Brand Image

"You now have to decide what 'image' you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place."

– David Ogilvy

A brand is not a logo. That is a brand image

A brand is not a paper system or business card. That is a brand identity.

A brand is not a product.

A brand is not what you say it is.
A brand is what the consumer says it is.
A brand is how people feel about a product.

What is your brand? What do you want your reputation to be?

Just as Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" tells us, we have to 'Begin With The End in Mind'.

So when you sit down to plan for 2009, you need to decide what you want your brand to become and then plan the steps to get there.

Razor Branding - The 5 R's to a Successful Brand

The Russo Group's branding process - Razor Branding -  has been refined from years of working in and with multiple industries. From that experience the 5 R’s were developed.

Razor Branding revolves around the customer, your customer. You have to get to know them. Who they are, what motivates them, what their needs are, and most importantly, how to best reach them.

We hope you take a moment to read through the 5 R’s to gain a better understanding of Razor Branding and how it can be best implemented to improve your business and your brand.


Successful brands understand that the consumer owns the brand, and the value of your product, message or service comes only at the time of purchase. 

Only then do they buy into your brand. 

Only then do they become advocates.

But keep in mind, this advocacy - the single most powerful marketing solution known to man will only come after the sale. Did they get what they were promised? Did you remain true to your brand position? Did they become customers for life?

Questions to Ask
. What
"mental real estate" is yours to own?
. What emotions does your company or product evoke?
. What differences may you or your business authentically claim?
. Why should we care?  


Your promise is your brand. It connects you and the customer, developing a relationship that can either flourish or fade. But to even get to that point you must first find a way to get their attention and hold it. In order to do so, you must identify your value proposition – the one thing that sets your company and the product you are offering apart from the competition – always making sure it is a difference that can be delivered.

It is important to also understand that once a company makes a purchase from you or engages in using your service, they become your customer and should be treated as such. The conversation changes at this point, along with the dialogue. Now is the time to nurture the relationship, ensuring that the buyer remains a buyer – eventually turning them into a brand advocate. 


We know change is hard, but if your marketing solutions haven't evolved in a couple of years, or if you're stuck trying to figure out where to begin, we recommend you read further.

Let's face it, the marketplace has changed dramatically in recent years, and so has your customer. They are more in control of the information and communications they receive than ever before. It is your responsibility to now find ways to change with them. If not, you will soon find you're yelling at an audience that can no longer hear the sound of your voice. They will be too busy surfing the net, flipping the channel, or simply ignoring you all together.

Brand building has never been more important than it is today, which requires a clear understanding of who it is you're trying to connect with and how to motivate them towards action. 


Customers are the most important asset of any thriving business. Everyone claims that their service is superior, and that their customers are treated like friends. But are they really?

Far too often we treat our customers like unintelligent fools. We give them worn out messages that are tied to outdated delivery systems. We tend to ignore their needs and force our agendas upon them. That may have worked a few years ago, but not today. Today, customers are seizing control. They can no longer be manipulated with price points, sales, discounts and promotions. They are, dare I say, smarter. Yes, we said it. They are smarter, and have access to an abundance of information.

Through strategic customer profiling, we get to know the target audience using custom methods for obtaining optimal results. Once we can relate to the desired audience, we can craft a message that will not only reach them, but inspire them to action. We will also know how best to deliver this message, an increasingly difficult task.


Understanding the marketplace and the customer is only the first step in establishing or reinventing your marketing efforts. You must also engage potential clients as never before. Remember, you no longer have the option of dictating the information they choose to absorb. You must make it worth their while.

No matter how creative the advertising, a poorly positioned product, service, or brand will fail sooner or later. For this reason, we work with the client in developing what is most worthwhile to communicate to the consumer.

Once the brand has been positioned, Russo works toward developing a specific set of profiles for the type(s) of consumer that will be communicated to. Without properly identifying the type of consumer, your message will fail.

In order to achieve total brand essence, the consumer must have a complete brand experience. Ultimately, the brand must succeed in demonstrating the brand essence with its above and below line creative, product design, product packaging, sales team (proper training), and physical retail environment. 

Great Moments in Elevator History

Through it, Charlie broke out of Wonka’s factory. In it, babies have been born. And, occasionally, inside it – bow chicka bow wow – you get what I mean.

Ah yes. The elevator. Clearly, not simply a means of transportation.

In corporate America, business happens when people meet. And often, those meetings are more than informal – they’re accidental. They happen in places like hallways, stairwells, lobbies, restaurants, and your kids’ baseball games. They happen “on the elevator.” And so you must, you absolutely must, be fluent in elevator speak.

Rate yourself – When you bump into someone you’ve been trying to meet, do you stare straight ahead, watching the numbers slowly illuminate or make idle chatter about clandestine activity on the missing 13th floor? How about if someone bumps into you – do you fumble for answers to their on-the-spot questioning? Or, if a fellow rider inquires, “So what do you do?” Is your response confident, quick, deliberate?

