Issue 2

March 2005

(C) Copyright Athol M. Foden

In this issue:

  • To be heard, be different from the herd
  • Digital photographers deliver better results
  • Slogans or taglines
  • Brand name awards


Worksheet of the Month

Product Launch Checklist

There is no point in cranking up the marketing machine if you don't have the product ready. Click here to download a Free Product Launch checklist spreadsheet ->

To be heard, be different from the herd

There are a couple of items about marketing communications that never cease to amaze me when I visit, observe or consult with companies in Silicon Valley.

Firstly, the number of small and large businesses that make little or no use of P.R. is very interesting. There is no better vehicle for communicating your message than W.O.M. (Word of Mouth). And there is no better way of starting it than using effective P.R. techniques. It is not free, and there are real people and distribution costs, but they are trivial compared to most other methods of getting the marketing message out. Kathy Keenan is teaching a course called Public Relations: The Power of the Press for U.C. Extension starting next month. I believe she has been practicing what she preaches as she herself has recently been featured in the N.Y. Times! So if you want to learn the basics, this is a great place to start.

Secondly, if you do have a P.R. program, don't just go through the motions. Yes, you have to put out press releases, hold seminars, do analyst briefings, etc. But so do your competitors. How can you cut through the noise? How can you get some extra coverage? What else can you do? How can you get coverage when there is no immediate new company or product news? This is a matter for serious thought, especially if you are a small or niche player with limited dollars for event marketing or advertising. Here's one idea I learned from Kathy a long time ago: Sponsor a Competition. Even if you have to create it yourself. (See Brand Name Awards below for an illustration of me practicing what I preach).

And some other proven unique ideas:

  • Suggest a story about your factory at work (rather than your products) to the right editor. I did this recently and my client had a full page photo spread in the San Jose Business Journal as a result.
  • Have a launch party barbecue in your own parking lot and invite the press. After we helped rename BAAG+PCCF they had little money to get the word out so they held a Saturday barbecue in the parking lot. At the right time, some volunteer member rappelled off the roof and rolled out a banner with the new name Acterra and the new logo. The story was covered with full interviews and analysis in a San Jose Mercury News column.
  • Create your own low cost black and white news reprints. Great way to get out customer or partner success stories. Write and produce them yourself. Years ago I did this with great success at Maxspeed to highlight all the vertical market applications and partners for our very general market products that were long past their newsworthy days.

The press are hearing daily from a whole herd of companies and they all start to sound alike (especially when they all have similar style names - but we will save that for another issue). Remember, you need to be different to be heard.

UC Marketing Courses
Upcoming Marketing Courses

There are some strong electives coming up soon at UC Extension. In particular

Software Product Marketing

Hitech Product Launches

Public Relations: The Power of the Press

Details and other marketing courses online at

Digital photographers deliver better results

My friend up in Eureka couldn't convince anyone in that area to take good product shots except with traditional film methods. Sure those methods work great, and often are still needed for high end print work. But for many other applications, digital photography really is here for all practical purposes. Of course, that doesn't mean all of us are artistic photographers just because we have a new $300 toy from Best Buy or Fry's.

My pocket Nikon does fine when I am doing simple shots for one of the low cost websites I create and maintain for sports clubs and other friends of the family. But for really good work, just like in traditional photography, you need a good SLR system with good lenses.

I've seen great results from the SJ Business Journal staff photographer (see first story) and from Jeff Nielson of Nielson Design who does excellent work and processes his own pictures all the way through to the web or print application.

But I was really blown away by the work of Patrick Tregenza. Oh, what a real artistic professional can do with new tools! And he is often photographing that most challenging of subjects: Food. I challenge you to make a good food picture before it melts or wilts under the lights. He is also featured as the photographer for that excellent smaller agency Henderson + Aurelio, which is doing such good work from their Santa Cruz location.


SV Marketing Services

The SV Marketeer

Strategic Business Plans

Marketing Campaigns

Interim Marketing Manager

Search Engine Marketing

Market Research Studies

Online and Email Marketing

Name and Brand Consulting



company product names

Where is this Silicon Valley landmark?


