Category Archives: Branding Resources

Naming Tips: Number 3 in a Series

If you’re going to be naming lots of products and businesses over time, you’ll probably want a library of good reference books. They can be invaluable. I own some 75 dictionaries, thesauruses and other word-oriented reference books. Yes, I’m a little obsessive and compulsive. But I’ve purchased most of them from used book dealers and public library sales for a dollar or two each. The links associated with each reference are to specific pages in the Amazon database.

Some dictionaries are very specialized (Biblical, biology, physics, cross-word, English-Spanish, etc.) and their use is limited.

But I have three references I use with almost every naming project. I’ll briefly describe them:

Random House Webster Word Menu by Stephen Glazier.

It purports to be…

“A merging of dictionary, thesaurus, treasury of glossaries, reverse dictionary and almanac – fully indexed.
“the ultimate one-volume resource for finding and using words.
“organizes language by subject matter.”

The book is essentially a compendium of word lists by category, together with a comprehensive index. Under “Transportation” for instance is a category called “Ships and Boats”. That category is further broken down into logical sections like “Types of Ships”, “Parts of Ships”, “Nautical Occupations” and “Seamanship & Port”. Each word found therein will be defined as well. Thus, you can establish a comprehensive list of relevant words pretty quickly. I almost always start a project with this unique and valuable tome.

Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus in Dictionary Form edited by Barbara Ann Kipfer.

Not only is this a modern, comprehensive thesaurus (20,000 words, 500,000 synonyms and over 1,000,000 word choices), it has a “Concept Index” that allows you to begin with a word and its synonyms and expand the scope of relevancy by looking at other words in the same conceptual category. For instance, looking up “army” in the main thesaurus section you’ll find 25 synonyms like “battalion” and “brigade” and a reference to a concept. Going to the concept section, we find there a category called “Military” and under that heading, “Organization”. Here we’ll find “navy”, “fleet” and other related words that can expand our thinking as well as our candidate list of name parts. This is my favorite thesaurus even though I also use The Synonym Finder by J.I.Rodale quite often.

Word Stems: A Dictionary by John Kennedy

This modest book lists some 5,500 common words and bold-faces the stems of each. Then you can look up the stems in the Stem List to find other words that use the same stem. Thus, looking up tend from pretend, you find the root means stretch or reach and shares the stem with contend, distend, extend, intend, etc. Also it’s related to tendon and tender (to offer). This exercise can expand the playing field. I can also find appropriate stems and connect them to various prefixes and suffixes (found in Word Menu) to create new word-names.

Other references I find helpful for certain arenas and applications include:

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, edited by Ivor H. Evans

Dictionary of Art and Archaeology by J.W. Mollett

Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion by W. L. Reese

Merriam Webster’s Geographical Dictionary

The Complete Rhyming Dictionary by Clement Wood

Branding Basics: Step 1

As a branding consultant for smaller businesses, I’ve found it beneficial to assume my first-time clients lack knowledge of branding and of the branding process. This may sound presumptuous, but even those with some half-formed opinions (a little knowledge is…) find it helpful when we begin with a “back to basics” approach.

I call this educational process “Branding Smart from the Start”.
Okay, that admonition makes sense, but the question it raises is “how do I do that?

Well, I’m going to blog on that exact question: How should a start-up approach and implement a branding program right from the start? It will take a few weeks to cover the topic – there will be at least 10 blogs. But if you or your client can’t wait even a few weeks to implement a branding strategy, email me at and I’ll be happy to send you my drafts of the series.
Now many of the factors that dictate your initial business model and business plan are integral to your brand plan. In fact you can do to begin the branding smart process even before you have a business plan. I believe that branding is part of the fundamental strategic groundwork that dictates your business plan.
So the first question I usually ask is, “What markets will you serve and what are their major problems, needs, desires and characteristics?” 
I won’t let someone get away with defining their market as, “anyone who (fill in the blank)”. That’s not specific enough. If it’s a consumer product or service, speak to gender, age, income level, problem or desire addressed, their motivation, etc., etc. There may be more than one set of consumers, so define and profile each group and their importance (group size, purchase frequency, probable lifetime value).
If you’re serving business-to-business customers and clients, describe the industry(s), organization size, buying cycles, organization structures, buying motives, buying influences by company size, etc., etc.
In other words, profile the buyers in the market or markets you will be serving.
Once you’ve defined your market(s) and their needs for your product or service, you have established the foundation of the market structure on which you will build your brand. It’s also information that should influence your strategic plan as well as being a major section of the plan itself.
Just an aside: So often an entrepreneur will name his startup even before thoughts of brand, market, competition or business model are addressed. Isn’t that putting the cart before the oxen? That’s branding “from the start”, but not “branding SMART from the start. See my previous blog on Branding Sequencing.
I believe that the name – the foremost branding element – should be derived from the strategies developed and documented in the business plan.
Next: Competition and differentiation.

