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The “Same But Different” Naming Strategy Strikes Again

Jeep Exploits This Strategy To Make Its Plug-In Hybrid More Accessible

Last month I wrote a full debrief of the “Same But Different” naming strategy that McDonaldsTM is using with its CosMc’s beverage-focused chain. https://nameflash.com/2024/01/the-brilliance-of-same-but-different-as-a-naming-strategy/ I provided the science behind use of this strategy (and it is plentiful), but the TL; DR summary is familiarity breeds comfort when it comes to names of new ventures.

Recently JeepTM used the “Same But Different” strategy to launch its plug-in hybrid line “4 X e.” Even the clever logo design reinforces the plug-in aspect.

What Jeep is leveraging is decades of “4 X 4” communication. The public is so very comfortable with “4 X 4” as a moniker that putting a slight twist to it causes some people to notice the change. The replacement of the second “4” with “e” is a way to leverage that level of comfort into plug-in hybrids.

Even though I identified the “Same But Different” naming strategy in action, I am not a fan of its application here. “4 X 4” communicates a very specific quality of the vehicle. “4 X 4” indicates a system in which a vehicle’s engine powers all 4 wheels evenly with the end benefit of being able to get traction in messy situations like snow or off-road. “4 X e” twists that into something different.

Are these new Jeeps no longer 4 X 4? Have they reduced the effectiveness of the “4 X 4” capability of the plug-in hybrid Jeep? In other words, are “4 X e” vehicles less capable than regular Jeeps? If that creeps into the minds of consumers, this innovation is doomed!

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The Brilliance of “Same But Different” As A Naming Strategy

How McDonald’s Is Using This Strategy To Appeal To A Competitor’s Customers

Did you know that if your name is Dennis, you are significantly more likely to choose dentistry as a career?

While “Dennis the Dentist” might sound funny to you, there was a study done on the role of someone’s name on their career choice. In Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decisions Pelham, Mirenberg and Jones studied the role that people’s thoughts and feelings about themselves play in their important day-to-day decisions and behaviors. They concluded that because most people possess positive associations about themselves, most people prefer things that are connected to the self (e.g., the letters in one’s name).

The study on career choice examined the first names of Jerry, Dennis, and Walter which respectively ranked 39th, 40th, and 41st in frequency for male first names. A nationwide search focusing on each of these specific first names revealed 482 dentists named Dennis, 257 dentists named Walter, and 270 dentists named Jerry. Therefore, people named Dennis are significantly more likely than people named Jerry or Walter to work as dentists, which suggests that people named Dennis do, in fact, gravitate toward dentistry.

As another example, the researchers examined the relationship of someone’s first name and the city in which they live. Believe it or not, there are a disproportionate number of men named Jack living in Jacksonville and Phil living in Philadelphia. There are a disproportionate number of women named Mildred living in Milwaukee, as well as Virginias living in Virginia Beach. While it is possible that people named Jack tend to settle in Jacksonville, the authors suggest that new parents might be more open to those names that are consistent with their environment. The study was replicated in Canada and found that, like their American counterparts, Canadian residents tended to reside in places that resembled their surnames.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” is a quote from one of Aesop’s fables. It seems that in the case of brand names, however, familiarity breeds comfort. In the real world, people named Paul prefer Pepsi while those named Carol prefer Coke. Psychologists call this the Name-Letter Effect, and it is a well-studied phenomenon first identified by Jozef Nuttin. The Coke/Pepsi effect was shown to be especially relevant when respondents were thirsty in a study by C. Miguel Brendl et al. Some psychologists attribute this effect to “Implicit Egotism.” Given the numerous scientific studies that back this theory, it is hard to argue with their conclusions.

This week McDonald’s opened CosMc’s, a beverage-focused chain, in a suburb of Chicago (https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2023/12/08/mcdonalds-cosmcs-beverage-chain-starbucks/). This article claims that the competitor McDonald’s is attacking is Starbucks, and to a certain extent that appears to be true. But a more likely scenario is McDonald’s has Sonic in its sights. Sonic is the #11 Fast-Food Chain in America and growing rapidly.

This is where McDonald’s is using the “Same But Different” naming strategy. CosMc’s is about as close to Sonic as you can get from a trademark infringement standpoint. The product lineup at CosMc’s is very similar to the beverage focus of Sonic. And the menu items that aren’t beverages are very snackable tasty treats, like Sonic.

So where does the “…But Different” come into play? McDonald’s is fortunate to have an incredible backstory with CosMc, an orange alien introduced in the 1980’s (https://www.businessinsider.com/meet-cosmc-obscure-mcdonalds-alien-mascot-new-spinoff-chain-2023-7). The name also leverages the “Mc” which is the anchor for everything McDonald’s. Finally, CosMc’s extends the “happy place” feeling of McDonald’s even further. Just look at this “mission statement” from the CosMc.com website:

At CosMc’s, you’ll find exactly what you need to take you to your happy place. And you’ll feel rejuvenated by more than just a drink. We know that everyday life can weigh us down.

