Who owns that consumer brand?

UncleBens food brands and namingRecently there have been another spate of questions on Quora and other online forums about product brand vs company brand, especially from new marketeers or entrepreneurs wrestling with these issues. Admittedly it is different in small startups from the big consumer brands, but it always amazes me that they don’t just look around their own kitchen or bathroom and read the labels. They might also be surprised where some of their goods are produced.

In fact, in this day and age of mega mergers, takeovers, buying and selling of brands, you can even do this exercise each year and get different results. But in the meantime, consumers remain loyal to the names and brands they trust.

I had occasion to try this recently myself as I reached for the curry the other night. I never would have guessed that my favorite Uncle Ben’s curry was actually owned by Mars Foods UK Ltd (aren’t they the well known US candy company?). Plus my particular bottle was made by Mars Foods Ireland. Wow, Irish made ethnic food with a very ethnic name! By the time I eat it on the West coast of USA, some of the ingredients, like coconut and curry powder and peppers, must have traveled a few times around the world.


© Copyright 2017 and all rights reserved worldwide – Brighter Naming®

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

Just Watch Me – Fun name of the week

JustWatchI do love a name that brings a smile to your face early in the morning, which is when I discovered this jeweler with a business named Just Watch Me.  And no, he doesn’t just sell watches. In fact, he mostly recycles old watches into new jewelry and ornamental art pieces. A fun name for a fun and clever business concept.

Many of their recycled themes are animal or bird related, which is why I found him exhibiting at the South East Wildlife Expo – another subject close to my heart because of my involvement with Safari Gold, best known for their artificial elephant hair knot bracelets.


© Copyright 2017 and all rights reserved worldwide – Brighter Naming®

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Strange Names

Even AARP supports trademarking

In a recent article, AARP News wrote about elderly people still having time to come up with million dollar inventions. And yes, of course, they talked about patents – and often how unlikely that would be.

But in a sidebar (shown here) that warmed my heart, they did encourage all to come up with a unique name, as those are more memorable. And then to trademark it, of course. There need be nothing unique about your product for it to have a trademarked name and/or logo.  But the name has to be unique in its product category and you do have to prove you are using it.

registering trademarks for all

btw Trademarks can endure for many, many years if properly renewed, unlike patents that usually only have a 17 year lifespan.


© Copyright 2016 and all rights reserved worldwide – Brighter Naming®

Posted in Branding, Naming Education, Naming News, Naming Resources, Trademarks

Why you need to register your trademark

USPTOfactsA lawyer once made it very clear to me. He said if you ever have a dispute over a name, and you end up in court, then the party with the registered trademark stands up and says: “Judge, I have registered trademark number 9999999 – here is my certificate from the USPTO. I rest my case.” The he sits down and the opposing party has to prove that the registered trademark was issued in error, despite all the checks by the client, his lawyer and the government’s examining attorney.

Of course, it seldom gets this far. If everyone is doing their due diligence then one party will see that someone else is already using the name in a similar category of goods or services and they will go a different direction. Or the filing will have been denied on other grounds like “too generic”, “too broad a set of claims”, “no proof of usage”. Regardless of what the Intellectual Property office of your local government says, many names are still used and many are common across the country. But only by small businesses who don’t care what happens three states over until they get the dreaded “cease and desist” letter.

Not long ago a lady called me in tears from the midwest. She had used a name for over three years and then woke up one day to one of these letters. If only she had spent the few hundred dollars it takes to get a registered trademark in the first place, she would probably not have been forced to change a successful name and marketing strategy.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image5631280For these reasons, and a number of others, I strongly recommend you get a registered trademark on all your key brand names. You can even file an application online yourself if you can prove usage of the product. But first do a proper search or you will lose your money. And if you can, check with a trademark attorney.

Yes you have trademark rights the minute you use a name, even if you never checked anything. Even if you did not put a ™ after the name (this is really for emphasis only until you can put an ® next to the name and then really put all the country on notice.  But why take the chance?

