Category Archives: Advertising

My new favourite brand name is Ugly

Triple BerryIf you read this blog, you will know I am slightly obsessed with brand names.

And I seem to spend quite a bit of my time at work trying to persuade people not to obsess about their trade mark. As long as the name is legal (check here for the UK) and not owned by someone else in your area of business (search here to check), the only thing that matters is how memorable it is.

And you can’t get much more memorable than Ugly. This big and bold name certainly caught my eye as I browsed the drinks available in our restaurant at the British Library yesterday.

Ugly flavours

On visiting the Ugly Drinks website, I was glad to see a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section explaining their unusual name.

Ugly Drinks FAQ

I haven’t yet managed to taste one of their range of drinks, but I’m looking forward to asking for an Ugly Drink.

Ugly Drinks


Celebrate World Radio Day with a station just for builders

World Radio Day logoToday is World Radio Day, created by the United Nations cultural body UNESCO to “remember the unique power of radio to touch lives, and bring people together across every corner of the globe”.

Given the global presence of social media and streaming television, it is perhaps a little surprising that such an old media as Radio remains so popular. In fact it is nearly 100 years since the BBC started regular radio broadcasts in the UK. And yet it’s flagship show the Today Program on Radio 4 is now more popular than ever with a weekly reach of 7.66 million listeners.

In 2017 there are around 600 licensed radio stations in the UK, with the latest Radio Fix aimed at builders. It’s another great example of a niche product, catering to an untapped audience.

Fix Radio logoFix Radio says it will provide music, banter and information targeted at bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, plasterers, roofers, painters and decorators whether they work on building sites or in people’s homes.

The new station is the brainchild of Louis Timpany who came up with the concept while working on a building site to earn extra cash after graduating from Leeds University.

“I noticed builders listen to the radio all day but there was no one station they could all agree on,” says Louis. “I thought it would be great to create a station specifically with them in mind”.

“One thing that came out strongly, for example, was the need for detailed weather forecasts throughout the day as builders depend on knowing what the weather is going to be like to plan their work,” says Louis.

“The main weather forecasts on Fix Radio every day will, therefore, be very detailed and accurate – almost like the shipping forecast for tradespeople.”

Sponsorship and advertising packages have already been pre-sold for the first six months. “We can offer our commercial partners a very pure, very targeted audience so they can engage with their customers with little ‘wastage’ on people who don’t work in the trade,” says Louis.

Fix Radio to target tradespeople in London

Loos for Doos – a name Thomas Crapper would be proud of

I can never resist a good business name, and today I spotted Loos for Doos as I crossed the road when when popping out for lunch today.

But when I did a quick trade mark search on the UK IPO database, I noticed they don’t yet have a registered name.

Hopefully they will read this little note and take action…



The best and worst names for your business… are sometimes the same

I just love business names. And I seem to come across new ones every day at work. Almost all the start-ups I meet want to have the perfect one to describe their business activity. But this is often impossible due to the UKIPO’s rules, and even when allowed can be a mistake.

For instance Carphone Warehouse chose a name that accurately described their business when it started in 1989. They were on the cutting edge of the new mobile-phone technology, and sold those marvels of miniaturisation known as car phones, through their first store located in – you guessed it – a warehouse.

First_Store_Marylebone_mediumfirst car phone

The first Carphone Warehouse and an example of an early mobile phone

It wasn’t long before the company expanded into the high-street, and their products shrank to the pocket-sized phones of today. So their wonderfully accurate name became doubly redundant. But by then they were a household name and were stuck with it. They did however learn from this mistake and use the brand PhoneHouse in the rest of Europe.

So that was an example of a good name which went bad thanks to the market moving. But some brands who started out with really bad names still managed to have great success. I covered Smeg in my blog post How to name your brand and get it trademarked. So I won’t dwell on the uncomfortable associations for that word again. But they certainly haven’t held their business back.

Or how about Soylent, the company that claims to have created the future of food?

Soylent products

It certainly look futuristic enough, although maybe not a appealing as my favourite Amelia Rope chocolate. But what I don’t understand is why the founder Rob Rhinehart chose to name the food after the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green. It starred Charlton Heston and was set in a dystopian future, where the only food left on our dying planet is a green wafer known as Soylent Green. The movie ends with the shocking discovery that this staple is manufactured from humans. Or, as the final scene whispers; “Soylent Green is People!”

Here again, what on paper would appear to be a truly awful name, has not stopped the company from becoming very successful.

Sweaty-BettyCloser to home we have the very popular fashion brands Fat-Face and Sweaty Betty. More proof that a horrible name is no barrier to success.

Possibly the worst idea of all is to be nameless, but search Google for Nameless and you will find plenty of brands. Such as a ‘tech’ fashion brand in Moscow, and a digital marketing company in Bristol.