So we’re on a mission to lift humans up with every sip.

As I’ve often said, when you see brilliance in naming, you have to call it out. Well played McDonald’s!

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Five Steps To Develop Your Personal Brand

Personal Branding Is Not Just For Influencers — You Need It Too!

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com

I know, not another article on personal branding!

Here is a different way to think about it. “Personal Branding” is just a shortcut description of the process of figuring out who you are, what you stand for, how you interact with others, and where you are going in the future. I think everyone would agree that those are critically important things to understand and communicate. And that is what personal branding can do for you!

Personal branding is essential for leaders who want to be successful in their business efforts. Establishing a clear, concise, and compelling personal brand can enhance your trust and credibility, which can help in raising money or attracting public interest in your business. A strong personal brand can enable you to stand out from the crowd and establish yourself as an expert in your community. Finally, having a strong personal brand can lead to superior networking possibilities.

Building a personal brand may seem challenging, but it is actually a very simple process. This process mirrors the one I would use to develop a brand strategy when I was working at a top consumer products company. Here is the 5-step process for developing a personal brand:

  1. Identify your most important target audience.
  2. Define your role in your area of expertise.
  3. Communicate your meaningful point of difference.
  4. Provide the most important reason why one should believe this point of difference.
  5. Express your brand personality.

Let’s cover each step of the process in detail. Then I’ll show you how to put it together in a Personal Brand Positioning Statement that can be a touchstone for how to present yourself to the world.

TARGET AUDIENCE

While it is true that your personal brand will be exposed to everyone, you should not consider “everyone” to be your Target Audience. An effective leader will tailor his/her brand to the Target Audience that is most relevant.

Seth Godin is a marketing genius, and his book This Is Marketing contains an entire chapter dedicated to finding “The Smallest Viable Market” for your business, product, or service. Seth advocates starting small. Here are some relevant quotes from Chapter 4 of his book:

· “The relentless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average, it means the center of the curve, it requires you to offend no-one and satisfy everyone.”

· “Instead of trying to reach everyone,” he says, “we should seek to reach the smallest viable audience and delight them so thoughtfully and fully that they tell others.”

· “‘It’s not for you’ shows the ability to respect someone enough that you’re not going to waste their time, pander to them, or insist that they change their beliefs. It shows respect for those you seek to serve, to say to them, ‘I made this for you. Not for the other folks, but for you.’”

Consider the most relevant niche market for your personal brand and don’t be afraid to start small!

Here is an example. A few years ago, I hired a handyman to install a new garage door opener. He did a fantastic job. I was so impressed by his dedication to the quality of his work that I tried to get him to help me with some other projects. And even though these projects were well within his skillset he told me no, that he only did garage door openers. He said that focusing on garage door openers was enough to keep him busy, and because that was all he did he could delve into the intricacies of different manufacturers and models, to enable him to install all types of openers with ease. He truly was an expert in this niche, and I have recommended him to others who need to have a garage door opener installed. But don’t ask him to do anything else!

ROLE & AREA OF EXPERTISE

What do you call yourself? Are you a consultant? Are you a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer? Are you an expert in a specific field? Answer the question: What do you do?

Where do you operate? Consider geography if geography is important (e.g., a local plumber). Consider the scope of your operations (e.g., if you own a limousine are you in the transportation business or are you in the wedding party business or the bachelor party or prom business?).

The goal is to be able to communicate what you do in your area of expertise with just a few words. It could be as simple as “I’m a CPA who specializes in small business taxes.”

MEANINGFUL POINT OF DIFFERENCE

What is your unique “special sauce” that you, and only you, provide. Your Point of Difference should be the most compelling and motivating benefit that you can own in the hearts and minds of your Target Audience.

The word own is bolded and italicized because that is critically important. To establish a strong positioning in the marketplace, you must have a compelling and motivating benefit that you can own.

Here is a 3-step process to identify your Point of Difference:

Identify aspects of your product or service that your competitors cannot imitate. Put a star beside anything that cannot be easily duplicated, reproduced, or copied.
Decide what emotional need is being specifically met by your product or service. Think about this from the perspective of your Target Audience and add it to your list.
Answer the question your customers are asking: “What’s in it for me?” Make it to the point and state it as a benefit to the customer. Such as:

  • Target: “Expect more. Pay less.”
  • U.S. Peace Corp: “The toughest job you’ll ever love.”
  • M&M’s: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
  • FedEx: “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”

Your Point of Difference should be so clear that it stands out in a field of competing voices. For example, if my water heater dies, I’m calling “Mr. Water Heater” who offers “same day service.”