It comes down to this – are you a victim of what we in the industry call Foot-In-Mouth Syndrome? And, more importantly, is it hurting your business? If so, I offer you the same advice I give my own clients.

In an elevator, you should know how to –

• Explain what you do in 30 seconds or less

• Direct rather than endure the conversation

• Avoid common talk pitfalls

• Choose the right word – and avoid the wrong one

• Determine what a person really wants to know – and if you want to share it

• Redirect a discussion

• Exit a conversation without giving offense

And, most importantly –

• Turn elevator conversations into opportunities for new business

That way, the next time you step in, you can step up too.

Media Management: Reporting Results

Reporting the Results – Are You Receiving Breakdowns on How Your Advertising Dollars Are
Being Spent?

“You just have to be opportunistic, and try to figure out what creates value... where the bottom is, what creates incremental value, and in what combinations.”
-John Malone

Like any good relationship, the one between media buyer and client is built on trust. For you to feel justified in letting me spend your money, it’s important I prove to you that I’m qualified, knowledgeable, and can get you the results you’re looking for.

But even then, if all I’ve given you is my word, how do you know I’ve served your company’s best interests? Short of polling your customers on their way out the door (the annoyance alone might cost you returned business), how do you know if your advertising has generated any profit? After all, store traffic could have increased as a result of a new location, new store manager, new product line, new return policy, etc.

Point is – it’s a fair question. And you should ask it. In fact, if your media buyer hesitates at all in answering, fire him. Because what you should hear is something like this:

“It’s important to me that my clients know exactly what their advertising dollars are doing. So, every month I’ll be sending you itemized breakdowns of what you’re spending, where you’re spending it, how much you’re paying for it, if you’re receiving a reduced rate, and (here’s the important part) what the medium is rated.”

Ratings, calculated differently for each medium, tell you just how many people are seeing each board, each commercial spot, each piece of print. That way you can decide if the exposure you’re getting is worth the price that you’re paying. An exceptional media buyer will take it one step farther. They’ll also chart your buy over time, allowing you to compare company profits with company advertising efforts.

It’s your money. You have a right to know if it’s worth spending.

Don’t Blame the Billboard – When Outdoor Campaigns Just Won’t Work

Every day I drive past the same billboards, yet when I try to recall the messages of even a few – I get nothing. It’s sad really. Here I am, wanting to be affected by advertising, but poor graphics, small type, weak copy, or clutter prohibit me. Imagine how easily the average driver can dismiss even the most gaudy of signs. And haven’t we all dismissed gaudy at one time or another?

I’m forced to conclude – most boards do nothing for the companies spending top dollar to purchase them. But why? The truth is billboards are to image building what Reebok high tops were to the eighties – essential. So what’s the problem?

I’ve named them.

1. The Average Joe – a board that does little to break through the litter along America’s byways. It could be mistaken for a large tree or, worse yet, a very ugly telephone pole.

2. The Lone Ranger – a board completely independent of a larger campaign. Even Batman had

3. The Ugly Betty – really, it’s too painful to detail what’s wrong with Betty.

4. The Lost Lucy – a board misplaced. You can’t advertise clean restrooms and hot coffee after your customer has passed you – it’s just cruel.

5. The Generation Gap – neon boards with bawdy copy will annoy your grandmother. Why place it in front of her nursing home?

6. The Chatty Cathy – the board that says everything except what the customer needs to hear.

Because the outdoor market is so saturated, billboards are best used to create buzz for a new product, guide customers to a location, or embed a message through frequent, clever repetition.

Don’t botch a board.

Branding Through Facebook

Social Media  is the perfect partner for branding initiatives.  Utilizing social media (blogging, facebook, twitter, etc) provides the portal for one of the biggest fundamental points of branding - having a conversation with the consumer.

The person interested in your business, service or product doesn't want to just observe it from the outside.  To become a true brand advocate and spread the word - to become a part of your tribe - they need to be a part of the conversation.

Social media provide the best platform for that conversation to take place.  You can tell your fans about what is going on and most importantly,  get their feedback.  You can find out what features they are looking for.  What benefits they need.  What color they want.  It's like the best focus group, and you don't even have to cater it.  All you need to do is be brave enough to start the conversation, be prepared for their feedback, and be honest with your faults.  Consumers aren't looking for perfection, they are looking for truth.  You must be transparent if you want to be believable.

This article "Facebook Do's and Don'ts" by Evan Garber provides great tips on how to best utilize Facebook.  

You have to participate in the conversation about your brand - otherwise they will just talk about you behind your back.

Target Demographic: Human Beings*

Some agencies consider demographic profiling as the most important tool at their disposal. But, frankly, I think that is a little skewed.

Don’t get me wrong. As an account planner with a background as a media buyer, I am all about demographics. Just ask anyone. I simply put my hands on a product, any product, and I immediately fall into a trance where I can channel not only who the product is marketed for, but also if it’s the wrong market, and what the real demographic should be.