Slogans or taglines

In the communications pyramid, slogans or taglines rank just below your name and logo. And interestingly enough, they are the first element that can evolve and change with the times more easily than your name and logo can. In fact, many people, especially in smaller businesses, make the mistake of trying to describe or position their company too directly through the name.

A name is just that. Your name doesn't describe you any more than Apple's name describes them as a computer or gadget company. But their philosophy is powerfully summed up in their present tagline: Think Different. Years ago when the Mac was launched, their tagline was: Computers for the rest of us. And before that? I forget. Doesn't matter. But the name was, and still is, Apple.

There are two major types of slogans: Emotional and Descriptive. Once your company and brand is well known you can go either way, but if you are starting out, it is best to explore a wide range of options. Most likely, you will then find out that the best tagline is of an opposite style to your name. So if your name is very descriptive (e.g. The Network Giants), then your tagline can appeal to the emotions: "We let you sleep all night". However, if your name is a little more abstract or different, like Guidant, then their present slogan of "It's a great time to be alive" is very appropriate, especially if you know they are in the artificial heart technology business.

While a slogan is not your vision nor your elevator pitch, making it short might just make it a noise factor. IBM's Think slogan for many years had many people thinking who they were talking to. Customers, prospects or employees? Just like H-P's present "Invent". Makes me wonder why I always have to invent a solution (if I buy their products). Why don't they do it for me? Personally, I think they tried to copy 3M's style and missed. Especially as they transitioned (under Carly) into a mass market products company selling many items on price and availability and usability, as opposed to its invented technical prowess. That slogan probably should have originally gone with the spin off to Agilent, who, incidentally, is now busy "Making dreams real".

Slogans may be short and sweet. But they need careful development starting from a large group of potential candidates. And they need to be endorsed by upper management, which means they need to match the company' strategic directions and personality.

Plus, of course, they need to be legally available. Slogans can be trademarked just like names. They certainly should be when you are going to use them extensively. Luckily a chain of stores contacted me for a thorough worldwide search of their proposed new slogan (which their agency had come up with) before they put it on all the brochures, windows and websites. Within two hours we called off the search - we had found it was the registered trademark of someone in a very, very close field. In fact, it was in the same international class.

In practice, however, most slogans are not trademarked until they become well known so there is less legal risk than with names. But don't try get into the car rental business and say "We try harderŪ" or start any service business and say "You are in good handsŪ"! Use a proper slogan or naming company if you need help - not just your regular copywriters or ad agency - to keep you out of trouble and to add that extra quality touch. Development of slogans is a process that ends with legal clearance. It is not someone's great spur of the moment writing inspiration.

The Brandies - Winners

Here are some of the winning name submissions:

Iceberg Vodka
Silicon Pipe

See for the full results and judges comments.

Brand name awards

Organizing a competition by yourself is a lot of work. Getting the website up, getting the word out, finding the judges, handling all the submissions, doing the press releaseas, arranging the awards, fine tuning the rules, announcing the winners. Not to mention, packing and shipping the awards. See now that it is all done.

While this was a lot more work than I expected, since it was hard to get other volunteers to come through on their promises, it also had one or two unexpected upsides. Chief among these was the fact that search engines picked it up very quickly. Yes, I did the basic keywords and stuffing into many search engines, but have never before seen such good results so soon. Which is just as well given all the effort involved. Time management is our number one goal for repeating this competition next year - with a start date for planning way in advance of the actual competition.

Meanwhile, since the search engines like it, I will develop many news stories and naming articles and make it an informational site to help drive some traffic during the rest of the year! The first of these, Top 10 characteristics of a Good Name, is already posted.

This newsletter sponsored in part by:

company product names
The Power of ®

Company and Product
Naming Services
Trademark Searches
Slogans and Taglines

Not a dummy? But didn't study marketing at college?
Catch up quickly with one of these marketing books.

Download your own copies at Foden Press now.

How to do it. By people who have done it.

Brighter Names: Naming for the Average Propeller Head
Brighter Branding: Branding for the Average Propeller Head
Spreadsheet Marketing: Planning for Success