • You artificially stop the flow of air somehow between the first two letters
  • You emphasize the second letter with a change in pitch or volume
  • You sustain the second letter unnaturally so that it is obvious that the E-sound isn't part of the A-sound.
In Stokefire's informal tests, the speakers strongly believe they are saying AEDP naturally and yet the listeners consistently hear "ADP" with a slightly elongated letter "A" sound.

The E vanishes!

How about that? A letter than can be fully voiced and yet not registered in the mind of the listener. Pretty cool, eh?

Unless of course the name is yours and you're hoping that people interested in your organization will be able to find you.

(Hello to the wonderful association folks that just learned this as we reviewed naming candidates yesterday. Thanks for giving me something fun and informative to write about today.)

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
May 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
It is a sad day for us. A potential client came to us asking for help with a name a few months back. We loved the concept, we loved their attitude, we loved the people - but for a few reasons they decided to name themselves. These things happen...

But so do unfortunate names.

I won't mention the full three-word name (out of respect for what is actually a great company,) but the logical shortening of the name is The VD Group.

"Not that there's anything wrong with that"

Sigh...
May 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
...but sometimes it can help.

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

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

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

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

(ii) the Gujarati word vimo, meaning insurance;

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

and, most importantly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
April 30, 2007 | Tate Linden
We had a client a couple weeks ago who was astonished that we would claim we could usually tell what era a corporate name was created. They seemed somewhat mollified when we trotted out the ".com" example - as a sign of the post Amazon.com Internet boom. They were a little more convinced when we brought up Flickr and the flotilla of corporate names with the missing penultimate letter.

Copycat naming isn't new in the corporate world.

I've gone back as far as the early 1900s and found examples. I'm sure there are more even earlier than that - we're just working our way backwards...

In the year 1900, the term "Pianola" came into use. A few years later Victrola and Crayola joined in. By 1928 there were almost 100 companies with the -ola suffix in America. For a world without much in the way of instant mass media this proliferation is quite impressive. Granola, Shinola, Coca-Cola...

What do these names have in common? To us it seems that they indicate a connection with what was new in the first third of the 20th century.

Think Motorola is an exception? It isn't. Registered in 1930, the company likely leveraged the word Motor (as in car) and ola (to reference music) as a way to carve out a new niche for music on the road.

The next time someone asks you if you know how old a company is you may want to take a look at the structure of the name. There's a lot to be found within the patterns you may find.

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

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

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

The fix? "QWERTYpie"

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

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

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

Good job, Ubernamer. Nice workin' with ya.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm rooting for you!

Tate Linden Principal - Stokefire 703-778-9925
April 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
April 19, 2007 | Tate Linden
I'm not sure how other namers out there are approach the naming of associations, membership organizations and societies. Really. I'm not.

Here's why:

We're getting swamped by calls from associations wanting help recovering from naming projects - mostly internally led. They want help recovering from membership revolt or to head off what they see as an impending confrontation.

From what we can determine the causes for the alienation are from one of two things. Either the leadership team went off on its own to develop a new identity and presents a single option for the membership to vote on out of the blue - usually at the annual meeting... Or the leadership team goes to the membership and asks what the name should be - resulting in thousands of submissions, factionalization of the membership base, and no majority approval.

Membership organizations have a rather interesting aspect to the development of a new name. Rather than trying to attract dollars, the name is often better tasked in helping to raise the profile or morale of the membership. Organizations have come to us seeking help in making the members sound more credible, in finding new ways to refer to terms that are outdated, or to invent a word for a concept that is so new it hasn't even had terminology coined yet.

We're really enjoying the work - both on the creative side and on the membership-involvement side. The reason why so many association rebrands fail has more to do with not understanding how to involve the membership without ceding control than it does with finding the perfect name. Stokefire doesn't build perfect names and brands. There's no such thing. The best brands in the world are flawed. They do, however, have exceptionally strong aspects to them that outweigh the weaknesses in the current market.

So... word to the wise on association naming. Don't try to get your membership to name your association for you. It won't work - and the majority of your members won't like the name. Also don't attempt to force a singular identity upon your members - they'll mutiny. Find a way to involve membership in the process without allowing the masses to pull you in ten thousand different directions.

It's possible... honest. We're doin' it today.

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

Lexicon developed the name Zune - a name that seems to connect with the word "tune" and has a "z" at the beginning of it. Lexicon's staff used words like "fast" and "full" (focusing on the zoominess of the Z and the roundness of the "ooh" sound) to describe what the name does for the product. When Lexicon talks about it the brand sounds almost well put together.

Steve Ballmer evidently didn't get the memo, however.

When asked what the name means he responded, "It means nothing. It's just a cool name." (listen for the quote in this YouTube video at about 1:01 into the clip.)

Sadly this sort of thing happens all the time. Someone, be it a naming firm or an internal asset, develops a name and finds all sorts of interesting factoids or associations about the name, goes to the trouble of creating an identity. The branding team embraces that identity and works hard to make it compelling.

But somewhere along the line someone forgets to brief the CEO. Or maybe they do brief him and he's got other things on his mind. The problem is that the CEO isn't actually involved in the branding process (or at least I would guess that is the case here.) If the folks at the top aren't involved and haven't been brought up to speed then all the work done by the branding team is pretty much worthless.

If I say we chose a name for the next new thing because it is laden with connotations and my CEO says it's meaningless, what does that say about the product, the name, the CEO, and me? Pretty much nothing good:
  • The product doesn't have anything interesting enough about it to get the attention of the CEO - or he'd have been involved in the branding process
  • The name isn't compelling enough to engage the interest of the CEO to the point where he knows what it means
  • The CEO doesn't value the work done by his branding team and marketing staff enough to remember it
  • The branding team produces work that gets ignored by the guy footing the bill. How good can the work actually be?
It's stuff like this that shows the importance of executive involvement and buy-in. Just saying you're willing to pay for a name isn't enough. You gotta be up to speed.

I wonder how many other naming organizations won't take a project if the top-level representatives of the brand aren't on board? We won't take a job in which we can't access the top of the pyramid. It wasn't always this way, but we've had issues just like this - where we build the brand and either the brand gets canned before launch or the launch gets completely bungled because the senior executives didn't read a positioning brief that clearly states the whats and whys of the brand - and instead went with gut instinct. Imagine the horror experienced by a marketing team that is ready to roll out a fun-loving brand identity only to hear their leader convey the importance of gravity and attention to detail just days before the rollout. newcoke-can.jpg

We've learned our lesson.

It's been quite a while since we would take on branding engagements where the top of the pyramid can't be found. In fact, we've even made senior executive sign-off part of our contract. We're not done until the CEO types can convincingly represent the brand identity. If they don't believe in and understand the brand then we've still got work to do.

Side note: Just because the CEO understands the brand doesn't mean that it will be successful. New Coke went down in flames even though the company leadership was thoroughly behind it. Bringing customers and membership along is a different issue - and one that we've addressed in the Optiva threads.

I'm sure other namers have some horror stories here... Maybe someone else can share. I'm especially interested to hear from Lexicon about how they responded to the Ballmer slip-up.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 23, 2007

Monster launches new product

monster.gif

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 | Tate Linden
This one is courtesy of YouTube.

The name is M5 Industries., but evidently Adam Savage was hoping for something a little more British...

mythbusters.jpgThe tale of the name picks up part way through Adam's answer to an unheard question.

This is an example of what can happen when you don't do the required research when developing a name. Memory is a funny thing, ain't it?

My guess? Though he says he was going for a reference to James Bond's tech shop (MI6) I think he probably was remembering their Secret Service (MI5). Additionally, in the US we really don't use "MI" for anything - but we do have a fondness for guns like the M60 and fireworks like the M80. There also might be a little bit of Europe in the name if you consider the BMW M5 as an influencer.

I'll call this one "Plausible."

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
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 shinyshiny.tv.

images1.jpegimages-1.jpeg

March 21, 2007 | Tate Linden
If you have a product that needs a name you probably have at least a few ideas about what that name should be. Great. Chances are good that before you find someone like us to name your product (or company) you've actually written down a few of these names and played with 'em a bit. Maybe you've asked other people what they think about your potential names, even. Perhaps you and your peers throw a code name or working name back and forth as you work on your project just because you have to call it something, right?

Well, that's fine. But you should be aware of a couple things that are happening while you're doing this.

First, as noted in Monday's rant about cool code names, you're setting up your clients for a disappointment.

Second, and more importantly, once you begin to use a code name, working name, or even if you just start bouncing some ideas around in your mind you're beginning to lose the objectivity you need to name your project well.

Recently one of our clients came to us with just this issue. After months of considering names internally they were stuck. They hadn't chosen a name yet, but they'd been playing around with the same group of names for many weeks.

After our first round of naming the client was disturbed to find that some of their favorite pre-existing names had some rather large problems to overcome. For instance:
  • The nonsensical word that they preferred happened to mean something in a foreign language that would limit their ability to own the word locally or globally
  • The word has no meaning or connotation amongst the target market
  • The word doesn't allign with the goals they've set out for the name or the company in general.
And there was more to it, but I'll leave it at that.

The real issue we had to overcome wasn't that they were in love with the name - it was that they'd become so familiar with the name over time that they couldn't objectively evaluate the difficulties that their clients would have in saying it, reading it, or understanding what it means. They'd come to embrace the term as catchy, when in fact it was downright awkward.

Think about it. You invent a term - say... "Cobonovirtuate" and you think about that term for months. You say it every few hours during the day. You go to sleep thinking about it. You use the term to reference something important in your life. You think of words that rhyme with it.

After those months have passed you are so familiar and comfortable with the term that you think it is the most natural thing in the world.

It can be tough to hear, then, that the name is flawed. I give big kudos to my client for trying to see past their familiarity

In fact... They're still not through it. But I'm rooting for 'em big time.

And if they don't see past it? We're gonna build 'em the best damn support structure for a flawed name that we can.

But, yes. Still rooting. (And perhaps next post I can address some ways to avoid sticking the wrong label on to begin with...)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
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 www.uspto.gov 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.

Huh.
March 8, 2007 | Tate Linden
We've got a fun challenge coming up in the next couple months. Another membership organization has selected our team to help them rename.

The challenge? They've got a four letter 'acronym' with letters that no longer represent what they actually do. At one point the letters were an initialism (like "GE" stands for General Electric) but the way in which the group described themselves has changed (as if GE changed its description to Mostly Lightbulbs And Electronics but neglected to move away from "GE".)

members.jpgThe biggest hurdle in most naming cases like this is to make the membership a part of the process. How do you make 5,000 members feel like a part of the process and still end up with a singular name that meets the needs of a diverse organization? If you neglect to bring the membership along for the ride you can end up with a revolt or a failed vote. If you do bring the membership along you can end up with factionalism as various constituencies lobby for their own approach and views.

Our approach is to involve the membership from the very beginning. It was the membership that asked for the new name here - and we're going to listen to everyone that wants to participate and guide us in the crafting of the new name. Rather than ask the membership to suggest the names, we ask for their input as to what they want the name to do for the organization. Sure, we'll take name suggestions too, but we want to be sure that any name we consider will meet the needs of the membership as a whole. By keeping the goals of the name distinct from the name candidates we enable the membership to make an informed choice when making a vote. The impulse to pick a horse and root for it to win gets pushed down by the more objective decision to determine which horse best fits the job at hand.

You don't want to choose a racehorse when the job at hand involves plowing the field.

Thankfully, in our experience we find that memberships are very good at making decisions like this when presented with the facts and context they need to make an informed decision. It's only when you don't give them the tools to evaluate the names and the opportunity to affect the outcomes that you end up with major problems.

Our friends over at ZilYen brought us into this project and we're looking forward to working closely with them to develop the final pieces of the brand they've already begun to solidify. And a big howdy to the project leaders at the organization (Jill and Lander) as well. We'll see you in a few weeks!

Tate Linden (and team) Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 7, 2007 | Tate Linden
snowflake2.jpgYou've all heard about this, right? Eskimos (okay, actually the Inuit) are so intimately familiar with snow that they have up to 400 different words to describe it.

Right.

Having talked to parents of infant twins and to those that have had little tykes in the house for over ten years I think I can safely call this one a myth. They've seen more different kinds of poop than most Inuit see different kinds of snow in a lifetime and yet they're able to classify it with at most a couple dozen terms - including the profane ones. (This is not, mind you, a challenge for you to list all the four letter words that you can think of.)

Dave Mendosa has a short piece about this on his website and he covers how the myth got started - when an explorer visited the area and claimed that the tribe had four names for snow.

Four?

Stephen Pinker - a prominent linguist - suggests that today the Inuit have only a dozen words for snow, and that is if you count generously. And here you can find a list of snow morphemes (note that there aren't many more in Inuit than there are in English.)

Most on the Internet seem to conclude this is a case of gradual exaggeration - each person repeating the story adds a percentage or two as they retell it.

So why am I (as a Thingnamer) bringing up this linguistic fallacy? Because in a few ways it parallels issues we face in naming things. But I've only got time to address one today, so here it goes...

Let's address the possibility that we could build 400 words meaning essentially the same thing. Oddly this doesn't get my hackles raised. When we develop new names for products or companies we may consider thousands of potential names on our team before weeding them down to a select group to pass on to the client. In effect, before we deliver our prime candidates we live through the hell of trying to identify the same individual thing with a virtual Babel of morphemes and other lexical bits.

How do I know that there can't be 400 terms for "snow?" Because early on in my Thingnaming life I used to deliver all of the naming candidates to the client to sift through. They'd be given hundreds or thousands of candidates to consider instead of dozens.

Know what happened? Almost nothing. With so many options to choose from my clients were unable to even begin to evaluate the terms for fit. They were overwhelmed. When trying to compare one candidate to the mass of others there was too much to evaluate. Discussion was perpetually focused on how the client could possibly know if a name were better than every other candidate - even when we tried to narrow things down to an either-or decision.

