Jeep Grand Cherokee Brand Controversy.


    Representatives of the Cherokee Nation have asked Stellantis, the car manufacturer that owns Jeep, to stop using Grand Cherokee as a brand name of the top-selling SUV. Stellantis by the way, is the name resulting from the merger of the Fiat Chrysler company with Peugeot. (I’ve got to get out more.)

    Living not too far from Cherokee, NC and having read up on the Tribe’s history, e.g., Trail of Tears, broken treaties, deforestation, racism, I understand their sensitivity. It’s time for a change.

    Naming is tough. Just look at the moniker of Jeep’s parent company. Hee hee. And it will take fortitude to rename this car brand with such a strong heritage. All the more reason to do it right. And with permission. Perhaps negotiate with the Cherokee nation and use something from their native culture. It’s a respect thing not a money thing.

    Most Grand Cherokee owners will not be happy with the name change. That’s up to them. Jeep is a powerful master brand and will lend a hand to any car name chosen.  But my recommendation would be to celebrate the Cherokee Tribe with a commemorative name, approved by the Tribe, that suits the car and strengthens it’s Americana cachet.




    Naming. And Breweries of Jackson County.


    I went to a brewery yesterday in Sylva, NC branded Innovation Brewing. The logo contains a machined gear in place of the O.  The good news is the beer is better than the branding. The tap room was well organized, all the beers listed by beer type. And they seemed to be in descending order of alcohol content. I liked the taproom set up, the tables were cool, the bar was well done and the outdoor seating quite fine.  

    That said, the name was just wrong — for a beer company in the mountains. Nothing inside the taproom said innovation. It was a tap room. Innovation was just a random word. And a non-endemic word at that.  Having done a ton of work in the technology space, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about innovation as a brand quality. Is the word an inside joke? As in, it’s beer for God sake.

    Whatever the strategy, the name doesn’t work.  Not for first timers. Having never been there before, had I a choice between Innovation Brewing and Balsam Falls Brewery (not a Google result for “Breweries Near Me,”) I would have selected the latter…site unseen.

    Naming is important people. Especially for first-time consumers.






    Some people in the brand business believe naming is one of the more difficult undertakings. I can’t disagree. 

    Naming often occurs before the product is built or generally available. But we name children sight unseen, so what’s the problem? Well, a good brand is remembered for its value(s) so when we imbue values in a name we have a leg up.  

    When I work on a naming assignment I start with a brief. It can be tough if the product or service isn’t completely cooked — a chicken and an egg thing — but you can’t build what you don’t know so let’s start with what you know. Plus a tight brief (strategy) can guide a build.

    I have a hard time believing how any creative projects, not just naming, can start without a brand brief. It’s silly. And a waste of time. 

    Branding is a verb. It happens over time. Without a plan, a brand plan, the verb is lost and you’re stuck with a noun. Name your product or service with a living, breathing plan. Brief it up!

    If you’d like to talk brand briefs, write




    A Brand by Any Other Name Is Not a…


    One the newer questions in my fact-finding battery used in brand discovery is “How did you come upon the name of your brand or company?” If the answer is a simplified, shallow or sentimental one, e.g., named after my first dog, that is telling. Conversely, if the stakeholder sweated the details, as one might when naming a child, then it sets up a more fertile ground for learning. It can offer a deep preview of strategy.

    If the story about the name is convoluted and/or meandering, one can expect a similar environment in brand planning. And that’s okay. It’s the master brand planner’s job to prioritize direction. To make decisions easier for the stakeholder. Not unlike which lens is clearer at the eye doctor.

    I know a brand is an “empty vessel into which we pour meaning” but knowing where a brand name came from can provide critical info. Either from a content and strategy point of view, or a psychological/Jungian view.

    A name by any other name is not your brand.




    Earth Fare.


    Earth Fare is emerging from Chapter 11 hell with a new ownership org and what hopes to be a bright future. Earth Fare began in Asheville, NC and it will rise from the ashes in Asheville. When it opened, it was branded “Dinner for the Earth.” The current name is head and shoulders better than the original, which to me suggests the earth will eat up the population and return us all to soil. Technically, that isn’t wrong, it’s just not a great brand building strategy.

    (The earth has been a hungry place lately, thanks to Coronavirus, and we’ve all been fighting like crazy to remain on it — not in it.)

    Asheville has a reputation as a crunchy town. We love sustainability, recycling, charity and brother/sister love. In branding? Ahhhh….sometimes we could use a little help. And branding starts with naming. One of my brand strategy discovery questions is “How did the brand get it’s name? And why?”

    I wish Earth Fare all the best. The founding fathers’ hearts were in the right place. But maybe they were a couple of doobies too far down the road the night they picked the original name. Hee hee. Much love.



    Brand Strategy Tarot Card Number 1.


    I am working on a presentation called Brand Strategy Tarot Cards.  My intent is to turn over 6 cards of branded content and do a reading. A reading of what these 6 fairly common pieces of content convey about the brand.  I’ve been playing with what the 6 cards are, but now will lock them down. 

    Up first is brand or company Name. The name is spoken more often than not by consumers so the aural version is important. Therefore the first Tarot card will not be a card at all, but spoken words. “Pass the What’s The Idea? please.” “Hey, would you get Whats The Idea? on the phone?”  Of course, there are full spoken names and shorthand names. Coca-Cola and Coke, are famous examples.