It goes over great at parties.  

But before I explain why an understanding of demographics alone is not enough, let me tell you what an understanding of demographics is good for. At the basic level, it helps advertising agencies match up client message with creative implementations, creating a call to action that cannot be ignored. At the basic level, understanding that your target customer is 65+ may dictate the use of a larger type face in your ads.

More subtly than that, grouping the thoughts and concerns of a demographic segment into a unified message would seem to make our job easier. Right?

Wrong. Think about yourself, aren’t you, as a person and consumer, a little more complicated than some simple age/gender classification?

The truth is that demographic sectors don’t buy from our clients, human beings do. If we spend all our time trying to speak to DINKs (Dual Income No Kids) will we really get our message across? It’s a waste of time to market to a “target” – especially a moving target. Our focus should always be on people (you’ve seen them around, I’m sure) with names and faces and favorite places.

Certainly, demographic data is helpful. But that’s not all there is. Next time you think about what demographic market you want to capture, try working towards this one – Human Being breathing a must.

50 Ways to Get Your Give On

Social Media is growing beyond catching up with old friends, promoting your product, and spying on an ex.

Mashable has compiled a list of 50 micro-giving trends.  This is where a little bit really does go a long way.  You can buy a gift that gives back.  Take a little time or a little money and you can make a big difference.

With the current state of the economy, you might not be able to give like you did before, so please share this list with your friends, with a lot of people giving a little, it will add up.

And please remember, the first thing to get cut during difficult times is charitable giving.  So they need you more than ever during this time in which you have less to give.

Help where you can.

Jaci Russo
Senior Partner
The Russo Group

Branding: The Promise

The Argument for Branding

It’s 10:31 on a lovely winter morning, and I was just overcome by a strange and very unusual feeling.

It wasn’t deja vu, or what some call a frisson*. But it was an epiphany of sorts:

How do you sell a product or service to those whose mission in life is to sell a product or service?

I mean, shouldn’t someone like myself, a devout, practicing, art director-type guy, be totally immune to “the pitch?” Did I not take the Marketing Pox vaccine back in 4th grade?

I made a promise to the Blog gods that I would never talk about myself, but this is important.  No; this is monumental, and it will now have a profound effect on everything that I come in contact with. Well, at least for the next hour so.

Here’s how they (and by they, I mean us -- the ad peeps) got to me folks:

It was that damn branding. Branding, with a little touch of price-pointing thrown in for good measure.

When I wasn’t looking, or had my back turned to the TV, someone representing a brand made a
promise. More importantly, they kept that promise. Even more importantly, they kept that promise time and time again.

Sorry, about breaking the ad-guy code of silence, but how else can you explain the reason that my family is on its fifth Honda (quality and reliability), or that I only use Colgate toothpaste (never a cavity and totally fresh breath)?

No one “sold” me on those two products, or the countless others, but I vaguely remember a promise those brands made to me, that I bought into that promise, and that I was not disappointed with that buy.

Sure, the term “branding” has been tossed around over the last decade like some two-year-old’s Elmo doll, but when branding is executed by a professional team, and is executed consistently over a period of time, it can be a thing of beauty. And beauty sells, man.

It’s all quite simple really and bears repeating:

A brand is a promise and promises should be kept. A kept promise is a form of trust and once someone trusts you (or your product or service), they’ll beat a path to your door every time.
Make that I’ll beat a path to your door every time. Because even jaded, seen-it-all ad-guys have to buy stuff now and then.

A Strong Brand:

• Enables you to better match your capabilities, services and products with current and future customers

• Enables you to consistently sell your products

• Allows you to control price because of your perceived value

• Helps you to stand out from the competition and competitor brands

• Is more internally efficient because everyone is focused on the same vision

• Focuses how you hire key people—in fact, how you hire everyone

• Enables you to build on what you do best

• Enhances innovation, discipline and strategic focus”

*a sudden, passing sensation of intense emotion

Gary LoBue, Jr.
Art Director
The Russo Group

Why a Logo?

Your logo is your visual image expressed to the world when you aren’t there to speak for yourself. A good logo, or “brand identity,” should present a feeling of what to expect from your company and the people who work there. If done correctly, it can raise your profile, increase your top of mind awareness and allow potential clients to gain a feeling about who you are, what you do and how you do it. It speaks to your character and hopefully captures the essence of your philosophies.

But can a logo do all of that? Yes.

The science behind a strong brand may not be easily detected at first glance. It may be a color
combination, or a certain type face, or perhaps an icon that draws the eye. Often there is simply a feeling that people get when a solid brand reaches inside and embeds itself within the consciousness of those who come in contact with it.

In addition, a strong Brand Identity breeds loyalty and ownership within an organization. It allows employees to rally behind a symbol with pride – and speaks volumes to the dedication of an organization that dedicated the time and finances to treat their banner with so much care.

