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 152018
sears bankruptcy

As a Chicago native, retail nerd, and former customer, Sears bankruptcy comes as sad news. The Chicago Tribune has a great story of a brand that did not have to die. In 2006, Sears profit peaked at $1.5 billion with a 3.6% profit margin according to MacroTrends. That same year, Amazon just cleared $190,000,000 with a 1.63% profit margin. Sears, achieved huge success and then began to coast as faster, hungrier competitors like Amazon, Walmart, and Target hit the gas.

Here is an info graphic comparing Sears, that began as a one-product retailer of watches, with Amazon, that got its start selling books.

sears bankruptcy

Sep 132018

Brand trust is in decline. In the week that saw #BoycottInNOut and #BurnNike, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kylie Wright-Ford of the Reputation Institute for the American Marketing Association New York. We talked about  what companies can do to earn and keep trust in their reputations. Watch the interview here.brand trust

The American Marketing Association’s Brilliance in Marketing series highlights brilliant brands, campaigns, companies, marketers and innovations.

May 212018
product placement coca-cola-kilauea

From a previous eruption, but what a great and relevant product placement! Watch the Coca-Cola brand embed literally into the Big Island of Hawaii eruption of Kilauea:

I do wish the effect had been more explosive!

It is also a great example of co-creation. Coca-Cola did not create or pay for this video.

Nov 022017
small businesses getting paid on time

Inc. has a great article for on small businesses getting paid on time. Inc. interviewed me for the article: “Small Businesses Getting Paid on Time.” I work with a number of entrepreneurial clients on their sales and marketing activities–and that extends into how to price, package and collect payment. That’s where the marketing rubber hits the road: Revenue.


As a business owner myself, I have balanced long term relationships with long overdue client payments. Thankfully, I only had to sue once (and won), as strong client relationships facilitated working things out in a mutually beneficial way. That said, as I am quoted in this article–do your due diligence on clients. Avoiding dodgy relationships is the best way to ensure trusting interactions and certainty of getting paid. Managing relationships is critical to managing cash flow.

Oct 302017
AMA-NY-Brilliance-Marketing- MoMA-Fashion

Iconic brands do belong in a museum, and the new exhibition at the Museum of Modern art showcases some one hundred examples of influential fashion brands. The latest episode of Brilliance in Marketing brings you inside this long-awaited show.

In addition to serving as the chair of the communications committee on the board of directors of the American Marketing Association New York, I produce the “Brilliance in Marketing” video series for the organization. We discover and celebrate great marketing ideas and execution–which led us to the doors of MoMA and 53rd Street to the show that takes up the entire 6th floor.

For the first time in 70 years, the institution is featuring clothing and accessories. Previous curators just didn’t consider fashion to be art. It’s not just fashion that is art, but individual brands. It is impossible to tell the story of modern art and design without including fashion–and brands.

Iconic Brands at MoMA

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.

© 2014 Lisa Merriam