REASON WHY

Tell me why I should believe the meaningful Point of Difference. Provide evidence to support your claim. You could offer proof (over 1000 satisfied clients) or endorsement (recommended by Good Housekeeping or Angi) or expertise (only Bill Smith has served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate) or explanation (I’ve worked with disadvantaged youth since 1995 and have personally ensured that more than 100 have graduated from college) or even reviews (cite comments from people who have worked with you in the past).

BRAND PERSONALITY

Personality is all about how you will interact with your Target Audience. Personality humanizes your brand in the eyes of your Target Audience.

The traditional way to develop your Brand Personality is to describe your brand as a person. In other words, if you walked into the room, how would someone describe you? Is this the way you wish to be perceived? If not, consider how you might change your personality.

For example, in the comparison between Apple and Microsoft, Apple would be a young, hip, creative type and Microsoft would be an older, mature professional type. In fact, this difference was visualized in the famous “Mac versus PC” ads (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eEG5LVXdKo).

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Once you have done the work on each component, you should put them together in a Personal Brand Positioning Statement. Here is how I would do it:

To (TARGET AUDIENCE), I am a (ROLE & AREA OF EXPERTISE) that (MEANINGFUL POINT OF DIFFERENCE) because (REASON WHY). My brand personality is (BRAND PERSONALITY).

As an example, here is a Brand Positioning Statement for a small business CPA:

To owners of small businesses (under $1 million in sales), I am a CPA/tax preparer who is uniquely qualified to assist small businesses in tax preparation because I have 25+ years of experience in small business tax preparation and have a long list of satisfied clients. My brand personality is competence as evidenced by being intelligent and highly skilled, reliable in delivering results on time and within budget, and hard working (I work until the client is happy).

FINAL THOUGHTS

Personal Branding is an essential tool for business professionals to use to communicate who you are, what you stand for, how you interact with others, and where you are going in the future. A clear, concise, and compelling personal brand can supercharge your career, lead to immense personal growth, and maximize the impact you have in your areas of influence.

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Name It So Google Finds It

A lot of new businesses have jumped on the “Name It So Google Can Find It” #naming trend. Here are a few examples:

Thai Food Near Me™ (https://www.thaifoodnearmenyc.com/)

Barber Shop Near Me (https://www.barbershopnearmecoralsprings.com/)

Plumber Near Me ™ (https://plumbernearmerva.com/)

Launching your business with an SEO-driven name can be a powerful marketing tool, as long as there aren’t other companies with similar names. Google will even help with your marketing efforts, as the autofill feature often suggests “near me” as an appendage to a search term.

HT to The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/2023/10/26/23931825/google-search-local-seo-thai-food-near-me-maps

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What Type of Name Do You Want?

Name generation is easier if you decide on the type of name you want before you start developing names

Source: Author All Rights Reserved

Before you start thinking about a new name for your business, product, or service, you should pause and think about what type of name you want. I developed the chart above in conjunction with a trademark attorney. It classifies names into 5 different categories and notes the trademark strength of each (trademark strength improves from left to right) . Let’s examine the categories (from left to right).

GENERIC NAMES

Generic names are not ownable. They are not trademarkable. They offer no real insight into what your product can do. In short, generic names are useless. And yet many entrepreneurs want to develop generic names.

Stop it please. I understand that a generic name like Hotels.com communicates a class of products/services, and therefore seemingly implies ownership of that class of products/services. In reality, the opposite is true.

Consider the efforts brands like Kleenex or Band-Aid or even Google undertake to avoid becoming generic names that indicate a category. The reason they do this is simple: If you become generic, you lose the trademark. Here are a few examples of brand names that have lost their trademarks because they became generic: linoleum, cellophane, zipper, trampoline, dumpster, escalator, laundromat, and even aspirin were all once trademarked product names that have become generic names.

Never seek a generic name!

DESCRIPTIVE NAMES

One step up the trademark scale are descriptive names. Sometimes trademarks are possible for descriptive names. Sometimes they are not. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut rule to clarify this dilemma. But I have seen many descriptive names get bounced by the US Trademark Office.

Entrepreneurs love descriptive names. The main reason is entrepreneurs feel that having a name that describes what the product is or what it does is like getting free advertising. And that may be true. Unfortunately, most of the other entrepreneurs in your space had the same idea.

Here is an example. If you have developed a new food chopping device that enables you to chop food into smaller pieces faster, then you may want to name this product “Fast Chop” because “fast chopping” is the main benefit of the product. In doing so, you may believe that you will save money on advertising because every package of the product is a descriptive billboard that communicates the main product benefit!

Unfortunately, you may be failing to consider that the competitive set consists of products called EZ Chop, Speed Chop, QuickChop, TurboChop, etc. Nobody is going to notice your “Fast Chop” product even if the name is prominent on the package. Any advertising that is done will be wasted as well. Consumers may think the product is great, but when they get to the shelf, they will be confused by all the similar names and similar products.