    After I evaluate the communication value of the name, we can turn over the first Tarot card which will be the packaging of the name — including the logo and tagline, if there is one. We’ll assess what the logo does to convey or reassert the name and then look to see if it conveys or furthers any particular meaning or value. When first introduced what meaning did the Nike swoosh bring to the brand communication for instance.

    Lastly, we’ll evaluate the tagline. Has it resonated? Has it changed every few years? Is it an advertising tagline? Many times, when the name is bad and the mark not particularly meaningful, the tagline carries the water. It’s a bail out tactic for branding. A startup I worked at used the meaningless name Zude. The logo was colorful, original typography but to consumers it was meaningless beyond color and playfulness. The tagline “Feel Free” was broadly grounded in the product functionality (a drag and drop web authoring tool) but kind of meaningless without a communicative name and mark.

    Fort Tarot Card number 2, tune in tomorrow.




    Truist Brand. C Team Stuff.


    First impressions in branding are important.  I once heard a young woman say she knew she was going to attend Wake Forest after seeing the front gate.  How’s that for branding?

    In branding names are first impressions. Naming is hard but it’s so important. Just look at the name of the bank resulting from the merger of SunTrust and BB&T. Truist. What a cluster fork.  The name has been announced on the web. The video launching the name has launched. The video that sets the stage for the name change has launched. But the mark has not. Not as of this writing (6/25/19).  I was talking to a banker from TruePoint bank last week who told me the Truist name is in litigation by another bank with True in the name. Oops.  Trademarkia anyone? Maybe that’s why the new logo hasn’t been seen.

    The Truist name has something to do with heritage name SunTrust. BB&T seems to have been jettisoned altogether. They would have been much better starting from scratch. Names are as much about the future as the past and if you’ve been paying attention to the news lately you’ll know the banking industry is moving. Moving more quickly today than in the last 100 years.

    Can you say blockchain? Can you say mobile banking? Can you say deposit slip?  Hee hee.

    Truist is C team thinking. A miasma of team-think. The lawsuit may be the best thing that has happened to his effort.



    The Branding Institute, Poppe Advisory Center.


    I’m thinking about rebranding as The Branding Institute, Poppe Advisory Center.  It has branding in the name, sounds like a bigger company and, as an extra benefit, should increase search results. Not exactly a name that rolls off the tongue but, hey, it’s a Monday. 

    Now if you are into semantics or are part of the super-majority of business people you may take this to mean I’m simply changing my business name. Most people default to name change when you say rebrand. A lesser percentage of people may assume I’m changing my logo, package or website.  But real nerds know that branding is way more foundational. Way more than a combination of physical outputs; it’s the means by which you engineer preference. Indelible preference. Bring starts with strategy.

    Just as a psychiatrist will counsel a depressive person that moving to a new city won’t solve their problems, changing the brand name or product packaging won’t cure marketing ills. One must start with brand strategy – an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.  And since I am not going to change my framework for brand strategy, my tool kits or outputs, it really wouldn’t be a rebrand, now would it. It would be a simple name change.   

    Ah never mind.  What’s The Idea? will live to see another day.




    Plant Based “Meats” Need a New Name.


    There is a big branding opportunity for someone — renaming plant based meats. It has to happen, it’s just a matter of time. Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat had an opportunity, but blew it.  The Impossible Burger is a good product name, but a company?  Not so much. No Evil Foods also took a stab, but missed. The big opportunity is to Xerox or Q-Tip the category. To create a word that encompasses plant-based meats and creates a meat aesthetic without using the word meat, which is and ever shall be animal-based.  

    I understand why comparing oneself to meat is a strategy, but it’s a near term strategy. This category needs a taxon. Readers of Whats’s The Idea? know I often use an Is-Does litmus for good naming. What a brand Is and what a brand Does. First movers to identify a new category claim the throne.

    The growth of the plant-based meat-like market is close to hockey sticking…but still in search of a category-defining brand name. Let’s get to work.





    Naming. And brands.


    I was driving to Rhode Island last week and happened to notice that a number of really rural road names were quite descriptive. Niatic River Road. Stone Heights Turnpike. Waterford Parkway. Sunset Drive.  It got me thinking about naming. Back in the 1600s and 1700s (and before) when there weren’t a lot of maps and people didn’t travel that far, thoroughfares were named based upon features and geographic realities. Heartbreak hill. Point O’Woods. Tip of the mitt.

    Names that were easy to remember and descriptive were the strongest names. They added value. Names with no endemic meaning, less so.

    The best brand names today follow this old maxim. They are descriptive. They are descriptive of product, value, and uniqueness. The strongest brands in the world are not silly constructs of Madison Avenue, they are like packaging…part of the selling fabric. Coca-Cola used cola beans to build its brand.

    Naming is hard work. Just look at all the silly pharmaceutical brand names on TV today. It’s like we ran out of words to use. So the naming companies put the alphabet in the blender and BAM.     

    While director of marketing at a web start-up, I wanted to name the drag and drop web creation tool Mash Pan. The Chief Technology Officer who used to say “dude” a lot, opted for Zude.

    Opt for communication value. Consumers don’t need to work so hard.