Years ago, insurance giant AFLAC had a problem.

Their company name was nonsensical. No one knew what it meant.

And why would customers entrust their money to a company when they didn’t understand their name?

So, their ad agency (brilliantly) asked themselves how they could take this unfamiliar name and relate it to something familiar so it all-of-a-sudden made sense?

They asked themselves, “What does an ‘AFLAC’ look like or sound like in the real world? How can we associate it with something people already know and like?

Hmmm … well, an AFLAC kind of looks and sounds like a duck saying QUACK.

Maybe we can turn that into a lovable duck that says ‘AFLAC.’”

Voila.

They created a visual icon that turned their idea into an image people could SEE.

Another insurance company had a similar challenge.

Government Employees Insurance Company was going “public.”

Instead of just offering policies to federal employees, it was now going to offer policies to anyone and everyone who could afford to pay for one.

So, how did they masterfully manage their transition and make their clunky acronym  G.E.I.C.O  meaningful and memorable?

Well, what do we think of when we hear the word GEICO?  What comes to mind that is close to it?

How about a cute little gecko?

Bingo.

GEICO’s cute green gecko has starred in countless commercials and become an instantly recognizable corporate symbol to millions.

Both of these financial services firms succeeded in making their cold, confusing names … warm and relatable.

The bottom-line?

Both AFLAC and GEICO dramatically increased their market-share and profits;  thanks to their ubiquitous “spokes-animal” ad campaigns that helped them POP! out of their  crowded industry.

So, what’s this mean for you and your business, idea or product?

Your financial success depends – to a large degree – on the “get-ability” of your name.

When prospective customers hear or see your name for the first time; what’s their reaction?

Do their eyebrows crunch up?

That means they don’t get it.  And if they don’t get it – you won’t get their attention, respect  or money because confused people don’t say yes and they don’t remember you or want to do business with you.

Why should they?  They have no idea what you do.  They can’t relate to you.

Your goal is to have a name for your business or product  that makes people’s eyebrows go UP.

That means they’re intrigued. That means they want to know more, which means they’re more likely to remember you and want to try and buy what you’re offering.

This Wall Street Journal  article – What’s In a Name? –  offers fascinating examples and insights into  the financial consequences of the RIGHT or WRONG name.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443854204578058422730170626.html

Would you have gone to see a movie entitled $3000? That was the original name of Pretty Woman.

Would you have paid $8 to go see Anhedonia (the original name for Annie Hall)?

Check out this article to find out why some of your favorite movies might have failed if they had stuck with boring names that bombed with focus groups.

Are you thinking, “I agree that the right name is important;  I just don’t know how to come up with one that gets people’s eyebrows up.”

Well, check out POP!   Its 25 different techniques can help you  create clear, compelling names, titles and slogans that will resonate with your customers and decision-makers.

Have your pen handy so you can do the exercises to coin just the RIGHT name that will help your product, idea or business get noticed, remembered and bought.

http://www.amazon.com/POP-Create-Perfect-Tagline-Anything/dp/0399533613/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1352044604&sr=8-1&keywords=pop+-+sam+horn

  “The best way to corner a niche is to create a niche.  And the best way to create a niche is to … coin your own word.” – Sam Horn

Encountered a couple of early entries for the 2012 POP! Hall of Fame … and thought I’d share them to kick-start your  thinking about what newly-coined  NURDS (New Words) you’d like to submit for this year’s contest.

Previous winners have included:

*  Diabesity:  Dr. Francine Kaufman’s term for the epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes that is triggered by obesity.

*  Snuba:  It’s half snorkel and half scuba … and it’s a new multi-million dollar industry.

*  Freakonomincs:  Are you going to run right out and buy the latest tome on economics?  Probably not.  But authors Dubner and Levy turned their concept into an international brand – movies, media appearances, blogs, 6-figure consulting contracts – by giving it a first-of-its-kind name that appealed to the masses.

*  A.W. Shucks:  What else would you call an oyster bar in Charleston, SC?

*  Yappy Hour:  The Holiday Inn in Alexandria, VA has received millions of dollars of free press due to its innovative Friday night “petworking” opportunities for dogs.

