The power of building a brand starts with a great name.

My first marketing guru wasLeo Baron. He put me on his knee (figuratively speaking!) as a 20-something and taught me the ins and outs of marketing. I was lucky to have access at such a young age to such 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 did he do my father a favor and decide to mentor me.

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

“There are only two times to change your name,” he said. “One is a happy announcement, such as you’re getting married, and the other time is because there’s something you want to distance yourself from, 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 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.

Leo replied: “The two biggest mistakes when choosing a company name are to either name the company after a person or use the family name; the second biggest mistake is to name the company after a location like the name of a city, town or village.

“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.”

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 had done this once when he changed the name of the company from my grandfather’s first name, Morris, but even his new name was too limiting and too confusing.

My dad was always receptive to the wisdom of Leo and he also understood that his company was growing beyond just him and 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 that 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 also 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 branded the whole company around this theme. The customers know what they can expect and the staff knows its obligation to deliver.

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

  • Licensing (sometimes a dba is sufficient].

  • Truck design.

  • Letterhead.

  • Envelopes.

  • Menus.

  • Surveys.

  • Invoices.

  • Advertising and marketing pieces.

  • Bank accounts.

  • Uniform.

  • Stickers.

  • Valve tags.

  • Leave-behinds.

  • Door tags.

Take Leo’s advice - pick a great company name and feel the power of sales at your back!