Anne Holland

The Brave New(ish) World of Audio Logos & Podcasting

August 8th, 2005

Like just about every other online publisher out there, we’re considering launching a podcast. (A podcast is a sort of audio blog – an Internet radio show that listeners can tune in to from their computers or download to their iPods. Link to more info below.)

I’ve been super-itchy to launch a Sherpa podcast since last winter … but aside from our already insane schedule growing Sherpa, I’ve held back because we don’t have an audio logo yet.

An audio logo (AKA ‘sound identity’ or ‘sound logo’) is that little bit of music that you hear at the start of a TV show, or branded radio show, or even a brand jingle played in advertisements. In just a few seconds, the listener hears the personality of the brand. And, since it’s audio, your musical logo can actually have greater marketplace impact than any graphic logo ever does. Audio has more of a *gut* impact than many visuals do.

I started researching audio logo makers and discovered there are some firms who create sound identities for big consumer packaged goods companies. They run focus groups, do loads of research and you’ll end up paying tens of thousands for a tidbit of sound. But it’s higher impact than another tidbit of sound would be.

However, there wasn’t anyone out there who created tidbits for wanna-be podcasters who need an audio logo to start and end podcasts with. So I called my friends at Audible.com who are iPod sound experts and asked them to recommend a few composers.

Enter Michael Whalen. He’s an independent film score composer who’s worked a lot for PBS and National Geographic. I loved the clips on his site. So, I bugged him — would he consider starting a podcasting logo division for folks like me with reasonable (aka limited) budgets? Definitely yes! Michael has launched it. You’ll find a link to his new podcasting logos site below.

Over the next 60 days I’ll bring you notes on the whole process of how we’ll go about creating the podcast and companion audio logo. Plus you’ll get to vote on which logo you like the best.

I’m so excited!

BTW: No, I’m not getting any sort of kickback for mentioning Michael. I’m just honestly enthusiastic and thought you’d be, too.

Six useful links related to this blog

Michael Whalen’s new Podcasting Logos site: http://podcastinglogos.com

About Michael Whalen: http://www.michaelwhalen.com

Podcast inventor Adam Curry’s site for podcasting wanna-bes: http://www.ipodder.org

American Music Center’s ‘On Hold’ program inspired by famed sound logo creator Eric Siday: http://www.amc.net/grants/Siday

MarketingSherpa Article: 7 Marketing Tips for Podcasts, Blog Ads, and RSS Feeds http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3042 (Open access until Aug 11)

Anne’s second column on this topic: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3064 (Open access)

Sponsor: New! Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005 ~~~~~~~~~~~~ All-new Search Benchmark has 210 charts of useful data so you can compare your campaigns to the “norm”:

– Cost per click – Average click rate – Conversion rates – How much marketers really budget for search – Optimization vs PPC results

3,271 search marketers revealed real-life results data to MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide for you: http://www.sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1150&p.cfm/2166 Or call 877-895-1717 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Holland

Stop Scary Ads at the Beach: How Relevancy Can Save the World We Love

August 1st, 2005

MarketingSherpa is headquartered in Rhode Island, which makes getting to New York meetings a pain, but at least we all live near the beach.

Last Tuesday evening, I was strolling down First Beach in Newport admiring the sunset when I came upon an amazing sand sculpture of a beach-bound family in a Volkswagon Beetle. It was obviously created by an artist, which made sense because Newport sometimes sponsors art at the beach.

But, when I stepped closer to admire it, I discovered a little placard bearing VW’s logo and the slogan ‘Drivers Wanted.’ This wasn’t purely art; it was an ad.

I’m used to planes flying over the beach trailing ad banners — generally for liquor. But hadn’t seen sand ads before. I laughed, how clever! Maybe I should write about it for Sherpa….

Then, yesterday evening as I was strolling down another local beach, I saw another big sand sculpture. Even from a distance, it was quite obviously the most incredible sand castle ever. However, this time I didn’t step closer to admire it.

Instead I felt myself shuddering. I feared discovering a corporation had sponsored this “art.” I didn’t want my innocent delight in the sand, sunset, birds, and waves besmirched by commercialism. It was profoundly distasteful.

