Brands Use Storms to Show True Colors

Brands Use Storms to Show True Colors

Several brands have stepped up amidst these hurricanes and, in doing so, have reinforced their status as true leadership brands. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have undeniably brought tragedy and turmoil to those in their paths, but as I watched (too much of the) recent storm coverage, I was, of course, riveted by the scope of the disasters and found myself moved, almost surprisingly so, by the outpouring of corporate goodwill.

Now, obviously, the praise I’m about to lavish on these companies isn’t to diminish the work of the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or the contributions of all of those everyday people, the family, friends and neighbors who simply put the welfare of others ahead of their own safety and comfort. Personal giving means more because, quite frankly, the sacrifice costs more and is felt more by the giver. Also, time and again, we’ve seen the “multiplier effect” – little financial gifts add up fast and in numbers that often dwarf the seemingly hefty single checks. But corporate giving speaks to me on another level. It takes quick decision-making and quick action in order to effect new and exceptional corporate policy, the eschewing of standard bureaucracy in favor of what is right and what is right now.

To me, this transcends even corporate philanthropy, however generous and needed. To me, this is more than strategic PR maneuvering. Could it be that we are actually beginning to listen to the Millennials when they say, essentially, “Less bullshit, more substantive action?”

Props for brands who let their values reign

Not that they need it from me, but I’d like to shine a spotlight on those companies that took action. I don’t doubt that many other companies have contributed in ways large and small, so let’s consider this a starter list:

>Airbnb offered evacuee support in the form of accommodations. I have no idea how they pulled this off, whether they, in turn, compensated the hosts or if it was an act of generosity by the property owners themselves. Either way, that is one vibrant culture of shared value buyers, sellers and broker. This has got to be one of the coolest companies on the landscape today.

>Perhaps most moving to me was to see the major cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, Norwegian) offer their vessels as evacuation vehicles in the Caribbean. Honestly, Friday was my first exposure to the tiny island of Barbuda (population: 1600) and to witness such a through devastation was truly heartbreaking. When all is lost, only hope remains. And those who salvage it and sew it are to be heartily congratulated. Putting their decked-out cruise ships into service, genuine human service, seems somehow, I don’t know, redemptive. Good for them.

>Delta and United both put a fare cap in place, hopefully making it just a little easier on those seeking to get out of harm’s way.

>Mattress Mack, a Houston retailer, put his showroom stock to good use turning his outlet into a evacuation shelter. Moreover, a CNN report recounted the story of an elderly woman’s daughter who, not knowing who else to call, phoned the store to tell them of her home and flood-bound mother. Not only did Mattress Mack put her up, he hired a crew to rip out the drenched drywall and prepare her home for its eventual re-building.

>Wi-fi providers Comcast, Spectrum and Verizon all stepped up, offering service to non-customers and unlimited data.

>Apple, a fairly consistent “good buddy” brand, has made donating easy via iTunes.

I don’t know about you, but moving forward I’m certainly going to have a different feeling about many of these companies. I’m positively predisposed to giving them by business. And isn’t that what every company wants from its prospects?

It doesn’t take a natural disaster, a catastrophic event or any other drama to figure out what we’re made of. Every day, companies who’ve taken the time to articulate what they stand for are able to demonstrate, via their employees and their actions, why they deserve our time, attention and money. Recently, I also saw a story about a returning vet who required the use of a service animal and was having a hard time finding an employer who’d accept the two of them. Lowe’s looked at the situation differently and hired him. Love you, Lowes.

Companies are not people. The only conscience they have is the one we imbue them with and codify. It was deeply gratifying to see these companies put their values into action with such diligence and confidence, and I look forward to seeing more companies follow suit.

On the other hand, personal giving is always good, too.

American Red Cross – text “Irma” or “Harvey” to 90999 to contribute $10.

Small business naming agency’s ideal client

Are you this small business naming agency’s ideal client?

This naming agency business is full of war stories. Just the other day, I had the good fortune of sitting down with a tremendously bright and experienced trademark lawyer. He’s seen his share of lackluster names, seen the results of well-intended punsters and he knows what’s out there service-wise. Our discussion prompted me to riff a bit here on why the process goes so badly for so many so often and how I think I’ve been able to defeat the odds. (No time for humility here – that’s on reserve for the brand vision inside you. For me, the only way to truly honor that vision is to meet it head-on: with whip-smart strategy and a process that mitigates the risks smaller businesses and smaller budgets face when trying to tackle creative projects.)

But, full disclosure: my ideal naming client doesn’t really need to be sold on the value of a good name. If he/she could afford it, he/she would absolutely be talking to the larger naming agencies.


Recent name for a golf app by small business naming agency Articulated Brands of Los Angeles.

The more you understand naming’s unique objectives and challenges, the more you recognize the value here.

Thinking back, my ideal client has already tried to come up with names. Cocktail napkins. Endless hours on Google. Often, they’ve already gone the crazy Uncle Lenny and the crowd-sourced naming routes, coming up not only empty-handed but delayed and demoralized. If that’s not bad enough, on a few occasions, I’ve actually had to do cleanup work for clients who were utterly dissatisfied with the work of other reputable firms.

(That said, do I mind if you need some reinforcement about the investment you’re about to make and why? Absolutely not. It really is my privilege and my pleasure to answer all of your questions, even the tough ones, and to help demystify some of the notions around naming and branding in general.)

Where do many naming agencies and company namers get it wrong?

  1. Monkeys typing Shakespeare (Myth: the more people working on my project, the greater the chances of success. Reality: only one person is going to nail your new name by “getting you” the most. “Safety in numbers” simply does not apply to the company naming and product naming disciplines.)
  2. Inadequate listening.
  3. No real investment into the underlying business model.
  4. Branding over positioning. (Big, hairy mistake. And just asking you simple questions, without challenging you on the premises or analyzing the business imperatives, does NOT qualify as a legitimate briefing process.)
  5. Puns and misspellings and pedestrian polyglot, oh my!

How I’ve achieved success as a business naming consultant:

  1. A unique combination of analytical and creative strengths.
  2. A deep understanding of branding, positioning and business development.
  3. Uncommon focus and tenacity.
  4. A proven desire to help people get where they want to go.
  5. Infectious humor and enthusiasm – a happy process leads to happy names.

When it comes to the high costs of company naming, it pays to get it right the first time.

If you, like Goldilocks, have been searching for a just-right, priced-right option, I’m here for you. Clearly, naming is not an inexpensive undertaking. Not for you and not for me, either. (When you add up the hours that typically go into a naming assignment*, it’s not what you’d call a profit center. It just happens to be something I love doing for people.)

Is it a big naming agency you’re after or simply a killer name?

You: an innate appreciation for BOTH creative abundance and a streamlined creative process, a passion for bringing your new brand to life in the most meaningful manner possible, and a budget of five to ten grand, depending upon the number of options you desire and a few other factors.

Me: a total commitment to your naming success.

Call me on it.

*A naming assignment requires 48 – 68 hours of high-speed name generation work, depending upon the category and the number of options you’ve requested. In a future blog post, I’ll explain why the caffeine-fueled journey takes “so long,” even for a quick thinker.