Mark Skoultchi – Principal & Project Lead

By Mark Skoultchi

September 8, 2016

Mark is a veteran naming professional with 20 years’ experience counseling clients in every aspect of product and company name development. When he’s not steering a client toward a new naming strategy or a final name selection, he enjoys strumming guitars, building websites for friends, and spending quality time with his wife and two kids.

As head of Catchword’s East Coast operations, he’s typically the project lead on all right coast accounts, and recently managed projects for Volkswagen, ETS, Marsh Clearsight, and Raritan. He graduated from Brandeis University with a BA in History, and earned his JD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Go Bills! Actually, he’s not much of a sports fan.

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Maria Cypher – Principal & Creative Lead

By Mark Skoultchi

In the heady Bay Area of the mid-90s, as many of her Stanford MBA cohort were launching the first wave of Internet startups, Maria was creating names for them—and she’s never looked back. As Catchword’s co-founder and creative lead, she oversees creative strategy and a crack team of namers. Two decades in, she still thinks naming is the most fun anyone could have at work.

Maria has created names for Starbucks, Wells Fargo, Gap, Fitbit, Microsoft, and hundreds of others, causing her to wonder if the Guinness Book has a “most prolific namer” category. Her creative juices are also fired up as lead singer of a local cover band, Highway 13. Maria spent much of her youth in Asia as a foreign-service brat and speaks fluent (er, conversational) Mandarin.

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Choose wisely because name changes are quite the bother

By Mark Skoultchi

September 3, 2016

This may be less of a tip and more of a reminder for most: you don’t want to have to change your name, so choose wisely now. Changing a company name is an enormous inconvenience and has tremendous business implications, including, and most importantly, the loss of valuable brand equity. There are various reasons why you might have to change your name, and the most common are:

  • your company name infringes on a preexisting trademark (note that a good naming agency should guide you toward names that stand the greatest chance of legal clearance and trademark protectability)
  • you’ve outgrown your name–i.e., the nature of your business has significantly shifted and your name is no longer consistent with the new business direction
  • you’ve merged with another company and need a new name that reflects the cultures and business objectives of both organizations
  • you’ve been acquired by another company and for legal reasons or for purposes of portfolio fit you have to change your name
  • umpteenth other reasons why you might be in a position to have to change your name!

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Your name is a reflection of you, your creativity, and how thoughtful you are

By Mark Skoultchi

It’s not something that everyone thinks about, but your company name is not just a reflection of your positioning or corporate mission or industry focus, it’s a reflection of your thoughtfulness and business intelligence. The name you adopt for your company says oodles about you, your personnel, and the way you conduct your business. Are you a company of creative and innovative thinkers? If so, your name should reflect those qualities, and an uncreative or unoriginal name will fall short. Do you consider yourselves diligent, dedicated and hardworking? If the answer is “yes,” then a name that seems it took no time to imagine will quickly betray those attributes.

At Catchword, we put a lot of careful thought and creativity into our names because we appreciate that a name is not just a mirror for your positioning or mission, it’s a mirror for you, and more than any other brand element, it provides insight into who you are as individuals, including how smart and creative you are.

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Descriptors or taglines can contextualize company names and set you free

By Mark Skoultchi

During almost every company naming project we reach a point in the name review process when we have to remind folks that names do not exist in a vacuum. They are supported by many other brand communications, including visual identity, marketing and sales copy, website, and, if appropriate, descriptors and taglines. One of the greatest values that a descriptor or tagline provides is freedom. Specifically, freedom to expand the range of name styles you consider for your brand.

In general, a company name that’s more suggestive of a specific message may allow for more aspirational taglines. And a name that’s more abstract may benefit from a descriptor that alludes to the industry in which the company competes or the nature of its business. In either case, it’s important to remember that these complimentary pieces of brand communication are available to you, and should free you up to consider a much broader range of brand names for your company.

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Avoid common words or word parts in your name

By Mark Skoultchi

Most markets are saturated with company names that are so similar it’s hard to distinguish between the different brands. Before Catchword opened its doors in 1998, we did a thorough audit of the industry and discovered, not surprisingly, that the vast majority of naming agencies incorporated the words “name” or “brand” in them. We won’t list them all here because, if you’ve done a Google search on naming agencies and landed on this page, you’ve probably already discovered most of them.

We knew that to stand out from this pack, to distinguish ourselves and our brand, we would need to avoid these terms in our name, and think of a more creative, unique way to express the business we’re in and the value we provide to folks like you. The name “Catchword” is a great company name because it’s unlike any other name in our space and still a logical choice for a naming agency. It balances distinctiveness with industry and business focus. On top of that, it implies that the names we create (or catch!) will become popular pieces of language and household names. In other words, catchwords!

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Name like you’re the “Amazon” of your industry

By Mark Skoultchi

When naming a product it’s oftentimes acceptable and even desirable to key the name on a single feature or customer benefit. For example, a software product that mines customer data and provides insights about purchase habits might appropriately be called “PurchaseIntent” or “InHabit” (to suggest insights and habits). However, you are not a single product. You are a company, and your “features” and the benefits you provide to your customers are broad in scope, and may change considerably over the years.

In general, it’s a good idea to think more expansively about your company name, and avoid pigeonholing yourself with a name that may tie in well to your flagship product or service and your current business focus, but risks becoming restrictive as your portfolio grows and diversifies and your business interests evolve. In addition to Amazon, which is a great metaphor for an expansive portfolio of product offerings that doesn’t limit the direction in which the company can go, here are few recent examples of great company naming from Catchword’s portfolio:

Asana
(read the case study)

Sunbird
(read the case study)

Clover Health
(read the case study)

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Let your hair down and have some fun!

By Mark Skoultchi

August 31, 2016

Naming is a serious business and branding exercise, but it’s also creative one, and naming meetings can and should be the most fun you have during your workday!

Come to your name review meetings with an open mind, a positive attitude, and the energy of a child and you’ll almost certainly be more productive and leave for your next meeting with a goofy smile on your face.

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Legal is a bear. Make sure to set team expectations.

By Mark Skoultchi

If your naming agency has done its job, you’ll complete the process with a great selection of unique and powerful name ideas for trademark evaluation. However, while most naming agencies conduct preliminary trademark screening on the names they present, they don’t generally conduct full, comprehensive trademark evaluations, at least not until your team has identified a short list of highly preferred names.

It’s important to keep in mind that some names will be eliminated after a comprehensive legal evaluation is conducted, and possibly even your single most preferred name! Setting expectations and ensuring members of your team are aware of the legal challenges you’ll face is an important component to a successful naming initiative.

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Speaking of team, make sure you’ve assembled the right one.

By Mark Skoultchi

Sure, everyone wants a part in naming the new company or product, but too large a team can be counter-productive, and make it harder to get to a final name decision.

Generally speaking and depending on the project scope (product versus company naming), a good team will include brand owners (those folks primarily responsible for the product, service or company being named), senior marketers (your CMO, or other marketing head), senior communications specialists, and senior brand directors and product managers. Minimum of four, no more than ten individuals. In addition, if you have an in-house trademark attorney it can be helpful for that individual to participate in meetings.

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