All the way home, I wondered, how can we as marketers continue working in a world where nothing is sacred. Where college students line up to have ads painted on their foreheads. Where you can’t ever get away from someone trying to sell you something.

Then it hit me — what makes ads work is highly targeted relevancy. If you send me an ad, via my preferred medium, about something I’m deeply interested in, it’s not an ad anymore. It’s a useful alert. I’m grateful and excited to get the message.

Example: sending a miniature railway enthusiast a note when the newest caboose is ready.

However, it’s easier as marketers sometimes to shout more loudly and wave our arms around in the mass market then to build and manage the database marketing systems that a truly relevant campaign requires.

Example: a simple text email offering discounted child helmets to parents who bought a new bike for their kid in the past 36 hours will work better than a singing and dancing rich media video superimposed over the world’s largest parenting Web site.

The point: without advanced targeting systems, useful CRM, and excellent database marketing, we’re stuck in a nightmarish future where ads take over the earth like cockroaches. A world where everything’s a promotion and everyone’s eyes glaze over because who wants to be bombarded with crud 24×7?

Ok, rant over.

Sponsor: New! Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005
~~~~~~~~~~~~
All-new Search Benchmark has 210 charts of useful data so you
can compare your campaigns to the “norm”:

– Cost per click
– Average click rate
– Conversion rates
– How much marketers really budget for search
– Optimization vs PPC results

3,271 search marketers revealed real-life results data to
MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide for you:
http://www.sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1150&p.cfm/2166
Or call 877-895-1717
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Holland

Stop Scary Ads at the Beach: How Relevancy Can Save the World We Love

August 1st, 2005

MarketingSherpa is headquartered in Rhode Island, which makes getting to New York meetings a pain, but at least we all live near the beach.

Last Tuesday evening, I was strolling down First Beach in Newport admiring the sunset when I came upon an amazing sand sculpture of a beach-bound family in a Volkswagon Beetle. It was obviously created by an artist, which made sense because Newport sometimes sponsors art at the beach.

But, when I stepped closer to admire it, I discovered a little placard bearing VW’s logo and the slogan “Drivers Wanted.” This wasn’t purely art; it was an ad.

I’m used to planes flying over the beach trailing ad banners — generally for liquor. But I hadn’t seen sand ads before. I laughed, how clever! Maybe I should write about it for Sherpa.

Then, yesterday evening as I was strolling down another local beach, I saw another big sand sculpture. Even from a distance, it was quite obviously the most incredible sand castle ever. However, this time I didn’t step closer to admire it.

Instead I felt myself shuddering. I feared discovering a corporation had sponsored this “art.” I didn’t want my innocent delight in the sand, sunset, birds and waves besmirched by commercialism. It was profoundly distasteful.

All the way home, I wondered, how can we as marketers continue working in a world where nothing is sacred. Where college students line up to have ads painted on their foreheads. Where you can’t ever get away from someone trying to sell you something.

Then it hit me — what makes ads work is highly targeted relevancy. If you send me an ad, via my preferred medium, about something I’m deeply interested in, it’s not an ad anymore. It’s a useful alert. I’m grateful and excited to get the message.

Example: sending a miniature railway enthusiast a note when the newest caboose is ready.

However, it’s easier as marketers sometimes to shout more loudly and wave our arms around in the mass market then to build and manage the database marketing systems that a truly relevant campaign requires.

Example: A simple text email offering discounted child helmets to parents who bought a new bike for their kid in the past 36 hours will work better than a singing and dancing rich media video superimposed over the world’s largest parenting Web site.

The point: Without advanced targeting systems, useful CRM and excellent database marketing, we’re stuck in a nightmarish future where ads take over the earth like cockroaches. A world where everything’s a promotion and everyone’s eyes glaze over because who wants to be bombarded with crud 24×7?

OK, rant over.

Anne Holland

Blog Copyright Theft on the Rise Part II: Readers' Advice & 5 Useful Hotlinks

July 25th, 2005

I was worried that my blog last week about copyright theft (link to read it below) would spark a storm of folks posting nasty things about MarketingSherpa or my (assumed) naivete about the safety of any content on the Web.

Instead the opposite happened. Loads of you wrote (and even called) to say you had been worried about the same problem. Here’s some useful advice and hotlinks:

-> Add a formal copyright line and Terms & Conditions

