Startup naming is more difficult than it sounds

What will be your first big compromise as a startup? Your business name.

This fact is not often shared, but getting a good name for your startup is extremely hard nowadays, and there are three interdependent barriers in your way;

1. Copyright
2. Web Domain
3. Social media handles

It is extremely rare to hit jackpot with all three and you will have to compromise with a name that doesn’t quite meet your standards, hopes and vision.

There are a lot of creative naming techniques used in branding that can expand your options and get you closer to your vision like exploring, synonyms, terms in other languages, fusing two or more words together… but almost inevitably, you’ll end up is going to feel like a compromise.

A compromise does not mean total failure though, and the name chosen will serve you well and grow on you with time and hopefully with your customers. Just be careful not to pick a name that sounds offensive or that is the opposite of your brand’s values.

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I am a brand consultant leading organizations and individuals to their hearts. You can connect with me here:

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You need to think of your social media strategy as people strategy

There are no hacks and shortcuts to a genuine connection. When it comes to social media , you have to realize that you are addressing real people with real lives, with real hopes and desires.

Sharing a generic quote, a random selfie or 5 tips to success just doesn’t cut it anymore. I’m not saying these types of posts are bad in and of themselves, but you have to find a genuine way in which your brand can touch people’s hearts.

When thinking of a social media strategy – think of it as people strategy. Don’t focus on vanity metrics such as likes, but go after building genuine relationships.

Today’s algorithms will reward you for it too. They have been reprogrammed to measure the relevance your posts have for your audience. If you’re in it just for the likes, the algorithm will see right through you.

Instead of doing things the old way, evolve and think about how to be more authentic, sincere and relevant.

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I am a brand consultant leading organizations and individuals to their hearts. You can connect with me here:

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What’s the difference between $95, $99.99 and $100?

What’s the difference between $95, $99.99 and $100?

Objectively speaking, the difference is next to nothing to about 5 bucks, but the way you “design” your prices can communicate a lot about your brand.

Ending your prices with a 9 always signifies a bargain, while using a 5 or a 0 as the last number of a price signifies more stability, quality and prestige.

If you have a luxury product or a service, it’s smart to round your prices to 0, but if you have a product that offers good value, then it’s a good idea to reduce the left digit by one and end your price with a 9.

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I am a brand consultant leading organizations and individuals to their hearts. You can connect with me here:

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Why can’t brands be furious for once!?

Empty branded statements

Today we live in a reality where people have effectively cornered brands into reacting to current political, social and cultural events. From political protests, to celebrity deaths or cultural phenomena, brands nowadays have to be everywhere and have an opinion on everything. Some brands take the opportunity to align their values to the cause, some are sleazy and opportunistic and some of them hide in broad daylight. 

However, when brands express their opinions we are often faced with vague, empty statements via tweets, blogs, Instagram posts that often contain words such as “care”, “solidarity”, “community” and “standing”. For something that was handled by so many hands: strategists, assistants, lectors, lawyers, boards, these documents always turn out to be more sterile than the insides of a bottle of pure alcohol. 

If we demand our brands to have a voice on society-and-heart-shattering human events, why should we settle for such tact, diplomacy and over-politicking? Why should we settle for blatant inauthenticity served right to our faces masquerading as compassion and honesty? Why can’t brands allow themselves to be furious about the state of the world for once!? 

I’m asking this as a consumer, but also a brand strategist. I’m utterly curious why do brands always have to deliver passionless statements that make no difference and ultimately have no meaning. Would a company continue producing a product that doesn’t sell? Those statements are obviously not working, so why continue producing them at all? We are not sold! Should brands be given such voices in the first place? 

As I mentioned in the beginning, brands nowadays are forced in doing so. If there was no outside pressure, organizations would probably continue being disengaged as before. Another factor that contributes to this phenomenon is that organizations are still stuck in time and engage in PR strategies that release corporate-sounding non-statements to issues that go way beyond their range. The hot-button topics of today are much more human in nature, and humans are inherently beautiful as they are messy. Brands can be beautiful, but never messy. Messiness implies instability, irrationality and impulsivity — non of which are desired on the market.

Humans are inherently beautiful as they are messy. Brands can be beautiful, but never messy.

Companies and corporations are first and foremost economy and market entities, and we have to recognize this reality for what it is. We have treated them as such for so long that they grew into “beings” much different from humans. They are based on cold facts and rationality, void of emotions. Today we find ourselves in an awkward situation and ask from emotionless entities to react to emotion-strung events in the world. Considering everything, it is only logical to get emotion-void responses as a result.

