Six Horrible New Communication Practices …and They’re Catching On!

Despite protestations from my yellowing birth certificate, I am no fuddy-duddy. I don’t talk about “these kids today” or complain about TwitFace.

But it is difficult to ignore the evidence that all the new doodads, gizmos and anti-social media have created ways of doing business that have made the world safe for stupidity and rudeness, and have created The Dumbest Generation.

Truly, I adore my College of Charleston students, but they are communication majors who literally don’t know what news is, what it should look or sound like, how it’s made or how it’s different from advertising.

I won’t regale you with the mortifying details. I have other mortifying details to regale you with! The details about the stupidity and rudeness that I mentioned previously.

woman stiff-arming man trying to discussBehold, the burgeoning number of people who:

  1. Refuse to communicate via certain methods and media – Some people will text but not talk. Some won’t listen to voice mail. Some only email; some never respond to emails. It’s like you need a database to keep track of how to communicate with friends and business associates. More communication options have made communication – worse!
  2. Ignore you as a method of communication – This one is the worst and it is spreading like kudzu. For an increasing number of people, including CEOs, rudeness is a communication tool. You could be carrying on a business relationship, but if you ask them a question that they don’t want to answer, they will ignore you, no matter how many times you leave emails and voice mails. After three weeks, you are expected to conclude that they’re not interested, even if they don’t exactly know what they’re not interested in.
  3. Maintain asynchronous communication – You know those people who will never respond to your outreach if you need them, only if they need you? These people don’t answer their phones, so you can only communicate when they want to. They feel the need to put you in the position of supplicant all the time. It’s not the basis for friendship.
  4. Use social media to speak, not listen – A growing number of people ask you to support their cause, patronize their employer, etc., but never reciprocate, or even read your posts.
  5. Can’t understand why the rest of the world matters – They can recount their friends’ episodes of belly button lint, but couldn’t identify New Zealand on a map if you spotted them Australia. They literally don’t know what is going on in our community, across the nation or around the world – unless Saturday Night Live parodied it. Andy they vote. God help us.
  6. Consider themselves informed because they read a Tweet – Americans have never been particularly well-prepared voting citizens, but now “informed” people only go headline deep or live in a political echo chamber. The paradox of the information age – and the endless presidential election – is that the more information available, the less informed we are.

When you add all of this up, Americans are becoming willfully ignorant jerks. Was that the purpose of the Information Age? Maybe you can tell me…when you return my call from three weeks ago.

Looking For Support? Get A Good Bra

Way back in my reporter days, I covered the Yippie versus Yuppie debates between aging 60s radical Abbie Hoffman and 60s radical-turned-capitalist Jerry Rubin.

During their contretemps, Rubin claimed to have supported a particular presidential candidate, to which Hoffman snorted in his unrefined New England accent, “You supported Gary Hart? Gary Hart got more support from his jock strap!”

Hoffman was a master quipster, but he was on the losing side of history, and today we claim to “support” things we merely donate to, think about, or even worse.

Consider all those who claim to support our troops by advocating that they be shipped off as cannon fodder to ever more exotic and dangerous quagmires.

Support has staked its claim to the marketing world as well. Ads running on the radio today ask me to support local music. Likewise, I’ve been urged to support our local sports teams, local restaurants and other commercial enterprises.

These pleas are made with the force of moral suasion, as if declining to support them – which is to say purchase their products – is a moral failing on our part.

My unspoken reaction to these arguments is not just rejection but a bit of pique. They feel like a sleight-of-hand, where marketers are hoping we will be so wracked by guilt that we won’t notice they’re just attempting to burrow into our wallets without providing a superior product. That strategy won’t work on me: I have a Jewish mother!

I hope you, like I, appreciate the majesty of the free market and buy what you want, at the price you want, unmoved by specious appeals to some amorphous and unearned loyalty. Or by your mom, of whatever religious persuasion.

(Right here I should exempt, to some degree, the effort to push us towards locally-grown food and local restaurants over chains. In both cases, the quality is generally superior and the price is often comparable. Even there, I make my choices not because they are ethically purer but because they are better products. If you think Bubba Gump gives you greater value than Fish, by all means, eat at Bubba Gump. Of course, if that’s the state of your palate, you could just dumpster dive behind Fish and kill the quality and price bird with one stone.)