At the very least, add copyright info to your published content. (See links below to copyright info for bloggers and publishers.) And don’t make the almost universal mistake of forgetting to update the year in the (c) date at the bottom of your Web pages annually.

But, don’t count on formal legal language on your site to dissuade theft. For example, I got a note from the folks at WorldWit saying their email discussion group postings appear to be routinely stolen and posted online by another site, apparently for AdSense revenue, despite WorldWit’s explicitly worded terms and conditions saying it should not be done.

-> Slim down your RSS feeds

Reader Elise Bauer of Elise.com wrote in, “Many bloggers release full-text RSS feeds, making it extremely easy for others to automatically lift their entire article. TypePad blogs, for example, release full-text RSS feeds by default, exposing their owners, often unknowingly, to bot theft.

“Who wants to spend their time trying to track down all these instances? Better to release just an excerpt in RSS. That way aggregators point back to your site, driving traffic to your site instead of stealing your content.”

-> Embed an “invisible” copyright line in articles

Reader Dave Stein of HowWinnersSell.com said he’s fed up with people stealing his articles “left and right.” He notes, “Most of the time a phone call will shake up the offender. I’ve actually made a friend or two who didn’t realize their lower-level people were stealing this content.”

He added, “One of the tricks I learned is to embed ‘(c) 2005 – Dave Stein – all rights reserved’ in white-colored font in the article. At least it’s easy to prove to an offender that they’ve pirated stuff. Plus, since I’ve keyed that string into Google Alerts, I can find out whenever someone posts it with or without permission.”

-> Ask for a hotlink

Reader Brian Cha, author of Email Marketing Resources blog, noted, “As I’m sure you already know, your page will rank higher in regards to search engine optimization when other sites link back to yours. So instead of trying to fight blog thieves, write some guidelines on how articles can be used (in regards to copyright) to help out those who legitimately want to spread the good word.”

So, perhaps we should add a note to all MarketingSherpa articles saying “If you like this article, please link to it *instead* of copying it. Thanks.”

-> Include preferred attribution lines

Reader Mary Schmidt of Schmidt & Associates notes, “Personally I’m all for people taking my content – just as long as they attribute it to me.”

So, if you are writing articles or blogs hoping to get noticed and perhaps land clients for your main line of business, then you should try putting a formal attribution and re-use line at the end of each item posted online. This might start, “Yes you may reprint this article/blog entry, as long as you include the following bit of text….”

(Of course, since MarketingSherpa is *not* a consultancy or marketing company, this would not apply to our articles. We’re solely a publishing company and our articles are our product, rather than being marketing vehicles for something else we offer. So naturally, copyright protection takes on a different urgency for us.)

-> Tell Google in writing if someone steals your copyrighted materials

As I noted last week, one reason some people steal others’ content is because they want to get Google AdSense revenue with content-rich pages without the effort of actually writing content.

To that end, many sites I’ve seen appear to be using automated bots to scrape content from other sites and then post hundreds, even thousands of pages online with AdSense listings. I’m not going to accuse any sites in particular here, suffice to say it’s a quickly increasing problem and loads of folks in the online publishing community have been noticing it.

Here’s what Barry Schnitt in Google’s PR department said in response to my query about this problem:

“Copyright violations are against our policies. We ask that the owner of the copyrighted material comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the text of which can be found at the U.S. Copyright Office Web site: http://lcWeb.loc.gov/copyright/) and other applicable intellectual property laws. In this case, this means that if we receive proper notice of infringement, we will forward that notice to the responsible Web site publisher. To file a notice of infringement with us, you must provide a written communication.”

My take on this? It’s not awfully reassuring. Google seems to want to put the policing ball in the copyright owner’s corner despite the fact that few of these stolen content sites would exist if it were not for AdSense revenues.

Plus, he didn’t comment at all on my second question, which was in essence, what about policing those sites — known in the industry as “Google Spam” — that post such short snippets of scraped content that they don’t actually break copyright law. They dance around the law and usually present no real value to the visitor.

Again, these sites are a burgeoning cottage industry that appears to be wholly funded by AdSense revenue potential.

