Independence Day

As we head out on our Independence holiday this afternoon, let’s take a moment to reflect on one sliver of what makes America uniquely American.

Here in the U.S., violence is preferred over sex when it comes to what is acceptable for our kids to see on TV. Conversely, Europeans have the screwy idea that sex is normal and it’s violence that is abhorrent. Go figure.

This idea is poignantly demonstrated via this classic Travelocity U.K. television spot.

(yes, this post is a re-run from more than three years ago, but we’re headed out the door)

Good and Plenty of what?

Today ’s Belleville News Democrat brings us a nauseating little nugget about the food ingredient named “Carmine”:

Scan the package ingredient list next time you buy candy, ice cream or beverages with a reddish hue. The color may have come from ground-up insects.

namingThat’s right. Instead of artificial red dyes, some food manufacturers list “natural” colorings called “carmine” or “cochineal.”

The pigments are derived from female cochineal insects, which are raised on farms in Peru, Mexico and the Canary Islands. It takes 70,000 of them to make one pound of carmine, according to the Wall Street Journal. The abdomens and eggs of the females contain the most intense color; those parts are dried, ground and heated to produce the dye.

Carmine is in the box of pink and white Good & Plenty candy I have sitting on my desk. It’s in the Dannon Fruit on the Bottom boysenberry yogurt I had for lunch last week. It’s in the Tropicana Orange Strawberry Banana juice I recently served to overnight guests.

Not all manufacturers that use carmine or cochineal are upfront about it on the package ingredient list. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows some food tints to be obfuscated under terms like “color added” or “artificial color.” So the snack you are eating may have bug bellies in it. You just don’t know it…

…Besides the products listed above, you can find carmine and cochineal in some Popsicles, strawberry milk drinks, port-wine cheese, artificial crabmeat, cherries in fruit cocktail, caviar, fruit drinks, yogurt and the alcoholic aperitif Campari, according to the Federal Register.

Wikipedia chimes in:

A request from the Center for Science in the Public Interest to require ingredient labels to explicitly state that carmine is derived from insects was declined by the FDA. Food industries were aggressively opposed to the idea of writing “insect based” on the label and they finally agreed to simply putting “carmine”.

“Carmine”, the most euphemistic food name since “gelatin” was coined as a substitute for “cow or pig bones, hooves, and connective tissuesnaming

[ More posts about | More posts about ] [ More posts about | More posts about ]

How to choose a new name for a product, company or service

An important first step when naming a business, product or service is to figure out just what it is that your new name should be doing for you. The most common decision is that a name should explain to the world what business you are in or what your product does. Intuition dictates that this will save you the time and money of explaining it, which actually turns out not to be true. Why not?

The notion of describing your business in the name assumes that the name will exist at some point without contextual support, which, when you think about it, is impossible. The name will appear on a website, a store front, in a news article or press release, on a business card, on the product itself, in advertisements, or, at its most naked, in a conversation.

There is simply no imaginable circumstance in which a name will have to explain itself. This is fortunate, because having a descriptive name is actually a counterproductive marketing move which requires an enormous amount of effort to overcome. A descriptive naming strategy overlooks the fact that the whole point of marketing is to separate yourself from the pack. It actually works against you, causing you to fade into the background, indistinguishable from the bulk of your competitors.

The following is a list of companies in the naming and branding arena. While each of their names describes what they do, you can clearly see the heavy marketing price they pay for such a shortcut:

Brand-DNA (.com)
Brand-DNA (.net)
DNA Brand Mechanics
Brand 2.0
Brand Doctors
Brand Equity
Brand Evolve
Brand Fidelity
Brand Institute
Brand Mechanics
Brandjuice Consulting
Name Development
Name Sharks
Naming Systems
Naming Workshop
Absolute Brand
Building Brands
Real Branding
Core Brand
The Branding Iron
Spherical Branding
I.D.ENTITY Identity 3.0
Brighter Naming
Corporate Icon
Wise Name
Creating New Names
The Name Works
ABC Namebank
The Naming Company
Ivarson Brand Vision Strategic Name Development
The Brand Consultancy Lexicon Branding
Independent Branding TradingBrands
The Better Branding Company Not Just Any Branding

There are three pieces of advice that will serve you well in avoiding a similar dilemma:

  1. Names don’t exist in a vacuum: There are competitors–the idea is to distinguish yourself. Business is a competitive sport.
  2. Names don’t exist in a vacuum: The notion of describing your business in the name assumes that the name will exist at some point without contextual support. This is never true for any business or product.
  3. Names don’t exist in a vacuum: When judged without the context of a clear positioning platform and an intimate understanding of how names work and what they can do, the best solutions are either never considered or quickly dismissed.