I think this parallels what would happen in real life. Imagine if you had to go through this process just to describe what was falling from the sky. Was it snow54 that was falling around you, or perhaps snow323? Does snow313's aspect of supreme fluffiness better fit the situation than does snow299's reference to the slowness with which it falls?

A quick side note: My personal feeling is that inventing so many words for snow is impractical if we can take existing terms (adjectives, mostly) and connect them with the core term. Consider "driven snow," "wet snow," and "dense snow." If we make every single possible quality of snow into its own unique term then we lose the ability to compare the particular quality of that snow to other items without relying on metaphor.

Second side note: There are some things that have 400 different words to describe them, but they're not used in conversation by laypeople. Consider the color green - when you look through paint chips you'll find hundreds of different words to describe slight variations in the presentation of color. Is it "Pinesage" or "Forest Growth?" The names, however, aren't meant to be used in every day life. They're mostly just to give people a way to refer to the color while holding it in their hand and comparing it to another color. It's just easier to understand than "this green" or "that green." (Yes, I know that the greens in question are actually different greens - but I'd assume that this argument holds for snow as well - the hypothetical different words for snow are pointing out that the snow itself is not the same in each case.)

I guess that technically speaking those previous two paragraphs weren't side notes since they were actually at the end of my meandering post. Perhaps we can come up with 399 terms that better fit their true purpose?

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 6, 2007
hmb.jpg



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

picture-13.jpg

Source: click here

[Thanks for the tip Denise!]
March 6, 2007 | Tate Linden
About six months ago this blog was essentially an invisible blip in the universe. Today it is likely still invisible, though the blip has grown greatly in size. I believe that the growth is due in part to the participation and even advocacy of Nancy Friedman, Chief Word Worker for Wordworking (a company providing naming and copywriting services in the San Francisco area.)

I met Nancy in person last month at the Party for Thingnamers and enjoyed talking with her and the rest of the industry movers and shakers. It got me thinking that the rest of the world should get to hear from them too. To that end, I imposed upon Nancy to let me ask her a few questions.nancy_book_passage.jpg

Thingnamer (Tate Linden): Hello Nancy. Great to talk with you again. I’m hoping we can start out by having you tell us a little bit about your background. Nancy Friedman: I was born and reared in Los Angeles. (The real L.A. I graduated from Los Angeles High School, to which I walked—yes, walked—every single day.) I got a B.A. in comparative literature at UC Berkeley, then moved to Israel (my father’s native country) for a couple of years. I attended a graduate institute and later held various secretarial jobs, including one in which I wrote English-language correspendence for the surgeon general of the Israel Defense Forces. Returned to the U.S., attended graduate journalism school at UC Berkeley, went to work on the night copy desk at the S.F. Examiner, moved over to a regional magazine (New West, later renamed California), then did freelance magazine writing, mostly on women’s health topics, for several years. I also wrote a book, Everything You Must Know About Tampons.

Thingnamer: Okay… I don’t think I’ve come across that one in my pleasure reading. With a start like that I’d love to hear how you go from Tampons to professional naming. Nancy: I remember picking up my mother’s college dictionary when I was eight or nine and discovering an appendix that listed common English first names and their meanings. I think I committed it to memory. I was fascinated that people’s names had meanings (“Nancy: diminutive of Ann, meaning ‘grace’”) and that you could pull them apart to create more names. Margaret, for example, could become Meg, Maggie, Marge, Margitta, Greta, Gretchen, and so on. But I got my professional start in 1987. I was back in the 9-to-5 world, working at Banana Republic as editorial director, when a fellow writer told me about this peculiar opportunity to brainstorm product and company names—and get paid! Back then, professional naming was a very new profession. I had the good fortune to learn the ropes from a master, David Placek, founder of Lexicon Branding (which named the BlackBerry, the Pentium chip, and many other famous brands). We always named as a team of eight or ten people, and we always did structured exercises that forced us to produce lots and lots of names. David cited Linus Pauling, who said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

Thingnamer: Is there anything in particular you like about producing all these names and trying to pick the right one? Nancy: The puzzle-solving aspect of it. First, there’s the puzzle of the client’s needs: what are the real objectives here? Then there’s the wordplay puzzle, matching letters and sounds to the brand objectives. And of course I love it when I can make my client happy by finding a really good solution.

Thingnamer: Anything about the naming process that rubs you the wrong way? Nancy: When clients check their email and take phone calls during a presentation. Hang up and pay attention!

Thingnamer: I note that Wordworking provides more than just naming services. Tell us a bit about the other stuff that fills your days. Nancy: I’m also a copywriter, but a choosy one. I write certain kinds of web content (the brand story sections), ads, annual reports, and video scripts. I still have one catalog client, a remnant from my early career when I specialized in catalog work. I enjoy writing speeches and would love to do more of that work. Lately I’ve been ghostwriting books for corporate clients, which is as different from naming as possible—except for when I create the book title—yet equally satisfying.

Thingnamer: Is there anything about the naming process – be it for books or for, um, feminine products… that might surprise people? Nancy: Everyone’s surprised by how long it takes. To create the naming brief, manage a team of namers, do the creative work, check domains and trademarks, and craft a convincing presentation takes a minimum of three weeks. And there’s usually a follow-up round after the trademark lawyers have their say. Another thing that surprises people is that domain (.com) availability isn’t as big a deal as they think.

Thingnamer: Are you willing to give us a peek at what goes on behind the curtains of your naming process? Nancy: I start by gathering a ton of information about the company or product and the people associated with it. I try to get a sense of the personality involved—is this a serious, science-driven enterprise or a more playful or eclectic business? What story are they trying to tell? What names are they drawn to—real words, coined words, foreign words, descriptive words? I put all this knowledge into a detailed creative brief and use it as a springboard for my creative work. I generate at least 250 names per assignment, and expect any namers I contract with to do the same. Then I cull the master list to find the best matches with the objectives in the naming brief. Then the grunt work: checking domains and trademarks. And finally the storytelling: selecting twelve or fifteen names to present, along with a strong story for each. If necessary, rinse and repeat.

Thingnamer: Interesting. How do you guide your clients toward the best name possible? Nancy: I tell my clients that finding a good name is more like an arranged marriage than a love match. You’re looking for a name with a good meaning, a solid story, a satisfying sound, and a clear trademark and domain. It’s like finding a marriage partner from a good family, with strong prospects and decent habits. Love comes later.

Thingnamer: Is there a name you’ve created that has moved into the ‘love’ stage for you? Nancy: Only one? Well, I’m very happy with Mobius Venture Capital, which used to be called Softbank. The client team was exceptionally intelligent, responsive, and realistic. They didn’t insist on a “pure” dot-com domain, which was completely out of the question anyway given our aggressive schedule and limited budget. They were quite satisfied with mobiusvc.com. And I was delighted that when they announced the name change they used the name story I’d provided for them.

Thingnamer: Given your answers it seems that you don’t believe that every product or company has only one ‘right’ name. Is that correct? Nancy: Correct. Different names are “right” for different reasons. I always encourage my clients to select at least four “right names” to submit to comprehensive trademark review. That lessens the pressure to choose just one, and it reduces the likelihood of disappointment.

Thingnamer: I notice that you haven’t mentioned naming contests or focus groups in your discussion of naming processes. What do you think about them? Nancy: Not much.

Thingnamer: Very succinct. I like it. Okay – what do you think about the naming industry in general – or is there a naming industry at all? Nancy: There are definitely a lot of namers in the Bay Area—from graphic design firms that do a little naming as part of their identity work to global branding firms with verbal-branding divisions. But no organized industry that I’m aware of.

Thingnamer: And yet here we are. I guess this is a start! But if you weren’t naming, what would you do with your time? Nancy: Blogging, reading, swimming in the San Francisco Bay, baking, and trying to re-learn everything I’ve forgotten about playing the piano. Maybe I’d even write a book.

Thingnamer: Sounds like a great life. Hope you find a way to do those and name stuff in the years to come. That brings us to the end of the very first Get To Know A Thingnamer interview. It’s great to get some insight from another namer! It reminds me of that poster on Mulder’s wall in the X-Files – “We Are Not Alone.” Somehow I feel comforted. Nancy: It was a rare and enjoyable opportunity to talk about my favorite subjects. Thanks for the opportunity, Tate.

Thingnamer: My pleasure! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to speak with me and the Thingnamer readers.

Nancy can be reached via email at (nancyf @ wordworking.com) and she has a very interesting blog that addresses many naming issues here. Examples of some great posts include this one on why Viagra is a great name (though it wasn't invented by her) and this one on how to become a namer of things.

And she ratted out a bunch of promising future interviewees (at my behest) such as David Placek, George Frasier, Rick Bragdon, Alexandra Watkins, Mark Gunnion, Steve Manning, and Brent Scarcliff. All of you (and more) should consider yourselves on notice.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
March 1, 2007
macys.jpgRetail giant Federated Department Stores, Macy's Cincinnati-based parent company, made that move Tuesday, announcing that its board will ask shareholders to change the parent name to Macy's Group Inc.
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: eabel@wayne.edu

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

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

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

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

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

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
February 23, 2007
methcoffee.jpg

Introducing Meth Coffee. This rather controversial named product is marketed as a high caffeine beverage that provides an intense buzz and cocoa-tobacco finish. The "Meth" branding could generate a storm of publicity for this product in the same way that the use of the word "Cocaine" did for a recently launched energy drink.
February 23, 2007 | Tate Linden
We had a discussion yesterday with a prospective client that uses an acronym as their name. Or it used to be an acronym. Now it is just a few capital letters that have absolutely nothing to do with the organization. At some point in the last few decades the words used to describe organization changed (no longer matching the letters in the acronym) so they had to adjust the way they referred to themselves. The acronym became an anachronism.

Imagine a company called the National Record Player Company - that goes by NRPC. This name would serve them well through the 1980s - at which point the company switched away from record players to things like CD players, and soon after that to DVD players.

Kentucky Fried Chicken had a problem similar to this when they decided the word "Fried" held too much kfc.gifbaggage. They are now officially named "KFC" and the letters themselves have no official meaning anymore.

If you owned NRPC what would you do? Would you keep using the letters as you've been doing for decades because that's how people know you and there's strong brand recognition (even though the letters have had no words behind them for three decades?) Would you attempt to kluge together new words that fit the letter pattern better than the old ones (like BP did with Beyond Petroleum?) Or would you ditch the acronym and go for a brand new name that better positions you for the next three decades (while potentially honoring your past at the same time... but no pressure, of course?)

Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. Each one will be loved by some and hated by others. Just take a look at our own blog and you'll see that major backlash can occur when nothing other than the name changes.

Membership organizations are particularly vulnerable to backlash when even the slightest adjustments are made to the brand. Today's society defines people by the company they keep. When an entity with which people are associated changes it reflects on the the members themselves. For naming this means that people who associate with an organization in part because of the name (perhaps because it is their alma mater) will not respond positively to a name change without a significant amount of justification and participation.

When was the last time you heard of a company or organization with a strong brand and lengthy history that renamed itself and received unanimous accolades? I certainly can't remember one. There's always dissent (though I believe that dissent is a good thing - but that's a post for another day.)

Off for my second cuppa joe.

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-logo.jpg

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_logo.gif

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 20, 2007 | Tate Linden
focus-group.jpgI'm starting to get worried.

In the last few weeks I've noticed more people are asking me about focus groups. Every couple days a client or prospect suggests that we use focus group data to either:
  1. confirm the direction we should take for a rebranding effort - or
  2. confirm that the name(s) we have developed are worthy of launching
Color me displeased.

Those that know me well can probably pick out the word that annoys me in both suggested uses. The word is "confirm."

Focus groups don't confirm. Focus groups just focus. You give them something to discuss and they discuss it in ways not done in the real world. Unfortunately many companies use the results of focus group testing to change their strategic direction, target audience, or even their name.

I recently talked with a financial firm that used "reliable focus group data" to determine that the thing their customers wanted in a financial institution was trustworthiness and financial stability. Great... except that I'd guess that these same qualities have been identitified by every other financial firm in the country. By saying these same things about themselves they disappear into the mess of standard-issue companies.

I absolutely abhor hearing companies and organizations espousing trust as a primary virtue. They end up looking like NAR - who decided that they should shout about the ethics training they give their agents because their focus group data showed that people don't trust real estate agents.

How many of you would buy from a used car salesman that repeatedly told you that he took ethics training - and told you stories about how trustworthy and friendly he was?

Very few companies know how to use a focus group correctly. It seems counter-intuitive to use them to find new ideas, but that's the only thing we've found them useful for. Instead of asking what is important to a focus group - why not ask:
  • What is it that we do differently than other companies
  • Why did you choose us over the competition
  • If you didn't use us who would you go to for our type of services
  • Why would you choose them?
  • What could the competition offer you to entice you away from us?
  • Is there something that we do today that if we stopped doing you'd leave us?
Get people to discuss the stuff that really matters. No one selects a bank because they're the only bank that is trustworthy. They're all supposed to be that way. If everyone is supposed to do (or be) something then why say that you do it?

Here is my plea: Stop trying to confirm your ideas with focus groups. You will rarely learn anything other than how smart you are (and you'll wonder why your smart ideas don't work.) Instead use them as a tool to help you come up with new ideas.

How do you know when you've got a new idea? Take the output of the focus groups (using questions like those above) and compare the answers to your own internal responses. Then look to your competition and see what they're saying in their marketing. If you've got output that isn't being used elsewhere in the industry and is underappreciated at your own firm you've got something that could actually bring positive change.

Ideally the output will focus on things that are the opposite of what your competitors state. Like "we like you because everyone else wastes our time trying to be our friend and you just take care of business and let us get on with our day." That's a market opportunity waiting to be exploited.

I will guarantee you that your new idea will have nothing to do with "trustworthiness."

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
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 | Tate Linden
Two concepts that I thought would never successfully mix: anything involving the word "viral" and my nether regions.

I have been proved wrong.