My advice: if you are investing in an AdSense ad program, watch your metrics very carefully (separately from your AdWords ROI). Also consider the brand image implications of your ad showing up on automated bot sites. Do you want to be visibly sponsoring cruddy Web pages?

Until such time as Google decides to police more rigorously the sites ads appear on, buyer beware.

-> Five useful hotlinks about copyright and blogging:

#1. US copyright law explained in fairly clear English for bloggers with common questions (Thanks to reader Alan Herrell who pointed out this link in his Raving Lunacy blog) http://www.eff.org/bloggers/lg/faq-ip.php

#2. Official copyright info site from US Federal Government http://www.copyright.gov

#3. Copyscape — Quickly see if any Web page tracked by Google search is copying content from a particular page of your site or blog: http://www.copyscape.com

#4. Example of what appears to be an automated bot site that collects snippets of content from blogs and sites without adding any additional value/commentary, for the sole purpose of Google AdSense revenue (thanks to reader Tom Hespos of Underscore Marketing for sending in this link): http://www.ad-agency.your-information-source.com/blog/

#5. Last week’s column on Blog Copyright Theft http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3032

Anne Holland

Blog Copyright Theft On The Rise

July 18th, 2005

Every Friday afternoon I take a few minutes to do a quick Technorati or Feedster search for our company name. It’s the equivalent of doing a Google search on yourself, only in this case you discover what millions of bloggers are saying about you.

At first, it was a sort of guilty pleasure. There’s that tingle of excitement when you discover a favorable mention in a blog. Sometimes of course it’s criticism, which is slightly painful but always worth learning from.

But more recently I’ve begun to see an ugly trend emerging.

Bloggers have begun cutting and pasting the entire text of our articles in their blogs. Sometimes it appears as though they wrote the article, sometimes they give a little credit “from MarketingSherpa.” Either way, I have to contact them with the following little cease-and-desist note or risk losing the intellectual property that our company is built on:

“I’m glad you like MarketingSherpa, but please remove this article from your Blog. By posting an entire article, you are breaking copyright law. You are essentially a thief, stealing content it cost us hundreds of dollars to create. You can certainly write your own commentary or summary of our article and link to our site for your visitors to see. Thank you.”

I’ve noticed these thieves come in two distinct colors — the first are genuine fans. They are so psyched about an article they decide to cut and paste it under the misconception than it’s a “compliment” that a copyright owner won’t mind.

I appreciate the compliment, but just because a product is an article rather than a shirt or widget, doesn’t mean you can take it and give it away without the owner’s permission.

The second group of thieves are profit-driven bloggers who are generally seeking Google AdSense revenue. They publish as many blogs as possible populated with lifted content and sit back to collect commission checks from Google on ad clicks. Some have created automated programs that suck up content from around the Web and post it without need for a human editor.

Worried publishers are forming task forces now to begin to address this threat. Ideas include limiting bots’ site access and requiring registration. In the end, more walls go up around the Web and an atmosphere of distrust reigns. Too bad.

Sponsor: New! Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005 ~~~~~~~~~~~~
All-new Search Benchmark has 210 charts of useful data so you can compare your campaigns to the “norm”:

– Cost per click – Average click rate – Conversion rates – How much marketers really budget for search – Optimization vs PPC results

3,271 search marketers revealed real-life results data to MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide for you: http://www.sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1150&p.cfm/2166
Or call 877-895-1717
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Holland

What I Told the PC World Reporter about Phishing & Marketers

July 11th, 2005

What I Told the PC World Reporter About Phishing and Marketers

“Can phishing emails make people miss or deliberately delete messages they would otherwise want to receive from businesses?” asked Andrew Brandt, Senior Associate Editor PC World, when he interviewed me last week for an article. Three factors made me say “Yes”:

#1. Open rates are slipping unexpectedly. Open rates for HTML campaigns to house lists from legit mailers had been holding fairly steady for the past couple of years. Now, according to data from both MarketingSherpa and Doubleclick’s separate research efforts, opens are sliding down faster than expected. (How much depends on your niche, frequency, and deliverability savvy.)

#2. A June study by Lyris Technologies revealed 100 consumers were likely to mistake legit messages (even from big brand-name companies) as phishing scams if they were badly laid out text-only or had HTML code errors (happens more frequently than you think).