Then again, I sincerely do think it’s time to change that.

Making brands more human

People have already started seeing through abstract corporate non-speak. They are increasingly asking brands for their direct and tangible involvement in their communities. This was very evident at the beginning of the COVID crisis, and now with the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement.

At the end of 20th century we saw people requesting bigger responsibility of brands in regards to the environment, but we also saw there was no real commitment for organizations to do so. Carbon and other emissions still remain at an unsatisfactory level. The 21st century will mark an era of bigger and most importantly tangible involvement of brands in the world, societies and communities they exist in. We are slowly bringing organizations back to what I think is their truer identity — their human identity.

Democratization of organizations would be driving factor leading this change forward. Even when there’s pressure, leaderships are often the most sheltered groups and action from a position of comfort has proven to be very difficult. Influencing decision making by raising the voices of the wider employee body, especially during the crisis, will be way to go. We can observe such an example within Microsoft as employees call for the company to cancel its police contracts

No man is an island, as is no organization an entity separate from humans. What is an organization if not a community of humans working towards a common goal? This means that brands, as organizational identities that deliver the organization’s voice are human at their heart as well. Any statement made from that internal truth will undoubtedly sound more honest, authentic and human. Some organizations have already stepped up to have active roles in society where governments have failed. This is a strong signal that attitudes have begun to dramatically change. 30 years ago, this kind of behavior would have been unimaginable for the simple reason that brands simply didn’t do such things. I believe we are entering an era of post social responsibility that will release the inherited corporate restraints and will finally enable organizations to behave in a more human way, and possibly even get angry!

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This article was written in collaboration with Tracy Mech

I am a brand consultant leading organizations and individuals to their hearts. You can connect with me here:

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Brands are terrified from becoming irrelevant during the COVID crisis

In these unprecedented times of uncertainty and hyper-capitalism brands are mass-producing emotions of closeness, relatability, connection, trust, and hope. By hiring people like me, brands craft and tone a message to suit what “the audience” wants to hear. I would agree that we live in times in need of solidarity, but not fakeness.

This is pointing back to the fact that most businesses have a hidden value that states that they are “in the business of doing business”. Organizations are not prepared to own up to such a blatant (and core) value thus resulting in moves that are not really moves. Why did all of these corporations produce such ads? What were they trying to tell us? Aren’t they secretly communicating: “Hey, we’re here, don’t forget us!”. How much are companies afraid of becoming irrelevant in the COVID crisis?

Instead of reacting to fear, organizations should examine their brands, services offers and resources and step up with a meaningful way to connect and make a difference in communities. Don’t preach it, do it.

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I am a brand consultant leading organizations and individuals to their hearts. You can connect with me here:

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Why managers and leaders need to stop working during the weekends

If you are a manager or a leader, it can be assumed that many people will be expecting your guidance this week. If you worked through the weekend, how are you hoping to lead people in the right direction if you’re not taking the time to lead your own life in the right direction? For many of us the working weekend has become “the new norm” at the cost of our personal time which is crucial for our wellbeing and our quality of life.

A powerful tool that can stop this stream of endless business is reflection. If you delibereately make the time during the weekend, you can reflect on the week that’s passed, the month, the roles in your life, and the desires you have as a human being. Reflection allows you to introduce a deliberate intention in your life as it allows you to plan your day to day and week to week by what’s the most important in your life. Reflection will stop things from getting out of control and will prevent the stream of other people’s worries and plans carry you away by automatic and unconscious doing. You might find yourself being beyond busy the whole week, but not having done anything that will significantly improve your life or business. You would have effectively worked through an “empty” week.

Stop what you’re doing now and honestly ask yourself if what you’re doing is contributing to your quality of life and satisfaction. If the answer is no, then it’s about time that you have a serious personal and professional recalibration.

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I am a brand consultant leading organizations and individuals to their hearts. You can connect with me here:

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How Apple sold out at $1 trillion

After Steve’s passing, it was obvious that things will begin to change for Apple. After all, Apple was Steve’s child of labor and he was the undisputed pastor of the company. I am not trying to sugar coat anything here either, I am perfectly aware of his iron fist rule. It was an iron fist which did wonders apparently, at least for the company and the brand overall. Steve managed to get Apple from the verge of bankruptcy, on the road to the most valuable company in the world.