Why a logo?

Because it’s your company. You’ve worked hard to build it, and it deserves the right to be noticed and remembered.

So why would you trust something so important to a website that offers to create your logo for $99?

Why would you trust your secretary's brother's friend who can use some clip art?

Hire a professional.  Let them delve deep into your brand.  Allow them to develop an identity that will actually properly represent your product or service.

Michael Russo
Creative Director
The Russo Group

Putting your Creative Campaign out to Pasture

Remember your favorite childhood pet, that beautiful Golden Retriever named Lucky?

What a good friend and companion.

And remember when you came home from school one afternoon and your parents told you that they took Lucky to old-man Vernon's farm. They said it was a wonderful place for a dog like Lucky. A place with wide open fields and pastures; a place where he could chase rabbits and take nice long naps under an old oak tree. They said it was for the best, and somehow it all made sense.

Well, I'm here to tell you that your ad campaign is probably ready for Old Man Vernon's farm. Just how old is your current campaign? One, almost two years running? That's nearly 47-years-old in marketing years.

I'm not talking about a reinventing your brand, your brand identity, or your company's positioning statement or tag line. If carefully crafted and executed by a professional creative team, those have a shelf life and can almost be carved in stone.

What I am talking about is a reassessment of your advertising and marketing initiatives. Examining the current marketplace – more specifically your marketplace, determining where the void is, and changing the market's conversation. The topic of conversation will be your product or service. And the void will be filled with the same.

You can skimp on your marketing budget if you'd like, leave your clients and customer base to gnaw on those old print ads like ol' Lucky chewing on a bone, but that will come with a higher price. Flat sales, flat leads, or an even flatter company "wallet." And that's a hole you don't want to dig yourself out of.

I know it can be a hard thing to do, saying goodbye to that good friend and companion, "the old ad campaign." So I'll leave you with this: Like a new puppy, a new ad campaign will generate excitement, run constantly for the first few months, be friendly to all, but most importantly – be devoted to one.

So rest in peace, Lucky. I'll always remember you, but now I know, it was for the best.

Viral Video Has to Actually Spread to be Viral

There are a number of holiday e-cards that are being sent out each year.  Probably the best knows is the Elf Yourself - create a video - by Office Max.  It's a lot of fun and was shared 26M times last Christmas.  This year Office Max has partnered with JibJab which offers a number of different 'create a video' concepts.  You can insert a picture of your kids and showcase them doing a Salsa dance or your boss as a rap star.  But where is the branding for Office Max.  When asked, most people didn't know that they had anything to do with Elf Yourself.  So, what did they gain from the 26M hits that they received in 2007?

Compare that to the Holiday Excuse Generator by Enlighten.  As you can see by the following case study from Marketing Sherpa, this campaign had a much better tie in to the creator and has had a truly viral spread.

Holiday E-card Goes Viral


Enlighten had been sending out an email holiday card since the late 1990s – when they were a fun novelty. But, by 2005, so many holiday e-cards were going out that the chances of a campaign standing out in the in-box – let alone going viral – were slim.

Enlighten's creative team loved doing the campaigns, however, and their clients looked forward to getting a new card each year. So, CEO Steve Glauberman gave his team the go-ahead for the December 2005 card campaign with this mandate: It had to show measurable success -- not just be warm and fuzzy. 

Glauberman wanted brand building, media attention, viral traffic, and an engaging landing page experience that would lead to at least one serious proposal request from a new "name-brand" client. 

The creative and marketing team used five steps to turn a potentially run-of-the-mill email campaign into a measurable business-building bonanza.


Step #1. Start early 

It's the shoemakers' children thing -- most agencies and consultancies are too busy focusing on client campaigns to do a great job on their own. "I admit, we don't always get out a card every year because we get too busy," Glauberman says ruefully.

This year, the team started extra early, holding their planning meetings in September. Final creative was due December 2 for a December 7 drop date. Marketing Director Tom Beck says: "To get the most from the card, we needed to beat the rush. Most e-cards go out after the 15th."

Step #2. Clever concept 

These days, typical “shovelware” (e-cards that look like print cards with a little music and Flash movement) won't get many recipients excited enough to forward. The team also tried to avoid done-to-death viral holiday games, such as the build-your-own-snowman concept. 

Instead, they came up with an entirely new idea, the Holiday Party Excuse Generator. Each recipient would click to a landing page to answer a few fun questions (e.g., type of party; the nature of the excuse, etc.) Plus, to make the experience more entertaining, a cartoon snowman acted out a little role based on each answer the visitor gave to each question.

Based on each visitor's answers, the system created a personal excuse letter they could send to get out of going to a party. If they wanted to tweak the letter, they could change answers and get a new one. More than 268 million variations were possible. 

At the end, visitors had the option of emailing the letter to their party host; sending a friend an invite to play with the excuse generator, or visiting Enlighten's site to learn more about the company. 

