Category Archives: Tagline Creation

Naming Tips: Number 8 in a Series

This week’s naming tip requires patience and dedication.

Just learn all you can about the creative process and problem solving.

Yes, think of naming as a problem solving activity. With that in mind, learn and try the various systems and methods that have been used and endorsed by copywriters and other “creatives”. Three come to mind as rich resources for developing “creative thinking” that can be applied to naming companies and brands.

Two were developed by the Englishmen, Edward de Bono and Tony Buzan.

The other originator, Alex Osborn, was a founder of BBDO, the ad agency at which I cut my teeth beginning in 1959. Osborn, as well as the legendary John Caples were still semi-active at the New York offices of BBDO then, and I had the opportunity to sit silently as they conducted in-house workshops for us “newbies”. That brings back many memories, including an early love. But I digress.

Alex Osborn is the originator, or at least the “formalizer” of brainstorming.

His approach was to get a dozen people from various agency departments, including those in “non-creative” assignments like receptionists, media buyers and traffic coordinators, together after they had a chance to digest a “creative brief”. He had a bell which he’d ring if there was any negative comment (including grimaces or titters) to any idea. All ideas were put on the black boards (it was before white boards were invented), and we were encouraged to “hitchhike” on previously presented ideas. This is essentially the same formula used today for most brainstorming sessions. And it still works in providing a quantity of ideas with a broad spectrum of perspectives represented.

Osborn wrote several books on creativity. The two I find to be required reading are Your Creative Power and Applied Imagination, both written over fifty years ago but both as fresh today as when they were conceived.

Edward de Bono is primarily known as the author of Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step  and Six Thinking Hats. The concept of lateral thinking is the basis for his giant output of material – books, seminars, workshops and presentations. It begins with “don’t take anything for granted”, or “suspend your preconceived notions and assumptions”. Then apply various techniques like answering what many would think to be irrelevant questions: what if it were the size of an elephant?, what if there were no wheels?, what famous historical figure might be an ideal spokesperson?

There’s a lot more to de Bono and his ideas. And, yes, it might take some time to absorb and put to use his techniques. But the effort is worth your while if creativity is part of your life.

Next, Tony Buzan, the originator, or again perhaps the first advocate of, mind mapping. Originally developed to help students “outline” lectures in a graphic way, it’s been found to be a powerful method of generating ideas. A mind map is pictured below. It was copied from his book, The Mind Map Book.

A mind map

Note that everything emanates from the central point in nodes that can be expanded as the process continues. In naming, each node could be a particular type of name (geographic, coined words, idioms, etc.) or perhaps attributes of a product. You might concentrate on name candidates based on beauty, durability, leading edge, etc.

So, here are three approaches to creative problem-solving. All three are very useful in the naming process. But I know I’ve found them useful in any problem-solving situations.

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 in a Vacuum

Do you think companies have egos? Do you believe they intentionally ignore reality and ask their employees to behave as if competitors don’t exist, and that prospects are blissfully ignorant?

I believe companies actually reflect the egos of top management and their advisors. And that top management ego is the cause of many branding decisions that cause the brand to lose credibility.

Every so often that collective ego can override good business practices, basic marketing tenets and good, old common sense. This is particularly true of branding activities because they can be so subjective. Quite often these leaders will advance, or at least approve, communications at which the general public can only scoff. I’m sure you have seen this in action, and your reaction, just as mine has been, is: “What were they thinking?”.

That brings me to the subject of this blog entry.

In Audi’s latest commercial, they have introduced a superb tagline: “Never Follow”.

Those two words actively position Audi as an innovator, an engineering and style leader. I’m sure Audi management enthusiastically embraced this stance.

But then they had to show the Audi Avant. Holy, cow: it looksa lot like a Chrysler 300. The big grill. The high door panels. The smaller-than-average windows. Let the photos below speak for themselves.

Chrysler-Audi look-alikes

In this particular instance, Audi is a style follower, and we all know style is the major purchase consideration for most of the population. No matter how innovative under the hood the Audi may be, the visual evidence in this 30-second commercial contradicts its claim.

I can hear the folks at Audi approve the tagline without ever considering its plausibility. They know they’re innovative. They don’t perceive themselves to be followers. It probably never occurred to them that prospects would not see the world according to Audi.

So now a perfectly fine automobile is blemished by what prospects (at least this one) see as a disconnect between what Audi wants them to believe and the reality of the contradiction.

Top manager egos are hard to control and many capable people lose their jobs trying. But in today’s competitive environment where a company better be up-front, honest and credible, those in charge need to listen to advisors who will stand up and say, “REALLY?”

Credibility must be present in all branding activities if a company wishes to establish and maintain lasting customer relationships.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975