*   YOUmanity:  Aviva came up with the ideal name for their “chain of kindness” philantrhopy campaign

*  Geek2Geek.com:  Think Match.com for pocket protector types.  As one personal ad proclaimed, “Tall, dork and handsome.”

*  SerenDestiny®:  Okay, I admit it, I’m partial to this one because it’s the title of my next book.  And like Tongue Fu!®, I’ve been able to trademark SerenDestiny® which means it can be merchandised and monetized … in perpetuity.

*  Java Jacket:  You can’t build a business around an un-prounounceable name.  So Jay Sorenson gave those “cardboard insulating sleeves” you put around your cup of coffee an easy-to-say-and-remember name.

*  Revenew:  Just met the founder of this start-up in NYC at the WOIS Summit.  You’ve heard of Spell Check?  This is a fantastic example of a POP! technique called Spell Chuck.  Chuck the normal spelling of a word and come up with your own.  Brilliant.

*Tiecoon:  This shop in NYC’s Penn Station – which sells neckties to Wall Street financiers – stopped me in my tracks and motivated me to snap a photo.  Which is the point.  If it’d been named Jack’s ties, I would have walked on by and not even noticed it.   Does your store name have people at hello?

Now, in case you’re thinking, “Okay, these are clever names.  Big whoop.”

Please understand … NURDS aren’t petty; they’re profitable.

This is not wordplay…this is wordcash.

ALL of these names have helped their products, businesses or services STAND OUT and get noticed, remembered … and rich.

Several of these names have generated millions in revenue for their owners.

In fact, as Jay Sorenson, originator of Java Jackets says, “Customers who meant to call my competitors actually end up calling me …because they can’t remember my competitors’ names.”

So, what first-of-its-kind business, book, product, store names have you seen this year?  What intriguing NURD popped out and got your attention?

Submit your entry by email to Sam@IntrigueAgency.com for the 2012 POP! Hall of Fame contest … and send a photo if you’d like. 

We’ll post the best NURDS 0n our blog and on our Facebook page. 

Winning entries who make the final Top 10 Winners in the 2012 POP! Hall of Fame get a free copy of POP!  … or your choice of any of our  books.

“In influencing others; example is not the main thing.  It’s the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer

Agreed.

What’s a situation coming up in which you want to influence someone to give you their time, mind or dime?

If you want to capture and keep their attention – if you want to open their mind and change their mind  – don’t open with information.

Open with an example.

In fact, follow Dr. Brene’ Brown’s shining example …

I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Brene’ Brown at a recent Leadership Colloquium at NASA Goddard.

Brene’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability is one of the top ten most-downloaded TED videos.

After the first 10 minutes of her NASA presentation, it’s easy to understand why.

She’s disarmingly honest about her journey from being a left-brained researcher who only valued bottom-line facts to discovering the transcendent, whole-hearted, free-flowing love that comes from having children.

What she didn’t anticipate was the fear that comes from being a mom.

She described how she used to stand in her kids’ rooms at night and watch them sleep … and weep.

Why?

She cherished them so much, she was afraid something would happen to them.

She knew this was illogical. They were perfectly healthy, perfectly fine.  Yet there she was … miserable.

She started researching why the emotion of happiness seems to be irrevocably tied with fear – and used an EXAMPLE to open our eyes to how common this phenomenon is.

A family is driving to their grandparents’s house for Christmas.  The parents are uptight because they’re running late.

The kids, sitting in the back seat, start singing Jingle Bells .

The parents realize how ridiculous they’re being and start singing Jingle Bells along with them.

At this point, Brene’ asked the audience, “And then what happened?”

Guess what the majority said??

“They get in a car accident.”

Is that what you thought?

Do you know what that means?

It means, deep down, you believe happiness is fleeting – you believe it is too good to be true.

How about you?  In the midst of things going well, are you, at some level, waiting for the other shoe to drop?

Arrgghh.

Say it ain’t so.

Brene’ went on to explain that, in an effort to protect ourselves against the pain we feel when something goes wrong  … we prepare ourselves by projecting it so we won’t be blindsided when the heartache happens.

