Rules for race horse names are rules for your product names

On the eve of the second leg of the Triple Crown, NBC Sports recently ran a little video explaining the rules associated with naming race horses. Turns out that the American Stud Book, Principal Rules and Procedures actually lays out some specific rules to do with the naming of those racing horses. These include:

  • Cannot be more than 18 characters long
  • Cannot end with horse, filly, mare, stallion, etc
  • Numbers over 30 must be spelled out
  • Can be the name of a living person but only with written consent
  • May not be vulgar or obscene
  • Cannot be designed to humiliate any individual
  • Cannot be named after any previous triple crown winner

RaceHorseIn my family there have been lots of relatives that  wager on the ponies, but it will never be my diversion. However, as a naming nut I have often been fascinated by horse names, for one other reason:  They all have to be unique.  After all, you can’t bet or race two horses with the same name as no one would know which is which.

So why do so many execs not take extreme care to make sure the name for their product line is not very unique?  Because they thought up the “perfect” name?  Because they simply like that name? Because they are different (or indifferent) to the competition? Or are they just naive or lazy?

Remember, you are naming the product, not describing it. And if you are not very creative with words, simply pick up the latest horse racing form guide and you will have a plethora of new ideas to work from – and have some fun doing it too.


© Copyright 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide–

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Industrial Products Naming, Naming Education, Sports Naming, Technology Names, Trademarks

How to name your solar company or products

Last time I calculated carefully, there was a solar startup about every four and half hours in the USA alone. Even if that has now slowed down to two a day (probably unlikely or very conservative), what are you going to call your new solar startup? Or solar related product line?

Solar, Sun, Green Energy, Home Solar, Voltaic, and precious few other words are used to describe this industry, its players and its products. And these words were long ago explored extensively and any simple usage of these are long gone. In fact there are many Home Solar small companies across the country which are not related to each other. There are even three different companies, all with a registered trademark of different sorts, on the name Sun Power®.

naming solar startups or branded productsOf course you can always name a company after yourself. But what when you want to sell it off or bring in partners or shareholders, not to mention confusion in the marketplace. Last time I looked there were over 30 registered corporations in Ohio with the name Garcia in them. Imagine if I tried such a search in California or Florida?

When I told a Chinese exec about our dilemma, he just laughed and said they were even out of even family last names in China for solar products and were now down to initials only.

So you need to get creative and explore many, many more roots and combinations and permutations thereof. Or use a naming agency with experience in the field. Over 10 years ago we came up with the name Solyndra – from Solar and Cylindrical. They have since had a meteoric rise and even quicker collapse. But we still have all the hundreds of names off the master list to use as a basis for naming another company. Similarly for lists from many other green projects we have worked on. Agencies like ours that track names can save you a lot of time, money  and headaches, both now and downstream with marketing and trademarks.

After all, as Ries and Trout said in their seminal book on branding: Your name is your primary weapon in the battle for the mind. Surely it is worth more than the cost of your first brochure or a product manager’s one month salary?


© Copyright 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide–

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Domain Names, Industrial Products Naming, Naming Education, Naming News, Naming Resources, Technology Names, Trademarks

A classy brand as soon as you hear the name.

RevereLogoIf you are going to name your company after yourself, as so many do, it really helps when you have a last name as impactful as Alan Revere does. But he didn’t stop there. So today when I review the names of all the top jewelry schools in the USA, Revere Academy stands out from the crowd. Two great words to make one great name. Even though the name skews heavily to the NorthEast for historical reasons. Even though the business is located in San Francisco. Even though the school is in an old high rise in downtown San Francisco and does not look like a campus at all. The word Academy is so much more powerful than school or training in a context like this.

As I have often repeated, and based on my primer Brighter Branding, a name is a not a brand. It is merely shorthand for a brand. You still have to execute well on your brand promise. But when your name does incorporate some key brand value or image or position, then you are one step closer to imprinting that brand name on your clients’ brains. At no additional cost.

So the business name should be, and can be, a major win for your long term strategic vision, marketing and branding. Why then do so many startup companies invest more in printing their first brochure than they do in their name?


© Copyright 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide–

Posted in Branding, Naming Education, Trademarks

How can you legally share a trademarked name?

Believe it or not, trademarked names can be shared by different companies. Even companies in a similar line of business and hence trademark category. But there has to be a mutually agreeable (and usually loRollsRoyceLogong term) contract in place. Sometimes the original party may want compensation, sometimes not. This also happens where there is extremely good brand equity in a name and the company splits into two or more entities.

