Name Awards Professional Commentary on Company Names, Product Brands and Business Names

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Better Business Bureau is a great blocking name

I have recently had the Better Business Bureau chasing our company from two different field offices. This happens every few years as our name seems to surface on both their lists. Anyway, we finally broke down and paid them the requisite fees to say we were a member in good standing – mostly so we could use their logo and avoid one other small hurdle for some people doing business with us.

Which got me to thinking about their name. What if I wanted to compete with them and start a separate business certification service? Could we then be Best Business Bureau? Not likely.. sounds awkward and may even trigger a law suit as being “confusingly similar”. So this is a name that has both first mover advantage and is also a good blocking move.

But if you run into a situation like this, do not despair. The trick is to just go a completely different way. In fact, in many areas now a better certification is to be a Diamond Certified Business.

Miserware breaks barrier with Granola product and name

When I am reading about a computer science professor and discover he has found a way for software to be much smarter at power management, I am not surprised. The fact he calls his company Miserware I think is a natural and applicable name and move on. Then I discover he calls the PC version Granola and I am pulled up fast. Did I hear right?

A break through free software program that is saving the world a lot of electricity and it is called Granola? I can hear the jingle now: “Granola isn’t just for breakfast anymore.” But since a very reputable magazine, BusinessWeek, first alerted me to this name and called it a brandname, I believed it to be real. And once I looked it up on which flipped me over to (yes a website using the Laos country domain, not LA city.. at least not yet) the plot grew deeper. I am sure there is a play on the name somehow, perhaps from granularity. While I am just guessing here I do think that is more likely than someone looking at his breakfast dish or lunch box and going Aha!

And since Businessweek called it a brandname, I had to check and see if it was a registered trademark. Well this turned into a quick lesson on how hard it can be to look up certain names on the website if you don’t know what you are doing. The first trademark search box I got to, I typed in granola of course.. and got 3076 hits to be precise! Wow. Backup.. let us rather narrow search to a name or partial name in the software category (9) and see what happens. I find an expired trademark for Granola Disk, and nothing else.

Oh well, with such an unusual name and prolific download rate, I suppose no one is going to copy your unique product name, so why pay the small trademark registration fee? Certainly in the food category it is a generic word and therefore not trademarkable, but in software it is unique and I really wanted to properly credit it with the Circle R brand – ®.

P.S. Also a great example of how a product name logo does not have to be boring.

Supernatural Name Coincidences

I have recently been part of a new short story anthology. As one of the founding members of  The Scriborium Writers Guild I naturally felt compelled to stand up and write my own piece, even though horror or supernatural with a Christmas twist is hardly my genre.

Write what you know is the old mantra. So I set my story in Half Moon Bay California, a favorite town of mine just south of San Francisco. And I even called out the town’s two lighthouses in my story. Darned if I don’t open The Mercury News newspaper early in the week to find a whole story on how the Pigeon Point lighthouse is being restored (with photos like one here – Thanks SJ Merc). Same week as our Very Scary Christmas Tales anthology came out! Wow. Talk about supernatural or paranormal! Or is this just some weird coincidence?

Anyway…  See or Amazon’s Kindle site to get your copy electronically in time for Xmas. Print version too. My co-writers have also often used real settings for their stories… together it looks like we knew each other well with a common cadence to all the stories. But this is the first joint work. Hope you like it.

Talking of long names: Silicon Valley Code Camp returns

Sometimes a function just gets the right name from the outset. Such is the magic of Silicon Valley Code Camp. Nowhere else would a code camp be so appropriate. After all, where else would so many propeller head geeks (as I call them because I was one) get together for a whole weekend and take over a whole junior college just to share information about the latest and greatest in software? Not a corporate function. Just some keen volunteers who now have some big corporate sponsors so even the pizza and sandwiches are free.

Peter Kellner and his team do a great job of this and close to 2000 attendees are expected this year to partake in the 150 or so sessions. All the news is just spread by blogs and word of mouth.

Since I was Peter’s tech support friend over 25 years ago, I was one of the first marketing guys ever to present at the camp. This year I will have two sessions: From Code to Product to Market to Company where I help software types understand what it takes to transform some code into a business, and Pragmatic Naming for Product Managers where we help teach the basics of naming in a very crowded trademark category.

Please join us or follow along online.

Sometimes the awkwardness of the name is part of the brand appeal.

It is not hard to see how Schlafly beer got its name when you realize Dan Schlafly is the president. How they are succeeding in St Louis, of all places, is however a different story. It is a classic David and Goliath scenario, as well as one for the Guerilla Marketing folks and is briefly documented in the Jan 23rd issue of Business Week.

Other things being equal, I  (and many other consumers) might not even taste this beer simply because we can’t pronounce the name. On the other hand, when given the only alternative choice in a sea of sameness, many of us change our mind…regardless of the name. Hurts for a naming guy to say that….but such is reality and once or twice a year I have to get it off my chest.

We wish them well standing up to Anheuser Busch in their own stadium in their own home town. Shows how a good product with energetic marketing can make it anywhere…. and they all remember the product as the one with the weird name.

Top 10 naming predictions for 2011.