So here’s my question for those support phonies: what exactly is local music doing to support me and my boyhood dream of playing shortstop for the Kansas City Royals? Since the answer is, nothing, in what way has local music earned my loyalty?

See, here’s the thing: when I buy music, or see a band in concert, I am purchasing entertainment, not democracy and human rights. There is no moral component to this decision. Shovels and Rope are a magnificently talented duo, but that’s not my musical flavor of ice cream. So when I fork over cash for a slew of songs by Frontier Ruckus or purchase concert tickets to see The Tallest Man on Earth, I’m not dissing my homies; I’m satisfying my desire for tunes that appeal to me.

This reminds me of a complaint by a long-gone TV reporter repeatedly pummeled by local non-profits for coverage. They would argue that he had an obligation to broadcast stories about them. They didn’t understand (and many still don’t, I’m sure) that his job was to report news his viewers (i.e., customers) wanted, and so the only way to win his “business” was to provide him with what he considered news. In effect, they were demanding his support without providing the business imperative for it.

As far as I can tell, the support appeal is a failed strategy, and for obvious reasons. So to all of those who demand my support, just remember: my glove is oiled and ready.

–barry waldman

I Quit! (Thanks, AMA.)

A funny thing happened to me on the way to quitting my job of 17 years and embarking on a freelancing career. I determined that it was time for words and me to rekindle our romance, hands-on PR and marketing to welcome me back into the fold, and journalism to once again take my hand and lead me through the golden meadow. Copy has been in need of a bracing massage and I had allowed my masseur license to lapse.

I’d dotted a handful of t’s and crossed a couple of i’s in advance of this Rubicon leap. I’d named my new work (Write Stuff Communications), purchased a website domain ( – not yet active), considered my scope of work (PR/marketing soup-to-nuts; scribe) and ordered business cards.

And I’d lined up some assignments from those lost souls who, in their finite wisdom, have misplaced faith in my talents. As we Charlestonians say, bless their hearts.

I can produce strategic communication with my cerebellum tied behind my back, but selling myself, hmmm. That’s not so much on my Meyers Briggs profile. I’m an E-S-T-NO SELLING!

That “S stands for “schmoozer,” and it’s not capitalized accidentally. These years of dipping into the American Marketing well have filled my networking jug at least as much as my pitcher of knowledge. (Or perhaps it’s a teaspoon.) And now all that good AMA karma has begun to flow back to me.

Even before I decided to take the wheel of the jalopy that is my career, a whip-smart real estate agent whom I’ve befriended through AMA helped me determine that I needed to buy a house close to downtown and rent out my old place. That fine gentleman has saved me from hundreds of hours of idling in traffic and fattened my otherwise-skeletal retirement savings like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Immediately after I announced my new intentions, another member in good standing floated my name to a marketing firm for some copywriting. They reached out to me, which has got to be as rare as a championship in Cleveland. It’s a pairing worthy of Yenta the Matchmaker: the liaison at the company is a former student. Thank you, Patron Saint of Freelancers, and thank you Mr. incoming AMA President. My future genuflections to you will not solely reflect my respect for the office.

Simultaneously, an offhand conversation at an AMA event lead me to a copy writing assignment. The chat began as all pleasure and no business – my affection for particular staff members of a sharp local agency prompted it – and led to what appeared to be a mutual need.

All that, and they haven’t even rid themselves of me at the old job yet.

The point, and alert the media because I do actually have one*, is that it’s amazing how and how much AMA participation has been paying off, even though, as noted above, I’m allergic to tooting my own horn. It’s not like this wasn’t already apparent: I’ve hired photographers and graphic artists whom I’ve met through the group. I’ve paired dozens of students with internships sponsored by AMA members. I’ve witnessed people hired for positions that never saw the light of day – but reverberated through the AMA grapevine.

And now I’ve experienced it myself. Thank you AMA; thank you friends. Keep the referrals flowing. Because I need to save up and get my cerebellum out from behind my back.

barry waldman

*this time.

Digging the Pig Wasn’t Enough

In a dramatic break with tradition, I am about to embark on an exploration of concepts tenuously connected to marketing. I apologize in advance for this transgression.

I’ve been thinking about Piggly Wiggly lately and the limits of positive branding. I loved The Pig. Didn’t everyone? I love my Piggly Wiggly shirt and my Pig tumbler, from which I drink my favorite libations (primarily chocolate milk.) (No, really.) I love my purple Piggly Wiggly winter hat, which features my favorite local mascot, The Pig. I’m big on him.