Is a descriptive name a good idea? Possibly. Here is how I would decide. Get the names of up to 10 competitors of your product. Then place them on the graphic of the spectrum presented at the beginning. If your competition clusters around descriptive names, then you should avoid that area because you will never stand out versus the competition. If, on the other hand, your competition is concentrated in the fanciful or coined names area, a descriptive name might be welcomed by your target audience.

SUGGESTIVE NAMES

I’ll admit I’m biased, but I consider suggestive names to be the trademark sweet spot. They are usually trademarkable. They often suggest some benefits of your product or service. They have the potential to be differentiated against the competition.

And they can become quite powerful brand names. Consider these examples:

· Twitter — The dictionary defines Twitter as: A light, but frequent chatter from birds. Isn’t that a perfect name for a social media network designed to encourage brief conversation? (BTW don’t get me started on the switch to X!).

· Dove — Dove: A delicate bird with a soft cooing call. A perfect name for a gentle skin care line?

· Pampers — Pamper: Indulge every comfort and kindness. Isn’t that perfect for your baby?

The reason I like suggestive names is they create a “mind puzzle” with your branding. When the name is somewhat ambiguous, the customer will then have to find a way to make the connection between the name and the product. Often the customer will spend time trying to figure out why the name was chosen, which can lead to higher recall of the name later and positive attributions to the product. If you use a slightly ambiguous name, the consumer might actually enjoy the “mind puzzle” and won’t have to work too hard to get your point. When consumers solve the puzzle, they will then have a sense of accomplishment because they were able to figure it out.

ARBITRARY NAMES

Arbitrary names are another wonderful option. In this case you use a real word but use it out of context. Examples include Apple, Nike, and Amazon. In each case, the name is a real word that can be found in the dictionary, but the intended meaning of the brand name is different from the dictionary meaning.

They are a little more subtle than a suggestive name. A suggestive name’s meaning is closely aligned with a product benefit. An arbitrary name is not (although company founders often rationalize the name choice with a far-fetched story). Steve Jobs named the company Apple because he liked the fruit. Later, a backstory was developed to suggest the name Apple was a good fit for the brand positioning because Apple products are “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”

Arbitrary names require additional advertising and PR support to establish the linkage to product benefits. But in the end, they can be very strong brand names.

FANCIFUL NAMES

Fanciful names are the trademark attorney’s dream date and the marketer’s nightmare.

Names that are made up (like Exxon, Kodak, or Pixar) are the easiest to get trademarked because they have little competition. But they are a marketer’s nightmare because they require a substantial investment to generate meaning.

As a name developer, I love the freedom that fanciful names allow. But honestly, they are usually a difficult sale to a client (unless of course the client thought of it first!). Trying to convince a CEO that a random name makes sense for the product is never easy. And consumer testing of fanciful names is particularly frustrating because consumers have no context for the name and often rank fanciful names well below more traditional choices.

Despite the shortcomings, if you have the opportunity to launch a breakthrough fanciful name you can be perceived as innovative and forward thinking. If your situation allows fanciful names, you should consider them!

SUMMARY

In reality, 4 out of 5 of these categories of names will work (please say no to generic names). Obviously, you may have a personal preference for one category and if you want that type of name then go for it! Just be careful about the influence of existing competitive names.

Here is a visual way to demonstrate the competitive issue. In the three groups of circles shown below, the circle in the center is always the same size. However, as you can see, the center circle looks smaller or larger based upon the size of the other circles surrounding it. The group of circles on the right has six similarly sized circles, and you can see how it is impossible to distinguish one from another. It is far better to be the outlier, such as the center circle in the first two groups of circles.

Don’t be like the group of circles on the right. Make sure you choose the type of name that will help you stand out from your competitors.

Choose the type of name you want before you start brainstorming! It will make your task easier!

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How to Use AI to Generate Names for Your Startup

A professional name developer (me) suggesting that you use AI to generate names? Blasphemy!

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Yes, it’s true. I’m suggesting that you use AI to generate names. NOTE: I emphasized the word generate because I am not suggesting that you use AI to analyze or choose the name you will use.

I’ve always said the hard part of being a professional name developer is not generating names, but rather deciding on the best names from a massive list of names. The reality is you should not have a hard time generating names, but most of us don’t know how to pick the perfect name from the masses. That is why you pay a professional name developer!

But many people cannot afford to hire a professional name developer, and that is why a lot of people are jumping on the “AI Name Generation” bandwagon. And frankly, I know many name developers who use AI to generate names to round out the effort of human name generators (myself included).

The good news? AI is really good at generating names if, and only if, you provide it with proper direction.

The bad news? You will be inundated with names. So many names. You will feel like you are trying to get a drink from a fire hose. So the new challenge becomes “how do I choose the right name?”

Fortunately, there is a straightforward process to make AI work for you.

