In this season of awards and voting, I thought it would be interesting to share the original names for television, films and movies on view in a 1931 NBC letter on display in the lobby of Rockefeller Center.

At that time, the industry word for television was “radio vision,” and “telepictures” was being used by AT&T. NBC wanted a name they could trademark, so they needed a coined name not in use (always a good strategy). They thought “tele” was associated with telegraphs and wire service so not a good choice. Here were the choices proffered:

– Kinemaradio
– Radioptics
– RadioKinemo/a
– Radiocinemat
– NBC Cinemacasts
– Ravisio
– Radiovision

The logical reasoning behind these mouthfuls was based on the Greek word for motion, kinetikos and also kinēma, meaning “movement.” These gave birth to the French word cinématographe and the English word cinematograph, which was the reigning word for movies at the time. NBC’s goal, stated by letter writer O.B. Hanson was to:

“Let us try and prevent the public from using an expression [for television] which will cheapen the art such as they do to the cinematograph by calling it “moving pictures” which is an infantile description.”

Wow. What a classic example of cerebral overthinking and not enough poetry and emotion — reason without rhyme! Another example is the word photoplay, also used for films:

“Movie… is unpardonable slang, emanating from the gutter, and its use is deplored by everyone who wishes to see the photoplay occupy the dignified position which it deserves,” stated one theater management team in their local newspaper in 1910.

As we all know, the very literal and “dignified” words photoplay and cinematograph are “in the gutter” today — and it is the word movies that won the “consumer’s choice” award.

While these examples are extreme, overly cerebral, descriptive names are one of the most common mistakes I see in naming. They have much marketing data to support their use — but no rhythm or rhyme to carry them into consumer’s hearts and stay there — it’s like big data without a pulse!

Simplicity is not infantile or simplistic, it’s sublime, and we all gravitate toward it in the Gigabyte Age. With conversation as the new interface, pronounceability, poetry and rhythm are the top naming criteria, along with being memorable, spell-able, and available for use.

It’s not just brevity:

Great names are typically 2–4 syllables long. But it’s not just brevity that makes a winning name. “The Shack” was proposed by Radio Shack, but consumers did not embrace it, maybe they felt it was too awkward or contrived. It just doesn’t “sing.”

As marketing guru Michael Troiano defines it, a brand IS “the world’s collective emotional response.”

The “popular” vote is more important than your HQ vote:

In the broadcast age, corporations dictated messages and tried to tightly control the use of their name, branding, image and more. Today, marketers welcome the input and even control of consumers in the evolution of their names and brands. Naming is one of the most interactive of branding steps. Federal Express changed it’s name legally to FedEx 20 years after launch, because that was the people’s choice. And “Tarjay” became so popular that Target trademarked it as well and adopted it as part of their brand.

Start with strategy, then blink:

Of course, it is key to have a strategic Naming Brief with a well articulated connection to your brand mission and positioning, based on data and research, before you start brainstorming names . Everyone needs a sound bite on their brand name origin. However:

… the “blink” association and gut emotional response we feel to a name is more important than its definition or reasoning, as it will have more determination on the success of your branding.

As Simon Sinek so brilliantly explains, it is here in our blink, emotional responses that we make decisions about liking, investigating or purchasing brands that no amount of reasoning can manipulate or change. A name that resonates with your consumer emotionally is always the #1 criteria in my Naming Brief.

Add rhyme to reason:

Any teacher knows if you want to get kids to memorize something, sing it. Get kids to clean up? Sing the clean up song! We love rhythm and we love rhyme. It’s in our blood and in our bones. Names like Google, Uber, Flare, Instar, and Nespresso are a delight to say, hear and envision, so they stick. Other brand names like Alphabet are more reason-able than poetic.

We hear and speak language years before we learn to read and write, so we “hear” a word even when we are reading it. The way a name rolls off or ties our tongue — is key too. We can’t resist words, phrases and songs that are a delight to say or ponder. This is why professional namers often have skills in poetry, creative writing, linguistics and/or music.

Jeff Bezos summed it up when he said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room”… Just make sure to listen!

What brand names do you think are the winning names of 2016?


