I 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.
NBC News interviewed me about the trolling of the Ivanka Trump brand. Seems like “fake reviews” are joining “fake news” as a thing. The consumer is savvy enough to tell the difference.
As I told NBC, the trolling of all Trump brands is likely to continue as a dissatisfied segment of the electorate works out its issues, from marching in front of the Trump buildings here on the Upper West Side of New York to writing snarky reviews on Amazon. These people in the “bucket of disaffecteds” have few other easy avenues for venting their frustrations. Trolling is an easy way to express unhappiness without effort or risk–but also without much impact.
Trolling Ivanka Trump Brand Ineffectual
The effect of Trump trolling on the brand is negligible. People who buy the Trump brand like the Trump image or the product behind it. Trolls don’t impact that. People who despise Trump will continue to shun the Trump brand. Given the massive level of Trump publicity, consumers are already predisposed to like or dislike. They aren’t going to Amazon reviews to form those opinions. Trolling isn’t going to sway a consumer one way or the other. It has zero marketing impact. Trump brand managers can ignore the phenomenon.
For other brands subject to trolling, finding out what is driving trolls and who is doing the trolling is an important first step. Responding with a calm, measured, fact-infused way puts your side of the story out there. Consumers are savvy. They can spot fake reviews as easily as they can spot fake news. Beyond making sure the consumer has access to the facts, let the trolls troll on. They are frustrated people precisely because their trolling has little impact. Don’t feed that beast.
Sports team naming is a high stakes job. Doing it right makes creates millions of dollars in brand value. Doing it wrong leads to low recognition and low fan engagement, leading to low revenue and value. Naming the NHL expansion team in Las Vegas the “Vegas Golden Knights” is a missed brand opportunity. (Read part of my interview in the Las Vegas Sun).
The “Golden Knights” name is empty of associations with hockey or Las Vegas. It conjures images of medieval Europe, not a vibrant oasis in the dessert known for fun and risk taking. A name like Baltimore’s “Ravens” is an example of naming done right. It resonates with the city’s history with Edgar Alan Poe, is absolutely unique, and engages fans. The “caw-caws” on game day are a testament to that. A strong brand name would help the team earn bigger licensing dollars and sell more fan merchandise. Golden Knights is unlikely to do either.
The value of a brand is worth protecting, which brings up the trademark issue. The Golden Knights name is best known as the name for the U.S. Army Parachute Demonstration Team–but they never trademarked it. Brand names can be shared and used by multiple companies, so Vegas Army Golden Knights now share their name with other teams–The College of St. Rose and the University of Central Florida.
- Antelopes–or indigenous name Tatokes
- Ozuye–Hopi word for warrior
- Big Horns
- Red Rocks
- Tohos–Hopi word for mountain lion/powerful hunter
When market dynamics and business strategies change, it impacts the brand. National Geographic, a brand with over one hundred years of history behind it, needed rebranding after the entity split off the non-profit Society form the for-proft National Geographic Partners a joint venture with 21st Century Fox.
Rebranding doesn’t always mean changing a name or logo, and that is the case here. The National Geographic rebranding is more about refocusing the positioning and aligning the growing number of media properties clearly under one “rallying cry.”
The iconic gold border and priceless brand name stayed. What was added was the idea of “further,” which focused the company on progress and the quest for knowledge, science, adventure and exploration across all platforms, including the flagship magazine and travel magazines, television networks, social and digital properties, kids media, live events and even consumer products.
The brand plays a role internally as well, as a strategic filter for future initiatives, as a motivator and source of price for employees, and as a tool for recruiting talent.
National Geographic’s brand now, by definition can go further–“It never ends, it knows no bounds.”
Marketing history is dotted with examples of companies who have been successful entering a “saturated market.” The secret to winning is carving out a niche. Entering a crowded and competitive market is a good strategic option. I provided the San Fernando Business Journal with insight into such a winning scenario. Existing markets have large numbers of consumers and proven demand. “Going into a well-developed market and carving out a niche in an existing market can be less risky and expensive for an entrepreneur than doing something totally new.” Selling a new angle is easier, faster and cheaper than trying to introduce a brand no one has heard of for a product no one has heard of.”