#3. I automatically delete the dozens of emails I get per day “from” financial institutions and the world’s fave auction site without looking at them because I assume these are all scams. And I bet you may do the same.

Brandt’s next question was, what can legit emailers do to make sure their messages aren’t mistaken as phishing? Here are my quick tips.

Tip A. Maintain higher quality production values

Consumers expect scam-artists’ messages to feel amateurish with typos, reply addresses that no longer work, and improperly rendered images (because perhaps they had to switch servers in a hurry).

Make sure your HTML email is coded properly by passing it through the validator at
http://validator.w3.org and check that whoever is serving your images will have them up on time and for a good long time — such as weeks, not just days.

Plus, take a good look at your text-only version. Never ever let your email department autocreate it based on your HTML content. Text layout must be handcrafted separately for readability and appeal.

Tip B. Consider protective software for your customers

When we were interviewing Secure Computing’s marketer Shelly Maley for our top Case Study this week (see below), she explained one of their products can protect your customers against phishing by changing their passwords in some automated fashion. I don’t pretend to understand this technology but hey, why not sic your IT department on the idea?

MarketingSherpa reader, Shira Steinberg, wrote in to tell us her company has invented another solution that adds “simple visual cues” to your Web site so folks know it’s legit. Again, I don’t understand this stuff, but if you like to research tech, the company name is Green Armor.

Tip C. Test alternate and mixed delivery methods

If the email message is critical either to your bottom line or because you are legally obliged to deliver it, then you can’t rely on email alone anymore.

Try multi-channel campaigns — If consumers see matching messages from a variety of sources (such as your new print catalog cover and a matching email campaign), they’re more likely to assume it’s legit email and more likely to respond.

Also, set up a program to automatically switch consistent nonopeners (or for text-only, consistent nonclickers) to a completely different media, such as print.

You should also proactively contact top accounts and key prospects via phone, postal mail, or on-screen pop-up, to see what the problem is. Perhaps the address is bad. Perhaps their filter is confused. Perhaps they want off your list.

Plus, consider offering alternate electronic delivery methods such as desktop apps, downloadable toolbars, RSS feeds, IM alerts, SMS alerts, etc., to your best customers. But, if you do, build in above-average reporting from the start so you can track usership on an account basis.

Good luck! P.S. Here’s that Case Study on Shelly Maley’s marketing: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3025

Anne Holland

Warning: Two US States Enact (Bad) New Email Laws

June 27th, 2005

This weekend, my email in-box practically exploded under the weight of incoming queries, concerns, and mailer debates about two new US state email laws that have come up pretty much out of the blue.

On July 1st, new child protection email laws go into effect in both Michigan and Utah. I’m not a lawyer, but here’s my rough take on the facts thus far.

— Individuals who are minors (under 18) or who give minors access to their email accounts (i.e., parents) and live in UT or MI can add those email addresses to a registry in the appropriate state.

— Institutions such as schools can add their entire domain to the registry.

— No “commercial” emailer can send a message that contains anything illegal for kids to view or use to even a single recipient on those registries. This includes messages about alcohol, tobacco, porn, gambling, and prescription drugs.

— Plus, your message can’t hotlink to a Web page that contains info about anything illegal. So, if your link goes to USAToday.com and there’s info about tobacco on that page, then you might be breaking the law. (This angle is what worries mailers the most.)

— The laws are in effect regardless of whether you’re a permission mailer. If an individual requests to be on your list, you still can’t mail any illegal content to them nor link to any illegal content.

Both laws are fairly vaguely worded, leaving details open to interpretation. So knowing how to obey isn’t easy. (Can you say “Bad Law?”) And no one has any idea how forcefully the states will go about stopping mailers who mess up.

The key is, because of this vagueness, the laws at this time affect nearly every mailer in the US who either:

A) Mails content only suitable for adults, or

B) Hotlinks to a Web page that might contain an ad, an article or perhaps even just a hotlink to content that’s only suitable for adults. (And some argue that could be Yahoo’s home page, what with links to personals, etc.)

I’m working to put together a special report on these new laws for our next issue. This could be a hue and cry about nothing, or it could turn into a huge pain for otherwise legitimate mailers.

