—Anthony Shore, Operative Words

Let’s be honest: There’s a lot of bullshit in branding.

It’s a pity — and it’s a threat. Because today, brand or marketing communications exuding any whiff of bull will be distrusted, discredited and derided by today’s cynical audiences.

And no audience is more cynical than the 18-34 years-olds — the Millennials — who were born into an online marketplace awash in spam, paid “user” reviews, phishing and other greedy deceptions.

These cynics can sniff out bullshit from a mile away. Actually, they’re waiting for it. And when they zero-in on the source of a communication’s stench — an exaggeration, an ambiguity, an inconsistency, nonsense, a promise too good to be true — they’ll pounce. And rather than just take their business elsewhere, they’ll take up a cause to expose and punish the bullshitting offender by urging others to boycott.

Bullshit-free branding has always been important. Today it’s important and urgent.

Because nowadays, you can’t fool any of the people any of the time.


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"The name is Bond, James Bond," said Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Daniel Craig, among others, countless times in film, as part of the famous 007 series. An ideal name for a secret agent. A name and line not easily forgotten, as brands and taglines should be.

And then, there are some names you’d like to forget, but can’t, especially if they are associated with personal injury lawyers, who probably "suk" even more than trademark lawyers (who merely have been dubbed the most basic figure), right?

Well, using Dan’s post from Friday, as a catapult (or, perhaps a hole-digger) for discussion, I’m thinking the jury is still out on 3 being the magic number, at least as it pertains to the 3 letters forming a rather rare surname (Suk) and the same number of words forming a curious (and hopefully misdescriptive) law firm name (Suk Law Firm), so, sorry Dan, I’m not sure there is any way to pull a rabbit out of the hat on this troubled tripartite branding combination:

Seeing the signage here, I’m thinking that any new or temporary receptionists at this law firm automatically require more intense phonetic training than your average law firm receptionist. In fact, this little gem (hat tip and photo credit to Max) probably rivals those spotted by Mark Prus in his recent guest post entitled: "Name Development Faux Pas, a.k.a. What Were They Thinking?!"

Ironically, the tagline for the Suk Law Firm is composed of these 3 words too: "Think About It."

So, I’m assuming they followed their own advice and did, but nevertheless, it probably came down the same way the Drury Inns name did, since the surnames in question no doubt have a great deal of goodwill associated with and emotional attachment to their founders. Might a naming consultant, nevertheless have said, forgetaboutit?

In any event, one of the things I’d be inclined to think about is how the brand name might sound when spoken, especially in a world where word-of-mouth marketing is key, and also how it might be perceived by those in the relevant public, given the possible truncation from its four-letter cousin. Apparently Suk, when the surname meaning is intended, sounds like "cook" or "book," not "pluck" or "stuck." Oh, the things phonetic punctuation symbols can and should be used to do, to help guide the intended meaning by signaling long and short vowel sounds! 

On a related note, it reminds me of the unintended meanings that can result when critical spacing is omitted, as was the case, between the branded words "LA  MER" to yield LAMER.

Although mispronouncing the Suk surname may be bad enough, when one examines the derivation of the name, it doesn’t appear to improve much on the meaning front either, since Suk apparently is not only a nickname for a "powerful, unyielding man," but also a "stubborn, awkward one". Hmmm, it’s all beginning to make sense now.

For those with any modicum of lingering interest, the Trademark Office’s treatment of SUK appears below the jump.


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I’m not talking about brands that say one thing and do another. I’m not talking about brands that don’t live up to their promise. I’m literally talking about brands with two faces. One face may be confident, complicated, technical, professional, and/or formal. Let’s call him, Stephen. The other face might be friendly, simple, approachable, engaging, and/or informal

Jack Cuffari, Jack Cuffari Consulting and Brand Smacks Blog

I know – a catchy title for a blog, eh? It’s actually the title of a treatise by Erasmus of Rotterdam, and no, he wasn’t the Wharton grad behind the recent boom in Netherlands-based financing. Sounds like it can’t possibly have anything to do with business, after all business doesn’t appreciate folly, which by definition is:

1 : lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight
2 a : criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct b obsolete : evil, wickedness; especially : lewd behavior
3 : a foolish act or idea
4 : an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking

From the Middle English folie, from Anglo-French, from fol fool.

If I was indeed praising folly, definitions 1, 3 and 4 would be red flags for those readers who come to this esteemed blog seeking tips that will ultimately make them more successful business people. Right? Isn’t that your goal, at least from 9 to 5 or whatever workaday parameters your particular career may dictate? Because if it isn’t business information-driven, it’s entertainment or some esoteric thing, and dude, there are only so many hours in a day.

Well, as Einstein said, you have all the time that there is. But then again, he never read Drucker. And what I intend to discuss, or at least rant about, is not truly folly. It may very well be treated as folly by many in the business and attendant financial communities, but it’s not truly folly. Its value may often be neglected by the majority of marketers (although never the big dogs), but it is not actually folly per se.

It is the acknowledgement that between the light-speed rapidity of technological advancement and the analytical, logic-driven business school culture of the Information Age, an unhealthy and profoundly limiting paradigm has now become dangerously obsolete, but is still being worshipped: I call it the Left Brain Only model.

In the Left Brain Only business world, all that matters are analytics, number crunching, logic systems and hard data.


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by David Mitchel, Vice President of Marketing at Norton Mitchel Marketing

Branding is an intricate and complicated process. Every aspect of the marketing mix must be handled with care. Brand managers watch their brands in the same manner that most parents care for a newborn child. However, there is an element of marketing communications that brand management teams are unable to directly control: pop culture references about the brands in what appear to be non product placement contexts. These pop culture references can come from both old and new media. They are often found in music, and frequently occur in the hip hop genre. In recent years, brands have been prominent parts of popular YouTube videos. As social media evolves, it has the potential to present new threats for brands. With regard to pop culture references, it is a challenging minefield that brands must negotiate carefully in order to prevent them from detracting from marketing strategy.

In 2003, hip hop artist 50 Cent became a huge sensation with the album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”. One of the many hit songs from that album was “In Da Club”. Near the beginning of the song, the lyric “we gon’ sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday” appears. This is not the only time that the Bacardi brand has been mentioned in song lyrics, but it is certainly one of the more prominent references. In its advertising over the years, Bacardi has crafted an image of being a fun brand, as their ads often feature a party scene. This may have inspired 50 Cent to write the lyric in the way that he did. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Bacardi featured a “Bacardi By Night” print advertising campaign. These ads clearly targeted individuals with serious jobs and emphasized that Bacardi was a part of their work-life balance.   Additionally, Bacardi has also used their long standing and rich history as a selling proposition in advertising. Bacardi’s association with fun and partying may have attracted the hip hop element, as extravagant partying is a common theme of hip hop imagery. However, this association is tenuous at best and does not appear to be widely perceived. Bacardi has strongly withstood unsolicited pop culture references and its well refined marketing communication messages have helped to ensure that they remain the world’s largest spirits brand.


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Frequently brand owners find themselves in the position of wanting or needing to explain the thinking behind their name, mark, and/or brand. Sometimes the explanations appear publicly on product packaging, websites, catalogs, brochures, advertising, and frequently in press releases, or perhaps in statements to reporters, especially when trademark litigation concerning the brand is involved. Such explanations about the brand’s