Why Weird Words Make Great Brand Names

When creating a truly great company name, the number one consideration should be the level of “engagement.”

“Engagement?” you ask incredulously.

Yes… engagement.

While there are all sorts of naming strategies… metaphors, acronyms, coined/invented, key attributes, positive connotations, etc., the one common denominator that separates the mediocre from the memorable, is the degree to which the name engages the mind of the consumer. Most new business owners opt for company names that inform and describe, leaving nothing to the imagination. They often fail to realize that the context surrounding the name (the ad, the store sign, the proposal, the brochure copy, etc.) will define what they do, so the name can be free to describe how they do it. In other words, no customer will hear or see the name in a mental vacuum. Yet this is the way we often judge names when “brainstorming”. And it’s why focus groups are such notoriously bad judges of good names. It’s not the people that are flawed, it’s the process itself. Most of the feedback takes the form of free associations, all in an effort to determine if a name is “good” or “bad.” It goes something like this…

Interviewer: “What do you think of the name Monster?” Respondent: “Ew! They’re scary and dangerous!”

Interviewer: “What about Amazon?” Respondent: “Jungle… drowning… snakes… piranhas…”

Interviewer: “Apple?” Respondent: “A bad apple spoils the whole bunch.”

Interviewer: “Caterpillar?” Respondent: “Squishy, soft, and squirmy.”

Interviewer to new business owner: “I think we can safely assume these would be bad brand names…”

So if it’s not a matter of free associations, then what determines a good name? Again, it’s that all important element known as “engagement.” Engagement is what causes you to lean forward, ask twice, invite more information and pursue the conversation. A good name should invite a discussion, start a conversation and “engage” the other person’s interest and attention. That’s why Amazon, even though it says nothing about what it does, works better than Books-A-Million. Amazon is open and inviting and Books-A-Million is literal and descriptive. Amazon speaks to the process…flowing, easy, abundant. Books-A-Million speaks to the products… books. And while Amazon leaves room for the company to grow in any number of directions, Books-A-Million leaves the company in a bind. I once heard an ad for a company called Just Brakes. Since they had outgrown this narrow niche, they adopted a new tag line… “We’re more than just brakes.”

Let’s take another example. Linens & Things is needlessly redundant since most people, after seeing a newspaper ad, or walking by the store window, will know the company sells linens and things. It would be better to use the name to capture some key strategic position or advantage, or to evoke a feeling or emotion. Is Linen & Things the best, the fastest, the biggest, the most service oriented, the trendiest? We simply don’t know. They have described but they haven’t evoked. They’ve explained but they haven’t engaged.

The objection I routinely hear is “But with names like these, no one will know what I do!” And that’s when I explain that trust is needed… trust in the power of context to fill in the blanks. That way the name is freed to paint a picture, engage the senses and position the brand to reflect not what you do, but how you do it.

So will any weird word work?


Weird for weird sake will just leave the customer scratching his or her head in bewilderment of moving on in indifference. Bold, engaging names will create the desire to know more, and that’s where you need to be ready to tell the story. The name then becomes a segue to a larger story. It starts with the name and tagline and then continues to the:15 second elevator speech and beyond.

One of our clients we named was TKO Surgical. When asked if that’s a boxing reference, our client gives an emphatic “yes,” explaining that they have a mission to both defend and fight for their clients’ needs. They’ll champion their cause and remain in their corner until the last bell sounds. Their tag line? “Technically Superior.”

So whether a name is based on a metaphor, a key attribute, an acronym, or a positive connotation, the overarching goal is to create a name that engages. Perhaps that’s why Albert Einstein asserted that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” If given the choice of engaging vs. informing, opt for a name that begs for more. It may seem weird, but the results can be wonderful.

Two Magic Words That Will Guarantee Your Success!

There are two magic words in the English language that define a person’s overall success. They are words that have been around since people started working. These single two words define a person’s character, how they live and what they achieve, whether that achievement be physical, financial or social. They describe who a person is and what they are all about. What are these to magic words? Well, they’re really not magic at all.

The two “magic” words I speak of are “WORK ETHIC”. I find this lacking, especially in younger people. Some young people have the notion that a good work ethic is nothing more than just showing up for work or showing up to do your job. They compare and justify and confuse this concept with people who are just plain lazy or just don’t want to work. You can still “show up for your job” and sit around all day, “shoot the breeze” and do nothing, and claim you have a good work ethic just because you are there physically at your place of employment. Just showing up for your job is NOT having a good work ethic.

I was in a fast food restaurant a while back, just getting something to go. It was about 1:45 in the afternoon and I was the only one in line. There were two young girls at the counter. I must have stood there for a full three minutes after I had taken my eyes off the menu to figure out what I wanted before one of them decided I was important enough to come up to take my order. When I finally did place the order I paid for it with my credit card and this girl not only couldn’t understand or get my order correct (I had to repeat it several times) but she didn’t have the training or skills to correctly complete the transaction on the credit card machine. (Probably because she didn’t pay attention while she was being trained.)

When she was getting to the point of total frustration, she TOLD me could I pay in cash. I said I would rather pay by credit card because it was a business expense and I wanted a record of it on my card statement. She actually started arguing with me over this and couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to pay in cash. Well, we got over that hurdle. Like I mentioned, because of the time of day, I was the only one standing in line. This girl was the slowest person I ever saw in my life. She spent most of her time talking with the other girl and then (while I was still waiting for her to put my small order together) she had the nerve to pull out her cell phone and call her boyfriend to start a conversation with him.

She finally got me my order and when I checked it before leaving, I found the order was missing two things I paid for. When I “interrupted” her while she was still on the phone with her bo’, (to tell her about the mistake she made) she gave me the dirtiest look for bothering her. Well, she finally got the order to me, I said thank you, and she didn’t say a word back to me. No apology for the mistake, no thank you, NOTHING. She casually went back to talking on the phone with her boyfriend and as I was leaving, I heard her start mentioning to him about the whole encounter and what a jerk I was.

If you work for an employer, even if you hate your job, that employer is paying you a salary to do the best job that you possibly can. Your attitude has allot to do with this. Even If you dislike your job and you take an “I don’t care” attitude about it, people will pick up on that through your body language. They will not want to work with you, they will not want to even be around you because you demonstrate a lousy negative attitude. This can really affect you if you are trying to advance your career. No Boss is ever going to think about even considering you for a promotion if your attitude at your present position stinks. Take pride in what you do. If you sweep streets for a living, be the best street sweeper that company has ever seen.

That is what a good work ethic is. Showing up for work everyday is just a small part of the process. Having a good attitude while you work, being attentive to other co-worker’s needs (or your bosses needs.) Put a smile on your face, and a spring in your step. Most of all, doing the best you can by working hard everyday and don’t goof off. When an employer sees that you are putting out your best on a regular basis, you will get noticed. It may take time, but it will work out for you in the long run.

This especially applies if you are in business for yourself. Getting up every morning, “putting your head down and going to work” everyday will yield success in your business. Remember, in your own business, (if you work alone) no one is watching you to make sure you are doing your job. That is a discipline you control. It can be real easy to just “sluff off” and do nothing all day and think because you can work anytime, you’ll just do it later. But just like with a job outside the home, you have to work and do your best if you want to see the Success that you desire for you and your family.

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