Professional naming advice

1. Weird and wonderful names will continue to pop up.
2. Slow progress will be made in the adoption of .info, .biz, .us and .net domain names.
3. Trademark dispute issues will continue to rise, though I/P lawyers will continue to prefer to work on bigger ticket patent cases.
4. Foreign companies will continue to want English-like names.
5. English speaking countries will bring more coined and foreign names to prominence.
6. Many execs will still not get that there are only so many words in every business space – so lots of overlap and duplicates will continue to persist.
7. More customers will start asking their marketing agencies for help.
8. More marketing agencies will call on naming agencies for help as they realize their copywriters can no longer handle all the naming issues and complexities.
9. World slowly starts to discover affordable naming agencies exist and that it is a unique discipline.
10. The world does not run out of names.

Why is Skire a good new company name?

On the way to our talk at Inventors Alliance this past week, Ben and I both instantly noticed the name Skire on a building as we turned the corner. Only naming nuts are likely to both notice the same name at the same time!  But many are bland and lifeless, many are long and boring, many are OK, and just a few are great and wake us up.

So both of us had this instinctive gut reaction that Skire is a great name, even though we could not figure out what they did from their building signs – which as usual did not include a tagline. Of course they were online at and so now we know they are an up and coming software company for managing major real estate development project investments.

I think there is a story about the name coming from initials to do with software, construction, investment and real estate, but I am not sure. What I do know is that the name follows perfectly the laws of English word construction even though it is not in the dictionary, it has a nice sharp sticky consonant (k) and the wide open sound of an i, like in wire or fire. To me it also had some possible overtones of old gaelic Europe, probably Irish or Scottish, because I remember the mournful ballads of going over the hills to Skye.

Congratulations on a great name. Skire deserves a name award and is a great example for all of us in the creative fields. Somehow it is better than Skyre, even though Skype is better than Skipe! Oh how subtle the English language can be.

Salquin to the Rescue – Great name, great kid’s book.

Yesterday I was bemoaning fact that very old people do not readily accept new, unusual or coined words. Today I have the joy of talking about a kid’s book that really continues to push the limits of names and characters – for both people and critters.

Before this book I had never heard of the Salquin native people of Canada, now I too love the word. Same as I learned about Chimona in the first book in the series and from whence the series gets its name: The Chimona Chronicles.

Believe me, if I had grand kids I would be reading this to them from my laptop. It is so much easier to read to your kids, or along with them, if there is some intelligence in the story so you don’t get too bored. After all, you know you are going to have to read it over and over if it is any good.

And in addition, this book comes with an associated series website ( where you and the kids can investigate more of the names and terms. Even adults will not know them all unless you have travelled in the same areas as Rosie Reay, the author.

Yes, I am biased because I helped bring this book to market, but I only put the effort in because I thought it was worthwhile. With the added extra of a full length poem (a trademark of Rosie’s stories) and Candice McMullan’s great illustrations, I expect this book will be very popular for Xmas and many a family will be learning new names and places together, apart from unraveling the simple parallel plots in the story line.

In the meantime, you can get an early copy via download to your computer from

Never lay your hands on the Neverland name.

neverland_ranch_nameAlthough it is a straight copy by Michael Jackson, and before that by Disney, of a mythical place name in the classic Peter Pan novels, today there are some big organizations and their friendly lawyers protecting the Neverland name. And, of course, Michael Jackson’s estate is probably worth a lot more now that he has passed on. So I was not surprised to read that a would-be tribute musical band had been sent one of those dreaded cease and desist letters for trying to use the name. In a smart move, they are now Foreverland. Much cheaper than fighting a lawsuit… but a positive implied connection nevertheless.

During Jackson’s passing, his Neverland Ranch gained even more immense worldwide coverage. Ironically, when he bought it originally from Sycamore Valley Ranch, he renamed it, but he had subsequently become a part owner of Sycamore Valley Ranch and taken over the ownership. So much of the public immediately recognized the brand as being associated with Michael Jackson – and would attest to that if asked for a common opinion – even though there are many trademark applications and fights over the name. Pity Jackson didn’t properly protect it earlier, instead of the slew of filings on his death (assuming he could get the rights properly from Disney or J.M.Barrie Estate author of Peter Pan).

Enough legal, more interestingly, why does the name have such power, such interest, such fascination? It is a negative right? Wow. Great example of where a negative has become a positive. How much more over the top brandable than Sycamore Valley Ranch? Immeasurable…  with maybe even a touch of genius behind it. Most corporations I know would get all analytical and say it is too negative a name for us – but most of them outside Hollywood are not paid to dream!

Eloquent and beautiful.. but in this day and age Neverland is taken as a name. RIP Michael Jackson… we will leave your place name to your lawyers and family.

Oh no, not another Nexus. One has to wonder.

nexusonelogoThis week Google announced their own new phone, even though they can’t quite clearly elucidate what this has got to do with their core business.

Never mind, what we want to know is if you make a call on a Nexus One, will it be routed via a Cisco Nexus® switch, will it work with the Nexus® measuring equipment and the Nexus® satellite radio hardware, will it use and support Nexus® typefonts, does it use a Nexus® plasma flat screen, does it compute like a Nexus® personal computer and connect to the Nexus® automotive measuring instruments, does it support Nexus® audio/video, run the Nexus® fluid dynamics program, is it based on Nexus® IC technology, can you download Nexus® erotic books from Virgin, and is all this supported by the Nexus® software support package?

Aren’t you glad they added the word one to make it unique? Luckily they didn’t pick 2000, because the Nexus 2000® was an old, old dictation machine. Google must be going corporate. So much for their former uniqueness streak.

All Nexus names used here are registered trademarks of their owners – too many to mention, but only a small sample of those fighting over the same name with the US Patent and Trademark office. Nexus one is not yet an approved or registered trademark.