Finding a unique and available name in the burgeoning home and garden field was a challenge, but NameGirl did just that, including an exact match domain, and trademark.



Vesta provides resources and events to support, educate and empower people during and after separation and divorce.


“Communication these days is all about communities, both physical and virtual. This requires a whole new level of collaboration. Trilogue addresses this need by moving beyond the 2-way dialogue of our analog past and into the multi-faceted art of communication in today’s connected world.”

– Melanie Walsh, Trilogue founder


Architecture & Naming for 3 Suites, 20 Products

VP Doing Volcano Shots on FaceBook (Used with permission.)

Social Media Explained, via Alter Egos

As seen on With the posting of a murdered woman’s body on Facebook this summer lingering for hours, the site’s reputation as the garbage dump of the Internet was sealed for me. What is it about Facebook that brings out the caveman in us? Why is it an epicenter of misogyny? Why are serious discussions mocked? Why does the same guy who is having an intelligent discussion with me on LinkedIn about the vulturous profits of Exxon, down fiery volcano shots live when he logs on to Facebook?

I have an alter ego theory that might explain this.

I think we all have alter egos. Avatars. You know—the stronger, prettier, curvier, braver, improved version of your hidden self. Desires, personified. Under cover of darkness, the cloak of anonymity, a blank slate to reinvent ourselves, or rewrite our story, the Internet encourages us to project our fantasies onto the screen, where we can see and breathe life into them.

An avatar, an assumed name, a fake email account allows the alter ego to grow, breed, blossom, thrive and sometimes, unfortunately, lurk. Other times, it’s invigorating and empowering: A shy tween can be a rock star princess on YouTube. A socially isolated college kid can be the leader of an online battle troupe in Minecraft. Thanks to social media and gaming, we can be anything we want—on the small screen.

“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” ― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

Different media attract different alter egos

On all the social media, we carefully curate and publish, for the world, a show — a highly censored, projected wish fulfillment of who we want to be, who we want to be seen as.

Facebook: Life’s a party. Party invites, party photos. Class parties. Party rape. Nothing highbrow or you’ll be mocked: I ranted on Facebook about a post showing an older driver crashing through a storefront, I did not think it was funny. (I’m from Miami where older, impaired seniors randomly drive over people all the time.) “Relax, Kim,” my friend Mario chided me. “This is Facebook!”

YouTube is the 21st century version of the Talent Show. Here tweens and teens can become pop stars, fashion models and artists. My daughters spend hours watching others do makeup, up-dos, Sculpey, Rainbow Loom. (It’s better than the Disney Channel.)

Twitter: The suggestion box of the Internet—our highest hopes, social good. This is where we go to change the world and start “evolutions.” I am still in awe the role tweets played in Arab Spring and bringing Rush Limbaugh to his knees, where he belongs, after his excoriation of Sandra Fluke.

Social media explained via alter ego

Tumblr Alter World. The favorite social networking site of Americans under age 25. Here, layers of pseudonyms allow people to express themselves and reveal their true identity or alter ego, without MOS. A passionate social justice community that doesn’t judge others based on skin tone or gender identity welcomes all.

Pinterest: Women and men pin their aspirations to the board for all to see.

Online dating: Here people project their prettier, leaner self. Because the reality often does not match up, the common experience is disappointment.

Minecraft allows you to build your own colony and tap into the true primitive instinct to collect and gather as we did eons ago. (Also the most visited page onTumblr.)

Video Games: Grand Theft Auto is in its fifth edition and is one of the leading selling games in the world because it allows the rebel to steal, shoot, take risks and stir the ever controlled adrenal gland to a point of power arousal that can’t be found in our conformist society of rules, schedules and order.

Alter egos can be therapeutic according to Craig Keefe, LICSW and Clinical Director of the Academy for Physical and Social Development, a counseling center near Boston. “Kids with Asperger Syndrome find that the anonymity of the Internet allows them to take social risks, explore their creativity socially, make lasting and valid social connections along with empowering them to feel more confident. These are all deficit areas for Asperger’s kids. So to say we are administering a treatment plan for a person with social deficits to go and create an alter ego to practice and go through social repetitions of the ego, may not be too far from the truth.”

