Brand Consultant & Coach, Published Business Writer, Brand Author & Speaker, Harpist, Composer, Mom & Wife, Spiritual Student, Educator ... and that's just on Monday. A blog about brand leadership, innovation and anything else I want to write about.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Naming Social Media & Beyond

I was recently asked by Aliza Sherman blogger and social media consultant to comment about her naming dilemmas within social media, and how I felt about using the term “social” within a name at this stage of the game.

There are definitely do's and don'ts within naming. If it were so easy, there wouldn't be an entire industry of naming consultants and agencies. So much of the English language is literally already trademarked and/or URL owned, leaving a small pool of possibilities to choose from. Which is one explanation of why what you do see out there as trademarked names are often lacking in appeal.

The first thing to remember is sitting around thinking about names is not the place to begin. You’re cheating the process if you do and will almost always regret it at the realization of time or money lost.

Like other aspects of branding, naming is defined and guided by the core positioning of the brand. The positioning is what defines the context and parameters around what the name is trying to communicate. Without context, a name is ineffectual to useless.

So what are the do’s and don’ts of naming?


1. Create your own brand positioning statement
This means define your brand on paper in 1-2 sentences that explain the what, why, where, for whom and unique aspects of your brand. For an overview see my past post.

2. Create brand communication attributes
These are adjectives (innovative, savvy, luxurious, transparent technology) that describe the relevant and unique aspects of your brand. Not only are these important words to know about how you're unique, you can use these as jumping off points/inspiration points to come up with names.

3. Know your markets
Be very aware of your intended geographic markets both in the short and long-run. Language and cultural faux pas are the stuff marketing text books are made of. Language parameters should guide the creative process of naming and kept heavily in mind during the ultimate selection process.

4. Know where the brand name will “live”
Where the name and logo will appear is a technical parameter that will dictate how long or short the name will be. If you’re naming for a social app on a mobile phone, space is a premium, therefore ultra-short is very, very good. If you’re a dotcom with a physical presence, the name may be able to go longer.

5. Use all of the above as the context for name creation & selection
The blueprint is in place, context set, now use it! Allow names to flow from the inspiration of the communication attributes; check your selections against the positioning statement and technical parameters like cultural and linguistic considerations to see if it passes muster.


1. Copy your competitors
It’s frankly ridiculous how many copy-cat names are out there. Don’t go there – your lawyer will thank you for it.

2. Ask your wife, cousin, mailman to start coming up with names for you
Everyone loves to be “creative”. The reality is unless they have that positioning in hand and are using that to guide their creative output, just say no thanks.

3. Think that one name is enough
It takes many – even hundreds of names and in some cases thousands - on a master list. Narrow it down to best fit the positioning criteria and let the trademark and URL searches weed out more. But please, don’t go into the trademark application process with just one name up your sleeve. Even the largest of companies have had this approach bite them in the proverbial rear end.

4. Skimp on trademark searches
The USPTO (U.S. Patent & Trademark Office) is not – repeat not – an up-to-date resource. There is a reason it’s free, and everything else is for a fee. Whether you go the trademark attorney route or have an on-line trademark search company provide you the raw data (without legal interpretation), do your due diligence and get the counseling to walk you through the process. If you need a free counseling resource, check out your local chapter of SCORE, Counselors to America's Small Business.

5. Use anything but WHOIS for domain searches
I’ve had friends who are savvy Internet people fall for this one only to regret it. GoDaddy, Network Solutions and the rest all offer free domain searches to see of the desired URL is available, but watch it. There are trolls who pay attention to this stuff and will go in and register it from under you only to then park and sit on the domain for a profit. WHOIS seems to be the most reliable and trustworthy source for searching.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Viral Marketing, Brand Foundation & The Death Star

Viral marketing is all about the spreading the word and creating buzz. Aside from sounding like a possible airborne illness and the potential for some people to view it as the ultimate way to success on an ether budget, viral marketing has it's place as another channel to build a brand - right along with advertising, pr, traditional marketing, etc. depending on the brand's needs. As I told a bunch of entrepreneurs last night, don't forget, though, that you can't build a McMansion without a solid foundation - or it will crack and crumble. That foundation means getting your brand identity (positioning, name, logo, look & feel, messaging) right BEFORE diving into brand building. Need help? Email me:

And now for the lighter side of viral marketing...thank you Death Star : )

Viral Marketing at Death Star Germany

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Twitter Brand Agency Takes A Gamble