For example, any one of the following intuitive concerns could have been enough to keep these powerful names from ever seeing the light of day:

Virgin Airlines

  • Says “we’re new at this”
  • Public wants airlines to be experienced, safe and professional
  • Investors won’t take us seriously
  • Religious people will be offended


  • Tiny, creepy-crawly bug
  • Not macho enough – easy to squash
  • Why not “bull” or “workhorse”?
  • Destroys trees, crops, responsible for famine

Banana Republic

  • Derogatory cultural slur
  • You’ll be picketed by people from small, hot countries


  • Yahoo!! It’s Mountain Dew!
  • Yoohoo! It’s a chocolate drink in a can!
  • Nobody will take stock quotes and world news seriously from a bunch of “Yahoos”


  • Unscientific
  • Unreliable
  • Only foretold death and destruction
  • Only fools put their faith in an Oracle
  • Sounds like “orifice”–people will make fun of us

The Gap

  • Means something is missing
  • The Generation Gap is a bad thing – we want to sell clothes to all generations
  • In need of repair
  • Incomplete
  • Negative


  • A slow, ugly, and dangerous fish–slow, ugly and dangerous are the last qualities we want to associate with our fast, powerful, sexy sports car
  • The “bottom feeding fish” part isn’t helping either

Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac

  • I don’t want hillbilly residents of Dogpatch handling my finances.
  • They don’t sound serious, and this is about a very serious matter.

As you can well imagine, this kind of negative deconstruction is at the root of why a committee can’t agree on a non-descriptive name that has any meaning. It’s also what gave birth to the second major school of bad naming: the “unique empty vessel” that “can become whatever you want.” Here are some of the victims:

Acquient, Agilent, Alliant, Aquent, Aspirient, Aviant, Axent, Axient, Bizient, Candescent, Cendant, Cerent, Chordiant, Clarent, Comergent, Conexant, Consilient, Cotelligent, Equant, Ixtant, Livent, Luminant, Mergent, Mirant, Navigant, Naviant, Noviant, Novient, Omnient, Ravisent, Sapient, Scient, Sequant, Spirent, Taligent, Teligent, Thrivent, Versant, Versent, Viant, Vitalent and Vivient.

As with the descriptive list, these names are not part of an elegant solution, they are the seeds of a branding nightmare. This type of name is arrived at because of the lust for a domain name, consensus building and as a shortcut to trademark approval. At some point in the process marketing left the room, and nobody seemed to notice. And while they may technically be unique, it’s at the level of a snow flake in a snow bank.

The third type of name is the evocative name. These include the aforementioned Apple, Stingray, Oracle, Virgin, Yahoo etc. While everyone respects evocative naming when done well, most corporations don’t go down this road because it’s the toughest to understand and execute.

On a very fundamental level, here are the basic ingredients of the best evocative names:


A competitive analysis is an essential first step. How are your competitors positioning themselves? What types of names are common among them? Are they all projecting a similar attitude? Do their similarities offer you a huge opportunity to stand out from the crowd?

Apple needed to distance itself from the cold, unapproachable, complicated imagery created by the other computer companies at the time who had names like IBM, NEC, DEC, ADPAC, Cincom, Dylakor, Input, Integral Systems, Sperry Rand, SAP, PSDI, Syncsort, and Tesseract.

They needed to reverse the entrenched view of computers in order to get people to use them at home. They were looking for a name that was not like a traditional computer company, and supported a Positioning Strategy that was to be perceived as simple, warm, human, approachable and different.


