Monthly Archives: January 2008

Naming tips: Number 54 in a series

Continuing with descriptions of coined-word names, this post concerns alternatively-spelled words.

This may be the oldest form of coined word, going back to the origins of packaged goods. Uneeda biscuits comes to mind. They were founded in 1898 and were the first product of National Biscuit Company, A company that later become a coined-word name as well – Nabisco (clipped, then tacked).

Anyway, the idea is usually to phonetically spell a descriptive word or phrase. This may or may not be a good idea. If you’re “borrowing” another’s trademark by changing the spelling, it’s a bad idea. You may be violating that trademark. Usually, the courts base their decision upon whether consumers get confused.

And like many descriptive names, companies tend to outgrow them if they have an active product development program.

You’ve seen many an alternatively-spelled name, and often not even realize it. In parts of the country at least, there’s a pharmacy chain called “Rite-Aid”. You’ll see a lot of “Dunrite”s in any metro telephone directory.

I’ve dabbled in alternatively-spelled names, but so far no client has embraced one of my creations.

And I’m just as happy they haven’t.

It’s a “wimpy” technique for naming.

Martin Jelsema

Brands deserve a palette of color

I blogged last week about two-color combinations for branding purposes.

But I was unclear about one thing: the logo need not be more than one-color.

I got a comment concerning the Coca-Cola logo being just one color, so I must be “full of it”. Well, I may be. But I was referring to a brand’s palette.

First of all, I recommend that for your logo  get a one-color version so it can be reproduced in a newspaper ad or on an “ad specialty” item. You may find in today’s world of digital printing and web-based brands that you can afford to use a multi-color logo quite often. But it’s good to have the flexibility to go black on white.

Now, what is a brand palette?

It’s a set of colors to be associated with the brand. It could be a palette of two, three or more colors depending upon application.

If it’s a product, it may be the dominant package color. If you differentiate members of a product family by package color, all those colors are part of the palette. Color is only one way to differentiate – you may opt for large type or a visual instead. But color can be effective in this context. You’ll want to co-ordinate the colors you use with the logo color as well. This may dictate a black-ink logo, or perhaps a reverse of white.

The color of the actual product may also be part of the brand palette, particularly when packaging is transparent or non-existent.

If you’re branding a clothing store, an airline or an amusement park, your palette is an important and integral component of your “trade dress”. Along with type selection for signs, counter design and placement, uniforms, and several business-specific elements, integrated colors for interiors, exteriors, equipment, fixtures, vehicles and uniforms comprise trade dress.

But if yours is a service business, you may want to pay attention to your brand’s palette. If you provide clients with recommendations, reports, proposals in a professional folder or binder, pay attention to the color. Even the colors selected for your office walls is part of your brand’s palette.

So there’s more to color consideration for your brand than the color of your logo.

Oh, one more thing: as far as a brand palette is concerned, consider white to be a color. The Coca-Cola red is always associated with white: it’s the consistent background that sets off the familiar red of the logo and the can.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – number 53 in a series

The last several posts in this series have addressed the often-strange world of coined name candidates. I’ll continue with that theme here.

Another type of coined word for brand name candidates is termed “combined words”.

Here, two words, probably with little previous association to build some tension, are just shoved together. The space between them has been eliminated.

Ideally, the letters that adjoin are vowel and consonant, because pronouncing and spelling names of this construction are usually easier. But you can use devices such as hyphens or a period. Also, you can set the two words apart by capitalizing the first letter of the second word, or by capitalizing, italicizing or bolding either the first or second word but not both. The most difficult of combined words are when the first word ends and the second word begins with a vowel. Even with t typographic “trick” these are still awkward.

Here are some examples of combined-word name candidates:


One source of ideas for combined-word brand names are the dictionaries of idioms, slang, clichés and phrases. I suspect you won’t find many ready-made names here, but they can spark ideas. You can go through them with two or three keywords in your mind and see how they might be substituted for one of the words of a listed phrase. When a combination “works” you have an association with the phrase and with your keyword.

For instance, I just opened Roget’s Thesaurus of Phrases to “paddy wagon”. If I were naming a new baby carriage, “Paddipram” came to mind.

Hope you’re enjoying this series. If so please let me know. Just click on “Comments” below.

Martin Jelsema

Descriptive brand names are dead-end names

Yesterday another company announced it had changed its name.

I’ve keep a tickler file of such announcements.

And yesterday’s announcement fits the most typical name change scenario.

Simply put, the company had outgrown its name.

Successful companies do that – if they originally opted for a descriptive name.

That’s the problem. In the beginning, the company wanted short-term identification with an industry or product category by adopting a name that described their business. They do this without thought to the company’s future.

The last name change I was involved in would have cost the company – a regional construction supply company – around $50-thousand. They opted to retain their name (_______________ Staple Company) because of the expense. Now their sales force must explain to prospects that they can also supply ______, ___________, and ______________ even thought the company’s name just indicates staples.

The solution is to not adopt a descriptive name. How could a company like Go-Daddy that began life selling domain names exclusively grow as rapidly as it has if their name had been ABC Domain Names, Inc.? The major players in hi-tech today are usually coined word names, suggestive names or arbitrary names.

