Apr 282013

9780982082935_Merriams_guide-to-NamingI am pleased to announce the second edition of my book Merriam’s Guide to Naming is now available. In the half dozen years since the first edition, I’ve led over a hundred company and product naming projects for Fortune 500 multinationals, mid-size companies and start-ups. As part of this work, I’ve helped executives wrestle with questions and deal with challenges that were not adequately covered in the first edition. And, in reviewing dozens of magazine articles I’ve written and media interviews I’ve given, I realized I had a large body of new knowledge on the subject of naming. Merriam’s Guide to Naming was quite overdue for a redo. Click here to order.

Oct 142017
Golden Knights NHL Hockey Trademark Infringement

When The Las Vegas Sun interviewed us about the new NHL  team that needed a name, I warned them about trademark infringement that would mean certain trouble. Calling the hockey team the Golden Knights was a terrible, terrible choice for many reasons (see expanded Las Vegas hockey team naming mistake post here).  You cannot build a brand on a name you cannot own. How this team’s lawyers gave their blessing to the choice is a mystery.

Golden knights st rose collegeus army parachute team golden knights

The result of this poor name choice has been a year of legal wrangling and cost. In August, the team thought it had beat the trademark infringement issue when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved the name. Yet, today, it is being reported that one of the trademark holders. The College of St. Rose in upstate New York, was granted and extension for filing an opposition to the name. The U.S. Army, which holds a Golden Knights trademark as well, has also filed for an extension of the deadline. (Side note: Phoca Press, the company I founded with retired Navy SEAL Tom Hawkins, is publishing a history of air capabilities in Naval Special Warfare, in which the Golden Knights played a key role. Written by retired SEAL Captain Norm Olson, the history covers parachuting and many other SEAL capabilities that represent the air part of the acronym for Sea, Air and Land. The book will launch at a gala two-day event in Florida this coming December.)

The Army and the College of St. Rose have until January 10, 2018 to file their opposition. The owners of the Las Vegas hockey team are now eyeing alternatives such as “Sand Knights,” “Silver Knights,” and “Desert Knights,” though they allowed those trademarks to expire. They still own the domain name SandKnights.com. It’s pretty bad, but not as bad as the New Jersey Swamp Dragons. At least with a name that epically bad, there is little chance they will be fighting off trademark infringements.

Oct 082017
hybrid rose brands

Rose hybrid brands demonstrate how branding something turns a commodity into a valuable asset. I took a beautiful fall Friday afternoon off work to visit the New York Botanical Garden, thinking I was playing hooky on my branding business and enjoying the company of some members of my grandmother’s garden club. Yet walking through the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, I found brand after brand after brand among the 650 varieties there.

Rose hybrid brands, it turns out, power a multi-billion dollar industry. From a wildflower growing around the world, hybridizers and growers have created thousands of brands. The U.S. Patent Office lists over 6,000 rose patents, with exponentially more trademarks for rose brand names. Over 60,000 varieties have been created since 1900, with about 3,000 brands currently actively marketed. Brands like Knockout™, Peace™ and Mister Lincoln™ are worth millions of dollars.

hybrid rose brands julia childBranding roses isn’t straightforward. The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants established 65 years ago tried to establish the principle of one plant, one name. What has happened is that roses get a cultivar name, such as “WEKvossuntono” and then a variety of “marketing names.” WEKvossuntono isn’t much of a brand for a pretty flower. This the buttery yellow rose known as Julia Child™ in the United States is marketed as Absolutely Fabulous™ (after the popular television show) in the United Kingdom and as Soul Mate in Australia™.

Rose hybridizers sometimes seek brand names that connote a product features, such as Thrive!™, Drift™, or Garden Delight™. Roses commemorate events like the Miracle on the Hudson™ and favorite songs like Purple Rain™. Others convey a sense of the hybridizer’s whimsy, such as Gourmet Popcorn™, Happy Butt™, or Crush on You™. Many others are named after people—you can buy a Rosie O’Donnell™ rose and plant it next to a Trump Card™ rose. There are no roses named after Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, John McCain or Mitch McConnell—but never say never. The Joseph Stalin Rose has long been off the market. Consumer brands have jumped in. You can buy a rose called Weight Watchers Success™ and another called Benson & Hedges™ (I wonder if it is fragrant). Perhaps the best, truly honest rose hybrid brand is Ch-Ching™.

There is big money in roses. Will Radler, a rose hobbyist, hybridized Knockout™ in the basement of his suburban Milwaukee home. The first year of its introduction, he received a $60,000 royalty check. Since then, the hybrid became a top seller with over 90 million plants sold. Mr. Radler is a millionaire many times over.

Valuable brands attract counterfeiters like roses attract bees. Some of the biggest brands have banded together to fund the Plant Watch® nursery inspection program. Inspectors visit nurseries to stamp out unauthorized propagation and to ensure compliance with patent and branding requirements.

For rose hybridizers, getting one of your rose hybrid brands planted in the New York Botanical Garden is like getting a painting in the Louvre. Yet among the best sellers and flashy varieties in that garden, you can still find antique heirloom blooms and even wild roses. It is a complete rose education in just over an acre. Walking the fragrant paths of a world class rose garden on an Indian summer morning wasn’t skipping out on work; it was brand research.