The next step is to carefully define your positioning. The idea is to position yourself in a way that rings true in a fresh way–that cuts through all of the noise out there. The goal is to have your audience personalize the experience of your brand, to make an emotional connection with it, and ultimately to take you in. To redefine and own the territory.

One of most important things that the best of the best brands accomplish is to be thought of as greater than the goods and services offered, to create an aspiration. Nike’s “Just Do It’ helps them rise above selling sneakers. Apple’s “Think Different” is bigger than computers. Fannie Mae’s “We’re in the American Dream Business” elevates them from mere mortgage brokers.

On a product level, Velveeta, Slinky, Mustang, Snapple, etc., are tapping into something outside of the narrow definition of what it is they do, and are allowing the consumer to make the connection, to personalize the experience. This type of active engagement created by playing off of images that everyone is already carrying around in their heads is an essential ingredient in creating a great name.

From there, a name should contain as many of the following qualities as possible. The more of them that are present, the more powerful the name:


  • A name that people will talk about.
  • A name that works its way through the world on its own.
  • A name that’s a story in itself, whether it’s at the local bar, on the job, or on CNBC.


  • What does the name suggest?
  • Does it make you feel good?
  • Does it make you smile?
  • Does it lock into your brain?
  • Does it make you want to know more?


  • How does the name physically look and sound?
  • How does it roll off the tongue?
  • How much internal electricity does it have?
  • How does it sound the millionth time?
  • Will people remember it?


  • Does the name have attitude?
  • Does it exude qualities like confidence, mystery, presence, warmth, and a sense of humor?
  • Is it provocative, engaging?
  • Is it a tough act to follow?


  • Is the name a constant source of inspiration for advertising and marketing?
  • Does it have “legs”?
  • Does it work on a lot of different levels?

The key is to step outside the box that the industry – any industry – has drawn for itself, and to do it in a fresh way that hits home with the audience. To accomplish this, it is necessary to think about names in this fashion:


  • Positioning: different, confident, exciting, alive human, provocative, fun. The innovative name forces people to create a separate box in their head to put it in.
  • Qualities: Self-propelling, Connects Emotionally, Personality, Deep Well.


  • Positioning: different, confident, superhuman, evocative, powerful, forward thinking.
  • Qualities: Self-propelling, Connects Emotionally, Personality, Deep Well.

As an exercise, go back and see how the other names deconstructed above–Apple, Caterpillar, Banana Republic, Yahoo!, Palm Pilot, The Gap, Stingray, and Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac–stand up when held to these high standards. These are the qualities that separate a potent, evocative name from a useless one that is built without a considered positioning platform, such as BlueMartini or FatBrain. Random names like these disallow audience engagement, because there are no pathways between the image and the product–there is no connection to be made.

Want more? Download our naming guide PDF.

[ More posts about | More posts about ]

Lost at sea

The most common mistake in naming is choosing a name that gets lost in the sea of competitive sound alikes. We’ve cobbled together a list of clothing brand names that contain the word “Bay”, with a few “Harbor” names thrown in for spice:

Aqua Bay
Back Bay
Baja Bay
Banana Bay
Bantry Bay
Bay City
Bay Reef
Bay Trading
Beach Bay
Bermuda Bay
Bikini Bay
Billion Bay
Bimini Bay
Blackwater Bay
Brittany Bay
Buckley Bay
Buffalo Bay
Burk’s Bay
Capstan Bay
Chileno Bay
Coral Bay
Emerald Bay
English Bay
Falcon Bay
Ginger Bay
Hampton Bay
Harbor Bay
Highland Bay
Inner Harbor
Jamaica Bay
Kahuna Bay
Kips Bay
Kylani Bay
Latigo Bay
Lawton Harbor
Lunada Bay
Madison Bay
Mango Bay
Marino Bay
Mission Bay
Misty Harbor
Monterey Bay
Moonlight Bay
Orca Bay
Paradise Bay
Parrot Bay
Peppermint Bay
Peregrine Bay
Sag Harbor
Solar Bay
South Bay
St. John’s Bay
Sterling Bay
Thornton Bay
Thunder Bay
Union Bay
Victoria Bay
Willow Bay
Yucatan Bay

“Harbor Bay” wins the coveted Gold Ridicule for including both words.