I like to show visitors Buzzy Newton’s house on The Battery, the one guarded by a pair of stone-carved pig sentinels. David Schools, the last Pig CEO (and provider of all my Pig swag) is a funny and humble guy. When people would ask him his vocation, the CEO of a beloved supermarket chain would say, “I work at The Pig.” I wish him and his family nothing but the best.

I loved Piggly Wiggly’s advertising campaigns too. They were local since forever. That struck a chord, even though I’m not local since forever. The campaign reminded us that The Pig is authentic South. The Pig was there for us – or you, anyway – long before Charleston was fashionable, winning awards and all la-de-da about itself. Back then Piggly Wiggly was providing your blocks of ice, your collard greens, your sweet tea and your lard-encrusted bacon fat sandwiches lathered in pork grease. The advertising campaign almost made us feel obligated to buy groceries there.

That so many Charlestonians feel warmly towards the Pig is a testament to their exquisite branding. Companies spend billions of dollars attempting to coax from consumers a sliver of the affection that Piggly Wiggly generated, mostly by not taking themselves too seriously.

But here’s the thing: my family rarely shopped at Piggly Wiggly.

There wasn’t a Pig near where I lived or worked, but more importantly, Piggly Wiggly stores were too lowbrow for my family. We eat tofu and hummus and free range turkeys in my house. We drink almond milk and munch on carrots that first had to be cut and scraped by someone else, who then rounds the edges to prevent any unfortunate carrot stabbing incidents. That’s not lowbrow. (It is pathetic, but that’s another story.)

Evidently, we weren’t alone, because Piggly Wiggly was forced to sell off most of its properties. It was too small to compete on price with Walmart and just when it tried to pivot to higher ground in the supermarket hierarchy the mortgage brokers and financial services companies generously provided us all with the worst economic crash of our lifetimes.

When Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company began to contract, I could have switched my purchases their way in an effort to help rescue our beloved stores. But I did not, and neither did you.

Because the truth about the marketplace is that it’s all about us, the consumer, not them, the vendor. We buy where it’s convenient and inexpensive, and the experience is positive; how we feel about the company is largely irrelevant. Dan Cathy’s narrow-minded views about my gay friends don’t exactly split my infinitives, but I like the way he Fil-A’s his Chik’n, so that boycott will have to wait until after lunch. Conversely, though I admire Publix’s spectacular culture of philanthropy, there’s a Harris Teeter around the corner from my house. Walking distance, one; admiration, nothing.

So we all respected and esteemed Piggly Wiggly, and sighed with melancholy when it disassembled. But when it came right down to it, price, service and proximity meant a lot more to us than brand love.


–barry waldman

A Brilliant Marketing Scheme

Congratulate me: I’m about to be fabulously wealthy.

I have this foolproof idea to make millions of dollars. It involves a bad movie and some brilliant marketing. I mean evil genius marketing. Check it out.

First, I’ll hire some dopes to make a juvenile flick about . . . whatever – who cares? Humor based on metabolic methane production will abound, as will lower-body sphincters, the modular employment of a 17-word vocabulary and potshots at a Dark Ages dictatorship. Hijinks will ensue even in the absence of a coherent script. (Money-saving device!)

We’ll make sure to blow up some things to quench the reptilian brains of adolescents. Unfortunately, our target audience is prohibited from seeing movie depictions of female lactation producers – a surefire revenue doubler – so we will substitute the southward-facing end of an over-sized northbound male. It’s a pale imitation, but it’s worth some coin.

Okay, whatever whatever. The premise is secondary. Here comes the marketing ploy.

Our ad agency will fabricate a controversy about some element or other in the movie. Something petty and gratuitous. Something that would ordinarily elude the grasp of the mouth-breathers upon whom we depend for ticket sales. (And by mouth-breathers we mean, males.)

On cue, some discredited outfit will protest the movie loudly, organize a boycott, demand an apology in the name of some oppressed, if hardly defined, subset of humanity. We’ll goad them into bomb threats at theaters and the like to spook the suits in corporate into ditching the project.

You see where I’m going? Suddenly, this low-budget celluloid tripe will become a cause célèbre. Intellectuals will rise to defend free speech. Joe and Jane Backporch will rebel against anyone telling them what to watch. Americans of all stripes will link arms to support this beacon of hope in the visual arts.