Oct 032017
Unleashing the Innovators Lisa Merriam Jim Stengel Joanna Seddon Lisa Merriam

Unleashing the Innovators is a groundbreaking book by Jim Stengel, former Global Marketing Officer at Procter & Gamble and a 2017 inductee to the Marketing Hall of Fame, that was launched at the global headquarters Ogilvy & Mather last night. At a time when traditional businesses are challenged by a fast-changing market, Jim offers insight into how leaders with a 100+ year legacy can stay relevant, and more importantly profit through innovation and growth.

OgilvyRed’s Joanna Seddon, past president of the AMA New York and President of Global Brand Consulting, was a key contributor, providing her team’s research into how legacy companies have successfully partnered with start-ups. They discovered companies who with such partnerships had an edge in terms of growth, profitability and innovation.

Unleashing the Innovators looks at what works, what doesn’t and how to do better with these partnerships. Done well, legacy company endeavors with start-ups can boost:

  • New technologies and methods
  • Growing lines of business
  • Cultural change
  • Agility and speed
  • Prudent risk taking
  • Innovation
  • Connection to customers
  • Efficient operations


Jim was the former Global Marketing Officer of $76B Procter & Gamble, overseeing an $8B advertising budget and managing 7,000 people. He  was honored as the 2008 Cannes International Advertising Festival Advertiser of the Year a first for P&G. He reinvigorated Procter & Gamble’s culture, reestablishing its reputation as one of the world’s most admired brand-building companies and doubling sales. Jim is a 2017 inductee to the Marketing Hall of Fame, is a multi-year Advertising Age “Power Player,” and is Brandweek‘s 2005 Grand Marketer of the Year. After leaving Procter & Gamble in 2008, he founded The Jim Stengel Company, LLC think tank and consultancy. In addition to Unleashing Innovators he is the author of Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies.

Sep 142017
marketing broadway

One of the most fascinating aspects of my work with the American Marketing Association is the chance to meet brilliant marketers. Our video series Brilliance in Marketing showcases bright marketing thinkers across industries. Last week, I got the chance to talk to one of the masterminds behind the Hamilton, Kinky Boots, Cats, and The Great Comet brands:

Sep 052017
merriam bbc interview

The BBC called to interview me for a piece entitled: “Why Do Some Companies Ban Certain Words?”

The question was: “Can banning some corporate terms and replacing them with buzzier or more positive-sounding alternatives do any good? The short answer was: “No.”

While branded language is important, using it has to be done with care. Disney’s use of “Imagineer” for engineers works for the brand. When first coined, it was not meant to be cool like so many of today’s attempted job title innovations. It was meant to truly convey the nature of the work that combined imagination with engineering. Branded language works when it adds meaning and clarity.

Care with language too often seeks the opposite result today–veering into doublespeak. The article recounts how GM is urging engineers to avoid terms like ‘defect’ or ‘flawed.’ Apparently, they are too “emotional,” and “non-descriptive.” Well, what do you call a part that doesn’t measure up or is broken if you can’t call it defective? Lack of clarity can come across as dishonest–and both are bad for branding.
The article was featured in the “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week” handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Capital and Travel.

Aug 112017

social media planning Columbia Business School EMBA It was my honor to teach social media planning for the Executive MBA program summer session at the Columbia Business School.  Professor Emeritus of Business Marketing Don Sexton leads a lively class of fresh thinkers with insightful questions.

The curriculum I presented as guest lecturer provided an historical overview of social media, with a strong focus on processes and tools for social media planning–including many links to deeper insights, templates, and more. The rest of the class focused on where this fast-changing field is headed in terms of technology, user habits and expectations, and marketing tactics:

Social Media Landscape

  • Evolution of Social Media from 1973 to Present
  • Changing Dynamics
  • Users and User Habits of Different Sites

Elements of Social Media Planning

  • Goals and Objectives
  • Competitive Social Media Audit
  • Finding an Audience
  • Choosing Channels
  • Engaging Influencers
  • Content Strategy
  • Tactics for Engagement
  • Tools
  • Planning Templates
  • Budget and Staff

Trends: Top Directional Changes for 2017 and Beyond–With Current Real World Examples

  • Social video—live, 360°, mixed reality
  • Integrated and omni-channel
  • Increasingly robust reporting
  • Better tracking of users, including military grade social listening
  • Customer relationship building
  • Making the customer an insider and humanizing companies
  • Customer service
  • Holding companies accountable
  • User-generated content
  • Not social if not human?

The Executive MBA Program at the Columbia Business School is a world-class Executive MBA education that provides access to leaders across many business fields and functions; access that leads to even greater impact and success. Immersed in a dynamic business environment in one of the world’s great business cities, you’ll study with renowned professors and prominent practitioners. The core curriculum embraces both big-picture business and entrepreneurial dreams. The program is identical to our Full-Time MBA in every way but with a flexible schedule for working executives.