In the meantime, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Sponsor: New! Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005 ~~~~~~~~~~~~
All-new Search Benchmark has 210 charts of useful data so you can compare your campaigns to the “norm”:

– Cost per click – Average click rate – Conversion rates – How much marketers really budget for search – Optimization vs PPC results

3,271 search marketers revealed real-life results data to MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide for you: http://www.sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1150&p.cfm/2166
Or call 877-895-1717
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Holland

Three Double Checks Before You Decide to Switch Email Service Providers

June 20th, 2005

, Publisher

A friend of mine emailed, “Anne, I’m fed up with my current email service provider. I think a lot of my mail is being filtered before it gets to my readers’ in-boxes.”

He figured switching to a new vendor would be like a silver bullet for delivery. If only he could pick the right one.

I had to be honest with him. Although we do publish Buyer’s Guide to Email Vendors, I strongly advise marketers not to assume that switching vendors equals better deliverability.

Why? Because so much of delivery is determined by your own practices as a mailer — not by your vendor. So, before you consider switching, first make sure you’ve done everything you should on your end to get the mail through.

Assuming you’re already doing the obvious stuff — only mailing true permission names messages you’re darn sure they’re interested in at a nonannoying frequency — here are three more factors to double-check:

#1. Are you currently using a dedicated IP address to send email that no other mailer ever uses? Some vendors charge a bit more for this, some don’t. Almost all offer it, and it’s your responsibility as the mailer to insist on using this service.

Otherwise you’re at the mercy of every other mailer sending from the same IP address. If any of the folks on their list block or blacklist them, your mailings are tarred with the same brush because you appear to be identical.

#2. If you send in HTML, is it coded properly? One industry expert told me off the record that almost never, ever, are email newsletters and alerts coded cleanly.

Much email design is done by Web designers who don’t realize email requires super-clean code. Plus, as original email templates are altered and adjusted over the years, the code can get messy. To see if your HTML passes the test, run it through the online validator here: http://validator.w3.org/.

#3. Content filtering is *huge* in the corporate world. Great email service providers can help you get through to major ISPs with volume controls, strict list hygiene, and reputation.

However, many at-work email addresses are being protected by content-based filters that may have much higher false positive rates than big ISPs. Translation: if your copy contains enough junk-mail-looking words, your mailing to folks at work may not get through. To see if your copy passes the test, run it through an online validator here (or ask if your ESP provides a similar checker): http://www.lyris.com/contentchecker/

Still not getting through? Now it’s time to pick up the phone and ask your current vendor for help with the problem. If they have no ideas, then (and only then) start shopping.

Sponsor: New! Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005 ~~~~~~~~~~~~
All-new Search Benchmark has 210 charts of useful data so you can compare your campaigns to the “norm”:

– Cost per click – Average click rate – Conversion rates – How much marketers really budget for search – Optimization vs PPC results

3,271 search marketers revealed real-life results data to MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide for you: http://www.sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1150&p.cfm/2166
Or call 877-895-1717
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Holland

MarketingSherpa Reader Feedback: Fast-track Name Choices or Lose Out

June 13th, 2005

Here’s a useful reader letter I just got in response to the “How to Name Your Brand” article we ran last month:

“Dear Anne,

A recent excellent article on naming in MarketingSherpa pointed out the folly of using abbreviations, as well as outlining a complete process for a company name change. While we heartily endorse the comments on abbreviations, the process described for a name change was unfortunately very biased to large or slow moving companies.

Do you really have 18 months for such an initiative? And, even if you do, does your company realize the time value of names?

Every day, hundreds of new businesses start, and hundreds of new products are launched and they all need a name. Every week, the US Patent and Trademark office processes a few thousand trademark requests as everyone tries to protect the intellectual property rights in their names. And our language is not growing nearly that fast, so the fight for good, clean and unique monikers intensifies every year.

We have seen a number of clients recently lose a favorite prospective company or product name to direct competitors. Your competitors only have to apply for a trademark, or properly use a name as common law trademark, one day sooner than you, for it to be their property and not yours.