Step 1: Proper Direction

Giving AI proper direction to generate relevant names is not easy. In fact, “Prompt Engineers,” people who spend their day coaxing AI to produce better results, are a hot career option right now.

If you are not an AI whisperer, fear not. You can leverage the knowledge of others by looking at sample AI prompts on this website. Once you get the idea of what makes a good prompt, you can develop one for your name generation exercise.

I strongly suggest that you provide AI with as much strategic information on your naming task as you can. I would include specifics on your target audience, the market in which you compete, your unique selling proposition, the brand personality, and much more. If you want to get a better understanding of the strategic elements of the naming effort, you can check out my DIY Naming book (https://diynaming.com/).

I’ve constructed a sample prompt for you below (the product is a novel toilet plunger and the info below is totally made up). I used this prompt with ChatGPT and got the following:

ME: You are a professional naming expert with great skill in developing names. Come up with ten names for a toilet plunger that indicate the plunger minimizes the effort to clear a clogged toilet. Unlike other toilet plungers, you just have to push once and the clog is cleared. While other toilet plungers talk about power, we want to talk about easy to use. The toilet plunger will likely be purchased by men aged 25 to 65 at a home improvement store such as Home Depot or Lowe’s. Please give the meaning behind each name and your rationale for recommending each name.

CHATGPT: Sure, here are ten name options for a toilet plunger that minimizes the effort required to clear a clogged toilet:

  1. EasyPush: This name highlights the ease of use by emphasizing that all it takes is one push to clear a clogged toilet.
  2. OnePush: This name is simple and straightforward, emphasizing that users only need to push the plunger once to clear the clog.
  3. QuickClear: This name highlights the speed and ease of clearing a clog with this plunger, with the emphasis on “quick” and “clear.”
  4. Effortless: This name emphasizes that the plunger requires minimal effort to use and clears clogs easily.
  5. PushClear: This name combines the action required to use the plunger with the end result of clearing the clog, emphasizing that all it takes is one push to clear a clogged toilet.
  6. ClogEase: This name combines the words “clog” and “ease” to emphasize the easy-to-use nature of the plunger.
  7. SwiftPlunge: This name emphasizes the speed and efficiency of the plunger, with the word “swift” conveying a sense of quickness.
  8. OneShot: This name is concise and memorable, emphasizing that users only need to use the plunger once to clear the clog.
  9. SmoothClear: This name combines the ideas of ease and efficiency, emphasizing that the plunger provides a smooth and easy way to clear a clogged toilet.
  10. EasyClear: This name is simple and straightforward, emphasizing the ease of use and the end result of a clear toilet.

Overall, these names focus on the ease of use and efficiency of the plunger, with names like EasyPush, QuickClear, and ClogEase emphasizing the ease of clearing clogs, while names like OnePush and OneShot emphasize the minimal effort required. Names like Effortless and SmoothClear combine both ideas to emphasize both the ease and efficiency of the plunger.

So how did ChatGPT do? I’d give it a B minus. If you are looking for functional names that indicate the benefits, then you might score it higher. But there is no “Swiffer” equivalent here. Of course, you could tweak your prompt and try again until you get a healthy list of names that you like.

NOTE: I’m guessing that none of these names would pass trademark clearance, as functional names saturate most markets.

Step 2: Sorting and Screening

Once you get a list of ten names you like, you might want to pause and evaluate. There are 4 important evaluation steps you must complete:

1. Does the name align with your strategy? Does it address the needs of your target audience? Does it hint at your point-of-difference? Perhaps it suggests a rationale for the product. Is the brand personality expressed in the name?

2. Is the name clearly differentiated versus your competition? Does the name sound like your competitor’s name? Would people confuse the two? If you put your name on a competitor’s product, would it work?

3. Is the name available from a trademark standpoint? You can’t mess around with this one. You must see if the name is in use elsewhere. If you do a Google search and see someone else using the name, then in general you can’t use it. You should also examine the US Trademark Office records here: uspto.gov.

4. What does your target market think of the name? The best way to validate your name is to ask your target audience what they think. Big companies would commission a several thousand-dollar market research study to accomplish this task. You can do this for a fraction of the cost by using a cost-effective research tool like 1Q (https://site.1q.com/). Simply ask the following question using your final name selections, and you can get results for as little as $1 per question per respondent:

We’ve created a new toilet bowl plunger that minimizes the effort to clear a clogged toilet. What should we call it?

a. FastFlush

b. Magic Plunger

c. Perfect Plunge

d. MegaPlunger

e. Plungeriffic

You can spend $100 and get a good understanding of which names rise to the top from 100 members of your target audience.

If you need more details, each of these steps are covered in detail in my DIY Naming book.

Step 3: Decide

This one is easy! Simply use the Name Evaluation Tool (available free at https://payhip.com/b/VkI56 ) to score the name you have chosen. If your name scores well then you could be done! If not, rinse and repeat!