Step #3. Get the word out (carefully) 

No matter how clever you think your creative is, if you blast it out to the universe, you could seriously annoy people and even get your company's server blacklisted. 

So, when the card was ready for launch, Tom Beck sent an instruction note to all staff that contained four critical rules:

1. Do not bombard clients with multiple emails. Before you send, check with other staff who might also send to the same client.

2. Don't send hundreds of emails at once – this could look like spam activity to ISPs.

3. Be prepared to handle bounces and replies to your email.

4. Position your short note on top of the card and your creative above folds because people don't scroll down much. 

Step #4. Involve the press 

Beck sent out the e-cards to his personal press list (all reporters he had a previous relationship with) on the launch day. Then, one week later, he sent a formal pitch note to the same reporters to see if they'd like to write a story. Unlike the colorful HTML e-card, the pitch note was text-only. (Link to sample below.)

He also submitted the landing page as a prospect for Macromedia's Flash Site of the Day (link to nomination form below.) 

Step #5. Prep your corporate homepage 

Beck had the Web team tweak the top of Enlighten's homepage to include a prominent hotlink to the Excuse Generator. He wanted to make sure that regular visitors would discover it, and the newbies clicking over from the Excuse page to the main site knew they were at the right company.

He also had a new white paper offer added to the homepage, in addition to the popular Case Studies tab, so that qualified prospects would be as engaged by the site as possible.


Year One 
The team sent out just under 3,500 initial e-cards. Bounce rates for some staff members’ personal lists were high. So, roughly 3,000 e-cards reached recipients.

The viral impact worked, though. From December 7-31, just under 50,000 unique visitors hit the landing page. Glauberman notes the traffic stats chart looked like "Mount Everest with a dramatic peak."

These visitors wound up sending a total of 20,000 email excuses to party hosts (many just played with the system for fun).

The press campaign was a critical part of the traffic growth – it resulted in as much as 60% of traffic. In addition to winning Macromedia Site of the Day, the excuse generator was mentioned in (and often linked to) Detroit Free Press, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Ann Arbor News, Communication Arts, TBS Blog (Turner Broadcasting), and PC Magazine Blog.

During the same three-week period, Enlighten's main corporate site traffic rose by 400%, compared to similar time frames. Interestingly, these new visitors behaved very differently from typical traffic – the virally-fed newbies spent 50%-75% more time on the corporate site than average audience, indicating a higher degree of interest.

This newbie interest resulted in not one but five serious requests for proposals from large "companies you have heard of" for possible work in 2006. 

Best of all, the creative team began dreaming up ways the personalized excuse letter generator could be used for other campaigns and holidays. Can anyone say Valentine's Day? 

Year Two 
The campaign showed its real viral worth when Glauberman’s team got two campaigns for the price of one. 

In December 2007, one year after launching the excuse generator, the How About Orange blog wrote a quick post on the holiday tool. Two days later, it was mentioned in the popular blog, Daily Candy, and traffic spiked again.

“We ended up receiving almost equal the traffic in 2007 that we received in 2006 with absolutely no push on our side...We didn’t promote it [in 2007] at all,” Glauberman says.

A key to the second buzz? 

The excuse generator’s page did not mention dates, and its content was not time-sensitive. And it had a long shelf life. There was no clear way for visitors to know when the page was created. Anyone who found the excuse generator in 2007 could have thought it was brand new.

“If you can create a campaign that doesn’t cost a lot of dollars and has the potential to get people talking about it and sharing it and spreading it, to me, that’s always great in any kind of climate, but certainly now when marketing dollars are getting more closely scrutinized,” he says.

Jaci Russo
Senior Partner
The Russo Group

Branding is All About Emotion


The second most important part of branding (after having a product/service that is actually worthwhile) is emotion.

People don't buy for features.

People don't buy for price.

People buy because of how it makes them feel about themselves.

If you look at the top ads for the year in this Advertising Age article, the one commonality was the use of warm and fuzzy emotional appeal in the ads.  

If you can't make an emotional connection with your audience (our product/service will make your life better) then you can not develop a relationship with them that will result in their loyalty and advocacy of your brand.

Top 5 Identifiers of the Illustration Type

Psychology has long identified four different personality types. But to look at them through the eyes of advertising is a lot more fun. The following is the third in a 4-part series discussing these 4 personality types and how you need to craft your message to be understood by each of them.

The Illustration personality is all about the wow. They want to make sure it looks good and is on the cutting edge. 