Innovation, design and futuristic vision were the values which were most prominent in the Jobs era. The first iPhone was nothing short of revolutionary for the cellphone industry and if not for the tech industry overall. That single product made us feel like we are a step closer to our Star Trek future than ever before. Pair this with Steve’s insistence on design and Ive’s genius, and you got yourself a perfect recipe for success. Whether it be industrial, graphic, interface or interior, everything Apple had to be highly designed. In fact, I remember a video of Jobs discussing how important fonts were for the Mac OS back in the day. I don’t believe I’ve seen a single CEO focus on design so heavily since then.

Insistence and persistence (consistency) are keywords I want to focus on in this article because it took Jobs a long time, starting from Apple’s renewal from the year 1997 up until his death in 2011 to reinvent, build and most importantly preserve Apple’s brand. Jobs understood the value of persistence in enforcing the brand’s values and if it meant using his iron fist to do it, then so be it.

On the 2nd of August 2018, Apple was valued at $1 trillion. A valuation this high is huge news in the world of economics. This is indicative how things have changed under the new leadership though. The kind of headlines Apple makes now are more in business and less and less in the world of tech. I think all that success can still be attributed to Steve’s vision, although he’s not with us anymore.

My theory is that consumers still buy the brand out of the perception of what the brand is supposed to represent, while the products themselves have gone in another direction. Apple is burning through a lot of brand goodwill which was left by Jobs.

We can confidently say that there is not much revolutionary about Apple’s products in recent years and there isn’t anything revolutionary about them now. After all, they celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the iPhone with an awkward notch and an animated 3D poo emoji. Let’s not forget the touch bar on the MacBook Pro or the more than awkward placement of the charge port on the Magic Mouse 2. Would this have ever passed under Jobs I wonder?

What Cook does for Apple today was not possible for Jobs though and what was possible for Jobs looks like an impossible task for Cook, and I believe the latter is more important for the company’s longevity.

Cook thrives on operations and execution while Jobs thrived on vision. His vision is what basically made this company into the one we know and love, but we are steadily losing that under Cook’s rule, despite the surreal market valuations. The longer Apple stirs away from real innovation, and the more it starts to look and behave like its competitors, putting out products with only incremental improvements, the less differentiated it will have on the market. To put it mildly, there is less and less magic and wonder connected to Apple’s brand.

At the moment, the company is in the Goldilocks zone. Consumers are still loyal and acting on the company’s inherited brand goodwill and Cook’s operations and business skills. That is why the company is able to achieve today’s success. Brand goodwill is not an infinite resource though. New generations won’t be able to recall Apple values which Jobs put in place. If the company continues to stir away from producing products that capture our imaginations and melts down and that would make the brand less resilient to bad decisions or scandals like the #ThrottleGate for example.

I wonder what would happen to Apple if Jony Ive suddenly resigns from his position? Does the company have the leadership to persist in preserving their design philosophy? It brings me back to the ancient paradox and thought experiment, The Ship of Theseus stating: Will a ship that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same ship? I am increasingly uncertain this will be the case.

These three brand lessons from the Olympics are even more surprising

The Olympic games are now over, but the Olympic Spirit still lingers in the atmosphere. Still inspired, I dove even deeper to see what the Olympic Charter had to offer. This is a document similar to a constitution and it describes and defines the Olympic Movement, including its most important principles and values.

I had no doubt that the Olympic Movement is powerful and that it still had lessons to teach brands. Following are extracts from the Charter that stood out and to me and which I think have the power to reinvigorate your brand.

“It (the Olympic Charter) governs the organization, action, and operation of the Olympic Movement and sets forth the conditions for the celebration of the Olympic Games.”

There is a very important significance in wording here. According to the Charter, the Olympic Games are not being “held” nor “made”, but celebrated. This is a crucial distinction which encompasses the Olympic spirit and serves as a vision of how the Olympic Games should be treated as. The Olympic bodies treat the Games as more of a festival than a competition. This can be observed in reality too: from the big and colorful opening and closing ceremonies to the spirit of hope and joy the games bring globally.

This kind of wording is a very good indicator of self-awareness and self-knowledge. Traits which fundamental to any brand. They stem from careful observation of one’s own history and reflect insight of the present day. To possess this ability though, to testify about your organization’s truth takes particular will and effort not everybody is willing to make.

In my experience as a consultant, some brands try to live up to an unrealistic expectation of themselves, especially those tied to megalomanic projections of being “The biggest” and “The greatest”, but they could never escape the perceptions people had of their businesses.