You can use AI to help you develop a winning name! If you need further assistance, feel free to reach me at www.NameFlash.com!

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The Naming Lesson From The Pac-12 Fiasco

The Pac-12 college football conference no longer has 12 teams. In fact, after the recent departures, they are down to 4 teams. Conversely, the Big Ten Conference now has 14 teams and will soon have 18. The Big 12 conference will grow to 16 teams.

Confused?

Well, that is the issue with launching your brand with a name that immediately limits your expansion potential.

When the Big Ten Conference added Penn State in 1990 they grew to 11 teams. They tried to finesse their branding by including the number 11 in the negative space around their name:

The Big Ten had 11 teams for 20+ years until they added Nebraska in 2011 and then rapidly added Maryland and Rutgers. They modified their logo to just say “10.”

However, those clever logo gymnastics would not have been necessary if the people in charge of the brand had followed an important rule of name development: Names should allow for future expansion. Clearly the Big Ten Conference name was a gross violation of this principle.

Another brand name in the news has also demonstrated a violation of this principle: Overstock.com. When the company was started in 1997 it had a very niche positioning – selling excess inventory from other companies. But over time the name Overstock.com has proven to be limiting as the company grew to include many other product lines that were not just excess inventory.

Overstock.com recently acquired the digital assets of Bed Bath & Beyond, and has relaunched Overstock.com as Bed, Bath & Beyond. In particular, the “& Beyond” flexibility overcomes the limitations of the Overstock.com name.

But they would not have had to do that if they had chosen a more flexible name in the first place.

I get it. Companies with a niche positioning want to focus on the very narrow definition of the brand. And in the Big Ten Conference situation, I don’t think anyone was considering how significant the brand would become when it was named in the 1950’s.

But CEO’s need to provide long-term thinking and expansion possibilities when considering the name.

My advice is to always allow for future expansion in the name. That is one of the key points in my Name Evaluation Tool (available free at https://payhip.com/b/VkI56).

In the meantime, Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-12…I’m available if you want to rebrand!

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Taco Tuesday & The Trademark Bully

Photo by ABDALLA M on Unsplash

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines trademark bullying as “the act where the trademark owner uses its trademark rights to harass and intimidate another business beyond what the law might be reasonably interpreted to allow.”

The classic example of a trademark bully is Apple. Here is an example of their overreach. As detailed in this article, Apple is challenging farmers in Switzerland over their use of an apple in their logo as shown below. I don’t know about you, but this use of the apple image doesn’t seem like it is infringing on the Apple Inc. use of an apple.

This is not the first time Apple has pursued action against another company’s apple trademark. The most famous example is when Apple Inc. challenged Apple Corps (the record company owned by The Beatles). In 2007, Apple Inc. and Apple Corps reached a settlement of their trademark dispute under which Apple Inc. owns all the trademarks related to “Apple” and will license certain of those trademarks back to Apple Corps for their continued use.

I do understand the need to challenge other companies when a trademark application comes close to home. The law demands that a trademark owner defend its trademark against such incursions or else it can lose its trademark protection. However, I can also attest to the fact that these defensive actions are often perceived as “big company beating up the little guy” and can generate lots of negative PR.

The Taco Tuesday trademark fiasco is a different approach by a big company. “Taco Tuesday” has been trademarked for more than 40 years by Taco John’s, a fast-food chain from Wyoming. However, in May, Taco Bell filed a challenge with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, urging the agency to cancel the “Taco Tuesday” trademark so it would be “freely available to all who make, sell, eat and celebrate tacos.”

Let me repeat that. Taco Bell decided that a valuable trademark that is owned by a competitor should be invalidated, and started legal proceedings to challenge the trademark.

This is just another form of trademark bullying (or is it Trademark Blackmail?). In this case, Taco Bell, a large global company with deep pockets, has thrown down the gauntlet against a much smaller company, Taco John’s. Their actions indicated that they were coming after Taco John’s trademark and would be willing to sue to get it. I won’t try to predict who would win a lawsuit, but I tell you with certainty that Taco Bell would have a lot more funding and lawyers to persist in the lawsuit and appeals than Taco John’s would. Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel said in a statement that paying millions to defend the trademark didn’t “feel like the right thing to do.” “As we’ve said before, we’re lovers, not fighters, at Taco John’s,” Creel said.

Taco John’s gave up a valuable trademark rather than fight an expensive legal battle. They did so in noble fashion, by issuing a challenge to Taco Bell and other competitors. Instead of spending money on the trademark dispute, Taco John’s donated around $40,000 to the nonprofit Children of Restaurant Employees, which provides financial aid to restaurant workers when they, a spouse or their children face a life-altering crisis. “Let’s see if our friends at Taco Bell are willing to ‘liberate’ themselves from their army of lawyers by giving back to restaurant families instead,” Creel said.

But still…another big company gets away with “legal”  bullying…again.