Renaming Yale: An Orwellian committee in the “Ministry of Truth” model at Yale is hard at work scrubbing historical names from the campus, according to Roger Kimball in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The article The College Formerly Known as Yale, details how Yale University is creating a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming (Wow! So 1984!). The Snowflake Generation is suddenly in a snit over Calhoun College because of namesake John C. Calhoun supported the institution of slavery. Unfortunately, Yale founder Elihu Yale was himself an active slave trader.
Slavery will always remain a national disgrace of this country, but to expunge the names of its supporters from history misses the opportunity for a “teaching moment.” These names are an invitation to examine social, moral and economic forces that fueled it. Studying Calhoun, Yale (maybe even Jefferson and Lee), we can better understand the foundation for slavery, to better fight racism and bigotry, to continue to build the ethic of valuing human life, from Black Lives Matter to Blue Lives Matter, and to celebrate society’s progress, however partial and imperfect. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Those who seek to replace history for their own edited set of facts are tyrants.
Commercial brands tied to people know the risk of connecting a person to a product–think Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, and Lance Armstrong. People are imperfect. Renaming Yale won’t change that. History is a tale of human imperfection. If institutions may only be named after perfect people, we won’t be able to name anything after a person. For Yale, with the motto of “Light and Truth” to contemplate blotting out uncomfortable facts is very sad. Perhaps the Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming at Yale should rename Calhoun College “Room 101.”
Zika • Recession • Security • Doping Scandals • Brazilian Politics & Public Apathy
I will be on the panel of the Marketing Executives Networking Group’s panel discussion on the marketing challenges of the Rio Olympic Games
RSVP by Thursday, JULY 28, noon at http://members.mengonline.com/e/in/eid=421
Photo I.D. required for building entry.
Many issues are plaguing the Rio Olympic Games, which commence August 5th. The stakes are high – this is South America’s first Olympics – but problems still loom large. Rio is even canceling school because it doesn’t have a solution for the traffic. “No question, the country is facing the ‘perfect storm,'” noted former International Olympic Committee Marketing Director Michael Payne. Additionally, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced updated Rule 40 guidelines limiting branding of athletes, coaches, trainers and officials to prevent over-commercialization of the Olympic Games among other goals.
What’s a marketer to do?
MENG member and Sports Marketer, Scott Lange, will lead a lively panel discussion on the Olympic Games, covering both issues specific to Rio and perennial Olympics questions such as the value proposition of sponsorship and media coverage. Joining him are sports marketing and media experts, Ray Katz, who worked for the NFL, other major leagues and sports agencies; former head of programming for CBS Sports Jay Rosenstein, who started his career at Time Magazine reporting Olympics cover stories; and Lisa Merriam, who worked on sponsorships at the Torino, Beijing, and London Olympic Games. Together, they will cover topics such as
What do Olympics sponsors actually receive when they invest in the Olympic Games?
What’s the best way to maximize ROI?
What makes the Olympics so important for media, corporate sponsors, fans, athletes, and participating countries?
What happens when non-sponsors use guerilla tactics to borrow interest in the Olympics?
…and other salient topics…
Our August 1st meeting is extra special because it will be our last with our generous, long-time host, Lee Hecht Harrison. So come join us for our final party at 230 Park Avenue.
WHEN: Monday, August 1, 5:30 – 8:00 PM (just 4 days before the Rio Games open!)
Panel begins at 6:15 PM
WHERE: Lee, Hecht, Harrison, 230 Park Avenue (Helmsley Building, between 45th and 46th Streets)
FEES: Members & LHH $10 until noon July 28, $20 late registration
Guests $20 until noon July 28, $30 late registration
Refreshments will be served.
RSVP by Thursday, JULY 28, noon at http://members.mengonline.com/e/in/eid=421
Photo I.D. required for building entry.
SVP, eTeam Executive Search
Scott built his career promoting and securing marketing partnerships for large scale televised events such as the the New York Road Runners/NYC Marathon®, NYC 2012 Olympic Bid, the Ford NYC Triathlon, and the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational. His partners and clients have included organizations such as AT&T, Asics, audible.com, Cingular, Coca-Cola, Ford Motor, GEICO, JPMorgan Chase, Jaguar, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, MINI, Nike, Coca-Cola, Tommy Hilfiger, etc. As an Adjunct Professor at NYU’s Tisch Institute for Sport Management, he taught sports marketing and corporate sponsorship for 5 years. Scott has also been an entrepreneur: a co-founding board member of the Leverage Agency, a sports and branded entertainment marketing agency, and co-founder/President of National College Television, the first ad-supported satellite TV network for college students.
