All creativity is a projection of ego. We should probably get that one out of the way first. The “arts” cloak it in loftier terms like opera and ballet, but it’s all the same thing. In one form or another, we’re putting ourselves out there.
Second, I’m a hearty subscriber to Malcom Gladwell’s idea that being accomplished in something is far more about practicing it 10,000 hours than it is about being “gifted”. That you’ve been called brilliant at what you do from time to time but inwardly protest that no genius lurks between your ears will stay our little secret. You, me and Mr. Gladwell know it’s the 10,000 hours you’ve put into it.
All of this is groundwork for my making the point that too often in my career I’ve been called in too late when the owner of a new business venture has made all the start-up marketing decisions and made a mess of it. Hard language, yes, but a blunt way of pointing out that, against my 35 years and counting at what I do, that owner is in something like Hour 3.
Has he named his business something memorable, or indulged some creative whim only he can fathom? The most common offense on this point is when husbands and wives attempt to blend portions of their names into a new word/business name meaningful only to them.
Has he chosen a text font for his signs and letterhead from his 2003 word processing software, guaranteeing his visuals look home-made for as long as he clings to them? Has he thought to order a phone number whose digits spell out his company name on a traditional keypad? Has he asked himself whether his chosen name sounds too much like something else – important to TV and radio marketing – and has he imagined his name and logo on all forms of media to determine whether they’ll fit, or even make sense?
I was once asked to make a winner out of a medical practice in a far off state that had chosen to abandon a logical, easily-remembered previous moniker and re-brand itself Peoria Musculoskeletal Institute. Let’s set aside for a moment the jarring realization that even doctors succumb to the temptation of screaming puffery by employing the over-the-top characterization, “institute”. These were no halls of study.
The back-breaker though was the utter impossibility of this new name. No one (outside of the profession) could pronounce it, let alone spell it. But the signs had already been mounted and five years of stationary delivered. One of the doctors suggested marketing the practice as simply “PMI”, but acronyms don’t work unless you already know what the letters stand for. These brilliant doctors had put in their 10,000 hours, just not in the right profession. My tongue-in-cheek but sincere advice? The closer your business name is to “Blimpie’s”, the better. Added note: I suspect they found this name on the internet. I picture them looking up from a laptop and shouting, “Yeah!”
Which brings me to an instance of my being called just in the nick of time. A local awards/trophy shop was relocating and rebranding themselves, and they handed me a list of suggested new names, most containing three words. Knowing simplicity was key, I looked at the core of their business and offered a single-word alternative. Today Cudos flourishes in two CSRA locations.
Yes, it’s your business and you have the right to do whatever you want, and yes, after a lifetime of witnessing other people’s “creativity”, the temptation is huge to smack a label on it and call it your very own.
But that’s the precise moment when wisdom needs to prevail. Call me first.
Next time: Papa John’s Gets It
DON MACNEIL is a traditional media expert, having spent more than 30 years on-air and behind the scenes in Media and Marketing. If you have any comments or questions, email Don at windsorway@ comcast.net