My first marketing guru was Leo Baron. He taught me the ins and outs of marketing while I was still in my 20s. I was lucky to have access at such a young age to a proven marketing genius. He had street cred from working with some of the top companies in the greater New York area. It was only because he and my dad had been boyhood friends that he did my father a favor and decided to mentor me.

One of the first things Leo taught me is the power of building a brand. And to him it all started with a great name.

Leo said: “There are only two times to change your name. One is a happy announcement, such as you’re getting married. The other time is because you want to distance yourself from something, such as you’re getting divorced.

“With a good name, you can have the power of marketing at your back and the wind in your sales (it was his idea of a joke by writing it out as a word play on ‘sails’). With a bad name or a neutral name, you can only overcome it with a ton of money, a ton of time and a whole lot of wasted effort. I recommend you pick a great name and leverage it with a great look and a great tagline.”

“OK, so what are the common pitfalls in choosing a name for a company?” I asked.

“The two biggest mistakes when choosing a company name are to either use the family name or name the company after a location, such as the name of a city, town or village,” he replied. “The most important purpose of a good company name is that it means something positive to the potential customer. A neutral name can be made better with a good tag line. A bad name can be overcome but only at a huge investment in marketing dollars.”

My dad had made this mistake when he used his father’s first name. This was too limiting and too confusing. So, I took Leo’s words to heart and shared this with my dad and my brothers, and we did change our company name. My dad was always receptive to the wisdom of Leo and he understood that his company was growing beyond just him, his boys and the original boundaries of the service area where the company started. He, too, wanted the name to mean something to the customer.

What I learned about marketing through the years and in particular about the power of a great company name is the best of names can be leveraged with a great tagline that flows from the name. That’s because it not only tells the customer what we’re all about, it tells the staff what our customers can expect from us.

One of my long-term clients, Mark Paup, and I changed his company name from City Rule to Golden Rule and then incorporated a tagline of “We Obey the Rules to Live By.” We then branded the whole company around this theme. The customers know what they can expect and the staff knows its obligation to deliver this.

When you do decide to change your name, remember to address these issues as well:

  • Licensing — sometimes a dba (doing business as) is sufficient;
  • Truck design;
  • Letterhead;
  • Envelopes;
  • Menus;
  • Surveys;
  • Invoices;
  • Advertising and marketing pieces;
  • Bank accounts;
  • Uniform;
  • Stickers;
  • Valve tags;
  • Leave-behinds; and
  • Door tags.

Take Leo’s advice and “Pick a great company name and feel the power of sales at your back!”

Trucks that turn heads

There’s more to branding than picking a great name and a great tagline.

It is a mindset. To me, it also encompasses an eye-catching design that begins with a powerfully attractive truck design — what I call a head-turning design. You only have the attention of your potential audience for a millisecond, so this isn’t the time to be shy.

Select a bright color that gets the public’s attention. Then people must know what your company name is and what type of work you do.

Another great company at branding is Gold Medal. When we worked together, co-owners Mike Agugliaro and Rob Zadotti bought into rebranding. Theyalso picked a tagline that builds on the company name: “Award Winning Service.” They went with a truck wrap in a bright yellow-gold design. You don’t miss them anywhere you drive in their service area. Don’t believe me? Take a ride down the New Jersey Turnpike and look off to the east when you’re heading north before Exit 9; the corporate headquarters will grab your attention.

Another consideration in our digital world is to own domain names and websites that easily tie-in to your great company name. Leverage that with a branding-type phone number that incorporates the great name in it to build on the momentum.

One company I know in New York, Ray the Plumber, owned by Ray Gremaux, even has a Zamboni (the machine that attends to the ice at hockey games) wrapped in his great-looking corporate design. There aren’t many places you can go in his territory where the repeating branding efforts of Ray the Plumber aren’t at work, right down to the company’s phone number: 877/CALL-RAY.

Remember, employees dressed in the same attention-grabbing color and design become walking billboards.

 If you want the phone to ring off the hook, you need to go bold and do as Leo suggested and “put the wind in your sales” with powerful branding. 

Do you have any company branding tips you'd like to share? What's worked for your company? Tell us in the comments section below!