Brands are inevitably tied to perceptions, but more importantly, they are tied to the truth. From a branding perspective, the first step in developing a successful brand is reality itself. It’s much easier for businesses to work with their own truths and build upon their own strengths. The only way to reach that elusive 100th floor is if you start from the ground and up.

A Brand with more than 100 floors can also suffer greatly if they don’t tune in to what their customers and press are saying. Living in the clouds, as attractive it may sound, hasn’t done businesses any good. Any leadership, new or old, experienced or not has to be prepared to look directly into the eyes of truth if they want to ensure their brand’s future.

What are the realities of your business you are not prepared to face? Do you keep finding yourself in a position to constantly disagree with your clients? Has a negative word or sentence been associated with your business? Maybe it’s time to put down those rose-tinted glasses.

The first step 2

“Olympism is a philosophy of life…”

Far from reaching quarterly sales goals, the essence of the Olympic movement is a philosophy. Moreover, it’s a philosophy of life itself. What can be more in touch with reality than this? Businesses also start as an idea, a vision to contribute and change the world in some way. This is very obvious, but some businesses can lose total track of it.

For startups, as we mentioned, it’s easy for them to get carried away with their megalomanic ideas. CEOs face the hurdle of being swept by so many different things at once that they lose track of why they funded the business in the first place. It’s especially hard to maintain a certain philosophy when it comes to high-performing managers who can perceive business principles as “obstacles to success.” Culture in higher management circles can get out of hand so quickly that a life-affirming philosophy which is set out to bring good in the world can easily be transformed into a philosophy of greed and corruption.

These are only one of the few reasons why brands should disseminate and practice their core philosophy every day.  Not only can it prevent morally questionable business decisions, but it can be used proactively too. Whether if it’s hiring the right employee, designing a new product or expanding to a new market. Having a company philosophy signifies that you know who you are and what you are about. This position is a position of stability and strength and it makes the jobs of decision makers much smoother and easier.

What is the basic idea responsible for your business’s existence? What thoughts did your company’s “founding fathers and mothers” have? How can they be reimagined to serve our contemporary circumstances? Going back to your founding roots might uncover some much-needed energy, inspiration, and guidance.

If brands want to continue

“…promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

It seems very easy for businesses to lose track of how to treat employees and customers with basic dignity. There is something in the way we organize ourselves in a group, whether it’s the “not my responsibility” mindset or the simple fear of admitting your mistakes that brings out the worst in us. If human dignity is nowhere to be mentioned within the company’s culture, the possibilities to do wrong are plenty. Take Volkswagen and the Standing Rock incident for example. One doesn’t have to think twice that human dignity wasn’t on top of people’s minds when these events happened.

On the other hand, our human bodies react positively when we do something that’s good and positive. Research shows that the best thing you can do to boost your general wellbeing and happiness is to volunteer i.e. to do something for somebody else. While a business is a business, it can be most rewarding for employees to witness the positive impact their work has on others. Happier employees make happier customers and happy customers make more purchases. Coca-Cola’s happiness factory might have been on to something after all!

So, what kind of values, culture and policies does your business put in place to make sure every employee, customer and human being are being respected and protected? How would you approach solving conflicts with groups with different values and opinions? Do you measure your business decisions morally and what’s your company’s bottom line: is it money or making lives better?

Not obvious


I am a brand strategist, designer, and content manager. My philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have truly successful brands we need to know our human selves and listen to our human hearts.

You can connect with me here:

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5 Olympic Brand Commandments for Today’s Businesses

The Olympics serve as the greatest sports event and as one of the most important conferences in the world at the same time. Over the history, they have been subject to controversy, boycotts and served as squabbling grounds between countries and political blocks. Yet somehow, they managed to survive and not only survive, but thrive. The Olympic institution and brand are stronger today than ever. On the other hand, it’s extremely difficult (impossible even) to single out a company which enjoys a similar amount goodwill today or throughout any point in history for that matter.

In this regard, there is one question worth examining: What are institutions, organizations, and companies but a group of people working united under a common idea? If this were true, then what makes the Olympics brand and ideals so true, grand and worthy of pursuing? On the other hand, what makes companies and organizations struggle, stray away from themselves and even stray from goodness itself?