[ More posts about | More blogs about company names ]

Transient Phat


The Arizona Republic declares MySpace has lost its cool factor, now that lawmakers have discovered it:

Our favorite is Rep. Pamela Gorman’s, whose online nickname is “The One.” Also, the Anthem Republican’s site’s name is No ego problems there.

One of Gorman’s “friends” is a dashing tuxedoed figure whose crafty online handle is “Bob.” Turns out it’s Rep. Bob “Bob” Stump, R-Peoria.

“I use it to keep in touch with friends,” Stump said. “And I am single!”

He has plenty of friends, 60 so far, lots more than any other lawmakers we found.

The other can’t-miss site belongs to newly minted Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe. Ableser, who was appointed last month to replace Sen. Harry Mitchell, wasted no time in setting up his “Senator Ed” page, complete with photos of the boy senator getting sworn in, giving a floor speech and running a triathlon.

Rep. Jonathon Paton, R-Tucson, and Trish Groe, R-Lake Havasu, also have sites, but they just feature their official-looking mug shots and not much else.

Boring. They’ll never attract as many friends as “Bob” or “The One” that way.

[ More posts about | More posts about ]

Obfuscating and circuitous brand diagrams

Do you enjoy the pure Dadaism of the disorienting brand diagram? We love it. Click on the thumbnails for a detailed view.

The Viagra brand diagram


Brand strategy process diagram


Brand diagnostics diagram


Universal needs map


Corporate identity protection diagram


We are serious collectors of odd branding visuals, so if you’ve found some good ones, please post them in the comments section.

[ More posts about | More posts about ]

Creovate or die

Just finished reading the funny new novel, “Who moved my Blackberry?”. It’s a satire on modern corporate life, written entirely as a collection of emails to and from the main character.

The emails circulated by “The Rebrand Steering Committee” in its search for a new corporate name, brand and logo are terrifyingly realistic. From pages 35 to 39 of “Who moved my Blackberry?”:


From: Cindy Czarnikow
To: All Staff

Hi everyone!

I am phenomenally excited to announce that today we are inviting all of you, the people of our global family, to choose A& B’s new name via an on line jamming session, let by Christo Weinberg, our brilliant UK brand ambassador. This is going to be a high-engagement, high-energy, all-employee process. We have chosen a competition because we want to make sure our new name is not just best of breed but uniquely fits our culture.
Does this mean that the work with Beyond the Box has been wasted? Far from it. We have learned a lot from the process, but now feel it is time to move on.
Some co-colleagues have asked me what the winning name will be like. That’s up to you!! But I hope it will be global, proactive, hypercreative and caring.
There are some phenomenally exciting prizes including a workshop in circus skills, and a free feng shui makeover of your master bedroom.

I’m smiling at you

From: Martin Lukes
To: Cindy Czarnikow

Cindy – Can I just correct something in your message? Christo is not our brand ambassador. As director of marketing that role falls to me. As you know, from a hierarchical point of view, I don’t mind about these things – I only mention it because it is best to avoid confusion where possible. I’ve been mentoring Christo since the beginning of the year, and would be delighted to help keep him on track with this new assignment!

All my very bestest


From: Christo Weinberg
To: All Staff

There are unbelievable riffs coming out of this process! I’m forwarding to you some of the on line jamming session. Really mellow! Keep it coming!

I’d like to kick things off by suggesting “a and b global.” It is a win win name. Modern, traditional and global… (Keith Buxton, UK chairman)

I’m comfortable with it. It clears my two hurdles – it underlines our commitment to diversity, and is passionately caring. (Faith Preston, Director for People)

Re: a and b global, it takes a long time to say (5 syllables), it involves too many key strokes. (Roger Wright, Finance Director)

How’s about “a.b. global”? It’s funkier than Keith’s suggestion and shorter, authoritative, and has instant impact. (Christo Weinberg, marketing manager)

Thank you Christo! I buy into that! That sure has made my pulse race. (Cindy Czarnikow, Leader of Rebrand)

I feel this debate goes to the very heart of what we are trying to do as a company. Let me suggest an alternative: a-b global. The hyphen has more heart than a full stop. It shows that we can move quickly and that we are unerring in our attention to detail. (Martin Lukes)

The hyphen has no place in the company history. (Roger Wright)

This discussion is ongoing. Please continue to add riffs of your own.