For example, Rolls Royce® car company is now a clearly owned subsidiary of BMW and they continue to turn out ultra high end luxury cars. But separately Rolls Royce® Holdings is the parent company of an eminent jet and other engines company. Originally they had the same history. Today they both go their own way – but still retain and uphold the power of the Rolls RoyceVolvoTruckLogo name.

Similarly, Volvo® is a car company, now spun off and owned by a Chinese Company.  However, Volvo Group® make truck and boat engines as well as some trucks. The name and logo are shared.

NissanXterraNameBut Nissan Xterra® took a different approach. They wanted to use the name Xterra for their off road version of their SUV. But Xterra® is a popular off road bicycle brand of Trek Bicycles. So Nissan license the usage rights to the name and now it is shared. As part of this license, I am sure Nissan agreed to never use the name on their own bicycles. There has, however, been some cross promotions between the companies.


© Copyright 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide–

Posted in Branding, Naming Education, Trademarks

Where are the trademark police?

After a lot of deliberation, brain-storming and creative word smithing, you finally have a new unique name in your industry. And after a blessing by your own intellectual property legal counsel you have applied for, and received, a registered trademark. So you framed the certificate and mounted it neatly on the wall.

Now what?

How will you know if someone else accidentally use the same name? How will you know if some grifters intentionally use the same name and logo on cheap knock-off products?

Reality is that trademark protection is a self-policing system. Yes, the trademark examining attorneys will not issue the same mark to someone else in their jurisdiction (usually country). But what about other areas?

What about usage without registration?

International Trademark CheckingThere are some basic precautions you can take (See my article: Protecting your new product or service name) but beyond that we are on our own. For major consumer marks it pays to get help at least from a monitor service. This should give you some early warning. Beyond that we are mostly on our own. So let’s pull together and help each other. Major consumer trademark owners usually start by becoming active members of INTA (The International Trademark Association). Unfortunately this is too expensive for the small guys. (I can’t even afford a ticket to their annual conference unless someone has a complimentary one for me.)

But it is a worldwide body that tries to educate the world on proper trademark and brand protection practices and policing. They have contacts with import/export customs agents who can also help identify rip-off products. And they will work with them and your legal and security team to deal with offenders.

So please do your part. Alert someone if you see wrong or invalid usage of your trademarks. And alert other companies if you see their marks being abused so they can take the appropriate actions.


© Copyright 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide–

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Domain Names, Naming Education, Naming Resources, Trademarks

eero gives me ear ache

I have been thinking of a very positive headline for this posting all week, especially because I am very impressed with the rest of their marketing. But at the end of the day, eero is just a little too clever and weird for me. And names that are written in lower case cause all sorts of logistical issues in marketing and promotion and legal usage forever going forward, especially when it is in the text version of the name and not just in the logo. Heck it breaks a basic law of English grammar you learned in first grade: Proper nouns are capitalized.

naming communications and wifi productsThe search for short, cute and unique names will be a never ending quest, especially for hip tech geeks in San Francisco. But surely not at the risk of sacrificing the fatted goat. After all, your name is your primary weapon in the battle for the mind, as Ries and Trout pointed out long ago. And your poor salesmen and distributors have to use it a lot on the phone. It must be really amusing to hear a telemarketer with a San Francisco Filipino accent (for example) trying to call people up and talk about buying a ear row or eeeh row to extend their wifi (itself pronounced wiffy in much of the world). My response might be, when I finally get it, “I don’t need one. I am not old enough to have a hearing aid.”

On top of that, their logo is mega boring and colorless.

But as for the rest of their image and marketing – Outstanding. Shows the new trend that techies are finally getting design is a key part of all product offerings, and this extends to the complete marketing and corporate image, even if the name on the outside is not Apple. They are so much cooler than their competitor Linksys, even though Linksys is not doing a bad job now that they are freed from the conservatism of Cisco.