As any other organization, the Olympic Games have seen their fair share of struggles. First and foremost they exist within the confines of our civilization which is susceptible to misunderstandings, conflicts, and of course war. They survived our two World Wars, all kinds of regimes, terrorist attacks, all sorts of political disputes and boycotts. For example, at the 1980 Moscow games, 62 countries didn’t participate as a result of the Cold War, and this didn’t even put a dent in the Olympic spirit.

The Olympics do not only show extreme resilience in the eyes of serious adversity but as a body, they continuously act accordingly to their established values. South Africa was banned from the Olympic Games from 1964 to 1988, as a part of the sporting boycott during the apartheid era. Saudi Arabia was threatened with a ban in 2012 unless it sends women athletes to compete and this year Russia was banned to participate in the winter games due to a state-run doping program. The International Olympic Committee didn’t ban all the athletes from Russia though. It united them under its flag, as It did for the refugee team in 2016 in Rio. This shows true value-driven integrity: not to discriminate against anyone no matter the circumstances. This value is further strengthened by the existence of the Paralympic Games.

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The Olympics are consistent in practicing tolerance and inclusion. Credit Andrej Isakovic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Olympic Committee is not afraid to make tough decisions and run the risk of being perceived as the “bad guy” in certain countries. The same can’t be readily said for businesses.

Business and states nowadays have almost a symbiotic relationship too. Rightfully so, since it’s in the businesses’ interest to lobby for less regulation, tax, and other breaks. We are well aware that this relationship can get out of hand though. There is daily news of big political corruption scandals involving financial “favors” from a big business. Yet, this is only one sphere where businesses can stray away from the good.

Let’s take Volkswagen as our latest example, which is an appropriate one as well. They are a well-known brand globally and have a long tradition to boot. Although Volkswagen is loved and revered all over the world for their craftsmanship and build quality, recently it was discovered that they cheated their emissions tests on a big scale. More recently even, they were condemned for testing diesel fumes on humans and monkeys!

For me, it is inconceivable that an organization can be true to their values and still manage to act in a vile way. A company that pollutes can’t say they respect women’s rights and if a company has appalling work conditions, it doesn’t get to say they value good design. What’s the use anyway?

We have to keep in mind that the values both organizations and businesses respect are first and foremost human values. As such, they are complementary and interdependent. One can’t choose to have tunnel vision, to respect one and ignore all of the rest.

What gives the Olympics a starting advantage in brand integrity over today’s businesses then? If they were still under Zeus’s patronage, he would have stated something like the following:

1. Know thyself

I remember the shock of discovering that the company I worked for, for my first rebranding project, had no idea who they were and what was their business about. I thought that this would be a no-brainer for bigger companies, but it turned out to be a very big brainer indeed. Luckily dusting off only one core value ( customer service ) was enough to give the company new life and direction. The same goes for any other business whether it’s a startup or 100 years old. They must be aware of who they are and what they are about.

2. Nothing is more important than human decency

These three words are enough to guide you through all of your business decisions, especially the ones which are on the moral fence. Nothing is more important than valuing a person’s wellbeing. But this commandment deserves attention when making simple and apparently harmless decisions too. We often don’t examine our decisions form a broader perspective and we don’t fully consider all of their possible implications.

3. Include, don’t discriminate

It is well known that companies that encourage employee participation in decision-making report having staff who has greater ownership of their workplace and brand. Especially if you include your staff in brand creation, you will get dedicated life-long brand ambassadors which will disseminate your business’s goal, idea, and spirit.  Otherwise, you might end up with uninspired employees which feel left out and forgotten.

4. Have a simple, fair and transparent rulebook

Sports are very simple to follow. That’s one of the reasons why everybody can follow them. By nature, they are open and accessible for everybody. This transparency allows anybody to witness what’s going on on the field or the track. Anybody can be a direct judge and this, in turn, creates the need for fairness.

A business is made of many individuals with varied backgrounds and capabilities. Having simple rules makes the system accessible and understandable for everybody. Fairness and transparency in employee treatment are key for achieving trust, confidence and long-term stability of your business.

5. Be larger than the sum of your parts

The Olympics aren’t organized in a traditional sense. Although they have their Committee and headquarters they appear and disappear into thin air every 4 years. They are more of an idea than a tangible “thing”. Same goes for any business that strives to be written in history and make a difference. Trough your business you realize the idea you have for the world so, to have a chance at greatness, your idea has to be attractive and universal enough to outlast you and your direct successors.


I am a brand strategist, designer, and content manager. My philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have truly successful brands we need to know our human selves and listen to our human hearts.

You can connect with me here:

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