Not only does that cut short any joy we might be feeling, that “failure forecasting” increases the likelihood of something going wrong because that’s what we’re focused on.  Then, if something does go wrong, it reinforces our worst fears and proves us “right.” This sets up an emotionally unhealthy spiral where we have even more cause to worry.

Brene’ continued with constructive ways to change this destructive default … if we choose.

Okay, what’s the point?

Look back over this post.

Were you engaged?  Were you thinking about that insight that some people are afraid of happiness – and thinking how it relates to you?

That’s because Brene’s EXAMPLE pulled you in and helped you SEE this situation.

If Brene (or I) had just talked about how some of us are waiting for the other shoe to drop – even when things are going well – that would have been wah-wah rhetoric.  You may not have related to it because it was information.

People today are suffering from InfoBesity.  They don’t want more information.

They can get all the information they want – anytime they want – online for the click of a button.

People want to be intrigued.

And one of the best ways to intrigue people is with EXAMPLES – not information.

Back to your upcoming situation where you’ll be trying to persuade someone to give you their valuable time, attention, respect, business, account or funding.

Don’t start with information.  Start with a real-life example that helps them SEE what you’re saying so they’re experiencing it – not just hearing it.

Be sure to check out Dr. Brene Brown’s website and blog.  Her insights on how we can be wholehearted – instead of going through life half-hearted because we’re protecting ourselves from pain – are brilliant.  http://www.brenebrown.com/

I rediscovered an old friend today.

Reader’s Digest.

I’m visiting my sister and brother-in-law this weekend – Cheri and Joe Grimm – who have been running my business and website for the past 15 years.

They gifted me with a stay in a delightful bed and breakfast here in Los Osos, CA (on the coast 40 miles south of Hearst Castle).

I noticed a copy of Reader’s Digest on my night table, and impulsively took it with me this morning to read while enjoying my coffee and a fabulous view overlooking the bay.

After the first few pages, fond memories came flooding back.

I was first introduced to Reader’s Digest when my family and I would go to our Granny’s house in Eagle Rock, CA for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

If the weather was good, my sister, brother and cousins and I would play outside.

If the weather was bad, we were “banished” to the back porch.

And there, on the bookshelves, were stacks and stacks of Reader’s Digest.  On some particularly rainy weekends, we would work our way through years of issues.

I was once asked by a reporter where I got my “literary training.”  Did I study journalism in college, have an English degree or a Ph.D. in Communication?

No, no and no.

My teachers were Walter Farley (The Black Stallion series), Nancy Drew and Ed McBain (our librarian was a bit scandalized when this 12 year old kid checked out the racy 86th Precinct books from our small town, one-room library).

After delving into the May 2012 issue of RD,  laughing out loud at pithy one-liners , raising my eyebrows at “didn’t know that” insights, and tearing out article after article offering testimony to man’s HUMANITY to man … I am struck by the profound influence Reader’s Digest has had on my writing, speaking and approach to life.

For example, this My Most Unforgettable Character article entitled The Night I Met Einstein, (which RD notes is one of the most requested essays of the thousands in their archives), moved me with its timeless wisdom.

http://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/the-night-i-met-einstein/

Take a few minutes to read it and you’ll easily understand why.  This was written more than 60 years ago (!) and is as powerful today as it was when Jerome Weidman first wrote it.

It is an illustration of why I loved reading Reader’s Digest growing up – and was profoundly shaped by its recurring themes of decency, honor, resourcefulness, bravery, adventure and gratitude.

I remember to this day reading a story about a mother standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes while watching her two kids outside flying kites on a windy spring day.

One of them saw her watching and called out to ask her to join them.

She waved them off and said she couldn’t because she had too many chores.

She reminisced that now that her kids were out of the house and on their own, she often thought about that windy spring day and wished she had said YES when they asked her to come out and play.

She realized, too late, her chores could have waited;  their precious, all too fleeting, childhood wouldn’t.

That article came to mind many times when my sons Tom and Andrew were growing up.  They would come up while I was writing and ask, “Let’s play ping pong” or “Let’s go to the beach.”

I would think of the presentations I had to prepare, the handouts I needed to create, or the calls I needed to be make … and then I would think of that article.