Returning to the world of science fiction we have SkyNet. An express courier network founded in 1972 that has grown to be the world’s largest. They can deliver “from a postcard to grand piano, to or from almost every country on the planet”.

Skynet logoBut type ‘skynet’ into Google image search you willterminator robot see this logo closely followed by the infamous terminator robot:



Let’s get back to some great names. On my cycle to work I have recently spotted vans sporting the memorable Magicman registered trade mark. Who wouldn’t want to employ the services of a “technician  trained to deliver incredible repairs to wood, stone, marble,uPVC, veneers, laminates, granite, ceramic tiles, stainless steel and even glass. We rectify chips, dents, scratches, burns, holes and so much more on site, nationwide”?

Magicman LOGO








I think we should end with a couple of brands that follow the Ronseal approach to naming. In other words, they do what they say on the tin.

sticks like shFirst we have Sticks Like Sh*t. For those in the building trade the name effectively, if rather bluntly, explains what the product does.

Although I was intrigued to discover that on the manufacturers website the name has been bowlerised to Sticks Like Adhesive.

Perhaps they don’t want to upset the more sensitive home DIY brigade? The owners Bostik have registered the name with the UK IPO, so don’t think about copying it!



DoomFinally we have my favourite brand name of all time. Strong, simple and memorable, with a cleardoom south africa indication of its purpose. I first came across Doom on safari in Kenya in 1982. I still remember clearly the moment a can was produced and liberally sprayed onto a very large and scary insect which happened to be walking across the entrance hall of our lodge. It didn’t take long for the creature to cease to be a threat.

Sadly the brand is now more closely associated with the computer game of the same name. Although I was glad to find a less dramatically packaged version still for sale in South Africa.

Pen and ink and paper for high impact marketing

penI just love the way that old ways of doing things can survive the onslaught of new technologies. I previously wrote about how Books are back up – and so are vinyl records. And now I see that letter writing is coming back too.

Scribble is a handwritten letter service which helps businesses send a personal message, in a human way.

Here is their ‘blurb‘:

Each letter is handwritten in real ink, by a real person and in your preferred style. Simply send us your text and we create thoughtful messages that help you stand out.

You can customise your letter by using luxury paper, supplying us with your logo or including business cards & gifts. We can supply branded boxes (your logo) to hold your letter & promotional merchandise.

All letters are handwritten on high-quality paper and sent with a First Class stamp as standard. To ensure the utmost quality all letters are photographed and certified prior to being posted.


Scribble is operated by a team of creative, sales & marketing professionals that have a combined experience of over 40 years. We enjoy finding new ways to help our clients win customers and opening post that’s not bills.


  • What’s not to love? 50x return per letter sent and fantastic feedback from my clients.
  • Scribble have been a joy to work with; I now use them for all of my written correspondence with prospects & clients.


Maybe I need to add a slide to my Social Media workshop on letter writing as a high effort, but high response marketing approach. Although I have to admit I am so out of practice in writing, I often can’t read something I wrote earlier. Maybe it’s time to sign up for a calligraphy course.

Images from

Goody goody GumDrop – Recycle your gum here

gumdrop-logoAlmost every day at work I hear new names for new businesses. And sad to say, many of them would not be allowed by the UKIPO as they are too descriptive, or already registered as trade marks.

The company name may not qualify as a trade mark because, for example:

  • It is not considered distinctive
  • It is a descriptive word or term
  • It may indicate geographical origin
  • It may already be registered in someone else’s name

The following examples of company names would not be accepted as trade marks: Reliable Builders – Cheap Car Insurance Company

The important point for me, is that a name is allowed and distinctive, rather than descriptive. But I love it when I see a name that manages to capture the essence of the product in a fun way.

A great example is Gumdrop, a recycling point for chewing gum. I noticed the catchy sign outside work and snapped the photo below. I love the bright colours and the reminder of  the chewy sweet Gumdrops from my childhood. It is also a reminder that you can have the same name as someone else as long as you are not competing in the same sector.


Even better, they are recycling chewing gum into useful plastic products, making themselves a social enterprise.


Books are back up – and so are vinyl records

Books from PixabayI know librarians are supposed to be book fanatics, but I have to confess that I never have been. Maybe it’s my background in computers from an early age. Or perhaps a rebellion against parents who read Proust in the original French.

Despite my enthusiasm for technology, I did not welcome the arrival of digital books and their associated e-readers. I tried a few, but always found the experience ergonomically inferior to the traditional bound printed paper form.