Managing Partner, Source1 Sports
Ray Katz is a sports business, media, and marketing executive with over 25 years of experience, with leadership roles at the NFL, NY Knicks, and NY Rangers as well as at agencies such as Young and Rubicam, OMD, the Leverage Agency, and Source Communications. Ray is an expert in evaluating, measurement, analytics, creating/packaging, buying and selling sports sponsorships and media. In addition to his business career, Ray has been a distinguished professor at the Sports Business Masters level for over 20 years and currently teaches marketing, media, finance and foundations at Columbia University. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and earned his Masters of Business Administration in Finance and Marketing at The Wharton School of Business.
VP, Headline Media Management
Jay Rosenstein is Vice President, Programming for Headline Media Management, responsible for developing and representing sports and entertainment properties as a seasoned television negotiator. He has had more than 35 years of sports television, marketing and public relations experience, serving 15 years in executive positions at CBS, including seven as VP in charge of programming at CBS Sports. At CBS, Jay was responsible for acquisition, scheduling and administration of all network sports properties including the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Olympic Winter Games. Following CBS, Jay served as SVP, Director of Sports & Events at Cohn & Wolfe, with clients such as Eli Lilly, Xerox, BMW, Guinness and the NHL. Jay later ran programming for WeMedia Sports, which produced TV and online coverage of the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games. He is currently an adjunct professor at NYU’s Tisch Institute for Sport Management, Media and Business.
President, Merriam Associates
Lisa Merriam led the branding initiative for Johnson & Johnson’s sponsorship of the 2006 Torino and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and helped develop their sponsorship brand story. On the tactical side, she worked with a BMW dealer group to leverage BMW’s performance story at the London 2012 Games. Currently a brand consultant, Lisa’s background includes agency experience at McCann-Erickson, Ogilvy & Mather, FCB, Mother, Brandworx, Verse Group, and others. Her volunteer initiatives include the Navy SEAL Museum, Naval Special Warfare Historical Foundation, Moms Who Kick Martial Arts Women Fighting Cancer, and the New York American Marketing Association.
On the eve of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, sports sponsorship for brands is drawing greater interest. Will pollution, crime, political bungling and Zika impact ROI? Probably not. Getting the highest ROI for event sponsorship depends “activation”most of all—and that extends far beyond the event itself.
If all you are getting for your sports sponsorship is your logo pasted on a few communications, you are missing an opportunity and surely are not getting your money’s worth.
Event sponsorship should generate returns in the areas of:
- Increased exposure
- Enhanced reputation
- Conversions—selling product
To win across all three areas, you must “activate” with a solid strategy and tactical follow-through.
Establish Sports Sponsorship Brand Strategy
Your sponsorship strategy begins with the “why.” You must have a compelling story of why your brand connects to the event. I helped develop Johnson & Johnson’s sponsorship strategy for its first-ever Olympic Partners Program worldwide sponsorship of the Beijing Olympic Games. For many sponsors, their Olympic sponsorship story is obvious. Nike is about athletic achievement. Coca-Cola is about enjoying the events. For Johnson & Johnson, maker of diverse products from baby shampoo to replacement hips, the story wasn’t immediately obvious. After considerable research among all stakeholders, the company adopted the story En Ai Er Shung—“Because we care.” Caring for people became the powerful unifying narrative relevant to every brand from Tylenol to DePuy to Splenda. Getting the “why” of the sponsorship right is what enhances your reputation and what underpins all tactical execution.
Spread the Story
Once you know your why, you must get the word out. Obviously put the logo everywhere. Wherever you can expand the story with at least a tagline, do it. Then go beyond the logo and tagline, to long form narratives, imagery, graphics and more. Think about everywhere your company touches audiences, internally and externally. Include the story on signage, marketing materials, vehicles, uniforms, email signatures, even invoices. The more you tout the sponsorship, the bigger your exposure benefit. The old novelist’s saw of “don’t just tell it, show it,” has relevance here. Create stories that dramatize the why of the sponsorship. Johnson & Johnson brought the caring message to life through dozens of initiatives, such as the Sight for Kids Program that provides vision screening, education and care to the children of migrant workers in rural China. Make the “why” more than a tagline—turn it into real life actions told through every possible sort of media.