Your name is your most important weapon in the battle for the mind, as Ries and Trout so eloquently said years ago. Treat it right from the outset. Even if you are very creative, use a naming agency or consultant (or lawyer when you can afford one) to do a due diligent comprehensive search in advance. Read the labels wherever you go. Notice how Kellog’s uses trademarks over breakfast. See McDonald’s on all their packaging at lunch. And, of course, Starbucks at any time, even though you would have to be nuts to copy such a prolific name.

PS Just because a name is trademarked, doesn’t mean you can’t use it. Their are hundreds of registered trademarks with words like National, or United or Insight in them. But they are all in different categories or are not “confusingly similar”. This is where you especially need professional help.


© Copyright 2016 and all rights reserved worldwide – Brighter Naming®

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Posted in Biotech Naming, Branding, Industrial Products Naming, Name Origins, Naming Education, Naming News, Naming Resources, Technology Names, Trademarks

Slick as a whistle pig

The title of this blog is taken directly from the heading of an article in a recent copy of Business Week – with thanks and acknowledgments. And I have used it since it was clearly authored to attract attention to a subject they usually don’t cover – nor do I.

But a long time ago I told my sister that if I ever opened a British style pub I would call it “The Pig and Whistle”. Of course, she would break my bubble by pointing out there already was one by that name. In fact, later we found more than one.

British pubs seem to be one class of establishment that do not need help from naming agencies. Maybe it is because they have been around so long, and many have farmyard like names – or names borrowed from the farmyard.

Naming wines and spiritsAnyway, in this case, Whistle Pig is the name of a new whiskey distillery with an irreverent Canadian founder/partner with one singular goal in mind: To make the world’s finest rye whiskey. A very serious product direction – for a company with a very non-serious name. But when you want to attract attention with both your taste tests as well as your marketing, why not?


© Copyright 2016 and all rights reserved worldwide – Brighter Naming®

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Domain Names, Hospitality & Travel, Strange Names, Trademarks, Wine Names

American Express – Perfect name for a credit card

I can’t imagine anyone nowadays saying American Express isn’t anything but a perfect name for a high class credit card. But in reality, this was originally a name for a freight company along the lines of other Pony Express services. Yes, they delivered packages between New York and Chicago or St Louis and all the stops along the way.

Naming financial institutions and servicesAnd many of these packages contained money or gold. So they had many holdups until they cleverly conceived the idea of travelers checks.  This foiled the bandits and got American Express into the money business and eventually out of the parcel express business. But the name did not change. Goes to show you how continued good execution on a brand promise leads us to believe in a brand, regardless of the words in the name or the change in services offered.

Of course, today American Express is a mega big valuable credit card company known around the world, and most of us don’t need to move money explicitly or carry travelers checks. We can just whip out our gold cards.

In an ironic twist, what if you really do want to move hard cash money (or gold or diamonds) around the world? Before you jump to Federal Express, read their standard forms insurance statement:  Maximum coverage for cash or jewelry is $500.

So what about UPS? Well they will carry any amount and insure it. Problem is the insured value is right their on the outside of the old shipping form – for any handler to see (and maybe salivate over).

naming shipping and freight companiesWell there is a big secret here.  Federal Express does move a fortune in cash and jewelry every day. They even have metal lock boxes that just happen to fit snugly inside their standard box sizes and in many cases only the receiver and the sender have a key to the lock (or know the combination). But you have to have a special account and be approved by FedEx before you can do so. Remember however, for money movement, call FedEx and not Amex. For credit cards, call Amex and not Fedex.


© Copyright 2016 and all rights reserved worldwide – Brighter Naming®


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How to select a naming agency.