So, I was pleased to hear on the radio today, a report from the Daily Telegraph newspaper that book sales have risen, in contrast to ebooks sales, which have declined. Books are back: Printed book sales rise for first time in four years as ebooks suffer decline

It will be interesting to see if hard-copy continues to make a come-back, or this is a temporary blip in the relentless march of new technology.

Purple Cow coverI am reminded of a conference speech many years ago by Seth Godin, marketing guru and author of the Purple Cow, He said that his biggest selling book was in fact the one he also gave away as a free PDF. He explained that after having read the electronic version, people wanted to have a ‘souvenir’ copy to put onto their shelves. Just imagine having friends round, and as the conversation turns to marketing – you say, “Have you seen Godin’s book?”.

Scenario one would be, “Ok, let’s just walk over to my computer, turn it on, and see if I can find the PDF file for you to look at”. The second would be, “Ok, let’s just have a look on my bookshelf and show you what I am talking about. You could even borrow it, if you promise to bring it back ;-)”.

I know which of these scenarios would be more appealing to me.

Crosley Cruiser BlackAnd it’s not just books that are enjoying a resurgence. Sales of vinyl records are up this year by more than 60%, and are set to reach levels not seen since the late 1980s, according to the BBC. But, although record players such as the Crosley Cruiser (currently available from the British Library shop as part of our Punk exhibition), are selling well. It turns out almost half the people who buy a vinyl record will never actually listen to it. Silent vinyl: Buying records without a record player

So, is this another case of the souvenir copy to impress friends and family? If so, it tells us that the digital world still has a lot to learn in terms of what gives human consumers retail satisfaction.


TrollyBag – the shopping bag of the future with a patent

Logo_packingsortedMy dad has always been something of an early adopter, keen to try out new ideas and inventions. He bought a Sharp EL-801 one of the first pocket calculators, a Sinclair ZX 80 computer, and VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find a shiny new set of Trolley Bags in his cupboard the other day.

A little research shows the colourful product was invented in Ireland by Paul Doyle in 2010 and is protected by a patent for A Re-usable Bag System.

With the imminent charge for plastic bags in England, the time is right for Trolley Bags to clean up. The Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015 comes into force on 5 October. And the order requires sellers who employ more than 250 people to charge 5p for a “single use carrier bag” which is less than 70 microns (0.07mm) thick.


Espacenet screenshot

trollybag patent drawing

Fun and games with removals firm names

Bearded Bros RemovalsOn my travels around Sussex I recently found myself looking at the back of a van with this very distinctive image staring back at me. On further inspection I discovered it wasn’t the reincarnation of ZZ Top, but Bearded Bros Removals of Brighton. As you can see from this screen shot below, they are acually quite a friendly bunch.

Bearded Bro's Removals I Man

This started me thinking about removals companies and how some of them attract customers using unusual and memorable names.

When I moved house last year we used Rhino Removals. Who happily did lived up to their reputation rather than their name, and were nice and gentle with packing up and moving our household. I’m not sure the artwork they use on the side of their vans is helpful from this point of view.Rhino removalsI did a little bit of research using the Business & IP Centre company databases and came up with list of fun names for removals firms. I was glad to see there was an Aardvark Removals there, which must date back to the days of alphebitical printed listings. Having two A’s at the front of your name ensures you are the first in the list,

My favourites two are Movers Not Shakers and Exodus Removals & Transport. But I’m also a fan of United States based The Sultans Of Schlep!

Which company would you choose?

  • A Nice Man With A Van
  • A1 Moves Ltd
  • Absolute Removals Limited
  • Ants Removals Limited
  • Anytime Removals Limited
  • Aussie Man & Van Limited
  • Big Van Removals Limited
  • Busy Bees Removals Limited
  • Chariots Of Chelsea Limited
  • Clockwork Removals
  • Exodus Removals & Transport Limited
  • Fantastic Removals Ltd
  • Fast Removal Services Ltd
  • Flexible Movers Ltd
  • Friendly Movers Limited
  • Full House Removals And Transport Limited
  • Gladiator Removals Ltd
  • Humpit Removals
  • Jumbo Vans Ltd
  • Just Moving Ltd
  • Kiwi Movers Ltd
  • Max Storage Limited
  • Move It Mate Removal Services Limited
  • Movers Not Shakers Ltd
  • Movingto Ltd
  • Neat Removals Ltd
  • No Fuss Removals Limited
  • Polish Movers Limited
  • Prime Time Man And Van Limited
  • Real Man And Van Limited
  • Reliable Removals Limited
  • Son Of A Gun Limited
  • South Park Removal Service Limited
  • Stork Removals And Storage Limited
  • The Green Man And Van Ltd
  • Van Girls Ltd
  • Vantastic Removals Limited
  • Vertigo Transport Ltd
  • We Move All Limited
  • Wehustle Enterprises Limited
  • Wise Move Limited


How to name your brand and get it trademarked

the-name-of-the-beastI’ve just finished reading a great book with an even greater title. The Name of the Beast by professional ‘namer’ Neil Taylor, is a guide to the ‘Perilous process of naming, brands, products and companies’.