Admittedly this situation is more common in fields where a number of competitors are suddenly all running in a new technology or fashion or theme direction, but it can happen to any company at any time. Businessweek magazine wrote about two direct competitors showing up at the same sportsmen’s show where both were launching new canoes called Cascadia.

In fact, certain roots, themes, and ideas come into popularity and affect naming, just like fashion trends. When brown colors came into fashion a few years back, we suddenly had a rash of Sienna and similar names, for example.

Here, instead, is a proposed timeline for naming or renaming your business or product line that anyone can follow if their management team is properly engaged:

Week 1: Refresh Brand Values & Image Characteristics Week 2: Master Name List Generation Weeks 3-5: Sort/Search/Select Names Week 6: Final Legal Checks/ Final Name Selection Week 7: Secure and Register Name/ Explore visual concepts Week 7: Logo Design Week 8: Management Review Weeks 9-11: Business Image Design(s) Weeks 12-14: Finish new Web look/Print initial items/Rollout

Too aggressive for you? What do you gain from dragging it out?

I understand if your lawyers have to go check every country of the world (this usually only applies if you are a Fortune 50 company). I understand if your executives are scared to make a decision so they pay someone to do market research about a name in many parts of the world.

But in the end, the management team makes the decision based on their personality, their personal likes and dislikes, their perceptions and desired marketing images. So you have to get the final names to them quickly, claim a name, and start using it to describe your new brand promise. Which means registering it and getting it out in the marketplace before anyone else does.

The 90-day plan outlined above lets you get on with chasing your customers instead of wasting time with incessant internal debates. If nothing else, calculate the cost of all the executive man-hours in meetings as naming and identity projects drag out for no discernible reasons.”

Athol Foden, President Brighter Naming

Useful links related to this letter

#1. Has this naming advice wetted your appetite for more real-life stories of how companies name themselves and new products? Check out our free giveaway for the book ‘Wordcraft’ by Alex Frankel, which the Wall Street Journal reviewed as “Hilarious and revealing.” http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=93070279812 (Contest ends June 26)

#2. Brighter Naming: http://www.brighternaming.com

#3. The MarketingSherpa article Athol was writing in reaction to: How to Name (or Rename) Your Company — 3 Steps & Mistakes to Avoid: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2993 (Open access)

Anne Holland

What I Learned on Summer Vacation in Croatia: Advertising in Eastern Europe

June 6th, 2005

I just stumbled off a plane a few hours ago, so forgive me if this isn’t completely coherent. I left half my brain back on vacation in sunny Croatia (the coastal part of the former Yugoslavia).

English is rarely spoken there because most tourists are from Italy and Germany. Croatians all learned a little English in school, which they remember about as well as I recall high school French (not very).

This doesn’t stop English from being used frequently as a marketing device — as you would a dash of spice in soup. Toss a few English-language words into a store display poster or a brand name tag-line and consumers know your brand is youthful and cutting edge. Hence “Montana” brand sandwiches, and signs offering “free shit” at Internet cafes.

There are lots of Internet cafes, but few eretail sites as, like many Europeans, locals don’t use credit cards much (let alone trust them on the Web yet). So, the Web is largely an offline-traffic-driving device.

Out-of-home roadside advertising is huge, and creative often matches the ads playing on TV. Most towns are small and centralized enough that you can completely saturate (and dominate) everyone’s consciousness with your billboard campaign.

There’s a downside to this: creative has to be incredibly good because your ad is *so* noticeable and unceasingly noticed during the weeks it’s up. If consumers don’t like your ad, your brand may suffer a lot more than it would in the US where it’s hard to get any eyeball time, let alone saturation.

(I wonder if that’s what it was like sponsoring TV in the 1950s here.)

One hardy entrepreneur is trying to get a cafe bathroom stall advertising company going. The ads for the service are, naturally, posted in a few cafe restrooms. And, they show — honest to god — photos of actual people in stalls eagerly looking at ads as they … do their business. It’s not quite as horribly explicit as it sounds, but awfully funny.

My absolutely favorite cafe didn’t have the ads (yet anyway). If you’re in the ancient seaside city of Zadar, definitely stop in at The Garden, where you can lounge on white canvas sofas under gently rustling trees as the waiter brings you another round (http://www.thegardenzadar.com).