Martin Jelsema

Some Remarkable Branding & Marketing Blogs

Mack Collier on his marketing blog, The Viral Garden, proposes the following”

“Here’s the deal: In an effort to bring more link-love to those blogs that I feel aren’t getting their due, I’ve created a small list of blogs below that I’ve linked to. The idea is to create a meme built around giving link-love to the blogs that deserve it, and hopefully turn Technorati’s system of using a blog’s # of links to determine its ‘authority’, on its ear.

“What YOU can do is simply create a new post on your blog, but CUT AND PASTE the list I have below, and then ADD any blogs you feel aren’t getting their due either. It can be 1 blog, or a hundred(or none if you simply want to repost the same list), but the idea is, find those great blogs that, for whatever reason, you feel aren’t getting their due, link-wise.

“Then after you leave your post, the next blogger will do the same thing, cut and paste YOUR list, and add THEIR blogs to the list, then repost it. Add the same instructions in your post that the next blogger should cut and paste YOUR list, and add any blogs they feel should be on it to THEIR list. The list will get increasingly long, and all the blogs will get a sort of reverse ‘pyramid-affect’ of link-love.”

So here’s the list as I found it. Remember, it will grow. Now, The Branding Blog is listed thanks to Chris Brown of Marketing Resources & Results

Chris Brown

Shotgun Marketing Blog




Customers Rock!

Being Peter Kim

Two Hat Marketing

The Branding Blog

The Emerging Brand



Drew’s Marketing Minute

Golden Practices


Tell Ten Friends

Flooring the Consumer

Kinetic Ideas




My contribution is the very focused and authoritative

Branding Strategy Insider.

If you’ve a blog to add to the list, please do.

Martin Jelsema

Source of 10,000 Brand Names

Since the name is the rallying flag for your brand, it pays to spend the time and energy required to either find or create a really unique and relevant one. The success of your branding efforts begins with the name.

Now “finding” a name means looking for existing names that suit your product or business that can be “borrowed” from other sources without infringing on someone’s trademark. So where would a person look for names like that?

Get a good Atlas. There are thousands of place names listed in the index of your atlas. Just scan the list

Likely, you’ll find brand name candidates that set just the right mood and convey the appropriate image for your product, service or business.

Perhaps you won’t find an appropriate name this way. But it only costs you a half hour’s time with a $12.00 Atlas (Even less if you buy a used Atlas, or visit the library).

I’ll sometimes use an Atlas just to get the creative juices flowing. I might find a dozen or so candidates from, say Vermont which can be used “as is” or combined with other word roots, prefixes or suffixes (i.e. combining Alpha with the last syllable of Piedmont = Alphamont).

The founder of Haverhills mail-order business confessed that his business was named this way. He was not from, nor had he ever visited, Haverhill, MA. He just liked the sound of it. It’s been a successful catalog company since the mid-1960’s.

When you use a world Atlas, or an historic Atlas, the candidates just multiply.

As an added incentive, you might find a great place to vacation once your brand starts generating cash flow.

Martin Jelsema

Source of much branding wisdom

There’s a source of much knowledge about branding trends and principals available to all. It’s called It’s a service of Interbrand, a well-known and well-respected branding consultancy for major global branders.

But they have established this resource which is a forum and sounding board for any and all people interested in branding.

In fact, I’ve submitted and had published several articles you can find in their extensive archive. Once you’re there just search for “Jelsema”.

But besides me, hundreds of people with thoughts about brands and branding have submitted papers with subjects as far-ranging as “Using Music as a Branding Element” to “Branding in and for the China Market”. What a valuable resource! It’s all available free through a keyword search. also contains a directory of branding resources, features a new debate and a new feature article each week, profiles people and firms involved in branding, and reviews books and of course, publishes Interbrand papers, reports and publicity.

Anyone interested in branding should check out

Martin Jelsema

Who Owns Your Brand?

It’s almost eerie. I seem to be guided, book by book, conversation by conversation, to a new way of thinking about a subject I thought I had down pat.

The subject, of course, is branding. And the issue is, who owns the brand?

Every entrepreneur I know will think emphatically that they own the brand. They may have had some help with the logo design and trade dressing, and perhaps the brand name, but they made sure they owned the rights to each and every element of the brand. They have contracts with their creative suppliers to prove it.

Both management and I have been laboring under this paradigm that the company dictates and directs its brand(s). It is up to them to provide an image and messages about the brand they believe will sway prospects to become customers, and convince customers to be loyal advocates.

But the evidence is growing that the ultimate ownership of a brand is the group called “customers”.

Now I won’t get into details in this blog – more to come – but I will cite several books I’ve found recently that support this theory.

       Brand Hijack by Alex Wipperfurth
The Culting of Brands by Douglas Atkin
Fusion Branding by Nick Wreden

And both Tom Peters and Seth Godin embrace the concept in their recent writings.

The implications and how to manage brands when customers “own” them will be explored here in future entries.

Martin Jelsema