(Please note that I am going to do my darndest to make this a PG-13 post. Maybe even G if I can find a way. If you are offended by "Hoo Has" and the like you may want to surf elsewhere.)

afeita.jpgIn what may be one of the most unusual successful viral marketing ploys, Philips Norelco has launched shaveeverywhere.com - a site dedicated to getting men to shave... well... everywhere. Backs, buttocks... and a couple other things starting with the letter b. And throw in a couple "p" words too.

The product they're pitching is the "BodyGroom" - a razor specifically made to shave you all over. I'm not quite sure how this particular razor was modified from, say, any other electric razor on the face of the earth, to perfectly shave your business, but it certainly is causing a stir. Thousands of bloggers are talking about it already - and it was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal yesterday as well.

More intriguing to me is the fact that the term "Optical Inch" is spreading like wildfire too. The website with the name is already camped and for sale. There are hundreds of bloggers talking about it.

But why? Why is it that an optical inch is desireable at all? This strikes me in just about the same way that the logic used by guys with combovers and toupes use. Something akin to "Hey, if I wear my hair just right I might fool people into thinking there's more here than there actually is."

This line of logic is one that doesn't sit well with me. Long ago I decided that the moment I had an urge to start parting my hair near my ears I would shave it all off. As you can see this moment has come and gone.

Men of the world -consider this: You may be gaining an optical inch by using this new wonder-product, but (hopefully) at the end of the day the final method of measurement isn't going to be visual.

In establishing your brand it is often said that you want to under promise and over deliver. I think that this product (and its marketing method) are ensuring that its clients do the exact opposite.

The ad campaign is in my opinion a good one. The brand that they are building, however, seems critically flawed. I don't think I could ever willingly associate myself with a company or product that so overtly preyed on a man's insecurities with a solution that so clearly didn't help the situation.

That said, I am involved in open-source research that could make this "Optical Inch" laughable. Get 'em to stand back a bit and who knows how big the "benefits package" could get.

Operators are standing by.

At a distance.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
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 14, 2007 | Tate Linden
[Ed. - updated with new links, grammar fixes, and a dose of humble pie. Apologies to those that I may have carelessly forgotten to credit.]

Many thanks to the kind folks at Igor and Eat My Words for hosting a great party with dozens of namers from around the world. Okay, not really the world, but at least all over North America. Or more precisely the United States and Canada. Well, it was one guy from Canada, one guy from DC, and everyone else was from the Bay Area. Still, though, it was very impressive.

Really! (Investing $2000+ for entertaining a room full of your primary competitors in the industry is no small thing, either. If it had been at Stokefire's pad we'd have had party ice and a few footlong subs.)

Thanks specifically to Alexandra Watkins, Steve Manning, and Nancy Friedman for their efforts in hosting, funding, and organizing the event. What started out as six people at a bar turned into a wonderful industry-wide event with dozens of people making new connections.

Unfortunately the pictures I took are too big for my server, so I'll have to wait until I get back home next week to edit and post them. Check back Tuesday-ish for the goods. Or you can click here for Alexandra's (our party-pad hostess) pix. She seems to have captured many of the same shots I did.

Pretty amazing how many different types of businesses are involved in naming. Lots of copywriters, branding agencies, marketers, list-farms, and full service advertisers. There were a couple businesses that were strikingly similar to what we do at Stokefire.

As for the reaction to my persistant mouthing-off on this blog about the lack of industry representation I'd say the response was a cautious interest. There's a little bit of disagreement as to what naming is and how it might relate to the larger industries of graphic design, advertising, marketing, and identity development. I heard quite a few folks advocate joining AIGA to further our cause. Perhaps starting up a focus group within their organization.

I guess I'm a little wary of that path since I believe that traditionally a name flows from a core identity more readily than it does from a sense of design. The design would traditionally flow from the same place the name does. The question for me is whether we want verbal branding, naming, and identity development to be supplicant to the visual aspects. That's something I strongly disagree with. Both the name and design are supplicant to the identity/strategy of the company.

I've never developed a name after the logo and design have been set and before the identity has been developed. It's backasswards. Ain't it?

The topic came up quite a few times and has me wondering a few things:
  1. Is there enough interest in the concept of a group that represents namers to support our own organization? Are there enough of us to do it? I've gotten interest from about a dozen companies and a handful of freelancers - but no one is committed to it yet.
  2. Is there a stronger call to create an organization dedicated to the creation of identities rather than names - and in this way enable the participation of partner fields such as design, scent, colors, and the rest of the pieces that are involved in the creation of strong identities...
  3. How will an organization that represents namers handle the various approaches (sometimes conflicting) to name generation and evaluation? Can an organization meant to raise the profile of an industry do so without demeaning some of its constituents?
That's it. I'm going to try to enjoy the rest of my pseudo-vacation with my wife. Can't believe I have the good fortune to be in sunny San Francisco while DC is under inches of ice and snow.

I think I'm going to ditch my light sweater for a long-sleeved tee. (I know you all miss me back there. Admit it.)

Cheers!

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925 (but the office is snowed in, so no one is going to answer the phone today.)
February 13, 2007 | Tate Linden
sf-triton.jpgStokefire's chief Thingnamer (A.K.A. "me") is in San Francisco this week for (among other things) the first meeting of a huge group of folks that do what I do for a living - name stuff. I'm staying at Hotel Triton - a boutique owned by Kimpton.

Kimpton's slogan is "every hotel tells a story" so I figured I'd try and figure out what the story is at this one. I recently helped another boutique hotel create their own story, so I'm particularly interested in the topic.

Here's what has happened thus far:
  • We called ahead to ask if we could get early check-in. They couldn't promise it, but said they'd try their best. We were very thankful for anything they could do.
  • Pulled up in front of hotel at a sign saying "valet parking" for Triton. We got out of the car and for two minutes wondered where the valet was. They did show up. Our car is now being kept in an extremely safe place. At least it should be for $37 a night.
  • We walked into the lobby (very colorfully decorated) and up to the desk where we were asked for ID and credit card. They told us about the schedule at the hotel and welcomed us while preparing our room keys. We asked some questions about the decor and neighborhood - the staff was highly knowledgeable. Kudos!
  • The elevators are lit with deep blue and purple lights. Tres cool.
  • One of the room keys didn't work, but we got in anyhow. The room was a bit dated and scuffed. And small. But this is San Francisco - so it's expected.
  • Five minutes after we checked in there was a knock on the door and a very friendly gentleman gave us a note, a bottle of water, and six chocolates. Talk about service. Here's what the handwritten letter read:
Thanks for joining our KIMPTON IN TOUCH program! Should you need anything, please do not hesitate to contact us! Enjoy!

- the Triton Family


I was very impressed until I realized two things. First, I hadn't registered for any program, and second, my name wasn't Mr. Gray - the man to whom the very kind letter was addressed. This did not, however, keep me from being appreciative, nor did it prevent me from tasting the very fine gifts. In my defense, I didn't actually catch the error until after I'd sampled both.
  • The bathroom has an unintended extra bit of entertainment. The toilet isn't particularly well bolted to the floor, so when you sit or adjust your position there's a bit of a thrill. Will you fall in? Will the toilet tip? Will your unmentionables be unpleasantly moistened? We informed the front desk of the issue and await any potential remedy.
The story thus far is a little hard to read. I can see that a lot of thought went into certain things, like the decor, the attitude, and even some of the personal touches - but the execution isn't really there. Sort of like a puzzle that has pieces that just don't quite fit together right.

I didn't spend any time looking into why Triton was named Triton - though there's a mythological green-patina guy in a little fountain in front of the building, so I'm guessing there's a story there that I could learn if I wanted to. I haven't been compelled to look into it yet. (I'm pretty sure that's not a good thing. I'd love to have a story behind a boutique brand... that's the whole point about boutiques - they've got personality and a story...)

More interesting to me was that most of the materials given to me upon check-in kimpton.jpg(including our keys, our welcome pack, and the KIMPTON INTOUCH program materials) had no mention of Hotel Triton at all. There's no real effort to create an experience here - just stuff to point out that you could also be having an experience at other Kimpton locales.

Why would a hotel conglomerate allow an owned hotel to have its own name and yet not allow them to personalize the experience down to the way they communicate with their clients?

I think my perception of this place would be better if they (Kimpton) had avoided one of the things I find truly annoying about many service industry marketing campaigns. Rather than showing me that they've created a place I'll enjoy they instead tell me that they've done it. Here's the quote that came along with my card key:
Our Hotels embrace their own unique story to create a unique guest experience with only one person in mind. You.
This is complete bunk. If each hotel has its own unique story then each hotel is probably going to appeal to a different type of person - many of which are explicitly not me. Got a hotel that plays hard rock? Not for me. Got a hotel all done up in pastels? Not for me.

I'm not sure where this idea that personalization on a global scale is a good thing (or even possible) got started, but it has got to stop. It is a logical impossibility.

You can and should build a hotel experience that focuses on creating a memorable guest stay for every guest. You cannot build that brand by saying the experience was expressly created for every individual in advance. Customization is only effective after you establish a relationship. Customization beforehand means you're probably going to give me a product that doesn't fit.

I think Kimpton would do well to step back a bit and let Triton try to spread its wings a bit. The fact that the two identities don't know how to relate to each other (Triton coasters and Kimpton keys) implies there's something amiss. It seems a perfectly nice hotel, and I welcome the coming chapters in the story over the next few nights. I'm certain that they'll fall into place better the first.

Gotta head out to the Thingnamerfest... so I'll be talkin' at ya again tomorrow. Perhaps some pictures and stories are in order. I'll see what I can do.
February 12, 2007
virgin_ntl_12027.jpg

LONDON: Richard Branson's Virgin Group has announced several packages for the television and telephone subscribers of its Virgin Media, which formally got the name Thursday last after the successful merger of Virgin Mobile and satellite broadcaster NTL Telewest.
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
tesco.jpg

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 TheSneeze.com 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 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
February 5, 2007

images.jpg



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 | Tate Linden
You may think that I'm gonna write on the topic of what it is like to be a Thingnamer. But you'd be wrong.

Nancy Friedman over at Away With Words said a whole lot today about what it takes to be a namer.

Of particular interest are the items she points out as keys to successful naming. They include word lust, perfect pitch, a specialty, nuts and bolts, brand smarts, story savvy, and persistence.

My favorite (and one that I often find missing in names developed by internal teams) is...
Story savvy. Creating a great name is one thing; selling it to the client is another. Persuasive naming requires storytelling skills. How does the name express the company's personality? What does the name say about the product's benefits? Where does the name come from, what does it mean, what can it stand for over time?
Well worth a read if you're interested in a career in naming.

Also of note: We're going to try an experiment for a few months by starting up a discussion board here at Thingnamer. There's currently no forum for experts to interact. Yes - there are MarketingProfs and Wordlab - but they're more focused on the exchange of information between experts and novices rather than encouraging interaction between the experts themselves.

I've of course assumed that Thingnamers actually want to interact with each other... I'm actively looking for guidance as to what types of topics and boards you'd like to see. Just tell me here. (We're not known for our technical skills, so if you ask us to add nifty graphic effects, change the colors, or do anything that takes skill in things other than, well, naming... it'll probably take us a while.)

But we're gonna give it our best effort...

Tate Linden 703-778-9925
February 1, 2007 | Tate Linden
Can you find success by copying a name or category prefix from a big Web 2.0 site or company? I wanted to find out.

Here's what I did. (Warning: This may get a little boring/technical/nonsensical. Go to "Findings" below the table if you're not interested in my process.)
  1. I found a list of the top (approximately) 1000 Web 2.0 sites and companies compiled by Seth Godin. The list is ranked by Alexa - as good a source as any for my gauge of success.
  2. I scanned the list for prefixes, words, numbers, and letters that were at the start of the website name. (This didn't have to be an actual word - it could be a single letter that is meant to be sounded alone like in ebusiness, or numbers, like "321contact.)" This was not a scientific process. I used a spreadsheet and sorted by alpha to locate groupings.
  3. For each common prefix I counted up the number of "hits" there were in the top 1000 and the top 100 (the latter number being a somewhat arbitrary measure of success.)
  4. I measured the ratio of companies with each prefix in the top 10% to the companies in the top 1000.
  5. I then subtracted out the "initial mover" that brought about the trend in usage (if one existed in the top 100) - assuming that if there is at least one in the top 100 that they are the attracting factor for the term. (I know it isn't really true in all cases, but I gotta start somewhere.)
  6. I measured the ratio of copycat prefix users to see how effective the names have been at drawing traffic.
  7. I completely ignored everything about the companies, websites, users, and any external factors that might be influencing one website to draw more traffic than the others with the same name prefix.
Here's the resulting table:

smallchartcopycat.bmp

Findings:
  1. About 19.5% of the top 1000 Web 2.0 sites fell into a recognizable prefix/first-word usage group.
  2. 20% of the top 100 websites were a part of the prefix groupings
  3. The corresponding success rate (for being in the top 10%) for all companies in the prefix groupings was a approximately 10.26%, meaning that those companies not in the prefix groupings had a success rate of just below 10%.
  4. But when the First Movers are subtracted and we analyze only the copycats the success rate is reduced to 4.1%, implying that non copycat names have an approximately 11.4% chance to succeed. This is an increase of over 180% achieved just by not following the prefix groupings of other top 1000 sites.
  5. The best success rates for pattern matching names are for beginning with the word "news", any grouping of numbers, or a variant of the word "You" (as in you or your). And even these success rates aren't exactly awe inspiring.
  6. Personalization is well represented in the top 100 (just factoring in the prefixes - there's probably more that hide the personalization elsewhere in the name) There are multiple examples of each (I, My, You) prefix in the top 100. And yes, not every "I" refers to personalization - but I'm going to stick by my story.
  7. Success rates for companies that have first mover status for names and have attracted copycats in the top 1000 is 40.00%. (This is mitigated by the fact that we assume the top-ranked name is always the first mover - something that is not always true.)
Conclusions:
  • Generally speaking, copycat naming does not work.
  • The impressive success rate for first movers with copycats likely isn't a causal relationship (e.g., naming with a new prefix won't get you a 40% chance of being in the top 100) but it certainly makes the case that starting trends is more likely to get you attention than following them.
  • More research in this area would be absolutely fascinating for me - I'll be looking to write a deeper study for publication in the near term.
What do you think? Are the outcomes as you thought they would be? Is my logic horribly flawed?