Aug 112017

Marketing EDGE Marketing Plan CompetitionThe winners of the Marketing Edge Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge competition for best marketing plan have been announced. Judging this competition makes me excited about the upcoming generation of marketers. Congratulations to the winners:


—International Challenge Provided by Collette, an International Guided Travel Company—

NEW YORK – August 10, 2017 – Marketing EDGE, a national education nonprofit committed to shaping the marketing industry as diverse, inclusive, and highly skilled, today announced the winners of its 2016-2017 Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge. The content of this competition for college students worldwide was provided by Collette, an international guided travel company. Altogether, six student teams – three from undergraduate programs and three from graduate programs – were honored for undertaking research to determine the likes, dislikes and desires of Baby Boomers (fall semester teams) and Generation Xers (spring semester teams). More here>>

Jul 212017

call for clarity siegelvision simplifying businessSimplifying business is good branding. It was my honor to produce the backstage interviews for the first annual Call for Clarity Conference in New York City, hosted by Siegelvision. Siegelvision is a branding agency with a unique philosophy:

“In a world plagued by complexity, our work is governed by a passion for clarity. We organize every engagement with clarity in mind and help purpose-driven organizations to achieve clarity of identity, clarity of expression and clarity of experience. Our commitment to Clarity Above All means we deliver clear, hard-hitting solutions that inspire action and drive impact.”

The event features speakers from different industries and sparked conversations among the 200 attendees about the damage that complexity causes brands. Simplifying business enhances the customer experience and impacts the brand. By making communications, processes and policies simple, the brand is enhanced. The videos of the speakers from the fields of finance, health, communications, criminal justice, academia, design and non-profit, feature “after talk” interviews that expand on the simplicity theme.

Jun 192017

Zicam Media BuyingThe media buying revolution continues. The American Marketing Association’s “Brilliance in Marketing” segment on Zicam’s revolutionary approach to buying television time comes at the end of the long-standing television upfront market. This 50 year old tradition has already been assaulted by the shift of ad dollars from television to digital. Now sophisticated algorithms paired with big data are allowing brands to buy television like they buy internet. The CEO of the makers of Zicam, M’Lou Walker, told me how they have changed the way they buy advertising in a recent interview in her office.

The growth of digital spending has slowed dramatically. Deadline Hollywood quotes Standard Media Index stats: “Last year’s Q4 revealed “the first glimpse of a flattening Digital market,” with year-over-year sales up 9% vs. 35% in the same period in 2015, SMI says.  That continued in Q1: Digital sales improved 6% in the first three months of 2017 as opposed to 19% in the same period in 2016.”

The new technology could help shift dollars back into television. Digital’s allure is its ability to specifically target people and provide detailed metrics. As television technology develops, those benefits are increasingly available to television advertisers. With television’s proven ability to move the needle, we may soon be looking at ad rush back into television when more companies adopt Zicam’s approach.

Jun 142017

Marketing EDGE Marketing Plan CompetitionIt is my honor to judge the 2016-2017 Collegiate ECHO Challenge marketing plan competition held every year by Marketing EDGE. Marketing EDGE is a national non-profit bridging the gap between academic theory and the practical knowledge and skills required in the workplace.  For 50 years, this organization has been bringing together marketing professionals, corporations, academics and students to apply classroom learning to real-world marketing challenges. Undergraduate and graduate students worldwide competed in the marketing plan competition.

Marketing Plan Competition Challenge: Collette

Students developed  marketing plans for Collette, a third generation, family-owned company with offices in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. Competing teams researched and evaluated the travel needs of consumers and their expectations for travel experiences today, and for the future. Then they developed an integrated marketing plan with a $5 million budget to entice consumers to travel with Collette. Competitors were given free rein to innovate on the product and the customer experience.

Scoring the Marketing Plan Competition Entries

As a judge, I looked at a number of different criteria across the entries. 50% of the score depends on the quality and use of market research. 50% rests the resulting marketing plan. Success criteria included:

  1. How thorough is the market research?
  2. Is the marketing strategy clear and concise?
  3. How effectively does the marketing campaign drive leads?
  4. In what ways do teams expand/evolve existing product lines and/or create something new and different?
  5. Do the proposed product line amendments flow from the market research?
  6. Is the budget realistic?
  7. How achievable is the projected return on investment?
  8. How well integrated is the media plan?  Does it employ media where the targeted demographic will likely be found?  Does it take into consideration the way the audience plans its travel?

Clear Winners in the Marketing Challenge

Judging will be complete in a few weeks, with the undergraduate and graduate winners announced in mid-July.

Prizes in each division:

  • 1st Place Gold: Team members are eligible to split a $2,000 award.
  • 2nd Place Silver: Team members are eligible to  split a $1,000 award.
  • 3rd Place Bronze: Team members are eligible to split a $500 award.

Teams demonstrating excellence in the following individual categories are eligible for honorable mentions:

  • Market Research
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Media Plan
  • Budgeting / ROI
  • Creative Strategy
  • Executive Summary
  • Visual Summary
  • Innovation
© 2014 Lisa Merriam