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  • How to choose a brand name and how not to

    Posted on September 30, 2015

    There are few overnight successes and that success often appears always just over the horizon especially to a new-start venture. Finding that magic concept, doing some research to find if there is a market and then funding product testing and launching. These all take time, money and a mix of inspiration and perspiration. And along the way you will have come up with ideas for snappy, memorable brand names that encapsulate exactly what your brand proposition is in a differentiated way from your competitors. To get to this stage you are almost certainly; smart, stubborn, persistent, single-minded, inspired and favoured with a large amount of luck.

    People searching on phonesThe brand naming can appear to be the easiest part. How hard is it to come up with Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Twitter and other such instantly recognisable* names? But each day it gets harder as so many companies and brands are being launched every day, domain names are snapped up for every obvious name and word permutation available. And then if you get that far with your unique but familiar embryonic brand name then you also need to check a variety of our sources and authorities to see if it is actually yours to use.

    The most obvious place to start is if your chosen name is already registered as a trademark in a category that might cause potential conflict – in the Trademark Registrars opinion not in yours!  You can search the UK Trademark Office website (new beta testing search option available, link below) but first you really ought to read this short but excellent article by Tech Startup entrepreneur Tom Leung aptly titled blogpost “How not to name your startup and what you can learn from my mistake” link below.  Tom gives some painfully honest insights of what can go wrong, often unforeseen objections or hard to work out showstoppers. Tom does not give us all of the answers but does raise many of the most pertinent issues, when talking about his baby Poachable (think of head hunters of the recruitment type). After gaining traction in the market (with Google as a client) and articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal before hitting an unforeseen immovable object. His company were forced to adopt the new name of Anthology here are the logos. Poachable and Anthology logos side by sideI would have thought that the latter name of Anthology would be hard to trademark than Poachable, a slang word only recruiters use.  However not the case. Do read the short article in full but key lessons from his experience were:

    Don’t go to GoDaddy
    Naming your brand or company should be about more than if the .com & are available, post rationalising can be convoluted, when simplcity is needed. And don’t register your chosen suite of domain names through the cheapest register as you may end up paying more than that down the line when you want webspace or to move.

    Pick a broad name or be prepared for a future rebranduber_logos
    Some of today’s most successful Startups had a pivot moment along the way. Remember how Instagram changed course? And Uber were once called UberCab  before they received a cease-and-desist letter from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency which forced them to stop pretending to be a Taxi company. Advice they clearly heeded, legally at least.

    Original and New Instagram logosInstagram had a different life beforehand with a previous incarnation being called Burbn, then along came the Instagram name and the older Instamatic logo refined radically into the familiar icon of today that fits onto our mobile screen so perfectly in colour on mono in only a few pixels. But they had to adapt for various reasons.


    There are benefits in using a professional naming agency
    Creating brand names is mix of art and science involving a process, experienced experts can avoid cul-de-sacs and be objective and give you a wider perspective. They may even advise you that your brand actually means donkey breath in all of the Spanish speaking world, similar cross cultural blunders happen frequently. Here is some great advice from Rob Meyerson (link below) “professional naming firms generate hundreds or thousands of name ideas for any given brand. Quantity is never a substitute for quality, striving for both will yield the best results. At this stage you’re not looking for one, perfect name — you’re looking for a strong set of options so that if one name inevitably fails to live up to legal, linguistic or other forms of scrutiny, all is not lost.” Good advice indeed.

    Don’t overreact if people don’t swoon
    You know your brand inside out and it’s potential name makes complete sense to your team. But if it needs detailed explanation to others then perhaps it’s not the perfect fit you first thought. However Tom reminds us that many people hated the name Virgin for an airline, Amazon for a bookstore, and Apple for a desktop computer company. Or ask someone why there is no ‘face’ or ‘book’ on FB? If it is brand new we may need to be educated about it, and that can be a barrier or an opportunity.

    Invest time in trademark research
    Spend as much time searching for available trademarks as you do looking for available domain names. Also use a trademark attorney to frame your application and stand a much higher chance of success, we did not think that trademarking Evolution and Evolution Design (as both text and images) would be possible as late as 2012, especially after we searched and found 9 abandoned applications. This part is key, there is no point finding the perfect name if someone else already owns it. As often it can be preventable mistakes which get more costly and harder to correct the further down the process you are at when discovered. You can find yourself in court over a trademark violation and be forced to pay compensation to the trademarks owners for damage to the brand. And before you consider just trying to launch quietly and hope that they wont notice you do think again. If you heard of a competitor in Hull who took the same name after you had thought of it first, then paid to trademark it, and then invested money in design and branding and then spent even more money marketing your brand would you defend it in court? Of course you would especially if you were in the right and you could even claim compensation. We wrote to Evolution Design of Hull and pointed out their trademark infringement and they did rebrand.

    Then talk to your design agency as early as possible
    Speaking to your design company at an early stage is also an excellent idea. We are always prepared to sign and NGA. Often we can advise on imagery – good and bad – suggested by a potential brand or company name before any design work is commissioned.  Sometimes the potential logo design can affect the choice of name. We have been offered a huge number of names that just did not make sense to us, here the part about needing a two-part explanation is often discovered, and how often can you give that speech in person? However it may make no immediate sense to us but your target audience just gets it instantly and at the end of the day it is what your target audience thinks that really matters. As well as an NGA you also need to ensure that the copyright of any work created for you is owned by you. We always offer that as part of our design fee, others do not. So far we have yet to touch upon building brand equity and brand value that’s another story for another day.

    * except the first time when we all asked what’s on Facebook? or who are Uber?