Will you read my amazingly dry research report when I have the time to publish?

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 31, 2007 | Tate Linden
Imagine looking at a plate filled with bananas, oranges, and apples. Now imagine adding something to that plate.

Got your thing? Good. fruitbowl.jpg

When I ask others (mostly marketers and designers) how they would approach naming they typically hit the competitive research angle as their primary inspiration. And this research does help - but not for the reasons that most people think. Competitive research for inspirational purposes leads to names similar to what already exists in the market. Or at least that's what it most naturally leads to.

Back to the thing you were going to add...

Most of you probably picked a fruit. Perhaps a few of you picked a vegetable. Maybe even a couple got really creative and suggested a blender or fruitflies. Or perhaps even an object that has nothing to do with anything here.

But I'm guessing that all of you named an object and none of you added things like:
  • Quantum Physics
  • The National Debt
  • That To-do list my wife gave me this morning
  • The entire cast of My Three Sons (living or dead.)
I'm not saying that any of the things that you (likely) didn't add are good. But the fact is that you didn't add them. They aren't in the universe you considered. This is why relying on your competitor's names can be a dangerious trap.

By limiting yourself to what you can see in your immediate industry (and can easily relate to what you do) you limit your options for how you describe your business. You're either naming to be like or unlike your peers.

So how can you avoid this trap? Well - I don't actually have that answer for you. But I do have it for me.

I do this by forcing my mind to jump the tracks. That may mean trolling YouTube for a video that shows something funny or creative. It might be sitting down with a thesaurus and randomly linking words until I am presented with an entirely new concept. Or it may be just releasing my mind to the wondrous possibilities presented by attention deficit disorder. My associate (Dana) has become adept at telling when this last method is used by me.

She calls it "seeing butterflies." I'm not entirely flattered... but it works.

Today's jumping the tracks episode was brought to you by YouTube.

Picture the following items (listed in random order):
  • A foodprocessor
  • Toothbrushes
  • A shelf full of books
  • A lamp
  • A squeaky chew toy
  • A cupboard full of glasses
  • An electric eggbeater
  • A metal tomato slicer
  • A toilet bowl brush
  • A bunch of lipsticks in varying colors
  • A pair of ladies bedroom slippers
  • A set of pet food dishes (with food and water in them)
Can you find the thing in common?

I'm guessing that you can't. (Yes, they're household object. No, that isn't the "in common" aspect worth notiing.) To find the answer just sit back, turn on your computer's volume, and enjoy ten minutes of inspiration. (It takes a minute or so to develop, but it is worth it!) And no, I still haven't figured out how to link up YouTube and Wordpress. It'll happen eventually, though.

Pure competitive research doesn't lead to great names - but competitive research turned on its ear, its head, or some other body part... that can lead to greatness. Find a way to get outside of the problem. Find a way to redefine the goal. Find a way to see the competitive names as a chance to ignore them, repurpose them, or make them pointless.

Find a way to turn your metaphorical blender into something musical. Do whatever works... but make sure you do find your way out. (It might not result in a great name - but it'll at least get your name a chance to get noticed.)

Tate Linden Managing Principal Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 30, 2007 | Tate Linden
I think we can all agree that branding is supposed to set companies apart - or rather set a specific company (the one being branded) apart from all others that it might typically compete with.

What would happen if every company in the world branded itself?

Is it possible for hundreds of millions of companies to truly be unique in their markets?

I believe what makes branding work is that the number of companies that invest in their brands is actually quite low. I've not seen any statistics, but certainly among small businesses branding is so rare as to be almost non-existent. And in mid- to large- companies I'd wager we're looking at less than 10%.

To my way of thinking, the lack of buy-in from the majority of companies makes the money spent by the companies that do brand go much further. It is easier to be unique when no one else is making an effort to do so.

But what happens when everyone is branded? Honestly I'd like to know. Has anyone envisioned a world in which every single company has carved out a niche for themselves?

Personally I think that in a world of branded products a generic solution becomes desirable. We're already seeing some of this in the young adult markets. A few thoughts from other experts on the topic:generic.jpg I think that there's validity in the argument provided by many educated affluent young adults - that global brands are in some way a little bit overly produced or manufactured. Once an organization gets huge there's so much variability and inconsistency (in staff, work product, direction) that a single identity can't really encompass it. Any solid brand is a gross simplification.

I guess this is why I am so constantly surprised that the smaller companies aren't branding. Small companies can genuinely build their brands and immediately see the effects. So long as most small companies aren't doing this (let's say it's an example of the 80/20 rule) this should work.

I'll refine my question(s)...

Do any of you think that there's a set percentage or ratio at which branding will cease to work for anyone? Is it 20%? Is it 80%? Is it when an unbranded company becomes unique by its very lack of brand?



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 26, 2007 | Tate Linden
I must admit that this tracking is a little work-intensive. Rather than a weekly post I'm going to do it when something noteworthy happens. This noteworthiness has been achieved with a few new entrants to the field, and a move amongst the top blogs.
  1. Qwerky has passed Snark Hunting to move into the 4th spot.
  2. Cultural Branding, The Name Inspector, and Brandaclaus have either recently started up or recently be found by us. While none are in the top ten I wouldn't be surprised to see them there soon.
  3. I dumped the domain name blogs. No one liked having 'em here and they were less applicable than I initially thought.
  4. We're short-cutting to the top-ten tracking list (from our list of 13 earlier this month.) It's been a few weeks, and we'd have been there about now if I'd been keeping up the list weekly... and since I'm runnin' the list I get to say what's what.
  5. Expect another post on this topic in late February.
THREE MONTH ALEXA RANKING AVERAGES (1/26/2007): number_one.png

Rank Site AlexaRank 1 Wordlab: 75,677 2 Thingnamer: 120,743 3 Igor: 153,270 4 Strategic Name Development: 230,242 5 Qwerky: 242,165 6 Snark Hunting: 282,925 7 Away With Words: 779,591 8 Good Characters: 860,975 10 Popwink: 912,266

Not making the top ten this time, but still well worth a look are: Markeys (Dutch), Beep.Name, Brandnama, Name Ideas, Product Names, Pastelot (French), and the new finds - Brandaclaus, The Name Inspector, and Cultural Branding.

And more... the following Schrödinger’s Blogs that aren't really worth reading right now, but may pick up again in the future: Catch-Word, Rich With Meaning , Motorbrand, and Ton Of Bricks/A Hundred Monkeys.

If you know of a blog that primarily covers issues pertaining to organizational or product naming let us know. We'll add it to the list.

Happy surfing!

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 25, 2007 | Tate Linden
wifi_logo_0.gifNo, it wasn't me. It was Ed Saenz of Gravity Branding - creator of the WiFi name.

The link to the video is here (because I don't know how to post it to my own site. If someone helps me out I'll fix it.)

While the entire interview is worth listening to (for over 48 minutes!), I found Ed Saenz to be particularly insightful when discussing a hypothetical naming process for Seagate.

Here's a rough outline of how he attacks the problem:

He asks or determines...
  • What is the unmet need or market opportunity
  • What are the features
  • Who is the user
  • What are their problems (one on ones - no focus groups)
  • What features of the product do they like
  • Why should they want to buy the product
  • Why should they care?
  • What is the brand essence? (He calls it the brand fulcrum)
  • What is the brand personality?
It's branding 101 - but in application rather than theory. Stokefire's own process has many of the same steps - and adds in a whole segment built around the evaluation of the names strengths and weaknesses - but I'm assuming that Gravity has steps that Ed didn't disclose. Never a good idea to give away the entire recipe for the secret sauce.

He also said something that I think a lot of engineers should take to heart. Paraphrased: Don't build a better mousetrap just because you can. Make sure that people want the improvement and that there are enough mice to trap before you start designing.

While the interview gets off track a few times (Scoble seems like a kid in a candy storescoble.jpg with his amazement and comments pulling away from the main thread of the conversation) it is generally informative. I'd love to have a ten minute version that edited out some of the meandering bits that led nowhere. (If someone builds one I'll happily link to it.)

It is rare that someone is this open with their thoughts and methods on naming and branding. Especially when what they have to say is actually interesting instead of a badly disguised sales pitch. (In this case it is quite well disguised.)

Worth a listen - keep it in the background while reading email.

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 24, 2007 | Tate Linden
Instinctually I would call them "kind, smart, nice, attractive, brave, generous..." and any other praising word I could think of.

That doesn't work in politics, though. In politics people who give lots of money want to be recognized as a member of a money-giving group. This sort of throws a wrench in the whole throw a bunch of sincere compliments at 'em strategy of mine, since lord knows I can't recite any string of praiseworthy qualities other than the Boy Scout Law - and that I often get mixed up, too.

tex_1368.gifGeorge Bush's fundraising team used the term Ranger to signify those that bring in at least $200K, and Pioneer was chosen as the name for $100K supporters.

A few weeks back Giuliani's campaign strategy book was leaked to the press, and in it the titles for contributors were listed. These were:nyy_1256.gif
  • $1 million - Team Captains
  • $200K - MVPs
  • $100K - All Stars
  • $50K - Sluggers
  • $2K - Benchwarmer
Okay... so the last one isn't real. Oddly, campaigns don't have names for people who just give their personal maximum.

With Giuliani's widely known affinity for the Yankees this classification system seems appropriate - even if it doesnt really link in with national pride the way the Bush program did. People in the Giuliani system will know they are appreciated by the man himself, since the classifications are in his native tongue.

Terry McAuliffe was on The Daily Show last night and was asked by Jon Stewart what Hillary Clinton was going to call her major donors. His ad-lib response was "Hil-raisers" - a term that Stewart derided wholeheartedly. Gotta agree there - "Hil-raisers" is horrible.

McAuliffe's second response - "Mavericks" seems at least a little better. One could imagine Hillary actually usingdal_435.gif the word and referring to her supporters as being mavericks. And then there's the tie in with sports again... Rangers (as in Texas) and Mavericks (as in Dallas.) I'm sure it is accidental, but it's a nice way of moving in on Republican territory.

I think the problem with Mavericks is that the other categories will be difficult to make appealing. What would you use? Stallions? Mares? Additionally, the term Maverick is derived from Samuel A. Maverick - a man that let his livestock run wild and unbranded. Sort of strange to brand one's followers as a group of unbranded people... Shades of the Generation-X folks that all wore flannel shirts to show how different they were. (I still have one in my closet. A shirt, not a Gen-Xer.)

ne_897.gifMy advice: Ditch mavericks. Go for something that emphasizes Hillary's strong points. Is she really seen as a Maverick? I'm not sure that's the right angle. Why not latch onto the centrist identity and go after the patriotism concept? Hillary is not an outsider. She's lived a life of public service - so she should latch onto it. Who doesn't want to be labeled as a "Patriot?" There are are so many rich historical figures, battles, and other events that she can squeeze for source material...

I'm still not sure I've hit the target, though. Hillary could use a good personal branding session. The outputs from that endeavor would serve as great source material for the fundraising strata.

Anyone have any serious (or perhaps not so serious) suggestions for classifications?

(And if Hillary's staff is reading this... Operators are standing by.)

Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
January 23, 2007

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

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 23, 2007 | Tate Linden
Today I'm still on the topic of creating a stronger community for professional onomasticians.

Here's just a taste of what I'm missing. How about you?
  • A place to share preliminary theories and new practices with people that can appreciate them.
  • New naming methods
  • Novel classification of name types or ways of viewing onomastic bodies of work
  • Examples of stuff that has been tried but doesn't work
  • A publication or website that can tout the happenings in the thingnaming world:
  • Naming Contracts up for Bid
  • Major contracts won
  • Completed contracts
  • Case studies
  • A representative body that works to find ways to incorporate what we do into what marketers, publicists, and other busiess professionals do on a daily basis.
  • Access to research on naming trends (and those that do it.)
  • A discussion on how to objectively or subjectively evaluate the quality of names and identities.
  • Access to the names, interests, and contact information of fellow thingnamers.
  • Contests and awards for naming
  • ...all that stuff that I moaned about yesterday.
  • Joining marketing groups, PR roundtables, and branding forums dominated by issues that have very little to do with what I do for a living is a fact of life. Direct mail, press releases, and logo design are all factors to be considered in the naming of a thing, but aren't what I (or likely you) want to spend weeks discussing. (Note that I do find these groups valuable - but more as a way to build business and stay involved in parallel industries than to address core issues in my field.)

    If Mars can create a bag of only green M&Ms then we should be able to create a forum that is comprised of only the good stuff too, right?

    Where is my bag of candy?

    ...or who (in addition to the very capable Nancy Friedman) will help me pick out all the stuff we don't like?

    (I have no clue what has happened to my formatting of bullets and the like. It seems quite messed up and I don't know how to fix it.)

    Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
    January 22, 2007 | Tate Linden
    Where do the world's top thingnamers, nomenclature consultants, and verbal branders get together and share ideas, prognostications, and research?

    Honestly I have no real clue.

    I thought perhaps that it would be the American Name Society, but it seems that this esteemed body is more focused on toponyms and anthroponyms than anything corporate-related. (I'm still a huge fan of the ANS, but think may be not quite focused enough to address the issues faced by today's for-profit namers without annoying the more scholastically focused onomasticians to whom the ANS primarily represents.)