You can tell Neil is slightly scarred from his years as a senior naming consultant at Interbrand where he discovered (much like for graphic designers), everyone is an expert. And some are very cynical about the role of professional namers such as Neil.

According to Andrew Mueller in Guardian newspaper;
“There are people, enviable yet contemptible, who make good livings inventing names for companies.

In fact, if you’re a CEO about to shovel a five-figure fee at some twit called Nathan to come up with a name like Twerq or Zamp Plus or X-Zite!, get in touch – for half the money, I’ll do you something at least as good, and certainly no more foolish.”

And people often have strong emotional bonds to brands they have grown up with, and are now being ‘messed about with’. Neil give a classic example of name failure, when Royal Mail changed to Consignia in 2000. He prints three pages of hostile comments from the time, which culminated in an embarrassing ‘volt-face’ just 15 months later.

For me, the most useful part of the book is chapter 3 where he covers the different approaches to naming.

Descriptive names
Ronseal tinBy using the Ronseal approach, ‘they do exactly what they say on the tin’,  see the history of the famous phrase. Obvious examples would be pretty much anything that starts with British (think Airways, Gas, Petroleum, Telecom etc). Sadly these names are often too good to be true, and cause problems when you go international, or change what you do over time.

Neil uses one of my favourite examples, The Carphone Warehouse. This name accurately described the brick sized phones sold in warehouse outlets when they were starting out. But today they sell sleek smartphones is smart high-street shops. I wonder if the chairman Charles Dunstone called a meeting one day to come up with a new name. But someone pointed out they had left it too late, and anyway the business was doing just fine with the original name. The positive brand values had been absorbed into the name, and risked being thrown away with a new name.

MeerkatSo although descriptive names save you having to explain what the company does, they have almost all already been taken, and even if not, can risk being too descriptive to allow you to register a trademark. For instance, Compare the Market and We Buy Any Car have been refused a trademark, but Compare the Meerkat and were allowed.

Image-based names
Moving on from literally descriptive names, image-based names work by association using metaphors. Neil gives the examples of Visa (the shopping equivalent of a passport) and Viagra (think life and Niagra). If successful this approach can give a brand a personality which can appeal to customers.

Abstract names
Some of the most powerful brands on the planet use abstract and in some cases, made up words. Apple is currently the most profitable business in history. George Eastman used Kodak because he thought k’s were cool, so why not have one at the beginning and end of his brand name? Citroen did something similar until relatively recently when they ‘owned’ the letter X. Starting out with CX, BX and XM and then moving onto more creative names such as Xsara and Xantia.

The best thing about a made up name is that it can’t already be registered as a trademark to someone else, although you do still have to be careful it isn’t similar to a word that is in use.

Names of provenance
These are abstract names, but derive from a place or person. In fact, nearly half of the world’s top 100 brands use family names. Examples would be McDonald’s, Ford, Cadbury, Kellogg’s and Dyson.

Names that break the rules
Smeg fridgeAfter spending many pages explaining the options for naming and going into detail about how to brain-storm for names, Neil give some examples of names that break the rules.

For example, I can’t believe it’s not butter, is about as far away from a short and simple brand name as you can get, even though it does sort of explain what the product is. He uses the example of U2 who have a ‘rubbish’ name but global success, whereas Half Man – Half Biscuit have brilliant one, but are long forgotten except by a few faithful fans. Or how about Smeg fridges? Surely no one would by a brand whose name is associated with “a substance that collects inside male genitalia”.  But thanks to their bright colours and trendy retro design they have become very popular indeed.

I am glad to see that Neil spends a bit of time talking about trade marks, even if it is in a rather short chapter titled The long arm of the law. He points out how trade marks trump company or domain names, which means they need to be checked first. The famous cases of Apple Corps vs Apple Computer is covered, and Budweiser US vs Budweiser Czech lager beers.

He explains how a name can exist in different classes of business activity using Polo as an example – a VW car, a mint with a hole, and expensive clothing. As long as the consumer is not confused about what and who they are buying from, there is no problem.

Neil is definitely not a fan of trade mark lawyers, but does admit they can help you work out the risk of choosing a particular name. It all comes down to predicting how the owners of similar names with react. How likely are they to send you a ‘cease and desist’ letter from their lawyers?

cillit-bangSo you don’t have to like a name, or understand what it means for it to be successful. As long as it is legal, available and memorable you should be ok. If Cillit Bang can become a household name, surely anything goes.