Remembering that mom’s remorse about not playing with her kids while she still could – and while they still wanted her presence – prompted me to say YES  instead of telling them I had work to do and was too busy.

Do yourself a favor.

Buy a copy of Reader’s Digest and read it cover-to-cover while sitting somewhere in the sunshine – in your favorite chair by the window, at a local park surrounded by nature or out on your back patio.

It will make you smile  … i.e., an article in the May issue from children’s book author and Simpsons writer Mike Reiss who says a publishing house called him in a panic because a superstar celebrity client had turned in an unusable, overdue manuscript.  They wanted Mike to re-write the book and have it ready – the next day.

Mike said huffily, “A children’s book is not a fast-food hamburger, and I am not McDonald’s.’

They told me, ‘We’ll pay you $10,000.’

I said, ‘You want fries with that?”

Reader’s Digest will get your eyebrows up with recent research.

This month’s issue features tidbits on Decision Fatigue, and the fact that,  just as we always suspected, Yawns Are Contagious,  which is why we often release one of our own when someone nearby opens wide.

It may even warm your heart and motivate you to be kinder to people you encounter.

It may remind you, as does the article about Einstein opening the eyes, ears, heart and mind of a musical neophyte, of what really matters – listening, learning, loving and marveling at this wondrous world of ours.

Mostly what Reader’s Digest will do is showcase that its editors understand that Carrie Fisher is right when she says, “Instant gratification takes too long.”

They are masters at condensing their content into intriguing  20 word, 50 word, 150 word insights that POP!

Their headlines,  “Cash Mob,” “Inspiring Minds Want to Know,” “We Couldn’t Make This Up,” and “50 Secrets Your Vet Won’t Tell You” create curiosity and compel you to keep reading because you want to know more.

Their visually accessible copy with short paragraphs and frequent boxed off graphics show they know people like to dip in and derive value even if they only have a few minutes to spare.  No dense, daunting text here.

In short, all of us communicators – speakers, writers, advertisers, journalists, ministers, professors and sales and marketing professionals – can learn from their example.

If you want to create intriguing headlines, insights and essays that pass Sam Horn’s Eyebrow Test®,  you can.

Purchase a copy of POP! and discover for yourself why it’s been sold around the world, featured on MSNBC, FastCompany and Business Week and hailed as the best source for crafting content that captures and keeps interest in what you have to say.

http://www.amazon.com/POP-Create-Perfect-Tagline-Anything/dp/0399533613/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335718015&sr=8-1

Do you have any favorite Readers Digest memories?  Let’s hear them . . .

“Remember, you’re more interested in what you have to say than anyone else is.” – Andy Rooney

Hmmm …

Well, if Andy was right, we better take responsibility for making ourselves more interesting so people want to hear what we have to say.

I host a monthly That’s Intriguing Interview Series that features guest experts from around the world (i.e., Betsy Myers who was COO of Obama’s grassroots presidential campaign and Michael Gelb, International Brain of the Year and author of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci).

People often tell me our tele-seminars are the ONLY ones they listen to from start to finish.

Several clients asked me to “share my secret;” so here’s the document we send our guest experts to prep them to be so intriguing … listeners are on the edge of their seats, eager to hear what’s next.

You’re welcome to use these guidelines when you are the one being interviewed or when you’re the one hosting the intervivew/panel.

These suggestions help everyone hold themselves accountable for sharing real-life insights and examples that get people’s eyebrows up and motivate them to want to hear more.

Hello ­­­­­­­­­­­­­______________________:

Thanks for agreeing to be a guest expert for our That’s Intriguing Interview Series on _________, 2012.

We are looking forward to you sharing your back-story and best-practice tips with our audience.

We feel a real obligation to live up to our name – so here are some guidelines that can help us produce an engaging, insightful, productive interview that adds value for all involved.

1. Our tele-seminar starts promptly at 8 pm ET (5 pm West Coast Time).

5 minutes before our call … at 7:55 pm ET …please call our bridge line _____. Then enter our code ____.

2. We put everyone on the call (except YOU) on mute and don’t take questions during the call so background noise doesn’t undermine the quality of our recording.