Did I hear that right? A brand and marketing agency for Twitter only? Chris Brogan calls it a "Twitter-Flavored Agency" in his social media blog headline, but mince no words, Cherp is a Twitter ONLY agency. The raison d'etre? Perhaps it's one part Twitter passion and one part betting on future micro-blog site aggregation falling under Twitter's moniker. Brands on Twitter can engage Cherp to navigate the unique culture and landscape with perhaps the largest goal of simply not turning or ticking people off. Launched just a few days ago, time will tell how successful the group is ... and just how many eggs can be laid in the Twitter nest.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Whole Foods Swearing - How To Lose Brand Respect

Leigh Duncan-Durst, principal consultant at LivePath, a marketing and customer experience consultancy, blogged about an interesting experience with the upscale healthy foods grocery store chain, Whole Foods on Twitter. Yes, @wholefoods - the Twitter account representing the brand - actually did swear about its Hatch chiles from New Mexico being on sale - and she has the screen capture to prove it. A breach in brand etiquette and common sense? No question. As I commented on the post, there's no place for any brand acting and talking like a gum smacking, disrespectful teenager in social media - no matter how casual the mediums may seem.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pint Sized Olympic Brand Marketing

Amongst Visa, Coca-Cola and McDonald's as iconic Olympic sponsors sits Win, the little sports detergent that leverages its official Olympic status as its main means of marketing and credibility. Read my full brand profile for Win at

Sunday, August 17, 2008

12NEWS MPG Challenge Finale - LIVE!

Wasting gas while navigating too many traffic lights and stop signs in town? Trading a few gallons of gas for a cup of java from the local Starbucks drive thru? I must be ranting about my last days as a participant in the 12NEWS MPG Challenge! Check out the highlights of the challenge in my special AZ Central/12 News blog and catch me live Monday, Aug 18 at 6 p.m. on Channel 12 News (Phoenix NBC affiliate) for the MPG Challenge finale with Rick DeBruhl. Missed the broadcasts? Check out video clips here of past MPG Challenge video.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Social Responsibility in 2008: Little Gifts, Big Impact

Being a socially responsible brand has several layers of meaning these days – from green business practices to supporting a worthy cause. But not all socially responsible practices are about being a large multi-national company or spending large amounts of cash. Most entrepreneurs know the value of the dollar and the challenges in accumulating and keeping it for long periods of time.

Back in the dotcom heydays of the 90’s when Internet millionaires were minted on paper every few minutes (it seemed), I would hear story after story of these same people creating non-profits, foundations and trusts in order to funnel their new-found riches into altruistic (not to mention tax-exempt) interests. Everyone seemed to be doing well and the money was flowing. But fast-forward to 2008 and the economy? Not so great as we all know. And as always in downtimes, it’s the little guys who feel the largest impacts – from the local libraries and arts groups to the elementary teachers and high school band group.

As I sit in my desert cloister, the state of Arizona is facing some of its largest deficits lending to the incredible challenges of funding public schools, city governments trying to keep up with law enforcement funding and public roads kept up to par. The quality of many of the basic amenities we all take for granted as citizens are threatened.

Librarians are being booted from elementary schools across the state; arts groups seem to be dropping like flies and to my own personal horror, local community symphonies are dropping from existence as well. Overwhelming it is, and the overall picture is far from how I would design it.

So what’s a socially conscious person to do? Give. I know, I hear your protests already: “But I don’t have the extra money!” “We’re not that big a company.” “We have to watch every dime as it is!”

The reality is there are a myriad of ways to give:

Small gifts of money: Can you honestly say you can’t afford $10, $20, $30? Even the smallest sum of cash donations goes a long way. The cost of a moderate dinner out can pay a community musician, neuter a cat, or buy books for a public school student.

Gifts of time: Can you listen to a child read for 30 minutes to help with reading? Foster care a kitten? Spend a couple of hours at the holidays reading to the elderly? Spend an hour consoling a crime victim in conjunction with your police department? The volunteer opps are endless, and I don’t know of any organization who does not appreciate even 30 minutes of your time.

Gifts of supplies: Sometimes even the most mundane items make a huge impact – a few extra office supplies donated to an arts group; an old cell phone donated to be refurbished for a domestic violence victim; magazines of interest to a nursing home or health practioner’s office who assists low-income populations; an unwanted gift card donated to an overworked, underpaid teacher just because. I just started donating my own read Wall Street Journals to the local high school down the street for their AP government and economics classes. Their response? Thrilled! Better than going straight to the recycling bin!

