Strategy & Marketing

The Power (and Challenge) of a Name

When I lecture or consult on branding, one of the issues I like to discuss is the name of your organization or project.   I’ve seen cases where colleges dramatically increased enrollment, products revitalized, companies turned around – even movies re-released, all because of a name change.

Certainly there are a multitude of issues involved, and name changes don’t solve everything – especially when there are deeply rooted, systemic challenges.  But your name is the first thing people see.  Long before they hear your story or understand your benefits, they discover your name.  And in a media-driven, A.D.D. culture they will often make the decision to hear your message – or not – simply based on the power of your name.

The computer world is a good example.  Dell offers 5 different notebook computers:  Inspiron, XPS, Precisions, Latitude, and Vostro.  Some of the names are interesting, but none really tie into each other with any type of relationship.  Sony is worse yet.  They’re notebooks are:  TZ, SZ, CR, FZ, NR, and AR.  Boy, that’s exciting.  A writer recently said they sound more like former Soviet states.

On the Apple side, their laptops used to be Powerbooks, and more recently MacBook, and MacBook Pro.   Even their desktop models are Mac mini, iMac, and Mac Pro.  All have a continuity and relationship – plus have more meaning.

When I started my company, Cooke Media Group, I had already been in the business for about 15 years and had solid relationships.  So I named the company after me, so I could take advantage of many years of trust and friendships I had built up over that time.  And it proved to be a smart move because people knew instantly who the company was and the principles for which we stood.

But I’ve since discovered that when you hire “Cooke Media Group” you expect a “Cooke” to show up.  So I’ve been beating myself to a pulp traveling hundreds of thousands of miles a year meeting with clients, even though other members of my team are just as good (if not better) than me.  So I’m looking at a name change that would accomplish a couple of things:

1)    Indicate our wider range of expertise, including branding, and digital media.
2)    Take the emphasis off of me personally.

Companies like Walt Disney Studios grew out of that phase, so I’m hesitant to drop the “Cooke” name altogether.  But I’m open to ideas.

Any suggestions out there?


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  1. I love the fact that my studio’s name, Holy Cow Creative, makes people smile. I have just the opposite "problem" that you have…I don’t think some people know my name. I’ll walk in and I’ll hear "hey, holy cow!"…true story: we visited one of the churches we work with for a Sunday service, when we told the pastor’s wife that we were expecting a baby she replied "aww…you’re gonna have a baby calf."

    Now that’s brand saturation…maybe not quite what I was going for, but a fun story nonetheless.

    As far as Cooke Pictures name change…it’s still cold in Michigan, why don’t you fly me to Cali and we’ll come up with something smokin’ hot!

  2. If you believe shakespeare, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. Yet when it comes to changing the name of an established, well respected company history would take the alternative position. Good luck with this one Phil!

  3. Well, I think the obvious choose would be, "Cooke & Associates." But how boring and old is that. Or maybe, Cooke N Time, 100101100 Cooke, Cooke and Little Cooke’s, Cooke a latte. Sorry I had to throw a few of those in there.

    What’s in a name? I think about the Kennedy’s, you think about politics, JFK, RFK, Teddy and so on. When I hear the name Trump, of course Donald Trump, but more now than ever when I hear Trump Organization, I think about his kids, because they are always seen with him. The Kennedy’s have always been seen with each other. Being seen with a "name" is as affiliation, and you putting your approval on it.

    People want to see that figure head. It is a sign of comfort to them. You can bring your best director in with you on a set, and I’m sure you’ve done this. Make your appearance with him and client, and taken off. Then calling the director ever so often to check in and talk to the client will comfort the client, but they will all ways look at Phil Cooke. Then, maybe then, that client will fill more comfortable with that direct, but it always comes back to Phil.

    The first time I went to CTS Studios in Canada to shoot, I met with Terry Haskell the manager of the studio’s. We shoot in the evening, so Terry is there for a short bit when we shoot. But every time we go there now, I expect to see Terry. Even if it’s for five minutes, because Terry is the man, and Terry takes care of the problems we might have. Terry has a great, great team, but we expect to see Terry a short while and that is comforting to us as a client.

  4. I don’t believe it is the name that gets the attention but the spirit within the name. Your name Phil Cooke does not mean anything to me but what you do, speaks to me. The name Jesus is just a name, but knowing who He is and what He has done, speaks to me.  Knowing that you stand up for Him and His ways is so important to me and that is what makes your name a name I want to know and remember. You are called to bring attention to Him through creating others to stand out. Be of good courage, that God is making your name known so He is known to all.

    Yours truly,

    Jacki Hamlin

    The Adam Butler Team [WE CATER TO YOU]


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