We do invite people to submit questions in advance. I may give a shout out to several people on the call to add variety to our interview. For example, “Lisa from St. Louis has asked . . .”

3. Our goal is to make this interview as unpredictable as possible. Some guidelines to help make that happen are:

* Please keep answers short – 2 minutes or less.

If you have a long explanationto give, it’s better to break it up with a question back to me, such as,”There’s more to that story. Do you want to hear it, or is it time for us to move on?”

* Give a real-life example to illustrate each point which makes information infinitely more intriguing.

When making a point, you might want to use the 2 magic words, “For example …” and then verbally re-live the scene where this happened to SHOW us what you mean so we’re seeing what you’re saying.

* Humor is always wonderful and welcome.

If you have amusing, laugh-out-loud anecdotes or quotes to share that are “on topic,” by all means, share them. As you know, relevant humor makes this more fun and enjoyable for everyone involved.

* Victor Hugo said,”The secret to being a bore is to tell everything.”

Please cherry-pick the MOST surprising or startling things that have happened along the way. We don’t need soup-to-nuts explanations of all your lessons-learned. It’s far more interesting for you to focus on the ONE INSIGHT that was most pivotal, most transformative so we can hear a “best of the best” of your expertise or experience.

* This is not about self-promotion.

In the last 5 minutes, we focus on an exciting project you’ve got coming up you’d like listeners to know about. This could be a new book, public event, coaching series, conference, startup, product launch, etc.

You are welcome to describe this and give your website, blog or social media contacts so listeners can find more information, register, buy a product or service, support your cause, hire you, etc.

4. You are welcome to send questions in advance you’d like to be asked. WE love receiving questions that helps us showcase your work or this topic in a way that does it justice and reveals behind-the-scenes, recent, “wouldn’t have known that” insights.

5. I normally ask questions in a chronological sequence – starting with your early career and taking listeners through the evolutionary unfolding of your work – the epiphanies you’ve had along the way and the insights you’d like to pass along.

Remember what Elmore Leonard said when asked why his books are bestsellers, “I try to leave out the parts people skip.”

Ask yourself, “Is this obvious? A cliche or common sense? Do people already know it?” If so, SKIP IT.

6. Our audience is usually an eclectic mix of executives, entrepreneurs, speakers, authors, non-profit leaders, consultants and creative professionals from around the country. We may have up to 100 people on the LIVE call; hundreds or thousands may listen to the recording in the years ahead.

7. We market your interview to our database of 15,000+ through our newsletter, on our website calendar and to our extensive online network via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

You are welcome to promote this to your tribe and invite people who would enjoy and benefit from your expertise and experiences. You are welcome to get the description of your program and registration links from our website calendar at http://www.samhorn.com/speaking/calendar/index.html

8. We will record the interview -and send you the MP3 within 3 days of the tele-seminar.

As part of our agreement, you are welcome to use that however you’d like – whether that’s selling it as a CD or MP3, excerpting it in podcasts on your website, or using as an audio demo for media.

We are so glad you carved time out of your busy schedule to be on our That’s Intriguing Interview Series.

We look forward to a win-win, rock and roll interview that showcases your contributions and delivers real-life recommendations people can use immediately. We know everyone will appreciate your fascinating examples of how you’ve built a SerenDestiny career where the light is on in your eyes and you’re doing meaningful legacy work that is serving all involved.

These guidelines on “How to Give a Great Interview” are from Sam Horn, author of POP! and the upcoming Eyebrow Test and SerenDestiny. The founder of The Intrigue Agency, Sam and her team celebrate intriguing ideas, individuals, events and organizations … and help clients create more compelling communications.  Her work has been featured on NPR, MSNBC, BusinessWeek.com, New York Times. www.IntriguingAgency.com

The #1 premise in business is that it need not be boring or dull. It ought to be fun.” – Tom Peters

The votes are in and the decisions have been made. The following business names, company slogans and book titles POP! out for all the right reasons – they’re Purposeful, Original and Pithy (they POP!) and they’re NOT boring or dull. As a result, they’ve helped their organization or product break out vs. blend in (the purpose of an attention-grabbing name, slogan and title. )

1. Segs in the City. The perfect name for a business which offers tours of downtown Washington DC on the stand-and-ride Segways.