Those types of names will require some getting used to by the company founders, and they will need to be promoted before they become household names.

The brand platform, or at least a naming brief, should be created before people start suggesting names for a start-up. With all the strategic concepts outlined in a brief, appropriate, non-descriptive name candidates are likely to flow. Opt for one that will grow with your company, no matter where that growth will come from.

Martin Jelsema

Brands need more than a single color to express a mood

A while ago I posted about colors – individual colors.

I wrote about the emotional and cultural characteristics of the major colors, and then I promised I’d discuss color combinations.

I forgot about doing that until I reviewed my blogs of last year to determine what subjects I might explore this year.

So here goes.

Few brands are monochromatic. And that’s a good thing.

Colors in combination provide a much wider range of expressions and moods.

By combining them in many different ways, basic colors can elicit new emotional responses. And then using different tones, tints and shades of various colors in combination provides almost infinite palettes to choose from.

But other than combining colors that look good together – esthetic choices – the reason for using a specific combination may be elusive.  In fact, esthetics is as far as many designers go in developing a palette.

That’s why I use a series of books, all originally created in and by Japanese publishers, to understand the emotional pull of different combinations. In this blog, I’ll just address Designer’s Guide to Color (volume one of five), and one page of its combination discussion and exhibition. On that page, eight different colors, including black and gray, were combined and presented to respondents in the Luscher color test.

Several significant responses were identified. The hues were “pure”, intense colors without tint or shade.

Brown with violet: evokes luxury and indulgence.
Blue and grey: means a serene environment.
Red and yellow: depicts volatile and outgoing.
Yellow with brown: insecurity is the main attribute.
Blue and brown: evokes security and peace.
Red and grey: brings to mind irritable, threatened feelings.
Violet with yellow: withdrawn and unimaginative.

Now some of these findings, mostly determined within the German culture, may be surprising because of what we know about the emotions evoked by the single colors in the studies. But it points out the need to be aware and careful of the combinations designers present to us. Just because the dictators of taste and style had OKed teal and sea green as the color combo of the year does not mean they’re right for your particular brand.

There are still several more posts about color combinations and corporate colors to follow.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips – number 52 in a series

Continuing on methods to create coined word brand names, I’ll address tacking and clipping today.

Essentially, tacking means adding letters; clipping means subtracting them.

Tacking is different than adding a prefix or suffix, however. Usually it’s just a single letter that’s added so you get names like iPod, eTrade and BeanO. You could also tack on a new multi-letter syllable such as “aroo” to the back end of “Chef”, or “OK” to the front of “oak”.

Clipping just eliminates a letter or two from traditional spelling of a word to make it a unique name. Here are a couple of examples: BankServ and Orange Glo.

Next week: combining words.

Martin Jelsema

Should there be different approaches between B-2-B and B-2-C branding?

I first had to come to grips with this question as I cut my teeth as an assistant account exec at BBDO while working on the DuPont advertising account in 1960.

Would the messages we created for consumer ads for Telar the Never Drain Antifreeze, resonate with the auto dealers and service stations who would be our business customers?

The answer, of course was a resounding “no”. The appeals of the product as an end user looking to save money while protecting a vehicle where very different from the appeals to the dealer who wanted profits, fast inventory turnover and no servicing problems.

DuPont ignored the dealer networks, as they had done with other products with some success, to create “demand pull” from end users. This time it didn’t work. Telar was a flop.

And later, while working as account exec and copywriter on the IBM data products account at Marstellar’s New York office, I learned another lesson.

Appealing exclusively to engineers, programmers, systems analysts, operations managers, and business execs meant that rational messages on benefit and specifications were damned important. Making emotional appeals, unless very subtle ones that were meant to assuage human fears – “no one got fired buying IBM” – were not the way to sell computer systems.

Even though engineers were “human”, when evaluating business propositions they wanted to be treated as if they were, well, engineers. Just the facts, ma’am.

So the question I raise is just this: are there approaches to branding a B-2-B that should be significantly different from a consumer-goods company?

Well, I think so.

What do you think?

Please leave your comments, pro or con, about this question.

I’ll be exploring this question in several blogs over the next month concerning those differences and approaches to branding.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips: Number 51 in a series

Several weeks ago I wrote about combining words and word parts to form new name candidates.

Today I’ll address several ways to make these combinations. And then I’ll continue with some additional approaches to combinations next week as well.

So first let’s look at prefixes and suffixes.

It is possible to find and combine a prefix or suffix to a common descriptive word, usually a noun. I’ve done this successfully for several clients, most notably, Ideatrics and Profitology.

The former is a company that helps surgeons design, manufacture and market custom surgical instruments. So combining the Greek suffix “atrics”, meaning medical treatment, with “idea”, I created a name that is both unique and descriptive. Profitology uses the suffix meaning “science of” with “profits” for a consultant who sets up and trains incoming call centers for her clients.

All you need is a comprehensive list of prefixes and suffixes. I forget where I attained my list, but an Internet search will surely find such a list you can print out and put in your “Naming Aids” notebook.