The profile of an Illustration:
  • Focused on first, newest, most
  • Act first and ask later
  • People oriented
  • Wants to inspire
  • All about Me
The Illustration can be identified by the look of their office:
  • Prefer to meet in the conference room
  • Lots of family photos
  • Loves inspirational slogans and motivational posters
  • Focused on achievements and awards
The Illustration uses clothing to express themselves:
  • Flashy and newest styles
  • Bright colors
  • Big jewelry
Typical jobs for Illustrations are:
  • Entertainment industry
  • Advertising managers
  • Public relations directors
  • Sales
  • Politicians
Descriptions typically associated with Illustrations:
  • Poised and sociable
  • Enthusiastic
  • Concerned about causes
  • Creative
  • Prefers personal contact
Next up...Logo

Jaci Russo
Senior Partner
The Russo Group

7 Tips for Brand Names

In ZAG, Marty Neumeier offers a list of brand names as either strong or weak. Here’s a brief critique of each name, according to the criteria below:

A strong name is:

1. Differentiated. It should stand out from competitors’ names, as well as from other words in a sentence. This is sometimes called “speech-stream visibility”, the quality that lets the eye or the ear pick out the name as a proper (or capitalized) word instead of a common word.

2. Brief. Four syllables or less. More than four, and people start to abbreviate the name in ways that could be detrimental to the brand.

3. Appropriate. But not so descriptive as to sound generic. A common mistake is to choose a name that doubles as a descriptor, which will cause it to converge with other descriptive names. Actually, a strong brand name can be “blind”, meaning that it gives no clue as to its connection with the product, service, or company it represents, yet still “feels” appropriate.

4. Easy to spell. When you turn your name into a spelling contest, you introduce more confusion among customers, and make your brand difficult to access in databases that require correct spelling.

5. Satisfying to pronounce. A good name has “mouthfeel”, meaning that people like the way it sounds and are therefore more willing to use it.

6. Suitable for “brandplay.” The best names have creative “legs”—they readily lend themselves to great storytelling, graphics, PR, advertising, and other communications.

7. Legally defensible. The patent office wants to make sure that customers are not confused by sound-alike names or look-alike trademarks. A good name is one that keeps legal fees to a minimum.