2. WOKamole. The inspired name for a Chinese-Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. I also like Ciao-Mein, the name of an Italian-Chinese restaurant.

3. “Tastes So Much Like Coke, our lawyers have contacted our lawyers.” A brilliant ad campaign Coca-Cola used to address complaints that their new diet drink didn’t taste like “the real thing.”

4. Weeding By Example. What 13 year old Jack McShane called his charitable organization that cleaned up New Orleans City Park following Hurricane Katrina.

5. Kis-Meet. What else would you call an online dating service that helps you find your perfect match? A close second was Geek2Geek, a site for pocket-protector types with personals that read, “Tall, Dork and Handsome.”

6. BUYology. The sublime title of a bestseller by Martin Lindstrom that explains the science of why we buy. Much like Freakonomics, this is an example of how creating a new word for your book can launch a lucrative business empire.

7. Snuba. Leave the oxygen tank on the boat and explore 10 feet underwater without having to be certitified and without risk with this new sport – half snorkel, half scuba.

8. “Good things come to those who . . . walk.” Avon has raised millions to find a cure for breast cancer with their walks that feature this slogan.

9. “Great minds like a think.” The clever people at The Economist agree with Samuel Goldwyn who said, “Avoid cliches like the plague” and gave their slogan a clever twist.

10. Squeaky Green. What else would you call an organic product that gets your house squeaky clean?

They Can’t Explain Their Brand in 15 Seconds or Less

“My grandfather actually invented Cliff Notes. It was in 1952, and he was . . .
well, to make a long story short.” – Steven Wright

Remember when Andy Warhol said everyone would get 15 minutes of fame? In today’s rush-rush world, we don’t have that long to get people’s attention. We have about 15 seconds.

If you can’t quickly explain your brand in a way people get it and want it, they will move on. They are simply too busy to give us “the time of their day” unless we can quickly convince them we’re worth their valuable attention.

That’s why it’s crucial to “Cliff Note” your brand’s story into a concise, compelling Elevator Speech that captures interest in what you have to offer . . . in under 15 seconds.

Sound like an impossible dream? Not if you link your unfamiliar brand to something with which people are familiar and fond.

The secret is not to try to explain your brand. The more you try to explain what your brand does, the more confused potential customers will become. Instead, ask yourself, “What is my brand like . . . that my target audience already likes?’

I learned the power of this concept while in Denver for a speaking engagement with my teen-aged sons. We had a night free, so we went downstairs to the hotel concierge and asked if he had any suggestions for a fun night out.

He took one look at Tom and Andrew and said, “You’ve got to go to D & B’s.”

We were from Maui at the time and had no idea what he was talking about. We asked, “What’s D & B’s.”

He did NOT try to explain what D & B’s was. Imagine if he had said, “Well, it’s kind of like a restaurant, but it’s also a sports bar and they’ve got video games and TV’s and sometimes guys go there to watch football or play pool. But families go there too to play carnival games, kind of like an indoor amusement park.”

We would have looked at him in consternation and said, “Huh?” It’s just TMI (Too Much Information.) The longer he talked, the more baffled we would have become.

Instead, he thought about it for a moment and then smiled and said simply, “It’s like a . . . Chuck E. Cheese for adults.”

Perfect. Eight words and we knew exactly what it was and wanted to go there. By comparing D & B’s (something new) to Chuck E. Cheese (something we knew), he “told and sold” their brand in one succinct sentence. They should have put him on commission.

Do you have an elevator speech for your brand?

Remember, don’t try to explain it. Ask yourself, “What is my brand like – that these potential customers like?” If you compare your idea, company, product or service to something with which they’re familiar and fond, the light will go on in their eyes and their eyebrows will rise. That’s the way to win buy-in in 15 seconds or less.

Want to know the other 4 branding mistakes organizations make — and how to avoid them? Keep checking this blog and I’ll share them in the days ahead.

Into instant gratification? Email us at info@SamHorn.com with “8 Biggest Branding Mistakes” in the subject heading and we’ll email you the entire article you can use in your organization’s newsletter.