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May 2008



Of course there are exceptions to the rule that initials suck -- IBM/BMW/ICI/ have been around for years and basically just get away with it. But introduce a new brand using initials? Have a go! You'll also see many under-the-radar business-to-business brands that don't really give a toss about how cool their name sounds. They operate in the rational space (selling drills to a motherboard manufacturer), not a world where consumers dream of snow and the Alps while sipping from an over-priced bottle of tap water. Where are all the posts about business-to-business branding?

Roger L. Cauvin

> Roger, no problem with the long names when people are using shortcuts
> referring to them.

Linas, I agree in that the long name is not what's sticking in the mind of the consumer. The "shortcut" is the brand name in the mind of the consumer.

> When they are using shortcuts, they know for what these shortcuts stand.

Often, consumers do NOT know the long names for which the shortcuts stand. I'll bet that a significant number of consumers can't tell you what "IBM" abbreviates.


I'll have to say this article has been one of the best I have read EVER it really simplify what other marketers try to complicate. That's what I love with origin of brands blog and RIESreport.com it's easy to understand and get straight to a key point.

I first got introduced to MBT in a family gathering my first thought was I didn't get the idea at first it too complicated and it required a lot of explaining to get the idea of the "barefoot" shoe. My first impression was what a bad brand name. I never remember the name is it mbt or bmt? I had to look at the article to make sure I used the right name. What a lousy name.

My mother bought these shoe and is VERY satisfied with the them and have bought more since the product is great. But without the word-of-mouth and explaining the idea would never had come across. That's a really slow way to build a brand.

Steve Liberati

As a fitness/athletic trainer, I can't recommend Vibram five fingers shoes enough. I've turned a countless number of my clients unto them and now they absolutely can't train without them. Sorry but I say the marketing is definitely built in the product. Five fingers spends zero dollars on marketing and advertising, yet every fitness community and message board I've been on has threads and threads of people talking them up.

Here's the site link, which mind you, I have zero stake in (lol!):

Oh yea they're great for hiking as well!



I will have to read your blog all the time. It is fantastic! One of your friends sent a link to you from Etsy.


When I first saw this shoe, I nearly spewed. It is harder to look at than an episode of Tila Tequila's Shot @ Love 2.

The ad had a full paragraph of witty banter, but said absolutely nothing. Clever copy does not a brand make!

I am about as likely to purchase a pair of MBTs as I am to buy a copy of Scarlett Johansson's album (and listen to it).

The agency who landed the MBT account, Kastner & Partners, a German ad agency with U.S. headquarters in L.A. (via LA Biz Journal) made a grip of coin on this deal. Perhaps they can use their wealth to buy a clue (and a new creative team). I'm looking for account-side work; hire me!



Funny no one (including the author of this post) happen to mention that the MBTs are UGLIER THAN SIN and make you look indeed like a person with a orthopedic deformity at best or more likely The Addams Family butler. Maybe the tv and radio spots should use Lurch's deep-voice voice: "MBT - You raaaaaan ?"

Granted, you might try to justify your reasoning by arguing that perhaps sports and fitness are not about elegance or self-dignity in the short term, but ultimately about a healthy life and breaking your own limits. But then you are getting dangerously close to this [NSFW] scenario: http://img393.imageshack.us/img393/9823/nsfwhedidntwinbuthecamerk7.jpg

Greg Gillispie

MBT must have something attract your buying attention...or they gave you a free pair.

Hey...what about walking around your home area rather than all the big cities around the globe? Living in the Hot 'Lanta area just as you, I do it every day.

Happy Memorial Day weekend! Be safe.

Cristian Paduraru (from DJ Friendly Private Promo Pool)

Thank you for sharing!


Also, why would the ad agency shoot the shoe image from the top down perspective?

It minimizes the distinctive product difference which is the sole of the shoe, and makes it look like every other shoe ad. Surely you would want to celebrate how unusual the shape is?

Also that ad makes the shoe look like one of my 5 year old daughters shoes.

MBT, what a crap name.

Linas Simonis

Roger, no problem with the long names when people are using shortcuts referring to them. Think L.A. instead of Los Angeles, IBM instead International Business Machines or Fedex instead of Federal Express. When they are using shortcuts, they know for what these shortcuts stand.

Problem arises when you don't have a clue what the shortcut is about. Can you remember for what MBT stands? That's a problem, a big marketing problem.

Tyler Dewitt


I totally agree with what your saying and I have the same perception as what you do on certain things, but then again I could disagree the reason I say that for is because sometimes the service is what makes the name credible and makes people talk about it.

For example one of my fathers good friends was a very excellent business man his company was on the fortune 500 list. I think it was like in the top 200 or something like that well anyways there name was BCW (nothing special) they did no advertising or anything, but what they did do was create something that was innovative.

They came into a market that was in need of something and met the conditions, therefore this made them grow very fast, but at the same time they were charging higher prices then all the competitors.

What aloud them to do this was because they was meeting the demand like the buyers wanted therefore making them grow fast, but at the same time creating a name that every one fell in love with.

I do believe in what your saying about people should talk about the name and etc. The image should be put into there head, but I think the quality of the service is what creates the good image for the name.

For example BMW well you go buy a BMW you know your getting a good car, why? Because it is a BMW they focus on nothing, but higher quality cars.

Roger L. Cauvin

It's amazing what marketing departments come up with, isn't it?

On the topic of brand names that are initials, I consider "IBM" to be a better brand name than "International Business Machines". People say "IBM" because "International Business Machines" is far too long and so generic as to be almost meaningless.

So while initials don't make good brand names, they often make much better brand names than the lengthy, generic names for which they stand.

BIG Kahuna

I couldn't agree more. Everything about this company is bad, including their website (which looks like some high tech software maker).

They are trying to be everything to everyone...the kiss of death for a brand.

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