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How to Name Your Startup in 8 Simple Steps

This article provides a process you can use to name your business, product, or service. There are 8 simple steps and if you do the work that is required, you can develop a great name very quickly.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a professional name developer with 25+ years of experience in branding and marketing. Companies pay me a significant amount of money to develop names for them. I also wrote a book titled DIY Naming (https://payhip.com/b/lzPH8) that expands on the process in this article. But you don’t have to hire me or buy my book if you would rather “Do-It-Yourself!” So let’s get started!

Step 1: Develop Objectives
Most people who start a business have a single-minded objective for naming => Develop A Great Name. But what does that mean? The reason you develop naming objectives before you start to brainstorm is to decide what you want the name to do for you and to provide criteria for evaluating names.

When developing the objectives for your naming project, you should consider the following questions:

  • What does the future look like and what role will your company play in it?
  • What is the current and future competitive set and how do you want to differentiate from the competition?
  • How do you want your customer to feel after hearing/reading your name?
  • What are the unique attributes of your company/product/service and how do you want your name to reflect that uniqueness?
  • How will your business expand in the future and how can your name flex to fit that future?
  • Can your name project a certain image or personality?
  • How will I know when I have identified a great name?

One tool I use to evaluate names is The Name Evaluation Tool, a simple 10-Step Checklist to evaluate a name. It will quickly give you an idea of the strengths or weaknesses of your names. It will also tell you where your names are lacking, so you can go back to the drawing board. I have found this tool to be very helpful in setting up objectives for a naming project.

Your naming objectives might be as simple as: “We have a groundbreaking product that will revolutionize the ABC industry, so we want a name that stands apart from the competition and evokes the future that we imagine. The name must be easy to pronounce, read and spell, and be memorable. Most importantly, the name must convey the benefits that our product delivers and must give our target customers the belief that we are the new market leader.”

But wait! Don’t write down your objectives in ink just yet. Do the next step to help you understand how to stand out versus the competition.

Step 2: Evaluate Competition
Here is a visual way to demonstrate why the competitive set is so important to consider. In the three groups of circles shown below, the circle in the center is always the same size. However, as you can see, the center circle looks smaller or larger based upon the size of the other circles surrounding it. The group of circles on the right has six similarly sized circles, and you can see how it is impossible to distinguish one from another. It is far better to be the outlier, such as the center circle in the first two groups of circles.

Don’t be like the group of circles on the right. Make sure you develop a name that ensures you will stand out versus the competition!

One way to do that is to consider the type of name you wish to develop. Start by listing all the companies that you consider to be competitors. You should have a list of at least 8–10 companies. And please don’t say “I have no competition.” Everyone has competition. If you think about your company’s product or service and think of possible substitutions for them (even if you consider them to be inferior), then you will easily generate names of competitors. If you are in doubt, visit Amazon or Google and enter your product into the search bar. You will find your competitors.

The next step is to assess the names of the competitors and place them into the spectrum as shown below.

Once you understand where your competitors are, you can formulate your own strategy for standing out. For example, if the competitive set for your food chopping device consists of products with descriptive names like EZ Chop, Speed Chop, QuickChop, or TurboChop, don’t call your product FastChop because you will get lost in the field of sameness at the shelf. In this case, you should avoid descriptive names altogether.

In the example I provided earlier, you might want to modify the objective to mandate development of a fanciful name as those are often considered to be cutting edge or high tech. The revised Naming Objectives might be: “We have a groundbreaking product that will revolutionize the ABC industry, so we want a fanciful or invented name that stands apart from the competition and evokes the future that we imagine. The name must be easy to pronounce, read and spell, and be memorable. Most importantly, the name must convey the benefits that our product delivers and must give our target customers the belief that we are the new market leader.”

Step 3: Naming Strategy
Never start a name development project without a solid strategy. You need to have a strategic positioning that provides a solid foundation for your branding and marketing efforts. The entire marketing strategy can be summarized in one statement that is called a Brand Positioning Statement.

There are five components to a positioning statement:

  • Target Audience — A demographic and attitudinal description of the core prospect to whom the brand is intended to appeal.
  • Frame of Reference — The category in which the brand competes.
  • Point of Difference — The most compelling and motivating benefit that the brand can own in the hearts and minds of its target audience relative to the competition.
  • Reason to Believe — The most convincing proof that the brand delivers what it promises.
  • Personality — The tonality of your brand expression.

Positioning Statement Format:
For (target audience), (brand name) is the (frame of reference) that delivers (point of difference) because only (brand name) is (reason to believe). We will express this positioning as (personality).

Once you nail this positioning statement, you will fully set the guidelines for development of your name.

Step 4: Generate Names
Now for the fun part!