retail bank
What makes this name strong is its brevity. It’s fairly descriptive (the “bank” part), but it’s still more distinctive than most competing bank names.
First Bank & Trust
This is the worst of the worst—totally generic, like a bank in a comic strip. Have you ever been to a Second Bank & Trust? What do they mean by First? Is it on First Street? Is it the first bank ever? Is it the number-one bank? Not likely, with a name like this.
movie studio
The company’s full name is Dreamworks SKG. The initials represent the three founding partners—Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen—but Dreamworks is what people call it. The name refers to the notion of Hollywood as a “dream factory.” It’s brief, distinctive, and easy to spell.
United Artists
There’s a good backstory to this name, since this was the first studio owned by the actors themselves. But it sounds more bureaucratic than revolutionary. They eventually shortened it to UA, which is even weaker.
The company started as Federal Express. FED-ER-AL-EX-PRESS—five syllables. It breaks the four-syllable rule, so people started calling it FedEx instead. It turns out that FedEx is a much better name according to the seven criteria, so FedEx stuck.
Quick—what does it stand for? Give up? It stands for Dalsey, Hillblom, and Lynn, who founded the international shipping company called DHL. Never was there a less memorable or less felicitous trio of initials. “Diane, could you send this package out by—what’s the name of that company? Oh, never mind—send it FedEx.”
SUV model
The name makes this Toyota four-wheel-drive vehicle sound like a pioneer, as in “forerunner”. My only concern is the numeral four, which makes it difficult to access in databases. A better spelling might have been FourRunner.
Is it pronounced TU-A-REG, TWO-REG, TOE-RAG, TOUR-EG or TWAR-EG? Even when you know how to pronounce it (TWAR-EG), it sounds weird. I’m sure VW is selling these cars, but it’s not because of the unpronounceable, unspellable name.
skin products
Beautiful name. It’s the verbal equivalent of soft, smooth skin—which fits the promise of the product line.
The opposite of Olay—ugly, hard to spell, inappropriate. The name originally stood for “no eczema”, which is bad enough, but the “nox” part reminds us of nasty words such as noxious, obnoxious, and pox.
farm equipment
John Deere
“Nothing Runs Like a Deere,” goes the tagline of this farm equipment company. Now that’s a name with legs. Incorporated as Deere & Company, John Deere sounds even stronger and more approachable. The company is to be commended for not abbreviating the name to D&C or some other “professional” sounding derivation.
Okay, we can work out that AGCO is an agricultural company of some sort (they sell farm equipment), but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like John Deere, and it doesn’t create a mental image. Initials are like invisibility cloaks—perfect if you want to slip in and out of business unnoticed.
Charles Schwab
Schwab isn’t a pretty name, but Charles is, and Charles Schwab together is the name of an impressive man—a fact that the company has exploited from day one. Real names can be quite powerful when the founder is visible, credible, and has a personality that’s aligned with the meaning of the company.
This investment company has a difficult-to-pronounce name, but with some effort, they’re teaching people how to say it. Unfortunately, the pronunciation is WALK-OVA-YA—not exactly the image the company wants. They’d be better off changing the pronunciation to WATCH-OVA-YA.
After all the shelter magazines with descriptive titles (Home, House Beautiful, House & Garden), Dwell seems fresh and inviting. It helps enormously that the premise of the magazine—sustainable modern architecture—is also fresh and inviting.
Architectural Digest
This 7-syllable mouth-filler makes the magazine seem more academic than it really is, and guarantees that the logo of the magazine will appear small on the newsstand. Even the editors shorten the name to AD whenever possible, throwing the invisibility cloak over their own brand.
sports apparel
Under Armour
You woudn’t go into battle without your armor, would you? Under Armour sells the secret protection that keeps athletes safe during competition, using the tagline: “Protect this house.” I’m not sure what that means, but I like it.
InSport makes athletic clothing, too, but under a more generic-sounding name. I think I’ll take Under Armour.
cat food
Meow Mix
“The catfood cats ask for by name.” Brilliant. It sounds good, it stands out, you can spell it, you can picture it, and it has great advertising legs, as proven by the “meow meow meow meow” TV spots. A-plus for naming.
EEK-A-NU-BA, NUKE-A-YU-BA, OY-CAN-A-BA. I’m sure the product is good, but I think I’ll take a bag of Meow Mix. My cat’s not asking for Eukanuba.
bus service
How do you make a bus look sleek? Put the image of a racing dog on it. A classic name that just seems right.
Intercity Transit
If you had a choice between Greyhound or Intercity Transit, which would you take? For me, Greyhound would win paws down. Intercity Transit sounds like “inner city transit”—tough and gritty, rather than sleek and luxurious.
This is a terrific example of a non-descriptive name that seems appropriate. Following Apple’s lead, the name BlackBerry creates a mental picture, which is reinforced by the “seed” design of the keyboard. This is a major “save” for a company with a clunky corporate name—Research in Motion.
Anextec SP230
Who could live without a Blackberry-type product called the Anextec SP230? It just rolls off the tongue. Right onto the floor.
coffee/tea shop
Talk about mouthfeel. Starbucks has it. This is another non-descriptive name that rings the bell by “feeling” appropriate instead of trying to describe the product. Starbucks strikes a strong, energetic note, like black coffee on a misty morning.
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
The Coffee Bean was one of the original bean shops at the beginning of the coffee craze in the seventies. As a name, however, The Coffee Bean sounded like a million competitors. Years later, in an effort to bolster its shrinking market share, the company appended “& Tea Leaf” to its name, which made the problem worse by exceeding the four-syllable limit and unfocusing the brand.
cellular service
Also like Apple, this name for a European cellular service not only borrows the goodwill of a friendly fruit, but also its friendly color. This is the perfect name for a company bent on simplifying the cell phone experience.
The Metro part is okay. But the PCS? In the ultra-competitive cellular business, you need every advantage you can get. A stickier name would have been a good start.
natural care
Burt’s Bees
Burt Shavitz is a real person whose bees provide the ingredients for natural skin care products. It’s a great zag in a market dominated by the big, scientific brands. You can picture Burt and his bees, busily working to improve your skin—from a safe distance, of course.
Herbal Luxuries
This isn’t a brand name—it’s a bland name. It sounds like a bargain-basement knock-off, which is fine, as long as low price is your key success factor.
Something about this refrigerator name seems memorable, but I can’t tell you what. It does pass the test of brevity and spellability, which may be enough for such a well-respected product.