    An article in the January 22nd issue of THE NEW YORKER entitled "Made in the Shade" (article not available through their site) by Eric Konigsberg has gotten me thinking about this topic today. The article discusses the color industry (the folks that decide what colors are available in paints, consumer goods, medicines, and the like) and specifically the Color Marketing Group (the group that most color industry professionals belong to - and that publish the color forecast.) The CMG handles such things as:
    • Identifying the direction of color and design trends
    • Color Directions(r) forecasts for 13 different industries
    • Evaluation of which colors are actually in use in the marketplace
    • Identification of influences on usage of color and design
    • Enabling the exchange and sharing of information that takes place amongst members
    • Numerous publications and tools, including:
    • Color Cards
    • Design trends
    • ColorChips(r)
    • Membership Directory
    For those of you in the naming industry - if you're like me you'll be asking yourself why we don't have an organization that enables this sort of discussion and interaction.



    I do think that this type of organization can provide valuable services to our industry. I had to overcome my fear that it might bring everyone to the same naming philosophies - but it didn't take much effort to do so. Here's why: If you are aware of the naming trends and opinions of the other experts you're more likely to find creative ways to avoid those trends than you are to join in. At least that's what I'm thinking.

    Imagine having access to the opinions of hundreds of professional namers, lists of trademarked names created by other professionals for the past year or quater, an understanding of the ebb and flow of names in use, and more. I'm also sure that some folks in the industry would love to have their methods and practices examined (like Igor - who share many of their methods for free.)

    Not only would this type of research and communication enable us to make smarter and more creative naming choices, it will also help to educate consumers about our industry - feeding statistics to the press and populace and making them aware of our existence.

    Also consider the option of industry awards (something that has been tried before, but never seems to take off) and quarterly boondoggles industry meetings in markets around the country or world.

    What do you think fellow Thingnamers? Could this work? Should we do it? If so, should we start from scratch or work with the ANS to start up a special interest group like this one? (I'm very aware that mixing professional and academic purposes doesn't always work - which is why it may be a good idea to create a dedicated subgroup if this direction is pursued.)

    Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
    January 22, 2007
    Several Northern Nevada Casinos Being Renamed. A handful of northern Nevada casinos are getting a name change after the buyout of Sands Regent holdings. Las Vegas-based Herbst Gaming has completed its 148 (m) million buyout of the casinos that include Sands Regency in downtown Reno, Gold Ranch in Verdi, Rail City in Sparks and The Depot in Dayton. All the new names will include the moniker "Terrible's."
    January 19, 2007
    "It's hip to go topless." Singapore's Hippo Bus tour's cheeky tagline referris to the open air, double-decker model bus. Bold move in a country known for it's high moral standards.
    January 18, 2007 | Tate Linden
    Perhaps I'm missing something - but I don't understand why "America's #1 Name-Branding firm" would:
    1. Post their commercial on YouTube
    2. Not invest at least enough money in their commercial (and soundtrack!) that it seemed professional. (It sort of looks a cut below the stuff you see on cable television after midnight. And given that their own firm does video production it calls into question their abilities.)
    3. Open and close the video with something that appears to be a velvet painting of a tiger.
    4. Have the following text flow across their home page - all in one line.
    Edon is America's first unconventional advertising, marketing services, PR communications, Web design, consumer research, and move film and DVD production agency store that offers realistic and affordable fees and where you the customer manage the project's budget, and not the ad agency. And we're the only ad agency in New York that provides its customers with a barter club membership, and PC computer services and convenient walk-in stores with PC terminals to get instant access to the Internet. Now is your ad agency offering you all of this?
    Okay...

    After you read this sentence, stop, close your eyes and try to remember what it is that Edon actually does.

    I personally didn't do very well. And for the record, if my hypothetical advertising agency offered me walk-up Internet access, barter club membership, walk-in stores, and PC computer services I'd have to wonder why they were investing their earnings so poorly.

    Who do you know that wants to go to their advertising agency to search the internet and get their computer fixed? (It kind of make me wonder if Stokefire's business would improve if we offered to mow lawns or make mix tapes for our clients.)

    I'm not arguing about the quality of most of the names the company has developed - many are exceptionally good (though Glucerna was not a winner with me.) I guess I'm just surprised that a company so invested in creating a good first impression for their clients would do so poorly with their own.
    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
    Whilest perusing the stats on search words used to find my site I came across the following hit: Utube Gandhi.

    Now, I, the great Thingnamer, thought to myself "Aha! Further proof that those ambiguously spelled company names (YouTube/UTube/YouToob) are difficult for many people to find."

    My wife, sitting behind me (and admittedly a little addled by pregnancy) said this: "Who is Ootoobay Gandhi?"
    January 17, 2007 | Tate Linden
    ...so we throw the mention right back...

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

    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.
    and
    Eleven baby girls born last year at Southeast Missouri Hospital were named Hailey, Haley, Halie, Hayleigh or Haylie -- each name pronounced the same way.
    and
    "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 15, 2007 | Tate Linden

    Found this on Brandnama's blog. Sounds fun to me. Here's my effort:

    Apple
    Buick
    Caterpillar
    Delta
    Enterprise Rent-A-Car
    Fudruckers
    General Electric
    Halliburton
    Igloo
    Jaegermeister
    Kong Pet Toys
    Land's End
    Microsoft
    NBC
    Odor Eaters
    Pixar
    Qantas
    Rain Bird
    Safeway
    Tupperware
    Union Pacific
    Verizon
    Westinghouse
    Xerox
    YouTube
    Zenith

    A few interesting things here:

    1. The list really says a lot about a person. Brandnama and I have only one company (Xerox) in common.
    2. I bet that in about a year this list will be much different for me. Going from a married guy with a dog to a married guy with a kid and a dog will probably change my exposure to brands significantly. I can imagine that Gerber, Huggies, and other similar products will place well in coming lists.
    3. Regardless of anything else this list may imply, I do not have stinky feet.

    Wanna Play? Comment with a link to your blog (where you have tried it yourself) - or just put your list in the comments.

    Tate Linden
    Principal Thingnamer
    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 10, 2007 | Tate Linden
    [Ed. - Having some trouble with formatting this post... apologies for the way it looks.]

    It takes an awful lot to truly peeve me. (And let me say this early... this post is entirely the opinion of its writer and not that of Stokefire or Thingnamer.com)

    AutoBlog (currently residing at 216.246.0.205 for some reason - and yes, I removed the link) has done it. I don't think I've ever seen such a poorly named company that lies to its prospects and engages in shady business practices (like sending me spam.) Until now.

    First, I'll take on the name: AutoBlog.

    Why is this a lousy name? Try these on for size:stupidity.jpg

    AutoBlog sounds like someplace you'd go to get your vehicle-information fix. Oh wait... it is a blog about that kind of stuff. A very popular one at that.

    It could also be something that people new to blogging would use to make creating a blog easier.

    The name is already in use in the technology market (as seen above) and these blokes just stole it, so if anyone looks for the product they'll find the "real" site, and not these guys.

    But there's more! What sort of shady business practices is this company involved in? How about these (taken from their web page):

    They say "Autoblog automaticaly posts your site to more than 2 million websites!" and then a few lines later say "Advertising using Autoblog is 100% SPAM FREE advertising! You will never be accused of spamming."
    • I would like to officially state that AutoBlog Spammed my blog with something called an Automatic Post that I can only assume was put there by their own product. The three posts linked directly to their sales page. Perhaps there are another 1,999,999 other sites that were given this valuable information as well...
    • If this isn't SPAM then I'm not sure what is... Unless they think SPAM is only SPAM when sent via email or sold in rectangular metal containers.
    They say "Your ads stay visible for a long time - daily re-submissions are not required!"
    • But they fail to mention that tools such as Akismet can block out nearly 100% of the posts their product submits. Thingnamer.com never showed any of the SPAM posts they attempted to put on our site.
    • Technically the latter part of this statement is correct...
    They say "No matter if you are professional advertiser or new to online advertising - AutoBlog is suitable for everyone."
    • ...that wants to be slammed with complaints and get their site removed from their hosts.
    They say "Every 2 week [sic] you will receive an updated list of over 100,000 TESTED URL's [sic] to add to the software."
    • ...but they don't tell you what they test it for - and it obviously isn't to see if your posts actually get through since I'm gettin' hit with it.
    The owner of the copyright for the website (listed as "Trusted Articles") appears not to have ever built a real website. The support@trustedarticles.com email belongs to trustedarticles.com - whose only web page is the one the copyright is listed on. Which calls iteslf AutoBlog, of course... and translates the name into an IP address as soon as you enter the page.
    • Perhaps this isn't shady, but it's a little strange.
    Still interested in buying the service? Great! Just use your PayPal account and send payment to the following very trustworthy sounding email address: newmegaleads@gmail.com
    • Why aren't we paying sales@trustedarticles.com... especially since theres a "Free 2 week trial, cancel at any time?" Gmail is effectively anonymous.
    And when you buy the service for the list price through PayPal you see the following information:

    "Note: Your subscription will automatically renew at the rates stated above unless you cancel prior to the end of the billing period." ...interesting, eh? Especially since we're not told ahead of time how to cancel.There are a few lessons here, but the majority have nothing to do with naming:
    1. Naming: Don't use confusing or popular names. Unlike me, most people won't take the time to figure out what the heck you mean, and just like me everyone that knows the popular name will be upset with you for stealing it.
    2. Branding: If you're going to start a business (shady or not) at least put in the effort to appear legitimate.
    3. SPAMMING: In case y'all haven't learned by now... it is a bad idea to SPAM a site specializing in naming and branding. It certainly won't help you win business.
    And if anyone is still reading - here's some random information you may be interested in. (I do not suggest that you attempt to take matters into your own hands by using this information to contact someone to get the SPAMMING stopped.)

    The host information for AutoBlog is here (the site itself was registered anonymously.) The administrative contact is alex.k@hostforweb.com (312) 343-4678, or perhaps scsupport@servercentral.net (312) 829-1111.

    This guy may or may not be the man that runs the service. I'm pretty sure he isn't, since this press release says the guy is American.

    Slugsite has some interesting information and shares my opinion of AutoBlog. Nice to see that I'm not alone.

    And whatever you do I would certainly not advise that you purchase their own service to send out SPAM that links back to their website and points out that their product does, in fact, qualify as spam. That would be mean. And besides... you'll probably end up being billed for eternity.
    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 2, 2007 | Tate Linden
    The New Year brings us a couple new entrants and a few changes in the top ranks.
    1. Domaining Blog, Globe Domains and Domain Name Blog join the ranks of the... well... ranked. All three cover aspects of naming. I'm not 100% sold on them being in the list, but will give 'em a try for a while and see what other blog authors and readers think.
    2. Due to the additions of the new sites Igor, Name Development, Snark Hunting, and Qwerky all move down a spot, and the rest move down two or more spots.
    3. Away With Words has the only genuine uptick in rank - though it is hidden behind the dropping of two ranks due to the new sites.
    4. Markeys and Popwink move up. Evidently the folks in the Netherlands really like naming a whole lot.
    5. Brandnama, Beep.Name, and Name Ideas drop off the list of ranked sites. Rough week! I feel pretty bad, but I figure that'll give sites an incentive to break into the top million... making the naming commentary and resources that much more well known.
    6. Catch-Word continues to hang on even though they continue to be mostly dead. Based on the rankings it seems like they're going to be gone next week.
    7. Also look for Qwerky to overtake Name Development in January.
    Spots continue to dwindle... Here are the top 13:

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

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

    Not in the top 13: Beep.Name, Brandnama, Name Ideas, Domain Name Blog, Rich With Meaning (Schrödinger’s Blog), Product Names, Motorbrand: (Schrödinger’s Blog) Pastelot (French), Ton Of Bricks/A Hundred Monkeys (Schrödinger’s Blog)
    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 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_one.jpg
    Tate Linden
    Principal Thingnamer
    Stokefire Consulting Group
    703-778-9925

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

    No, Virginia, there really is not a Betty Crocker. Even though at one point in time she was voted the second-most famous woman in America. Betty was invented in the offices of Washburn Crosby Company in Minneapolis in 1921. The company had been receiving hundreds of questions from consumers about baking with its products. To make it’s replies more interesting more personal, the company invented the character Betty with the surname of a former Washburn executive, William Crocker. Take creative license when you can.
    December 19, 2006
    “MIU MIU” forces “MY MUI” to abandon their Business. Swiss Fashion Label has to endure defeat. The Swiss fashion label “MY MUI” beaten by the upmarket label Italian label “MIU MIU”. What sounds like a David and Goliath situation is actually an example of a rather clumsy choice of trademark and its consequences. MIU MIU, the Italian subsidiary of Prada, declared the name “MY MUI” as being capable of producing confusion and successfully prevented its registration.

    London Lite Cleans up Messy (Newsprint) Business. The free evening paper runs with the strap-line “Printed with ink that won’t come off on your hands”.

    Martha's new logo a better thing. MSLO has been working on a new branidn initiative for months. The circular mark has already popped up on the company's Web products, including the Martha Stewart page on Kodak.com. It is expected to be in place for the rollout of the company's home goods in Macy's this fall.
    December 19, 2006 | Tate Linden
    I've read many, many books about naming companies/products/people/places (etc) in my life. A rough count of books read gives me:
    • "How-to" type books on naming: ~14
    • Reference-type books on naming: ~30
    • Scholarly articles or papers on naming: ~60+
    Today I found what is perhaps the best-written and most informative book of them all. While it isn't exactly focused on company naming, it provides exceptional coverage of the issues in play across all types of naming. Anthroponyms, Toponyms, Acronyms, Brand Names, and Other Names are covered. Lists of Onomastics-related organizations, journals, and bibliographies are provided (current as of 1992.)

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

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

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

    The Book? The Study of Names.

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

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

    Happy reading!

    Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
    December 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 18, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Yet another week with some major moves!
    1. For the first time since the 'race' started one of the top players has changed. Stoked Brands (soon to be Thingnamer) took over the number two spot from the esteemed folks at Igor. We're pretty sure this is only temporary... But we'll bask a bit while we've got the chance.
    2. Our blog-bud over at Popwink has cracked the top ten - with a massive movement of over a million places. We're thinkin' he and his friends have found the Alexa toolbar. Or maybe he is giving away free booze.
    3. The biggest move comes from Name Ideas - moving up over three million spots and breaking into the top fifteen.
    4. We have a new addition to the group with a respectable showing - the Dutch site Markeys shows up for the first time at #13. We're happy to have 'em. If you can read Dutch feel free to tell us what they're saying over there...
    And in other news - in an effort to make our own lives at Stoked Brands a little easier... We're going to remove one place each weak from the rankings (so next week there will be no #15) until we get to a top ten list. We may continue to provide links to those outside the top group, but they won't be ranked. You'll have to do your own searching for actual numbers and such.

    And now, the...

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

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

    Not in the top 15 this week: Product Names: Sorry, but if you don't have your own Alexa stats you can't compete. (Product Names uses the stats from their host site, not their own numbers. And their host site is blogspot.) Motorbrand: (Schrödinger’s Blog) Pastelot (French): Not sure why this site isn't doing better. Guess the French arent interested in naming. (Check here to read it in awkwardly translated English.) Ton Of Bricks/A Hundred Monkeys: Not only is this site partially dead, it doesn't have any stats either.(Schrödinger’s Blog)
    December 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 Dikshit.com whose tagline is (no joke) "Feel The Difference."

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

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

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

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

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

    December 14, 2006 | 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 12, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Just about every week I'll hear a variant of the following phrase float into my office from the shared hallway:
    "... and if you're not getting enough traffic to your website then we can sell you our search engine optimization package. It's only $1500 for the first six months!"
    ...and just about every week I cringe.

    Why am I bringing this up on a blog about naming? Because another naming blogger spoke about it first!

    I agree with many of the points Tauno makes about the importance of links and key words - but disagree that this should potentially drive a business to create a SEO-friendly name. (And there-in lies the sum total of today's minor controversy.)

    The problem with naming a website or company with SEO in mind is that humans aren't SEO-readers. So a website called search-engine-optimization.com may be easy to parse when reading, but non-intuitive for humans to remember. We know the web as a place where spaces are removed, not a place where spaces are turned into hyphens. (In fact, in an informal workplace poll most in our office assumed that sites with multiple hyphens were link farms or splogs.)

    Stokefire has been a good name for us, but certainly wins us no awards for SEO naming. It would be a rare day that someone went to Google and typed anything close to "My company needs a name to stoke the fire and get us moving again." ...and even if they did I'm not sure they'd find us.

    Other than putting keywords in our headers we haven't done much with SEO - and yet more than 50 percent of our traffic is from search engines.

    So, why do we get so many hits?

    Two words: This Blog.

    Having an active blog on which you talk about your area of expertise seems to have a far greater impact on search engine placement than any domain name model or SEO trick ever could. For the $3000 that SEO costs (at least from the local folks here) you could be paying for the approximately four or five hours a week that a solid blog demands.

    But blogs do more than just save money - they prove competence, give you the abilty to talk with your prospects, and even (dare I say it) give you fodder for the inevitable book you've always wanted to write.

    I have many clients that ask about buying SEO, and I've always told them not to bother. Those that had already purchased it weren't particularly happy with the results because even if it brought additional traffic there was nothing on the website that actually engaged the visitor. Driving traffic to a brochureware site or a static page is futile. People visit, see that you're boring and leave...

    If you have a great website with active content then you don't need SEO. If you have a blog and can write well you'll not only attract visitors - you'll keep 'em coming back.

    But back to naming for the web... You can find hundreds of resources for naming your website online. Many have conflicting information. Here are a few thoughts from us...:
    1. First, try to use your name. If at all possible you want to bring the vehicle that you have spent all of your time and money to build into a solid brand online as-is. If you can't use your brand online then you'll have to spend even more time and money to build a second brand.
    2. Keep it short. The more letters you use the more chances your prospects have to mistype. There's a good reason why we didn't use stokefireconsultinggroup.com.
    3. Spell it rite. When the only way to reach you is through a keyboard it makes sense that you'd choose words that are easy to spell - and spelled correctly. Some new naming trends have made dropping the penultimate letter somewhat intuitive (as in Flickr) but other techniques - like vague phonetic matches ala Tabblo - end up sending traffic to the wrong sites.
    4. Remeber that on the web you can have more than one front door. Okay, so your own name is taken on the web. Why not use your tagline, a business descriptor, or add a few letters (like "inc" or "llc") to your name? The cost involved in grabbing a few (or more) alternate domain names that point to your site is minimal. Does this dilute the brand? Not really - since the domain name and the name of the company don't need to match. Put in the description of any household product (www.soap.com) and you'll usually find that it leads you to a company with a different name.
    5. Check with www.USPTO.gov (or other authority.) Wouldn't it suck to build a website, advertise the heck out of it, and then find out that someone else has a right to tell you that the name and site you've been advertising belongs to them? Well, it can happen.
    6. If you expect people to type your name then use ".COM" especially if you're a business. DotCom sells itself - other extensions are the opposite - you spend as much time communicating the extension as you do your own name. (.net, .tv, .mobi, etc...)
    7. Name it like you would a company. If you haven't named your company and the new site is going to represent your enterprise then go find a book on naming or talk to a nomenclature consultant. Many of the rules that apply to the naming of companies can also apply to websites - and if the website is the company then almost all of the rules apply.
    Please don't use this stream-of-consciousness, knee-jerk, pretty-much incomprehensible post as the only resource for naming your site - or even as the only reason not to invest in SEO. My point with today's ramble is that there are probably better ways to increase your fame (and traffic) than paying someone to help people find you.

    Maybe you should be focusing on whether or not you and your brand are worth finding...

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

    December 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Quite a few things going on this week:
    1. Away With Words breaks the good side of the 1 Million ranking mark. Congrats!
    2. Brandnama moves up almost TWO MILLION in the ranking and leapfrogs a few spots to reach the cusp of the top ten.
    3. Thanks to Steve Manning at Igor we've picked up another blog - albeit a blog that is only updated every few months. Welcome to A Hundred Monkeys/Ton of Bricks... (Echo.... echo... echo...)
    4. Igor International continues to hold three of the top five spots (Wordlab, Igor, Snark Hunting) but is in danger of losing a spot to Stoked Brands (#3) and Qwerky (#6)
    5. Competition to get into the top ten naming blogs has become quite fierce - with major gains in ranking from the 8th to the 12th position. Popwink is creeping up into contention.
    6. The percentage of Schrödinger's Blogs within the naming category increases to 22%. Someone stop the bleeding! (Steve... don't you know the folks over there? Get 'em writing!)
    7. I still haven't figured out how to get decent formatting (I tried automating it today and ended up taking about twice the time as last week...) so forgive the hard-to-read look. I'm workin' on it.
    THREE MONTH ALEXA RANKING AVERAGES (12/11/2006):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
    December 8, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Okay. This post was going to be about how companies with dead blogs are perceived by the marketplace, but then I realized that the topic would be too broad. Waaay too many companies and people have dead blogs - and most of 'em probably don't understand what a dead blog does for a brand (personal or professional.)

    But there are some companies that should understand the implication of a dead blog. I would suggest that any company actively involved in the business of branding should know that an inactive or rarely updated blog does more damage than it does good.

    Reasons? How about these:
    • The sites become the target of other bloggers (like this one) who immaturely point to the inactive blogs and say "how can a company involved in branding leave such a big hole in its own brand?" We've been waiting to catch a word... any word... from these guys for ages.
    • Surfers who do end up finding the site may think that the company is no longer in business if the site hasn't been updated in almost a year. Kinda makes you wonder what sort of meaning the site is rich with...
    • If prospects get to a site that hasn't been updated for ages and also has blank pages all over the place then I'm pretty sure the prospects are going to motor their way over to other purveyors of branding.
    • And finally - if your name suggests that you've got plenty of labor sitting around then you'd better find time to get at least one of your experts onto your blog to keep things up to date. Monkey - groom thyself!
    I hereby pledge to pull down my blog - or at least notify everyone that I'm closing up shop - if I'm alive and unable to keep the standards of the blog high. Anything else cheapens the field of branding. (I reserve the right to ditch the blog if I'm dead or get mad cow disease.)

    Maybe the active branding and naming blogs can come up with a catchy name for blogs of indeterminate status.

    My Submission: "Schrödinger's Blog Syndrome" I'd suggest that someone grab that name and run with it, but no one will ever be able to spell it... (Certainly we Americans have a problem with umlauts. I for one have no clue how to type them[ed: or didn't until Bob helped me out!]. Perhaps the Germans can make it work.)

    Proper usage includes:
    Oh crud. Yet another blog lost to Schrödinger.

    Looks like Schrödinger has been adding to his blogroll

    With about 20% of naming bloggers afflicted with Schrödinger's Syndrome we're keeping a close watch on William Lozito for signs of weakness.

    That's it. If y'all don't stop messing with me I'm going to go Schrödinger on this blog.
    Not bad for a Friday morning. (Too bad that someone already has the website.)

    Tate Linden Principal Cönsultant Stokefire Cönsulting Gröup 7Ö3-778-9925
    December 7, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Okay. I get it. I name things for a living, so when it comes to my own kiddo I'd better come up with a kick-ass name.

    A few facts to keep in mind:
    • I am not the CEO of this new venture. At best I'm VP of Customer Service. Other times I'm a janitor. A not very good janitor at that.
    • Saying "Honey, I do this for a living" to a pregnant woman is not something I want to do. Ever.
    • Scoring systems, morphemes, etymologies and anything related to what I do for a living seem to whither away when confronted with the following four words: "Oooh! That one's cute!"
    Fellow naming professionals with kids... I'd love to hear how you handled the comments and questions. I'd also be interested in hearing about what you ended up naming your kids.

    Truth be told, I'm not worried about our child's name. I got the only concession I wanted: that we not give 'em a name that they have to work to overcome. There shall be no Barths, Berthas, or Bundtfords here. (And little tyke... if this post is still around when you can read... you can thank me any time.)

    If any of you readers - professional or otherwise - wish to contribute ideas or suggestions to the baby-naming pool this is the post to do it on.

    And to my father, Sarah didn't go for the "David David" idea. Keep thinkin' creatively though.

    Only six months to go! (And a whole house full of drywalling, baby-proofing, and painting.)

    Tate Linden (Better not to have the professional contact info on this post...)
    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 5, 2006 | Tate Linden
    It has been far too long since I've mentioned the REALTOR brand respresented by the National Association of REALTORS. So long, in fact that I've got a backlog of things to discuss.

    First up: How do you say "REALTOR?"

    Other than the apparent need to SHOUT the word (and yes, the NAR demands that you capitalize the whole word) the pronunciation isn't exactly clear. Check out this link that shows the regional preferences for saying the word out loud.

    Upon examination you will find that there aren't any significant preferences. The pronunciation seems to be pretty random.

    This can't be chalked up to regional differences - like the word "Crayon" can. When you take a look at the comparable map you'll find that the pronunciation "Cran" for "Crayon" is used commonly in the Northeast, but not as much elsewhere.

    Why am I bothered by this?

    I am bothered because the NAR exists to represent the interests of its constituency, but doesnt seem to do a good job of it. Realty is a verbal industry where REALTORs should be communicating via their own physical (audible) voice. According to the survey less than half of the respondents are saying the word correctly. And it isn't the fault of regional dialects. My own REALTORs often used the incorrect pronunciation, and my family is split as well. If the question of whether the word was pronounced "REEL-ter" vs. "reel-TOR" had been asked I'd bet we would have even fewer folks saying the word correctly.

    If you were responsible for the success of a brand that most people couldn't pronounce what would you do?

    Me? I'd do something a lot like David Fletcher suggests and start by helping my own membership say the word correctly. If the Rotarians can recite a twenty-second speech at the end of their meetings (often populated by a few REALTORs) then REALTORs should be able to say their own brand correctly in their meetings at least a few times.

    C'mon NAR! Let's see some progress on the REALTOR brand. Pronunciation is an easy fix. It won't be so fun when I bring up the questions that NAR tells the end-client to use when selecting an agent. (My regular readers had better know what question the NAR suggests buyers and sellers ask first. And bonus points if you know why I think it is pointless.)

    (This may turn into a theme this week unless someone can find me a person at NAR willing to listen...)

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

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

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

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

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

    Happy Surfing.

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

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

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

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

    Enjoy the find while it lasts!

    Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
    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, Salesforce.com'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 (http://www.shmaltz.com/). 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 (http://www.laylabeer.com), a dirty blonde lager with the tagline "Israeli for Beer".
    November 29, 2006 | Tate Linden
    I remember seeing a sign with those words as I rode across the country in my father's yellow Pontiac Sunbird in 1976. I think it kept me laughing for about two states. Every time I thought of it I was unable to speak until something else distracted me (usually my elder sister threatening to bring me to an untimely end.)

    I was five, okay? I'm bigger than she is now, so the threats have ceased.

    I often wish I could remember what state the sign was in - or at least wish I had been smart enough to snap a Polaroid of it. Alas I have no idea where I saw it and didn't have the camera ready.

    So when I read Laura Ries' blog about a gas station with an unusual name I was prepared to reminisce... but I ended up being more grossed out than anything else.

    Why would anyone name their gas station Kum & Go? (I agree with Laura that the name is pretty crude.)

    A look at the company history doesn't provide much help (other than to indirectly point out that the company was founded by two men whose last names begin with K and G), and neither does the infamous (and profane) urban dictionary. What is helpful though is a look at an online etymology dictionary for the word "cum." The key is to notice that the crude application appears to have begun in 1973 - or more than a decade after the company had established itself. (I'm not clear based on the description whether the sexual overtones were applied to this particular spelling or on the root word "come" from the 1920s. You certainly can't argue that the word "come" is off limits for convenience stores...)