Keep it mellow!
Christo Weinberg

From: Martin Lukes
To: Sylvia Woods

Sylvia — If you are determined to leave us, I can’t stop you.


PS I found that list of school dates at the bottom of my briefcase.
All forgiven! Mea culpa!!!

From: Cindy Czarnikow
To: All Staff

This is an exciting day! The Rebrand Steering Committee, in conjunction with Barry, have considered two sensational options: a.b. global, and a-b global, and I would like to give you a heads up that we have decided the name best aligned with our PPP values is a-b global. When the designers have worked on a logo we will be ready to start rolling it out!

I’m smiling at you!

From: Martin Lukes
To: Barry Malone

Hi Barry
I’m delighted that you like a-b global – you may not be aware that I am actually the man behind the hyphen! As my coach says, sweat the small stuff – the devil’s in the detail!

All my very bestest


From: Martin Lukes
To: Rebrand Steering Committee

I’ve seen the roughs of our new logo from the design team and the designers have put the name under a square root sign, which, though innovative, represents a cultural dissonance with our core values.
I suggest that we build on the success of the hyphen by having a circumflex over the a and an umlaut over the o, so that the name would appear: a-b glöbâl. This is an exhilarating option that would provide a feelgood factor for our stakeholders globally.

All my very bestest

From: Roger Wright
To: Rebrand Steering Committee

Hi! Although I am not myself a student of modern languages, I understand that the umlaut suggested by Martin Lukes would make the word pronounced “gloerbal,” which does not work in any language. The circumflex is now obsolete in France and as a forward-looking company, we are not seeking association with the past.

Roger Wright
Finance Director

From: Cindy Czarnikow
To: Rebrand Steering Committee

I love Martin’s solution! I think it’s really cool! I think these accents will encourage our global stakeholders to want to love, and live, our brand!


From NPR:

“He’s viciously ambitious,” the author says. “He thinks he’s great fun. He thinks he’s got a terrific sense of humor. He’s desperately un-PC but thinks he’s a huge diversity champion.” And he’s “absolutely clueless” about his shortcomings, Kellaway says.

All perfect traits for someone who works for a company that’s very busy making nothing in particular. In a bid to stand out, he devises a whole new concept, which he dubs “creovation” — half creativity, half innovation.

“Creativity and innovation are the two great things that all corporations make such a song and dance about…,” Kellaway says. “They all talk in such a ghastly way, which is often a substitute for thinking. And when they come up with an idea that they genuinely think is creative, it’s laughable.”

Case in point, the creovation that creovated “Ecomagination“.

Who Moved My Blackberry”, on sale at Amazon


[ More posts about | More posts about ]

Of language and new products

Some of our favorite blogs:

The Language Guy: “Commentary on how language is used and abused in advertising, politics, the law, and other areas of public life. You can think of this blog as a linguistic self-defense course in which we prepare ourselves to do battle with the forces of linguistic evil.”

Language Hat: Serious language mavens only.

Martha Barnette’s . . . Orts: “Orts, scraps, and fragments from my days spent dictionary-diving and co-hosting the language-loving public radio show, A Way with Words.“

Strange New Products: The name says it all.

Patently Silly: The name says it all and more. Here you’ll find some of the silliest patents for products ever filed.

[ More posts about | More blogs about new products ]

Thought police

Can a thought process be owned? Can you develop a way of thinking and legally exclude others from having similar thoughts? Is there such a thing as a “proprietary way of thinking” ? Of course not. Unless….if you are actually crazy enough to believe that your thought process is proprietary, then perhaps it is proprietary. You would probably be the only one thinking such thoughts. From the Ogilvy website:

We believe our job is to help clients build enduring brands that live as part of consumers’ lives and command their loyalty and confidence. How we go about doing this is through a proprietary way of thinking and working that we call 360 Degree Brand Stewardship ®.