    Further reading:

    How not to name your startup and what you can learn from my mistake by Tom Leung

    Three Takeaways For Creating New Brand Names by Rob Meyerson his Tech Crunch article on positive to learn from unfortunate brand name choices >

    Why is it called Uber? By Adam Lang published Aug 2014 , the ongoing story of the evolution of Uber and how they made their name and benefited from it’s oddness.

    UK Trademark Office website with advice and a search function

    Posted by Neale Gilhooley

  • Brand development marks 5th anniversary for AWS

    Posted on June 1, 2015

    Some industries are more competitive than others and one way to gain a reputation is to work within a niche market as AWS Recruitment have been doing for the past five years. AWS Recruitment specialise in the Not for profit sector, focussing on fundraising jobs and executive search. The two founding partners Alan Surgeon and Donna MacKay between them have many years of industry experience of finding the right staff for various roles within the not-for-profit sector. Previously having both worked for other well known industry agencies for many years before deciding to start their own agency to be run the way they wanted it to be to suit the particular needs of a specific client profile.

    Awards13Working to service the recruitment needs of a number of well known-local and national organisations looking to source candidates in a variety of different positions at different levels, recently AWS were delighted to be awarded ‘Best Of’ Recruitment Practice Awards, Silver Awards for; Customer Service in Scotland and also for Contribution to the Charity Sector. AWS are also corporate sponsors of the Institute of Fundraising Events in Scotland. Industry recognition is wonderful and gives a real boost to what had previously been a word-of-mouth marketing campaign, growing organically by reputation. Having gained an enviable reputation for integrity within the industry partly as AWS were early adopters of social media, something that the recruitment industry has excelled at and that the new website aims to enhance with more prominent links to LinkedInTwitter and Facebook.

    AWS new logoNow five years on for AWS Recruitment and it has been an exciting time culminating with the move to a new office and the development of the AWS brand and the launch of a brand new website all taking place.  The new logo includes a development of their Bonsai tree icon which helps to differentiate the brand from competitors and to ensure that some of the brand equity is retained plus the icon can be used in other ways such as on Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.  A new colour palette has been introduced across printed materials and on the website and the strapline of Fundraising Jobs and Executive search really says it all.

    AWSRec About usThe new WordPress site has a Blog and a fully updatable Vacancies page, useful for Employers and Candidates with links to an Upload your CV form. The new site has also been built as a Fully Responsive website formatting automatically to best fit the screen of PC’s mobile and tablet to make the site easier for visitors to use and also to be more attractive to Google since their algorithm was amended in mid-May dramatically termed as #mobilegeddon. AWS Recruitment Director Alan Surgeon said “having worked in the sector for 13 years there is nothing I enjoy more than helping our clients source the very best high calibre Fundraising and Executive level candidates but also working with fantastic candidates throughout Scotland within the Not for Profit sector. As a boutique consultancy it is important to keep an online presence, fresh and relevant and thanks to Evolution Design we have done just that”.

    AWS have also joined Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce as a way of connecting with and raiding their profile with more local businesses. You can visit the AWS site here and see some of their own client testimonials together with current vacancies of course.

  • now with added blogging & live online bidding

    Posted on April 24, 2015

    RamsayCornish Homepage screenshot imageWhen you have a great story to tell a Blog can be the best way to promote it. The evolution of the Edinburgh-based Auctioneers and Valuers website has moved on another leap with the addition of two major new developments. The website now has an Auctioneers Blog as way of gaining and retaining site visitors. Already we are seeing a different type of site visitor brought in by the sale highlights news as well as behind the scenes views. Many visitors would go to a Blog but may not have been so keen to visit the company News page. Blogs are less formal, have wider appeal and are often easier to promote. Google certainly favours them as people tend to spend more time reading often more than a single page on a typical Blog visit, just do any search and you will see a Blogs are often ranked higher than classic website product pages.

    RamsayCornish Blog screenshot imageRamsay Cornish use their Blog to host the latest sale news, what value each item realised etc and forth-coming regular weekly sales and particularly future special event sales. These all make good content for search engines and also are great to promote via social media, especially for really topical items and even better with such a visual medium as each item on sale has already been photographed so why not make as much use of the images as possible. Links to their Twitter feed and Facebook page are on the site if you want to follow. Ramsay Cornish have also been carefully using e-mail marketing for a few years to keep potential buyers and also sellers involved with the latest news and special events and their has been a lot to report to a very loyal readership. If you want to join the e-newsletter you can sign up on the website.

    Bespoke_B1Also added to their website is the new Live Online Bidding function, aimed to bring in a new audience right into the Sale even if they do so from their own home anywhere in the world. The full catalogue is picked up and shown on the Invaluable web auction portal real time allowing bidders involvement. This opens up the sale to a new audience of collectors and specialist buyers and should increase the value achieved by some items.  At the same time the site now offers successful buyers the ability to complete the payment transaction for their purchase via PayPal, for ease if desired.

    Google seems to agree ranking Blogs above company News pages and visitors spend more time and are happier to share Blog posts. And if promoted via social media they can gain short and long term traffic uplifts. This should form part of your social media strategy and to for instant proof your webstats will confirm traffic and site usage trends. As well as adding the Blog we have also included live online bidding on their website, inviting a potential global audience of collectors for the first time. You can view the current auction catalogue at We have been very pleased to help Ramsay Cornish at each stage of the sites evolution and by including Google Analytics it is much easier to really understand the customers needs and evaluate both the sites performance as well as the use of marketing efforts such as e-mail, social media and referring links.

    If you want to see some great stats to back this up then read > “the irresistible business case for blogging” by Econsultancy

    Posted by Neale Gilhooley, Evolution Design