Take a brief moment to think. How do you make a difference? What are more ideas to give?

It doesn’t take a web mega-millionaire to have impact. There is power in numbers and a little goes a long way. Just start in your own backyard. Someone will thank you for it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Brands Twitter

Wondering what all the Web 2.0 fuss is about with brands? It's called using new communication and publishing technologies to actually have a real dialogue with customers and consumers. Rather than talking AT a consumer, social media gives instant, interactive opportunities to talk WITH a consumer. Some brands do it well by creatively exploring new trails, while others follow the technology instead of the purpose and are there as the proverbial copycat.

The microblogging phenomena known as Twitter is finally gaining traction in terms of the actual brands Twittering with real-life people. From Obama's campaign to JetBlue and H&R Block, brands, media outlets and politicians are using Twitter to its advantage to gain exposure, trust and (hopefully) capitalize on the viral effect of a positive brand image. The Twitter Brand Index put out by Fluent Simplicity is a growing, master list of brands represented on Twitter by category including higher education, professional services, government, media, and entertainment among others.

Note: my thanks to Elizabeth Albrycht for the Index heads up on FriendFeed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

12NEWS MPG Challenge

It's hot, humid and to be terribly honest, I am generally cranky this time of year as I melt into the asphalt desert known as Arizona. Gas prices are up, up, up and getting to the mountains is becoming costlier. To alleviate my summer-time blues, I offered to be a part of Phoenix's NBC affiliate Channel 12 News ongoing segment called the MPG Challenge. (You can see the video broadcast here.)

Call it a 5-minute reality show aired over several newscasts in the coming month, the MPG Challenge is the brainchild of veteran reporter Rick DeBruhl and challenges six contestants (including yours truly) to change our driving habits in order to get more miles to the gallon and save some moola at the gas pump. Think my Jeep Commander and I can change some habits to get more bang for the buck at the pump? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kids, Toys and Virtual Worlds - From Target to Cyberspace

With all the hoopla in the press over the last couple of years over the adult-driven virtual worlds such as, Second Life and Cyworld, virtual worlds for kids as young as four years old to tweens and young teens are exploding and actually making some money along the way. You can read my full article for Joey Sellers and Nic Mitham of KZero in the U.K. make a guest appearance.

Toy Brands Don’t Play Around in Virtual Worlds by Alycia de Mesa

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Brand Marketing 101 for Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur, to market successfully you have to define the basics of your brand and really KNOW what makes up your brand positioning in order to market it on- or off-line. It's surprising how many entrepreneurs gloss over this part, but skipping or skimping on the foundational basics will only lead to inefficient, ineffective marketing results.

Coming up with your brand positioning really can be as simple as answering the big W questions: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, WHEN

So let's begin...

WHO: Who are you? What's your brand name? Your descriptor? Your tag line? What visual design/images do you use? Do they effectively capture the next W of WHAT?

What do you do? What is it that everyone else in your industry does and is therefore a commodity? What do you do that is absolutely unique in your market?

WHERE: This is a trick W that means geographically where are you marketing, and who are your target audiences? Also, where/how do customers find you?

WHY: Why does your business exist? What void are you filling, and how would the world be different if your business didn't exist?

WHEN: The final W of WHEN is invaluable for managing marketing. If you want to achieve this goal on this date, back up from there to track how you're going to accomplish that goal task by task and how long that will really take.

When you answer these questions, be sure to answer them in regard to how things are right now in time as well as project out three years. Are there changes? Do you have more markets? More products and services to different types of customers? Be realistic about right here, right now but vision as well to what you aspire to be within a reasonable time frame.

Now take all of the above answers and formulate a few sentences that describe what you do - this can be both an elevator pitch to speak to someone as well as crafted into a polished statement often referred to as a POSITIONING STATEMENT.

I love this classic elevator pitch exercise. You're on an elevator, your ideal client/customer has just walked on to the elevator with you. You've been dying to reach this client/customer and now can speak to her with no interruptions for 5 floors. You have less than 60 seconds. What do you say to her? Go!

Ideally, what you just eloquently said in less than a minute encapsulated the answers to your W questions AND just made you a major sale.

Most entrepreneurs I've met over the years actually have a very hard time answering these basic questions. Without them, though, any type of brand marketing/brand building becomes inefficient and, more often than not, ineffective. And guess what? As an entrepreneur, you don't have the time OR money to waste on either!

While brand positioning can entail much more than the above, starting with the basics will give you the solid foundation required for building your brand to success.