How to select a Naming Agency

Before you can select a naming agency it is prudent to understand what kind of agencies and consultants are out there.
They fall into 4 broad categories:
Large branding agencies1.    Big Company Full Service Agencies:  These are the naming agencies that do extensive brand and positioning research for target markets for large companies, before they even show any names. When they do, the list is usually good quality – but it is a short list of carefully vetted (maybe even tested) names. Most of these services are part of a broader branding agency’s offerings and may include extensive on site(s) interaction with clients . Projects are usually completely driven by the branding agency, always with a end user focus in mind, rather than personal wishes of any execs. May help big teams come to consensus. Usually involves full usage, linguistics and legal checks too, though these are often “farmed out” to other agencies, and billed to you. Price range for name only is typically in $20,000 to $60,000 (or beyond) range and make take 2-3 months.
2.    SMB Focused Agencies: These are the smaller naming agencies that focus on small and medium sized businesses, as well as divisions of larger companies, where the urgency is for a good, clear, available name that management readily embraces (indeed they are intimately involved in the process). They often do their own linguistics and legal checks, and usually start with a long list of names that have provisional clearance. A senior consultant ensures that the name is on message or otherwise suits the needs of the client, even in the absence of much (or any) full brand and strategy research. Plus he/she should be good at executive meeting facilitation. They sometimes have very large databases of names and a handful of smart namers to generate new names quickly. Price range is usually in the $3,000 to $6,000 price range with 2-3 week time frames.
3.    Sole Proprietor Companies and Agencies: For the small startup there are a number of individual naming consultants who keep all the overhead down and only provide any requested services. They often have a process that only offers a large handful of names initially, but then adds and tweaks more names as they learn more and get some feedback.  Fees may be anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 but may not include legal or linguistic checks, other than the real basics. Also typically 2-3 weeks but can easily drag out longer if client and consultant not on same page.
4.    Do It Yourself: Of course, this is still a popular method. After all, how hard can it be to name your new widget or service or tasty snack or lovely store? You named your pets and kids, right? But the problem is you don’t have 9 months or so now, and duplicates are not allowed unless you are a small local business and will never go outside your county or state. Also, you need to be a creative person with words and languages. Seldom is anything named nowadays in any common field without first touching at least 100 names. Priceless – until you get the dreaded cease and desist letter from someone else with the same name and/or trademark.

In the photographic world, everyone is a photographer today with the advent of cell phone cameras. Some of these people are actually very talented amateurs. Others get help from more equipment and software tools to get good results. But for your daughter’s wedding, aren’t you going to hire a professional?

It is similar for naming. What kind of results do you want and in what time frame. If you need to keep  worldwide execs happy and prove you have done full analytical research and branding, you probably need a big agency (See 1 above) to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed.

If you are really small and don’t have any money, do your home work, read lots of articles on naming and branding (this website is a good starting point – see Resources) and even then try find a creative wordsmith partner. But be careful. Often this self serve model leads to big legal costs because the expense is in the checking and not the filing – until you get into trouble that is.

So the value of the individual consultant and SMB agencies is that they do a lot of the legwork for you, greatly shortening the time until you can confidently use a new name. Sometimes they are just a good sounding board or can help remind you how a given word is used in other market sectors or countries or industries.

Remember no one has an exclusivity on creativity. Make sure you hire an agency that will listen more than they will talk. One that has the courage to say why you can’t go down some naming rat holes.  One that will add your names to the list and make sure the list is initially really long. We all have personalities. Companies have personalities. Do you want your name to reflect your personality or that of your expensive branding consultants?

Finally, as Ries and Trout so famously said in their seminal work on branding: “Your name is your most important weapon in the battle for the mind.”  So I often ask why people will spend more on their first brochure, that has such a short lifespan, than on their name which they will use forever more.


© Copyright 2016 and all rights reserved worldwide – Brighter Naming®


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Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Name Origins, Naming Education, Naming News, Naming Resources, Trademarks

Is Gnarly a positive or a strange name for wine?

