I am pleased to announce the second edition of my book Merriam’s Guide to Naming is now available. In the half dozen years since the first edition, I’ve led over a hundred company and product naming projects for Fortune 500 multinationals, mid-size companies and start-ups. As part of this work, I’ve helped executives wrestle with questions and deal with challenges that were not adequately covered in the first edition. And, in reviewing dozens of magazine articles I’ve written and media interviews I’ve given, I realized I had a large body of new knowledge on the subject of naming. Merriam’s Guide to Naming was quite overdue for a redo. Click here to order.
Working with Everbrand, we helped rebrand a revolutionary technology for managing corporate knowledge: Auros.
Writing with Jeff Moffa, Vice President for Knowledge Systems at Auros, we wrote this article for Manufacturing.net: What happens when your company experts retire or move to another company, taking your corporate knowledge with them?
Why is the name of the Redskins football team suddenly a huge controversy? If it is racist, why wasn’t there a huge outcry back in the 1960s? Why has it taken decades for the eternal victim class to make this an issue in 2013? Truly, this is another example of people with nothing better to do suddenly throwing a temper tantrum to get quoted in the media. Offense is taken much more than it is given.
NFL team names celebrate some sort of image. These names are about honor. Anyone who has sung themselves hoarse (I’ll admit it, but beer is soothing) singing “Hail to the Redskins” knows they are singing about honor, respect, pride and achievement, not denigrating a skin color or race.
- Is Pittsburgh insulting steel workers with their team name?
- Are Nordic types offended by purple-wearing vikings?
- Is Nancy Pelosi bent out of shape her hometown team is an outrage to the early California pioneers?
- And how about Buffalo?–what a slap in the face to everyone called Bill for gosh sakes!
- And Houston fans must feel terribly affronted that their team is called–gasp–Texans.
The Redskins should stay with the Redskins name. Fans who paint their bodies burgundy and gold should continue to do so with pride. Someone on Twitter suggested the team should change their logo to a potato–that’s a much better choice than destroying years of tradition and homage just to shut up the latest batch of complainers. (Past has shown they don’t shut up, they just gin up new crap to complain about.)
My recommendation: Call them the Washington Thinskins.
Fun fact–the Green Bay Packers were named after Curly Lambeau’s employer, the Indian Packing Company, which paid for the team’s first jerseys and let them practice on company property. How offensive to Indians and native Americans (who are not at all native to this continent).
Okay–comments now open for those wishing to post their gratuitous accusations that I am a racist.
UPDATE: This clear-eyed article in “Real Clear Sports” debunks much of the bunkum behind this fake controversy: What Should Be Redskins’ New Name?
GM’s Volt is the new Edsel, selling far few cars than that famous bomb did in the 1950′s and 1960′s. In fact, compared to the Volt, the Edsel was a blockbuster.
sold in three years
sold in three years
Ford sold 116,000 Edsels between 1958 and 1960. GM sold 7,671 Volts in 2011 and 23,461 in 2012. GM announced this week that they have dropped the price $5,000, but that hasn’t goosed sales. The company had a record-setting June, with 2,698 sold, however, sales started to slide again in July with 1,788 sold. Considering that between January and May, only 7,157 Volts were sold, that means the brand has sold only 11,643 to date. The company must sell over 2,300 Volts a month just to equal last year’s number.
Even if Volt sales were to suddenly hit near record levels for the next five months, the brand will have sold well under 55,000 units over three years.
GM Volt 55,000 (if REALLY lucky)
Ford Edsel 116,000
We called this bomb early here.
In celebration of the release of World War Z, here is a run down of the best and worst named zombie movies:
|| Night of the Living Dead
|Not only the best zombie movie, but the best named zombie movie.
It has the wit of juxtaposition with living vs. dead and the ominous
promise of night.
|| Shaun of the Dead
|Stops your eye and gets your attention with the play on words.
References the classic Dawn of the Dead with a sense of humor.
|Zingy–with a play on Zed, which is undead jargon for zombie and
is a portmanteau for “deader.” Totally ownable as a brand.
What makes these names work is they aren’t literal. The word “zombie doesn’t appear once. They have stopping power to get attention through wit and originality. They make a promise and invite you to take a look.
|A common mistake–using a description for a name. There is nothing to see
here, no promise–just a zombie movie. So what?
|| Planet Terror
|This one makes the mistake of being trendy. You can clearly tell this movie
came out when everyone was naming thing Planet-This and Planet-That.
|Okay, you don’t want to get descriptive, but you don’t want to totally confuse
either. This movie could be about anything. Really a dog of a name.
Boring, descriptive, confusing names don’t deliver brand success.
Opponents of genetically modified foods are successfully skitching on the Monsanto brand. As a kid growing up in Chicago, I used to grab the fenders of passing cars for an exhilaratingly fast slide on icy roads. “Skitching” is a portmanteau combining skate and hitch. Political causes often grab onto the power of well-known brands to use their power to efficiently communicate their messages and the get attention in the media. The nicely alliterative “March Against Monsanto” is just the latest example of brand skitching.
Organizers of today’s marches claim over 2 million people participated in over 400 evens in 52 countries according to founder and organizer Tami Canal. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” she said in media interviews.
Skitching off the Monsanto brand brought Canal’s cause enormous attention that would have been hard to obtain without the connection to this chemical boogeyman. Monsanto has long been associated with reviled chemicals like DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange.
Old Monsanto Logo
New Monsanto Logo
The company adopted a new logo in 1999 (with the tagline “Food. Health. Hope.”) and spends a fortune talking about the “new” Monsanto being “a sustainable agriculture company.” Despite these investments in trying to build an earth-friendly image, the brand negatives are still high, making it ideal for skitching.
As a mother and entrepreneur, getting the balance right isn’t always easy. This article talks about working from home trying to focus and balancing home and kids. While I don’t get to work from home much–client projects have me working for all the heck over the place–keeping all the plates spinning can be a challenge. Happy Mother’s Day to all you special ladies out there. Okay–back to branding.
(More press here.)
Congratulations to my client, the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits on their new Web site. It’s always a pleasure to work with Chicagoans, especially those who appreciate good writing and good SEO. Visit the site here.
Louisville Slugger unveiled its new logo this week and it is a home run. So often, when companies have adopted a new logo, they have stripped their visual identity of all personality in favor of “updating,” “streamlining,” or “going more upscale.” Louisville Slugger wisely went in another direction. For a brand well into its second century of life and with such an iconic following, they wisely adopted a look that is t full of personality. The new look is at once timeless and contemporary, but would not be out of place at the turn of the century–the last century.
Contrast this success with ebay’s charmless new look. When your new logo works, you also mitigate the I-hate-the-new-look impulse reaction that many rebranding efforts provoke.
I am honored to have helped marketing guru Philip Kotler and international marketing expert Milton Kotler set up their new Web site: www.KotlerOnGrowth.com.
The Web site offers their topical and timely thinking on headline issues and promotes their new book just out from Wiley, NY: Market Your Way to Growth: 8 Ways to Win.
Starting today, you can download the first chapter free here.
Always happy to dip an oar for fellow Chicagoans!