© Copyright 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide–

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Domain Names, Industrial Products Naming, Naming Education, Naming News, Strange Names, Technology Names, Trademarks

Harbor Freight is a fine name for a tool company

It is only now that I go to write this posting that I notice the full name of Harbor Freight is actually Harbor Freight Tools. So it doesn’t sound like a freight company after all for the few of us who stop to analyze their name. For sure, the mechanics and handymen and contractors who visit one of their 600 stores or shop online (as I often do), only think of it as a place to buy “tools at ridiculously low prices” – to use part of their own tagline.

industrial retail product and service naming

In shipping and transportation, Harbor Freight might be a generic expression. And for tools it really is not a direct logical connection. But no one cares. Great name. Great usage. Probably based on their heritage.  There really is a Harbor Freight Transportation company from which they may have originated. But no one cares. It is long forgotten.  Great brands are from strong word formats and strong consistent implementations of their brand promise and this is a great practical example of such.

Founded in 1977, they were so busy selling tools they didn’t get around to registering their company as a service and retail trademark until last year! And they are still working down registering a long list of product names that constitute their house brands. Their lawyer must be as busy as some of their store assistants.


© 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide–

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Domain Names, Industrial Products Naming, Name Changes, Name Origins, Naming News, Trademarks

Will Burger King become Burger & Hotdog King

Recently I saw an ad for the new long sandwiches at Burger King so I had to try their fish versions (the only fast food I eat). Halfway through I looked at the “long bun” and thought to myself “wow.. soon they will be serving hot dogs.”

Well how right I was. Of course, no one other than namiacs like me look at their name literally nowadays and say wait a minute your name says burgers! But if they weren’t so well know and established, I would chalk this up to a mistake and a learning curve for all on why you don’t want your name to pigeon hole you from the outset.


I am not qualified to be a food critic, but as a consumer, why do they now go and put healthy buns on their long sandwiches and not use them on their hot dogs. Does American really have to eat those all white bread traditional buns to be satisfied?


© 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide–

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Food Names, Naming News, Trademarks

Most execs are doing naming ass backwards

If you are naming your kid or your pet, you think of the names you like and then you pick one. This method works fine because every name you come up with is available, other than a few you eliminate as being too common or because you know someone with that name yourself. And, of course, duplicates are allowed, and often very common. In fact kids may even end up with the same name as pets or vice versa. When my sister yells “Ben” in her house, both the dog and my son jump!

How not to do namingBut this method is very unproductive and actually old-fashioned for business and product naming because the name you think of is probably taken. Worse it may be protected by trademark law giving you a potential legal headache if you proceed.  This is why I say execs are doing naming ass backwards.

Compare this with how professional namers name companies, products and services.  We first find a list of available names, then help management to like and understand and select one of the names. Yes, your favorite magic name doesn’t jump off the page right away – but it was probably taken because that is why you relate to it. But this broader view of naming gives you more chances of developing a great new name with worldwide trademark clearance to be the shorthand verbal handle for your brand going forwards.


© 2015 – All rights reserved worldwide–

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Domain Names, Name Origins, Naming Education, Naming News, Naming Resources, Rotten Names, Strange Names, Technology Names, Trademarks

Wyndham is a great resort brand

Recently Davis Love III won the Wyndham Championship Golf Tournament and I couldn’t but help how appropriate a sponsor a resort and hospitality company is for such an event. Especially since they own and manage so many resorts of their own, many of which have golf courses. Provides a real tangible tie in, unlike other sponsors of golf tournaments who are simply targeting rich white men.
naming of resorts, travel and hospitality servicesBut where does the name Wyndham come from and what does it mean? Why is it so much nicer spelled Wyndham (with a Y) rather than Windham (with an I)? Is it really a place in England? Well you find it on a map!
Fancy that. A mega consumer brand and no one knows where the name comes from. Today they are a holding company for many other hotel brands, including down market Days Inn, Super 8, etc. and are also the largest vacation ownership company in the world.

Wyndham was spun off from Cendant in 2006 and so I pose one last question:  Why is Wyndham so much better a name than Cendant? If you can answer this you know why humans do naming, and not computers!


© 2015 – All rights reserved –

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Hospitality & Travel, Name Origins, Naming Education, Sports Naming, Trademarks

Naming Articles

New brand insider articles from an experienced marketing team. Learn all the basics of naming, branding and trademark registration from these free reports:

March 2016: You received a cease and desist letter. Now what?

May 2015: How can one product line have many trademarks?

Jul 2014: What roles do copyrights and patents play in protecting names?

Jan 2014: Predictions for 2014 and Free Offers.

Dec 2013: Regional, National & International Name Styles.

Oct 2013: Planning for All the New Domain Names.

Jul 2012: The right names go down in history.

and many more -->

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