A Thermador refrigerator? Doesn’t “therm” mean hot to most people, as in thermal bath? This is an example of a name that doesn’t easily stretch in the direction the company would like to take it.
law firm
Orrick is short for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a large corporate law firm. Their stroke of genius was to drop all the names but Orrick, then symbolize Orrick with the letter O. Tradition stops competing firms from following in their footsteps, which gives them a large lead.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Eleven-syllable names are not uncommon for law firms, but it’s not good naming practice. People just call them Wilson Sonsini, anyway. Sorry, Goodrich and Rosati, but a shorter name would be better for all the partners.
office equipment
Despite an early pronunciation problem, this is a catchy name that helped the company enormously. The word became synonymous with “copy”, as in, “I’ll make you a Xerox,” or, “Can you Xerox this for me?” They misunderstood both the power and limitations of the name, and tried to make it mean something it couldn’t. I still Xerox my documents—I just use an Epson.
Kyocera Mita
KY-O-WHAT-A-WHAT-A? I’ll stick with my Epson.
online payments
Short and sweet. While other payment companies with “pay” in their names may come along, they’ll find it difficult to compete with this alliterative combination of syllables.
Click & Buy
I have little faith in names with “and” in the middle, mostly because they ask you to keep two thoughts in your head instead of one. It doesn’t help when the two words are so generic.
network storage
This is a near-perfect name for a network storage company. The sounds of “bro” and “cade” are tough and chewy, and the “cade” trails off into a satisfying finish. Of course, brocade—a type of heavy woven fabric—makes a nice metaphor for networking.
Network Storage Corporation
The eye sees capital letters, but the ear hears lower case. This name is so generic that it would make a better descriptor than a brand name. For example, Brocade, the network storage corporation.
oil and gas
This may be the strongest of all the oil company names. One syllable, easy to spell, easy to picture. You almost forget about global warming as you picture a sandy beach with clean, blue waves.
When the oil companies consolidate, I predict this name will be one of the first to go. It’s so opaque and impersonal as to have no meaning at all.
erectile drug
One of the greatest drug names of all time. Viagra sounds like Niagara, but with more vigor. It says implicitly that the honeymoon is not over.
This name runs a poor second to Viagra. Cialis sounds soft and sibilant, more like a flower than a drug for erectile dysfunction. In addition, the C makes the spelling trickier.
billing service
Department B
The B stands for billing. It’s a company that lets doctors outsource their bookkeeping and insurance paperwork instead of tying up time that would be better spent on patients. It can also be abbreviated to DeptB without losing its identity. 
American Billing Service
A more typical—and generic—name for a billing service.
car model
The Chrysler Crossfire (don’t those words sound good together?) makes you think of cutting across town in a racy sportscar, all cylinders firing with perfect precision.
This name seems disingenuous and patronizing. I understand, for some people, buying a low-end Oldsmobile represents a step up, but does anybody really think it’s a mark of achievement? To most people it says “Underachieva”.
car insurance
Car insurance companies have awful names, but this one’s pretty good, especially since it aligns so well with the company’s reputation as an innovator.
Conversely, this name is so bad that the company has to spend all its advertising dollars to correct it. But does turning GEICO in a gecko in TV ads really help? The AFLAC duck isn’t quite as odd, but neither geckos nor ducks do much to clarify the meanings of these two brands.
internet voice
A wonderful, slangy name for Internet phone company. The most surprising part is that they could get the name as a dot-com address.
Another Internet phone company, but i can’t see this generic name catching on. Can u?
jams and jellies
As the tagline says, “With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good.” This implies, with self-deprecating humor, that the name of this company is bad. It isn’t. Smuckers is not only the name of the founder, which gives it authenticity, but it sounds like yummy, lip-smacking jam.
Mary Ellen
Okay, so maybe you’re fond of Mary Ellen jam. But since the company has not properly introduced us to Mary Ellen, either with a picture or a story, the name just sits there on its hands.
TV search
Rhymes with TV, and lets you program your personal entertainment schedule. This is one of those names that seems inevitable.
A competitor of MeeVee, but with a name that’s not quite as inevitable. My guess is that Blinkx really wanted Blinx, but the name was already taken online. Unfortunately, using both a K and an X is like wearing a belt and suspenders. At least their pants won’t fall down.
office supplies
“We stop for empty staplers,” says the sign on the back of the Staples truck. The name Staples contains an clever double meaning that contains the word staples (the products) and the word staples (necessities).
While the name has a satisfying sound, it’s way too generic, creating confusion with other stores like Office Depot, MyOffice, The Office Store, Office Max, etc.
women’s TV
With the name Women’s Entertainment comes the ultra-brief acronym, We, which helps to create a feeling of community for the network. Very smart indeed.
Romance Classics
This was the name of the network before it became We. There was no “there” there.
PC sound card
So many electronics companies forget that their customers need a way to remember the names of their products so they can buy them and spread the word. A name like Mockingboard is perfect for this sound-card product.
Terratec EWS64 XL
Or you could name your sound card the Terratec EWS64 XL and cause some real excitement.
optical lenses
Carl Zeiss
Of course, Carl Zeiss is the founder’s name, but the company deserves extra points for appreciating its strong linqual qualities. The maker of precision lenses, Zeiss sounds like the words “precise” and “glass”, with hints of advanced German engineering.
Sony Lenses
All things being equal, would you rather have a Sony lens or a Zeiss lens? Even Sony chose Zeiss to add extra brand appeal to their prosumer cameras.
life insurance
As a shortening of Metropolitan Life Insurance (9 syllables), MetLife works pretty well. Much better than MLI or some other abbreviation. Good save.
American United
There’s no saving this insurance company name. American United? In trying to wrap the company in a flag, they’ve donned the invisibility cloak.
web search
As the company tells it, Google comes from the word googol, a quantity written as the number one with a hundred zeros. What makes the name work for the rest of us, I think, is the image of “googly” eyes, a metaphor for search.
The original brand name, Ask Jeeves, seems better. While Ask is a winner for its brevity, the differentiating part of the name was Jeeves. The fact that most Americans are unfamiliar with Jeeves (the resourceful butler in P.G. Wodehouse’s farcical stories) was an opportunity, not a liability. The company should have shortened the name to Jeeves and adopted the stories as a brand asset.