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What's In A Name?

By - March 02, 2009

As part of a partnership with HP, I’m writing over at their new Small Business Marketing Guide. Longtime readers know I always am transparent about these deals, as I was with my work at American Express. I love this work, because it lets me write longer form, and never tells me what to write about.

Here’s an excerpt of the piece:

We humans are all wired for a great story. We love narrative, it’s how we relate to each other and the world. Over the course of the past 20 years I’ve been involved in naming a lot of new things – from the early days at Wired (more on that in a minute) to Web 2.0, to my current work at Federated Media. And as I review all the names and brands I’ve been involved in starting or advising, one thing becomes crystal clear to me: the best names are ones that have a great story buried inside.

It’s often said that a brand is a “vessel waiting to be filled.” In other words, you can call a new product or service anything, and after a while, if your product is successful, that brand will come mean whatever experience it ends up delivering. While I generally agree with the thesis, I’ve found that having a great story is a very good way to jumpstart a new brand, and a great way to help sell it and keep defining it in the long term.

Read the entire post here.

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4 thoughts on “What's In A Name?

  1. Ross Martin says:

    Wow, John, I didn’t realize that the real founders of Yahoo were “Jerry Yang and David Brin”. 😉

  2. Ken says:

    Site not rendering properly in Safari + Firefox (Mac). Left margin of article is cut off.

  3. Hi Ken,
    I am the editor for the Small Business Marketing Guide. I wanted to let you know that I am passing your comment to our technical development team to resolve the viewing problem you mentioned.

    Thank you for visiting the site and taking the time to comment about this. Please check back with us and browse the site again!

    Editor, Small Business Marketing Guide

  4. Sitemap says:

    The storyteller is the always the best salesman.

    It can take years to get the right name: even though I knew I had a great idea, because I had both David Pogue and John Dvorak on board with the concept, getting the team together didn’t take off until I came up with a tagline: “What’s Cool, What’s Hot, and What’s Not.” Even then, it took me months to realize that CoolHotNot would make a great brand. Once I snapped up the domain, everything fell into place for and getting a great team all on board. Should be going live with the beta soon now, and with a name that’s easy to spell and easy to remember, it makes the concept that much easier to get.

    Team OS/2 (see Wikipedia) was also successful (as a concept at least, if not by its ultimate failure to stop Microsoft) largely because the name was instantly appealing to its audience and told a story all by itself.