Every time I used to visit my friends in Sacramento, California, I used to pass a big billboard for Gnarly Wines. Then I always forgot to ask him what he thought of that name. Would he construe it as negative, as I did, or was I missing something? Either way it attracted my attention, which is the sign of a good name regardless.

naming wines and wineriesAnyway, I finally found a bottle of Gnarly Head Pinot Grigio on sale at my local supermarket and thought if I took home a bottle it would (a) help me remember the name, and (b) let me find out personally how it tasted. Haven’t you discovered that it is a lot easier to remember the name of something if you like the taste? That gives you the complete personification of the brand experience promise.

If the wine looks a light green in the photo here, that is not my photography. It really is a light green in color though it is very subtle. I guess it still qualifies as a white wine. And very interestingly Gnarly Head also offers an Authentic White wine. Wow, that is one way to emphasize its clarity – right in the name.

Wine Enthusiast rates this wine a 88. So not bad for the under $10 (sale price). As for my personal opinion, that will have to wait until I have some hot spicy Asian food to pair with it, as the Wine Enthusiast recommends. In the meantime, every time I read the word Gnarly I still hear it with an Australian accent.. usually some surfer dude saying how tough the waves or the projects were. Yes, I know they claim it is from the old gnarled stalks in their vineyards. Gnarly Head also reminds me of some old curmudgeon though I am now getting much more comfortable with it and compliment them on standing out from the herd.


© Copyright 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide– www.BrighterNaming.com

Posted in Consumer Goods, Name Origins, Naming News, Wine Names

Is Trump Pence only worth Tuppence?

naming candidatesMany of my clients might say that from a pure naming point of view, the Trump Pence ticket is better. After all, only two syllables and from two common English words, easy to say and remember. Meanwhile, all my English relatives are saying: “Not so fast, did you mean only worth tuppence?” Yes, tuppence, meaning two pence, has been not officially used in English currency for a long time, but the expression lives on.

And as  a good namer or linguist would point out… the two words do not run together. So you have to really stop briefly between Trump and Pence to separate the P’s.

So at end of day, the two syllable political ticket name, loses its advantage to Clinton Kaine, which is not only smooth to say, but has the sharp K sound for stickiness and recall.

Will this affect the elections? Who knows. Probably not as much as how the candidates appear on TV. Most voters are visual and hence presidential elections since the advent of TV debates have been won by the most camera compatible candidate. Bush/Gore was too close to call visually… and so was the election as it turned out.


© Copyright 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide– www.BrighterNaming.com

Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Naming News, People Names

Oxymoron Names can be Powerful

The other day I fell asleep by an open drafty cold window. By morning I could barely move my neck and had no motion at all in one direction. Being a stubborn male I did nothing but massage and rub it all day, plus take a few Tylenols to dull the pain.
Two days later I was still having trouble driving a car as I couldn’t look right to check for oncoming traffic so I broke down and went to the drug store. Of course I had those old, old famous smelly rub ointments on my mind. Those with names like Ben Gay or Tiger Balm – great strong sounding Asian names.
Oxymoron cream product namesBut by the time I found the right shelf, IcyHot cream was jumping out at me. As a namer, how could I not like IcyHot. Talk about an oxymoron… anywhere else in English literature these two words would never go together. If you asked youngsters to analyze the name they might say it was nonsense as it is impossible for something to be icy and hot. However, the impossible has become the dominant brand name on the shelves in the USA now. And it works for me: goes on cool and heats up the muscles real fast.
The cream still stinks, but who cares when the name brings a smile to your face. Wish I could find more names like this, especially on products that work as advertised.


© Copyright 2016 – All rights reserved worldwide– www.BrighterNaming.com

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Posted in Branding, Consumer Goods, Strange Names, 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:

August 2016: How to select a naming agency.

July 2016: How to get International Trademark protection.

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.

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See the latest Name Critic ratings for names like Skype, Pinterest, Etsy, etc.

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See his industry naming commentary (where he takes a critical look at names) via the blog on this site