You probably already have a list of names, so now you are looking at how to expand the list. I suggest you do that by starting with keywords. Begin by compiling a very comprehensive list of keywords for your company, product, or service. Keywords include:

  • Search Terms — What do people use when they search for you?
  • User Terminology — What do people say when they talk about you?
  • Common Reference Terms — Category reference terms.
  • Product Benefits — What does your product offer?
  • Synonyms — Identify words that mean the same as another keyword.
  • Desirable Attributes — What do you want to be to your target?

This list gets used with several of the later steps, so continue adding words until you feel completely stuck. Shoot for 50+ keywords on your list.

Once you have a broad and deep list of keywords, you can begin creating names from these keywords. For example, if you have a list of product benefits as keywords, you might try to convert one of them to a name as we did when naming this product:

This cough syrup is honey-based and it is effective in soothing coughs, so HoneyWorksTM was a great name!

If you are stuck with the name generation phase, consider buying my DIY Naming book, because it has 32 different ways to generate additional keywords and methods to convert keywords into names.

Step 5: Sorting and Screening
At this point you should have 100+ name candidates. Quantity will drive quality, as the number of good names you generate increases as you generate more names. When companies hire NameFlashSM for a naming project, we often generate thousands of names! But realistically you cannot run trademark checks on thousands of names (unless you are a bored trademark attorney). So you have to reduce your list of names to a more reasonable number to proceed to trademark clearance. Cut your list down to 15–20 names.

One obvious way to do that is to check the names against your naming objectives and strategic positioning. Toss out names that do not meet the criteria you’ve established.

I like to organize a large list of names by creating an affinity diagram. This enables you to group similar names together into clusters. This will enable you to review the clusters and pick the strongest names in each cluster for further analysis.

Step 6: Trademark Clearance
The greatest mistake you could make would be to choose a name that conflicts with another trademark that is in use, because that trademark owner will send you a “cease and desist” letter that either results in an expensive lawsuit or an abandonment of the name by you. Either one is extremely expensive and time consuming.

A business needs to conduct a trademark search before investing time and money into a new brand. Although no search can reveal every possible conflict that may exist with a trademark, a proper search can steer you clear of any big problems. You can do your own trademark search using the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The TESS trademark search process is not the easiest process to use, but if you follow the instructions on the website you should be able to figure it out.

You can also use trademark search software such as Trademark Bob to help expedite the search process. Trademark Bob’s price is $9.99 per goods/service description, so it is reasonably affordable.

If you want to get a lawyer involved, you’ll pay more. Some trademark attorneys will do a knockout search for you for $50 to $100 per name. But a comprehensive trademark search using a trademark attorney will be a lot more.

My advice on trademark conflicts is to eliminate the obvious conflicts with a 3-step process:

  • Conduct a search using the TESS search vehicle at the USPTO or Trademark Bob.
  • Do a Google search for your name.
  • Try to buy the www.yourname.com domain at GoDaddy.

If these 3 steps do not show any conflicts, then the odds of a serious trademark conflict are minimal.

Step 7: Validate Your Choice
At this point you should have a short list (3–5 names) of leading candidates.

Before you choose a name, you need to validate the name. And by “validate” I do not mean to ask your partner or friends what they think. In fact, any person you are friends with or are related to do not get a vote. Why? Because these people will have a built in “positive bias” to anything you suggest and will not provide honest and objective feedback. If your name is bad, they won’t tell you so because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

The best way to validate your name is to ask your target audience what they think. Big companies would commission a several thousand-dollar market research study to accomplish this task. You can do this for a fraction of the cost by using a cost-effective research tool like 1Q (https://site.1q.com/). Simply ask the following question using your final name selections, and you can get results for as little as $1 per question per respondent:

We’ve created a new toilet bowl plunger that does a better job of clearing the blockage. What should we call it?

FastFlush
Magic Plunger
Perfect Plunge
MegaPlunger
Plungeriffic

You can spend $100 and get a good understanding of which names rise to the top from 100 members of your target audience.

Step 8: Final Assessment of Name
This one is easy! Simply use the Name Evaluation Tool to score the name you have chosen.

Hopefully you’ve developed a winning name! If you need further assistance, feel free to reach me at www.NameFlash.com!

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Is The Economy Making Marketers Risk Averse?

A few years ago, Heinz embarked on a journey to extend their Heinz condiment franchise. The concept was simple and straightforward: Let’s add some stuff to ketchup/mustard/mayo and see what happens!

The branding was straightforward too. It was a very simple 1 + 1 = 3 idea of branding, as evidenced by the photos above and below. Add two standards together and you get a new creation! What fun!

Heinz recently announced some new varieties of ketchup/sauce. They look like great products and I can’t wait to try them, but notice the simple and straightforward branding:

Gone are the clever monikers (e.g., MAYOCHUP) as the branding just says this is ketchup with an added ingredient.

Did Heinz not want to take the risk of introducing a new name into the category? Are consumers tired of “cute” in branding?

Time will tell if this is a blip or a trend.

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