“A proprietary way of thinking”, not sure if that is humor or hubris. And wouldn’t you have to know what and how everyone else was thinking before making such a statement?

Is the name “360 Degree Brand Stewardship” a product of the proprietary thought process? Is it demonstrative of it? If so, they are in little danger of anyone stealing their thoughts. Except maybe Anderson Cooper.

Via J-Walk

[ More posts about | More blogs about product names ]

Being naive with names

Seth Godin’s ideas are usually wrong, obvious, vague or in-actionable. This time they are all four. Hey Seth, nobody named “podcasting”, “sneakers” or “email” as part of any commercial or awareness initiative. They were all named by “the people”. As case studies to support your conclusion, “But in general, if you need people to think differently, it helps to be brave when you name something new.”, none of the names you cite are relevant.

[ More posts about | More posts about ]

Going out with a bang

The Cingular brand name is being discontinued as of next year, so now they are finally free to have a bit of fun:girlIt’s akin to how Scott McClellan felt right after his resignation was accepted, or that giddy day the divorce papers are finally signed.

What does this ad have to do with union labor? Eh, blame it on the champagne.

[ More posts about | More blogs about cell phones ]

[ More posts about | More blogs about igor ]

Bank name change

bankIf you currently bank at NBIC, this is a reminder to begin using your new checks this coming Monday! From Stabroek News:

The National Bank of Industry and Commerce Limited has notified its customers that the change of name to Republic Bank (Guyana) Limited will take effect on June 5, 2006.

In a circular letter the bank said it will begin the physical process, which involves changing the signs inside and outside of its branches, as well as the names of its products…

…For instance, the Advanced Savings account will become a Major League account, the Access 24 Automatic Banking Machines (ABMs) conveniently located throughout the country will become Republic Blue Machines and the Access 24 cards will eventually be changed to Republic One Cards.

Why the name change? Quite possibly to cash in on the investment savvy cachet the word “Guyana” brings to the table. The CEO of Republic Bank Guyana explains:

As a former Senate President, l find it very difficult to invest such amount of money in my country due to my position in the Government such amount of money may attracts some suspicion which may lead to my arrest, that is why I need your urgent assistance, Please indicate your interest in the area of a lucrative business viability in your country.

For working with me to actualize this transaction, I will give to you 30% of the total fund while 10% will be used to settle every monetary expenses on the course of this transaction and the remaining 60% will be for me.

The proposal should be kept strictly confidential due to my person in the Government as the Former senate President of Guyana.

Please indicate your interest by providing me with your private direct phone line / fax number. And I assure you that all we be well at the end of this transaction.

Thanks and God bless you.

Senator Anyim Pius Anyim

[ More posts about | More blogs about bank names ]

Ambient Muzak

LGMp3The march of the penguins continues as yet another monochromatically positioned, branded and named “iPod killer” enters the waters. From CNET’s Crave:

Let’s go back to school. LG, take a seat and listen. First off, you’ve called this MP3 player the MFJM53. Who in their right mind will recall that name? You can imagine the scenario. A kid, who for the purposes of this demonstration we will call Timmy, walks into Dixons. Timmy is well excited. Timmy is going to buy himself an MP3 player. He’s seen the LG MFJM53 online and this is the player he wants. Now we join Timmy in the shop:

“Hello, I would like the LG MFX9… er, LG MFJE… er, the LG MFJ8… argghhh! Give me an iPod.”

Timmy is plainly too distressed to recall LG’s ambiguous product naming conventions. The iPod has won, and we haven’t even got to the specs yet. The marketing strategy of these iPod rivals is staggering. It’s as if they don’t even want to play the game.

It’s that they don’t know how to play the game. Given the lessons of both iPod and Razr, you’d think handheld electronics manufacturers would understand the power of a name that works in concert with the form, function and positioning of a product. Their continued use of alphanumerics in lieu of brand names demonstrates otherwise.

The only alpha that’s not a dog is Motorola’s Q.

[ More posts about | More blogs about consumer product naming ]