The Brand Mason’s Peer Review: 7 Common Cents Naming Insights

Branding, Guest Post, Uncategorized

Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by The Brand Mason (Steven Mason), a marketing, communications and naming artisan. Follow on twitter: @thebrandmason
Over the past 22 years, Steven has been a marketing executive at—and consultant to—public and private Internet security/networking, enterprise software, B2B platform, e-Business firms, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) firms, as well as a teacher of subjects as diverse as compiler (computer language translator) design and English grammar, mechanics and usage.
Here, he revisits the
7 Common Cents Insights for Brand Naming by adding clarity, context, and an alternative viewpoint. Contact The Brand mason at steven [at]

In his previous post, Mikal offered 7 Common Cents Insights for Naming Your Product/Company:

  1. The product is what matters
  2. There is no best way
  3. A name is just one component of a brand
  4. Do a competitive analysis
  5. Don’t commit any fatal errors
  6. Consider tying to something already understood
  7. A great name will help you, everything else is incremental

This post will function as an open peer review of the concepts presented.

1. The product is what matters

I would express this idea a bit differently. First, a great name can launch a bad product, but the product is unlikely to engender loyalty. If it depends on repeat buys, it will fail. If it’s a one-time, one-trick-pony, on the other hand, this may work. (I’m not endorsing this, because I think the modus operandi is a fundamentally dishonest one: I am simply making an observation.) Second, I advise looking carefully at the authenticity of the attributes/qualities suggested by the name. There must be a direct connection between what the name suggests/evokes and the ability of the product/company to deliver on same. Listerine used this very effectively: the name intentionally sounds medicinal; everyone “knows” medicines taste bad; therefore, they used a negative attribute which “proved” bactericidal effectiveness. My view is that the lack of a clear, strong nexus between a name (and tagline) and the benefits of the product/company is one of the biggest problems in naming.

Where I would disagree with you is that I view a name as an overarching concept that integrates all salient aspects/attributes of the brand, rather than as a component of the brand. The name is the “word that stands in” for the brand—i.e., an invented concept that must be reified to be made useful. Metonymy in action.

(continue to read The Brand Masons take on the six other naming insights)

It hurts to ask, or it doesn’t … Wait? Wha?


Seth Godin has a new post up positing that it doesn’t hurt to ask, unless it does.

I’ve voiced a bit of my opinions of Seth’s business advice previously, so I was a bit surprised when I found myself in agreement with his post.

His post begins:

“It doesn’t hurt to ask”

Actually, it does hurt. It does hurt to ask the wrong way, to ask without preparation, to ask without permission. It hurts because you never get another chance to ask right.

And continues:

If you run into Elton John at the diner and say, “Hey Elton, will you sing at my daughter’s wedding?” it hurts any chance you have to get on Elton John’s radar. You’ve just trained him to say no…

He concludes with some reasonable recommendations for not having asking hurt you, but he also adds:

Every once in a while, of course, asking out of the blue pays off. So what? That is dwarfed by the extraordinary odds of failing.

This is where I disagree.

I think too often we fear of failing. In fact – there are many successes I’m sure I’ve walked away from simply because I was afraid or unwilling to ask. Conversely a small start up I’ve helped is led by someone always willing to ask for help and who is candid about what he can and cannot give in return. I’m in awe at the opportunities presented to him simply because he had the courage to ask.

So my thoughts… ask away. Seth’s recommendations: Do your homework, build connections definitely apply, I think there is a social EQ you need when you ask away. You need to be respectful of other people’s time and tuned in to when someone is uncomfortable with your request (though discomfort can often lead to opportunity).

And while Seth recommends making a reasonable request, I disagree. I say you ask for what you need. Couple that with your homework, your connections, and preparation, you may get a no but more than likely you’ll at least get insight in return.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I’d rather have the problem that I’m willing to ask for too much, than have the problem that I ask for too little.