    So the question seems to become one less focused on why they named the company Kum & Go and more on why they didn't adapt when culture introduced a negative connotation.

    What would you do if your own company or personal name became slang for a sexual act? Certainly it would be cause to evaluate ones name and see if the association will hurt the brand, or if the brand can take advantage of the new meaning. In this case it seems that the company evaluated it and decided that sticking with the name was a nod to the "risk taking" atmosphere mentioned in the company history. The fact that the connotation isn't addressed at all seems to be part of the strategy.

    Certainly not one that we would recommend (though it certainly is buzz-worthy even if it doesn't do anything to reinforce the original brand.)

    That said, I think I'll leave Pump and Munch well enough alone...

    (Thanks for bringing up the topic Laura!)

    Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
    November 28, 2006 | Tate Linden
    The good folks over at the American Name Society are ending their Name of the Year contest today. The winning name should best illustrate (through its creation or use over the last 18 months) important trends in North American culture. All types of names are eligible - including brands, places, surnames, first names, building names, pseudonyms, ficticious names, and just about anything else you can think of. A committee of ANS representatives will select three to five candidates from the nominees to be voted on by the members of the ANS next January at the annual meeting.

    Nominations must be received today, November 28, 2006.

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

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

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

    November 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 DiggDot.us. DiggDot.us came up with a simple solution to the problem: they scrubbed out the “i” in the logo and renamed the site “DoggDot.us”. It seems unlikely that Digg will pursue any more action.
    November 27, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Blogs are an amazing medium - and they have a quality that until this weekend I have ignored: The popularity of most blogs is easily accessible. Prompted by posts over at BeyondMadisonAvenue and The Viral Garden I decided to take a look at how naming blogs stack up against the big boys on the advertising blog side of things.

    As it turns out we stack up quite well! Using Alexa.com as our data source (admittedly not a perfect arbiter, but better than anything else we have available) it seems that we're getting numbers that put quite a few naming blogs in the top 25 (which would be 398,803 for advertising and 260,369 for marketing... but I have no idea which group would actually consider taking us in.)

    Here are the numbers for the naming blogs that I know of. (Feel free to submit other naming blogs that I may have missed! Just add 'em in to the comments area. Just make sure they are primarily naming blogs, and not just a couple times a month.)

    THREE MONTH ALEXA RANKING AVERAGES (11/27/2006):

    Wordlab: 71,353 Igor: 146,974 Stoked Brands: 211,541 Strategic Name Development: 234,693 Snark Hunting: 278,230 Qwerky: 411,992 Good Characters: 1,110,602 Away With Words: 1,306,367 Popwink: 4,515,404 Rich With Meaning: N/A

    Based on these numbers You may note that the granddaddy of the category (WordLab- started in 2001, followed rapidly by Igor and SnarkHunting - all apparently run by the same company) appears to have a pretty dominant hold on the group - with a 3 month average about half that of anyone else. But you may also note that other sites are putting up promising numbers in recent weeks - so it should be interesting to see where the leaders are in a few months.

    It is refreshing (and confidence inspiring) to see that there is as much interest in this topic from both a writing and a reading audience. Kudos to Igor for having the courage to start the category (and then to self-pollenate with three sites) and additional kudos to the rest of the sites that have obviously found unique audiences that are interested in what they have to offer.

    Interestingly, Igor's sites are very strongly interlinked, but they provide no links to any of the other naming blogs. There are many sites that are related to naming (like trademarks, language, advertising, and new products) but nothing other than their own special sauce for naming advice... The rest of the namers appear to be less concerned about losing traffic to the competition. (We've had comments from Igor, but never a link... and I can't find a single link to one of the most-linked sites on our topic - www.namedevelopment.com/blog.) I guess that this mirrors common business practices, where you wouldn't see an industry leader sending business to the mid-levels, but the smaller guys might exchange clients or overflow on occasion.)

    We're hoping that everyone on the list considers linking to the other commentators... and if you're a naming blogger that isn't on the list we hope you'll alert us so we can add you to the list and expand the discussion on and about our industry.

    To our fellow naming bloggers: Any interest in seeing this as a regular feature? Do you think that a friendly "competition" like this is good for our specialty?

    To the general readership: Do you find this information interesting or useful? Would a weekly updated listing of naming commentaries be something you'd enjoy? Did you know about everyone on the list?

    Let us know! (And congrats to Igor/WordLab/Snarkhunting on their early dominance!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Christmas Crackers. The Beeb's strapline "The One to Watch this Christmas" has never been more true than this year, with a cracking line-up of goodies on all Auntie's channels: terrestrial and digital.
    November 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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    But what of companies that exist for other purposes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Where's the benefit?

    Tate Linden Principal Consultant Stokefire Consulting Group 703-778-9925
    November 17, 2006
    Next, who isn't intrigued about growing old, as we all, hopefully, have to? One guy who's cheerfully there already is Pete Lustig, an e-marketing manager, aged 84, in Illinois. He shares the journey and time traveler tips in his lively Late Life Crisis blog. It bears the tagline, "Too soon we get old; too late we get smart," so here's where I go in search of some short cuts to the smarts, before it's too late.

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

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

    Woman with heartburn sues Coke and wins. How’s this for an ad slogan: “Things go better with (a reasonable amount of) Coke”? Coca-Cola may have to think twice about certain taglines now that a Russian woman has sued the company, and won, for allegedly getting heartburn from signature product.

    Thetruth.com tries to convince smokers to quit with guerilla marketing campaign. Using the tagline on stickers they hope get plastered around on cigarette ads: 'Contains Urea'. Urea is constituent of urine, and apparently is contained in cigarettes. Urea, is universally known as carbamide, as recommended by the International Non-proprietary Names (rINN).
    November 17, 2006 | Tate Linden
    ...then why are they so often used to name stuff like:

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

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

    Why is this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Oxford professor Timothy Garton Ash longs for jihad. He puts forward what seems to amount to a simple re-branding of the war on terror, as if use of the term "war" itself begat the violent nature of the enterprise. Ash explains, "it wasn'ta good term to start with.
    November 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 13, 2006 | Tate Linden
    I've occasionally wondered what it would be like to name thousands of products all under the same brand. Stokefire has yet to provide me with this challenge (a few dozen names under a brand umbrella is the most I've done thus far), so it is only in daydreams that I see myself as David Webster, the naming guru at Microsoft.

    Let me type that again.

    Naming guru at Microsoft.

    That is a job that could give most people nightmares. First, the fact that they've taken the step to bring on a Naming Czar indicates that there's some difficulty involved. Most megacorporations just let the VP of marketing for each division figure out what to call stuff (so if they want to call a company like Stokefire to handle it or just name it internally - the choice is theirs.) A few others don't care at all and let the product teams or consumers provide names.

    Microsoft has begun taking naming seriously. Regular readers may remember that I'd given them a hard time with some of their previous names and branding techniques, including Microsoft Live and .Net, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm pleased that Microsoft is trying to put some effort into creating solid naming practices.

    (Webster made a single comment on Robert Scoble's blog that seems to have made him famous in an instant. A search on Google brings up hundreds of hits - and all of them point to the same post. )

    Back in May, Webster stated his views on:
    • Code naming
    • Finding usable and protectable names
    • The trouble with naming for Microsoft
    I think that Webster is on track with almost all of his stated opinions, though I differ on code names a bit.

    Here's an approximation of what he says (with my comments indented):
    Produce product names earlier in the cycle so that the need for code names is reduced
    • I'm not certain this will help anything, as it still takes time to get names through legal, and people need to call the product something.
    Equity and buzz provided by code names is generally wasted since the name almost always changes. The backlash of "why didn't they just stick with the code name - that was better" tends to hurt more than it helps.
    • This really doesn't go against code names as a whole, just the cool ones. I actually think that he's on track with this, but wouldn't necessarily propose the solution that he has put forward. Instead I'd suggest not using cool code names. (This is a pretty common practice - made standard by Apple's naming gaffe regarding Carl Sagan, and before that by the Germans in World War I.) Sure, there's an ego boost and buzz boost from having that cool name attached to a product, but there's not guaranteed transitive property when trying to change the name. The coolness could end up staying behind... So - why not use a non-cool name for the working title until you find the right product name? An alphabetical list of vegetables, animals, minerals... or just about anything would work. You could even make it internally meaningful (even though code names shouldn't be meaningful) by having each branch or brand in your company use a different category.
    Microsoft has a harder time finding good names than most other companies.
    • Amen. Few companies will be looked at as critically as Microsoft. Not only do they have to come up with a good name for the product, they must do far more due dilligence than most. Where most companies that have moderately closely matched names (e.g., "StarBank" vs. "Starbucks") may let the potential confusion slide, any time Microsoft develops a name they're guaranteed to be sued by anyone that has more than a few letters in common. I'm not going to delve into this much other than to say Microsoft is cursed with a horrible public image that seems inextricably linked to evil, greed, poor quality, and... lots and lots of money. When Microsoft takes a misstep you can be sure that whomever they wrong is going to try to make them pay.
    Generally I find the prospect of naming earlier in the cycle to be admirable, but this could lead to some other complexities. After more than a decade of exposure to technical product management I can conclusively say that the initial product specifications and the actual product rarely are exactly the same - and often can be almost completely unrelated. If you've named a product early in the cycle because you're anticipating a certain market appeal but the functions that are supposed to appeal to that market are left out... you're going to end up with a badly named product.

    It would be counterintuitive for me to suggest that starting the naming process early in product development is bad. Naming as an afterthought invariably leads to mistakes that can often cost money. Microsoft can't just do a trademark search on USPTO.gov. They need to search every territory in which they sell their products. They probably do directory searches and web searches to ensure that no one in their industry is using a (tm) or (sm) signifier with the name they want. If they leave any of this out it has the potential to cost them legal fees and settlements.

    ...on the other hand, we do get frequent calls from companies that have tripped over trademark issues (often with C&D letters in hand) so starting the naming process late does have its benefits. For naming companies.

    I think stepping away from code names that are meant to appeal to the target audience is a good step - and one that every large company should consider.

    Last: David Weber seems to be saying the right things over at Microsoft. I look forward to seeing the slew of products named with the new tactics. (And I wonder if he was behind the removal of the .Net brand. If so this might be an indication that things are on the right track.)

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

    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 8, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Resource Alert!

    We had a few folks ask us where we got some of our information for posts. We use many of the same tools that other bloggers use (Google Alerts are a major time-saver, for instance.) But some topics never seem to show up on Google. Onomastics is one of 'em.

    If you want to know what the big brains in naming are talking about you need to get involved in the scholarly side of things. Want to know what the leading scholars of naming studies are talking about? Check out the American Name Society's listserve:

    To join the ANS-L listserve just send the message:
    SUB ANS-L YOURFIRSTNAME YOURLASTNAME
    To: listserv@listserv.binghamton.edu

    You can also check out some other conversations that are at least somewhat related to naming at World Wide Words and The Linguist List.

    Both the ANS and the Canadian Society for the Study of Names have Journals that allow their members to publish research and articles on naming and are worth checking out if you're considering onomastic study or a career in naming.

    Be aware that the focus of onomastics is not always on corporate naming (in fact "rarely" may be a better word for it,) so you'll be reading a lot of pages on geographic names, geneology, and the naming of astral bodies - among other topics. But in our view even these loosely related areas can shed light on the study and science of corporate names. Many of the trends seen with the gradual changes in personal names are mirrored in the corporate world.

    Know of any other journals or listservs worth mentioning? Let us know and we'll help you get the word out here.

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

    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 | Tate Linden
    I wrote about this a few weeks back and got quite a few emails suggesting that I was "full of it" and must be joking.

    Sorry. This isn't an example of my wild imagination getting the best of me. Pen Island is indeed a company that sell pens. If you click the link make sure you check the web address. This is an example of a poorly parsed name.

    Even Snopes - the popular urban legend debunking site - backs me up on this one.

    Parsing has become far more important since the late 1990s when companies began moving to the Web. Previously innocent names became potential landmines when the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) made the use of spaces in company names somewhat obsolete. (Sure, they could have used hyphens or underscores, but it is easier to remove a space than it is to add an unfamiliar character.)

    We've added a research project to our list over at Stokefire. We'll be taking a look at the number of companies that have elected to use names that utilize the Web format (must like "Stokefire" does) over the last few decades. Preliminary research shows a drastic change during the nineties, with usage increasing from a handfull of well known companies to being a recognizable trend on the NASDAQ exchange, the Fortune 500 list, and in Silicon Valley.

    With so many companies building Strungtogethernames we'd have thought that the practice of checking for parsing problems would become standard. I suppose that it some sense it has become standard since there are actually not very many companies with major problems. Still - the fact that anyone is letting these issues get through means that there's still some learning to be done.

    In our quick search we found quite a few examples (many of which we linked to previously, but through an external site.)

    The list of websites that sound naughty but aren't is quite extensive. We strongly suggest that regardless of how inoffensive the websites are you'll probably be offended by more than a few of the implied names. If you don't want to see them then please stop reading now and go here.
    November 6, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

    November 3, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Okay, so I have no clue if I will actually make this a recurring event, but Fridays tend to be pretty slow for names in the news.

    Onomastics is the study of naming. Etymology is the study of the history of words. So I'm sincerely hoping that Onomastic Etymology is the study of the history of names. (It does sort of stand to reason, but reason isn't always right...)

    Today's bit of history is provided by I. E. Lambert's book: The Public Accepts. Published in 1941, it does a great job covering the stories behind many (at the time) well known trademarks, names, and slogans.

    The book is a wonderful time-capsule. In the second story of the book we are told "Many a manufacturer has a slogan for his product, but none is more consistently used than this one." I would wager that anyone born after the baby boom would have no clue what the slogan is given that hint - or would know what product is being referred to by the slogan after they hear it.

    The slogan? "Ask the Man Who Owns One."

    The 800+ hits on Google provide the answer.