Segmenting your customers by persona is a common practice in marketing today. Marketers like Faith Popcorn know what an older man is buying when he buys at $75,000 red, shiny sports car. Hint: It’s not transportation. It’s virility, sexiness, prestige. He may be 71, but I assure you his alter ego driving the car is not. Marketers who intuitively understand alter egos will always be more successful than those who do not.

Examples of alter egos

Miley Cyrus: A really good example of what happens if you suppress your alter ego. When it gets out of “jail” — in this case the world of Disney — it goes on a rampage. It twerks, drools, grinds and does unflattering things with foam fingers. It tries to dance, when it cannot.

Steve Jobs: Cowboy, maverick,disruptor extraordinaire. Rebel with a cause. Made-in-America brand of entrepreneurship.

Katy Perry: She represents the alter ego so many young girls have — of being saucy, sexy, victorious, strong. In her latest hit, Roar she sings.. “I am the eye of the’re gonna hear me roar… I went from zero to my hero…You held me down but I got up. I’ve had enough…” Did you know Katy Perry is devout? Both her parents are pastors. Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson clings to her faith but you won’t find her crooning about that. Katy Perry is her own alter ego.

Rihanna: The good-girl-gone-bad, like Madonna and Marilyn. However, Rihanna has successfully taken the Strong Sex Goddess alter ego to a new level with her talent. Miley wishes she could be this bad, and dance this good.

Some alter egos are utterly delusional, like the plump little girl on YouTube trying to be Katy Perry, or Miley Cyrus trying to be Rihanna. Others are vile, and give life to egos that should be repressed or jailed or never see the light of day. Others literally give us the air we need to breathe until we have the courage to act on it, to become one’s true self.

What is it about images, photography, video, and any collection of images on screen that validate and bring to life our alter ego?

Named and branded a new product line of OTC First Aid products for hemorrhoids. First aid and personal care. Created names for five product and system and individual products. Defined brand as minimalist, modern, clean yet medically founded and doctor backed. It is a one word name that is a common name and yet was clear for Trademark. Cannot reveal name until launch within one month.

Worked on clarifying brand positioning with physician client. Advised him on message points after performing competitive analysis. Pinpointed exactly what his competitive advantage was and relayed how to communicate that to consumers. Sweden Client originally wanted spa/Zen type names, but I uncovered a marketing insight that consumers want to know a doctor is involved and product is backed by medical research so – spa/Zen was too whimsical. Also advised him how to position his product to compete against Preparation H, the industry leader.

Consulted on graphic image, logo and packaging design, trademark.

Created an entirely new international word/name for this hi-tech start-up company- using my knowledge of international phenomes. (Pan = all, Via – roads, all roads; this is a type of search engine.) All URLs were free, and thus a name with NO search engine competition! Top of the search results effortlessly. This is a global name that is memorable and recognizable in many languages. Currently consulting with them on their multimillion business development proposals.

Because this is not a generic / descriptive name, e.g. not a computer high tech description, we are going to always be first in search results when someone types our name. This is like having a name like Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts. Ask me for more information on the advantage of not having a descriptive name and when it is best to choose this option. It is not for everyone.

Challenge:  In the jam-packed Interactive Marketing Agency space, find a brand name that immediately says “We are creative” – and find one that is not in use nationwide, available for trademark AND has a matching .com. !! We were up against some of the most creative minds on the planet.  Adding to the challenge was her location in Beverly Hill, California, a very competitive landscape.

Flare fits the bill. It’s creative, bold, intriguing, powerful; it’s memorable, and has imagery and poetry. It sounds great on the phone. Yet, it’s still neutral enough to imprint whatever the client wants, and can be modified from time to time.
We worked on our domain strategy very closely, often communicating several times a day. was available for $9.99 when I named it – the next week it was on sale for $700. For this reason, if my favored name has an available URL I will usually buy it for you and hold it. She bought and was able to get for $350 (less than asking) when it became available a week later. All in all, two great URLs, for under $1000. Trademark was filed last week, a total success story on all points. ☺