Promote the Sports Sponsorship
Doing good is rewarding, but companies need to realize business goals as well. Developing customer-facing promotions and activities is the key to driving sales and profits. I had the opportunity to work with a BMW dealer group during the run up to the London 2012 Games. The BMW Olympic sponsorship strategy focused on a story that linked advanced technology to performance. They created the “Drive for Team USA” program that offered a special performance test drive experience, a $1,000 new vehicle purchase allowance, and a $10donation to Team USA for every test drive taken. I cannot reveal the specific dealer group results, however, the program nationally led to 26,535 test drives, 25% of which converted into new vehicle sales, for a return of some $150 million. Turn the purpose of your sponsorship into a practical program to stimulate sampling, demonstrations, education programs and other lead and sales generating programs.
Involve Your People
Your best sponsorship ambassadors are your employees. Make sure they understand the “why” of the sponsorship and the goals you hope to achieve. Spark their creativity by sharing best practices by other sponsors. Then ask them to help. Employees are a great source of ideas, big and small. Ideas can be as specific as ways a particular person or department can contribute, to as large as national programs. Educated, motivated and engaged employees are what can truly turbo-charge your sponsorship.
Keys Sports Sponsorship ROI
Winning at sports sponsorship takes many of the same qualities athletes need to win in sports themselves:
- A compelling motivation
- Ubiquitous and consistent effort
- Sustained from start to finish line (and beyond!)
In my naming consulting practice, I am constantly advising clients to stay away from descriptive names. Such names can never really be owned as brands. The classic example is Amazon’s once mighty competitor Books-a-Million. Would ebay have done as well if it went to market as online-auctions.com?
Descriptive names are not memorable and tend to be very limiting. The better approach is to consider brand names that have the potential to become iconic. Choose something unusual in which you can build meaning over time.
The “Genericide” of Brand Names
Yet in success, comes the danger of an iconic brand becoming so synonymous with a product that it becomes the generic. Frisbee spends millions protecting its name as a brand. The Dempster Brothers’ branded their wheeled trash haulers a portmanteau of “dump” with “Dempster.” Having lost control of the brand, today “dumpster” is a generic word. Aspirin, Zipper, Yo-Yo, Thermos, Vaseline and even Heroin are other examples of brands that suffered “genericide” through trademark erosion.
More naming resources for choosing a brand name:
Six Factors for a Memorable and Motivating Name
History of Best Known Brands
Styles and Types of Brands
Choosing a Name
Try a Recycled Name
Web 2.0 Naming Considerations
What is Brand Architecture
Approaches to Brand Architecture
Brand Architecture and Business Strategy
Companies and Products:
MSNBC vs. msnbc.com and The Bigger Naming Problem
Macy’s Blunder with Marshall Field’s Name Change
Banks and the Name Game from Bank Marketing Magazine
AIG Name Change to AIU
Breaking Up the Motorola Brand
Google’s Speedbook Disaster
Renaming a Small Business
Proxios CEO Talks About Renaming Process
Naming a Green Sportswear Company
Unintentionally Funny Names-BARF
Unintentionally Funny Names-Putzmeister
Unintentionally Funny Names-Bimbo
Renaming a $2 Billion IPG Agency
Renaming Iraqi Freedom
Selected Naming Portfolio
The New York American Marketing Association was invited to speak with a group of Saudi Arabia women entrepreneurs. The event was part of the International Visitor Leadership Program. This is the Department of State’s premier professional exchange program.
Bianca Di Salvo and Lisa Merriam, members of the board of the New York American Marketing Association and entrepreneurs themselves, met with the Saudi women at the Mission to the United Nations building in Midtown Manhattan.
The International Visitor Leadership Program hosted the Saudi Arabia women on their visit to New York. The program exposes them to examples of women entrepreneurs in the U.S, and shows how non-governmental and grassroots organizations like the American Marketing Association support and empower business.
In the last ten years Saudi Arabian leaders have been reforming the economy and opening new opportunities for women, particularly in the private sector. In 2011, the late King Abdullah Abdulaziz relaxed rules on women working under his la tahmeesh (no more marginalization) policy. The Saudi Ministry of Labor reports that in 2010, only 55,000 women were working in the private sector. By 2014, that number had grown to over 466,000.
The women shared stories of how they became entrepreneurs, what motivated them, their biggest challenges and their hopes for future business growth. The relationships started in this meeting are continuing, with the Saudis and the Americans planning ongoing networking opportunities, information exchanges and resource sharing.