    On to today's history lesson!
    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 | Tate Linden
    November 1, 2006

    On-line dating sites, such as Match.com, 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
    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 30, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Aaron and Eileen over at Ambassador Boo sent me a company name that I just cannot ignore:

    "Neutocrete."

    It seems that this miracle product is used to prevent mold from growing in damp crawlspaces. I am not going to comment on the appropriateness of the name today. That's not the point.

    What's the point, then? Disappointment.

    If you're Aaron and Eileen you would been disappointed in this because you would have assumed that a company thusly named would offer castration services. Specifically the services would be administered via the targeted, vigorous, and repeated application of large concrete blocks. [Ed. I'm thinking that this would be used on criminals, not as an alternative to tube snipping, but I didn't actually ask them. I also went a little further than they did with the description. Artistic license and whatnot.]

    Either way, how can you have a name as suggestive as Neutocrete and not use the following tagline:

    "Concrete for sterile environments"

    A search on Google today found no hits for "Neutocrete" and "Sterile."

    Tragic.

    We await your call, Neutocrete.

    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
    703-778-9925

    October 27, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    National Recycling Awards, adverts feature London’s famous landmarks buried in rubbish with the strap line ‘Just when will you start recycling?'.
    October 24, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Yep, it is another post about people, not companies... but it all ties in with branding... trust me.

    I like Dana (my associate.) She keeps me in line. She reminds me about stuff. She generally makes Stokefire look good... so I take exception to people that want to call her names.

    Especially ones that use the word "Bastard."

    Okay, but there's a problem. Some really smart people have stated that the prefix from Dana's last name ("Fitz") literally means an illegitimate child. Here... read what some smart guy had to say about it:
    October 23, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Never heard of Apollos Rivoire? How about Paul Rivoire? Still no? (c'mon folks... you can figure it out...) Well... okay. I'm pretty sure you're gonna know Paul Revere.

    Why the series of names? Because Paul's dad (father of the guy that rode a horse and shouted a whole bunch) used all of 'em. He changed his name (numerous times) because "the bumpkins pronounced it easier."

    Can you imagine if Apollos Rivoire hadn't changed his name - and still named his eldest son after himself? Would we as Americans laud this recent French immigrant as an American hero? Would we (bumpkins) even be able to pronounce his name?

    Okay... Now let's try another name:
    October 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 PPO.com, 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 18, 2006 | Tate Linden

    I was talking with a friend last night about the process of naming and I was asked a rather pointed question:

    What makes a bad company name?

    I responded with a lengthy monologue talking about acronyms, insults, generic names, and even a whole diatribe about naming without purpose. After about ten minutes I was stopped with a second question:

    Okay... so is this something that every naming professional agrees on, or are these just your personal peeves?

    I had assumed that about 3/4 of what I was saying was known and communicated by most naming professionals, but I figured I should check it out before I committed to it. One sleepless night later and I have some results.

    What follows are the number of books (out of nine that I checked) that refer to a particular issue as being bad news for a company name.

    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 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 12, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    Can Kohl's target Target? Uninspired minds want to know. And as far as cage matches go, we think "a battle with J.C. Penney for middle-income clothing buyers" is something we'll not be watching on Pay-Per-View.
    October 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
    703-778-9925

    October 10, 2006

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

    Hotel Istana rebooks rebrands itself to fly business class.

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

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

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

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

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

    Overall we've been pretty disappointed.

    Here's a quick sampling of books on our shelf that are dedicated almost entirely to naming:
    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.

    mad.co.uk 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 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 28, 2006 | Tate Linden

    An interesting little bit of naming history here. Think that Ziff Davis and ZDNet are the same company? Well... you'd have been right a few years back. Not anymore, though.

    Ed Bott tracked down this little exchange containing a quote by Stephen Howard-Sarin:

    Ziff Davis started an online division called ZDNet. Ziff Davis started a cable TV operation called ZDTV.

    Ziff Davis split up. The magazine group kept the name. ZDNet was sold to CNET. ZDTV was rebranded TechTV (and later sold to G4).

    Ed points to Bill Ziff's legacy as a prime reason for

    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 26, 2006 | Tate Linden

    I've been asked to write a short article on naming for a publication targeted at government contractors. The list of readers for the publication reads like an out-of-order alphabet book. BRP, CDK, FTG... the names just pile up one upon the other and I can't figure out which one does what.

    So... I'm thinkin' that this will be my topic. With so many companies all trying to use exactly three out of twenty-six letters of the alphabet, the chances of finding three memorable and previously unused letters is pretty much zero. (We don't have the time to check Google - but trust us - it isn't likely that any one of these contractors holds their three-letter-acronym all to themselves.)

    Want to see what I'm talking about?

    September 25, 2006 | Tate Linden

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

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

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

    Thank you Nancy. We agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    We think your flickering imagination can answer that pretty easily.

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

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

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

    Tate Linden
    Principal Consultr
    Stokefire Consultr Group
    703-778-9925

    September 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 21, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Okay, we really don't get this one by the formerly named Se-Kure Controls. (Now named Halo Metrics)

    Specifically the underlined segments from their press release below don't seem to have much to do with our existing knowledge of halos -
    A Halo is an invisible forcefield,” described the firm in a prepared announcement. “It is a powerful energy that projects an aura of security around the products it protects. Halo fits with our vision of the future and our reality of today.

    Halo Metrics,” the firm added, “is intended to show that we can measure this difficult space between loss prevention and merchandising. Our experience in measurement, proving that ROI will be improved by openly and securely displaying product, stands us in good stead. It is the backbone of the trust we have built up over the years.”

    The firm concluded: “…We need to anticipate the changing face of retail by successfully integrating loss prevention, merchandising, marketing, and operations, thinking beyond our current offering to other areas we can provide solutions.”
    And then there's this...
    September 20, 2006 | Tate Linden

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

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

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

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

    A few reasons we like the selected name:

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

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

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

    Why?

    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 9, 2006 | Tate Linden

    Just writing again to say that we are indeed still still alive. Thanks for the mostly concerned (and one somewhat peeved) letters that you sent.

    We just completed an intensive engagement naming a hotel and nightclub in the Midwest. We're proud to say that the project has been a great success and the teams are raring to go build out the brands we've laid before them. We can't wait to see the launches this December - and count ourselves among the many people intending to partake of the first night festivities.

    We're ramping up for our next few projects right now, including a physical security hardware branding gig, a brand development project for a recently created name, a rebranding for a major regional promotional firm, and we're getting significant interest and attention from the home-improvement and restaurant industries lately.

    For those of you reading this blog and wondering when we're going to be ready to hire - we're reeeeal close now. We're in dire need of

    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 UsingRFID.com (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 31, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Amazon.com has entered the server rental business. While we're a little fuzzy about how this fits with their original ("we're an online bookseller") or more recent ("we're an online consumer goods seller") strategies, we're more intrigued by the name they've chosen for the new enterprise.

    Enter the happy funtime bad-translation naming crew: the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud is here. It sounds a little like something that Godzilla might fight for control of Japan
    August 30, 2006 | Tate Linden

    We're not quite sure what to make of this one, but we'll share it with you nonetheless.

    Today, i-mate introduced two 3G new Windows Mobile 5.0 devices. The i-mate JASJAM, the rebranded HTC TyTN (aka "Hermes") and the i-mate SP JAS, the rebranded HTC MTeoR (aka "Breeze").

    Not only do we have no clue how to pronounce these non-aka names, we have no idea how to spell them when we're not looking at them as we're typing.

    We're not even going to analyze 'em. Just know this

    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.

    Wow.

    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 24, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Those of you out there that read this blog to learn about the naming and branding industry - this post is for you. The professional namers and branders already know this.

    One of the biggest hurdles we have is this: In early rounds of the naming process we emphasize creativity and keeping an open mind, but by the end of the process reality creeps in. How? Well, the biggest issue is in the legal realm.

    It is exceedingly difficult to find words (either real or constructed) that haven't been used before. Sometimes your creatives get lucky and will find a name that has never been linked to a particular field before - but you'd be surprised how often someone else has beaten you to the thought. We at Stokefire have had this happen to us a few times recently
    August 22, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Are you ready for this? Microsoft is rebranding... something. We're not really sure what it is, but it is being rebranded. Remember Hotmail? That's part of it. And Microsoft's online Beta tools - who can forget those? (It's okay. We didn't know that MSFT had a beta site either.) They're all part of the new program. And the name is...

    Windows Live!

    Not bad... But the real problem isn't the name (which everyone will at least remember half of.) The real problem is
    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 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Alright. Perhaps they should think about renaming this one.

    Can you call something a Blu-Ray model if it doesn't play the Blu-Ray discs most people want?
    August 11, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Car names are fascinating. Every major company seems to have their own philosophy - using numbers, animals, shortened words, words beginning with "E", etc. Well, naming consultants, it appears that there's a new opportunity on the horizon.
    "The new version of the Smart cars, which will be given new brand names, will be assembled at the former Panasonic factory at Port Talbot."
    The new venture is being headed by Project Kimber - itself named for Cecil Kimber, the founder of MG. Apparently the idea is to make the old Smart the new Midget of a revamped GM speedster line.

    Once upon a time
    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...
    August 9, 2006 | Tate Linden

    Sure, we've heard the stories about people having these dreams, then waking up, writing them down, and in the morning turning those ideas into billions of dollars. You'd think that naming would be an area where this would be a tried and true practice.

    Based on our experience it is not so.

    Here's the latest example of a midnight ephiphany that we probably shouldn't be telling you about:

    August 8, 2006 | Tate Linden
    Web 2.0 is here. We're not quite sure what it is, but it has something to do with trendiness, MySpace, company names that have been shortened and end in "r", and an unshakeable belief that maybe there was something to that whole internet bubble of the late 1990s. Add in a shine-effect logo and you're set.

    Rather than give you a history of how we came to a time when everyone was trying to be different in exactly the same way, we'll just give you a short-cut to making yourself like everyone else.

    Step on over to
    August 7, 2006 | Tate Linden
    I stumbled across a great resource today in qwerky. This site seems to put forward many of the same views that we here at Stokefire hold. The bastardized english now used (as in "Tabblo" - a site covered by qwerky) can't go without comment.

    Qwerky seems focused on finding the very strangest names and bringing them to light. Sure, this may be encouraging the medium...
    July 27, 2006 | Tate Linden

    "Give us something cool."

    This is a mantra we hear from almost all of our clients. They want cool names. They want to be hip. They want to be the "it" company - as shown by their sexy/funky/cool name.

    Here's the problem - coolness doesn't age well.

    Things that used to be cool include:

    • Michael Jackson
    July 10, 2006 | Tate Linden

    After numerous (read "three") requests for information on books that may be helpful in naming, taglines, and branding, we figured it was time to respond in print.

    I don't know about the rest of you, but I tend not to read one book at a time - especially when it comes to business books. I binge. This week I tried to consume three different books on the very particular subject of naming companies, or rather the art of naming companies (as opposed to learning about the naming companies themselves.)

    The three books I am reading are: Word Craft by Alex Frankel, Crafting the Perfect Name by George Burroughts Blake & Nancy Blake-Bonhe, and Naming for Power by Naseem Javed. (I also have a book-in-waiting titled The Making of a Name : The Inside Story of the Brands We Buy by Steve Rivkin, but that one arrived too late to begin with the others.)

    Quick takes on the books in progress:

    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.
    June 21, 2006 | Tate Linden
    In what appears to be a first for us, we're commenting on a new company name before the folks we usually read have done so.

    tabblo_nav.gif

    Tabblo - a new online photo manipulation company - has come up with an interesting niche. They allow you to upload your digital photos and then munge (our word, not theirs) them into a tableaux for a poster-sized printout that they deliver direct to your door. There are all sorts of other cool things you can do - and I love the idea behind the company - but think that they may be taking on some hurdles with their choice of name.

    Here's why:
    June 15, 2006 | Tate Linden
    In the past week I've had a half-dozen or so questions about why I don't use focus groups as part of my branding, naming, or tagline development processes. Mike Wagner's recent comments here have prodded me to put a few of my more coherent thoughts in print.

    Here are a few reasons why I'm not a fan of focus groups:
    1. In real life people considering a purchase do not typically discuss their likes and dislikes with strangers before making a buy decision.
    June 14, 2006 | Tate Linden

    I'm going to go out on a rather fragile limb and throw a very (very) small dart at a company that I genuinely respect. The guys and girls at Igor International have a great process in place for creating product and company names. They are both creative and very scientific, using a scale a bit similar to what we use to measure the quality of our name candidates. (Note: Their system pre-dates ours, so they certainly didn't get the idea from us.)

    Today on the Snark Hunting blog (run by the folks at Igor) I was surprised to find this - which links you to this page that seems to imply that taglines are the result of brainstorming after you've rigorously developed a name.

    Talk to me, Igorians. What stops you from analyzing the tagline? You promote your very creative and measured process for developing names, and you help your clients understand why various names are good or bad. Why are taglines given short shrift?

    June 6, 2006 | Tate Linden

    Imagine a world where you can get paid for who you know. Cool, right? You list your contacts and if someone wants to talk with them you can charge people for access! Whee! Isn't for-profit networking fun?

    Not so fast, kiddo. Let's think about this for a moment. Why should you be allowed to make money off of me? How do I know that you're not just sending me someone so you get a payday and not because this is a good person for me to network with?

    Vshake - a new for-profit networking site led by Sagi Richberg and Sergey Gribov - attempts to add a dash of Multi-Level Marketing and profiteering to the networking concept. If I invite you to join my VShake network I will get paid any time you pay anyone else for access (to you or one of your contacts) - or anyone pays you for access.

    Sorry folks, but I don't go for MLM concepts, so you won't be getting an invite from me any time soon.

    May 15, 2006 | Tate Linden
    The name fanatics among you probably know what TLA stands for - but the rest of you likely don't. Here's a hint: Toyota Australia just decided to brand their new performance vehicles as "Toyota Racing Development". They've already helpfully shortened this name to TRD.