So, okay, we’ll release it on a limited basis, you know, to keep the demand outpacing the supply. Scarcity will whip the nation into a frenzy. And then the rest of the developed world will hop on board. The Dutch and Danish don’t like being told what free expression to consume, even if it’s fart jokes. Nor do Norwegians, Lithuanians or Sri Lankans. (Maybe Sri Lankans do; I need to brush up on them.)

The free world will beg us to release the film. It’s a film now, you notice? They will demand the right to pay real American cash monies (or Kroners or Litas or Rupee) for a ticket. Take that, ostensible censors! Vanquished by the unquenchable thirst for freedom!

Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton will smile upon us. Better yet, so will Salmon P. Chase and Woodrow Wilson, their denominations being larger. We will transform everyone involved in our project into hero defenders of free expression! And, far more importantly, one-percenters.

God Bless America! And other countries with paying customers.

I’m assembling the detailed plan this weekend and then I’m going to pitch it to…wait, what?




barry waldman

The Point Is, Content Is King

In the Public Relations course I impose upon unsuspecting, tuition-paying College of Charleston students, we spend part of one class discussing how best to annoy people with awful newsletters that focus myopically on the interests of the organization and inspire the reader to wonder what’s on TV tonight.

One element we address, and by “we” I mean “I, while they attempt to snore silently,” is that shopworn practice of covering in excruciating detail the organization’s annual shindig, complete with photos of the .04% of members/customers/associated personages who actually attended the event at the Comfort Inn outside Trenton, NJ. Oh the fun that was had, particularly when karaoke night in the lounge followed the wine spritzer social!

A Flying Squirrel In A Rolling Donut
The point is that recognition has its place, but either the reader was there, in which case they don’t actually need a synopsis of the scintillating presentation on Efficacy of Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Synbiotics in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Idiopathic Constipation,* or they weren’t, in which case they probably don’t give a flying squirrel in a rolling donut. (Or doughnut; my experiences with this wise, time-honored expression were always oral.)

* Ford AC, Quigley EM, Lacy BE, Lembo AJ, Saito YA, Schiller LR, Soffer EE, Spiegel BM, Moayyedi P. American Journal of Gastroenterol. 2014 Oct; 109(10):1547-61. Epub 2014 Jul 29. Don’t ask me why I know.

A Vast Serengeti of Blather
Which is why this essay is rarely about the previous AMA signature luncheon topic. Either you came and heard the luncheon presentation your own damn self (first Thursday of each month at the Harbor Breeze Restaurant, 176 Patriots Point Road in Mount Pleasant), or you don’t care about that particular topic. Or you care deeply, the way some people care about the civil war in Congo, not that Congo, the other Congo, the one next door to that Congo, the Congo with “Democratic” in its name to serve as definitive proof that it’s a miserably oppressive dictatorship run by a devil worshipper who bites heads off chickens and has a net worth, all of it expropriated from foreign aid, of roughly 1.5 Congos.

If you care that deeply but couldn’t make the luncheon, you might be looking for a pithy summary of the pertinent points, an accurate portrayal of the issue and its recommended solution, a hint of insight, a soupçon of perspicacity. You might be barking up the wrong tree, Lee. This is a blog dedicated, in Seinfeldian earnestness, to expending as many words as possible on a vast Serengeti of blather. You’re 430 words in; had you not figured that out yet?

Mobile Apps and the Men Who Love Them
So it’s worth noting that November’s fascinating (i.e., actually fascinating, not ironically fascinating in any sense) signature lunch presentation on mobile apps — presented by Ben Cash of the web developer Blue Key, and Keith Simmons, of Traveler magazine and related properties – can be boiled down to one simple concept. And Simple is my middle name. Or would be if I could spell it without help.

The concept is this: you can hire Ben and his fine crew to build an app for 25 grand or you can go online and cobble together some sideways app for a fraction of that, but it’s all moot if you don’t have killer content. Download Keith’s app out of Traveler magazine and it tracks your location and relays the closest tourist hotspots, restaurants, hotels and, most importantly, restrooms (see research above.) If you choose something – say you want to be welcomed to Moe’s – it will give you directions right there on your phone. Awesome sauce!

Content is king, Billy Jean, whether you’re talking apps, maps or beer taps. That’s the pithy summary, the hint of insight. Of course, Ben and Keith said it better.

–Barry Waldman

Millenials Will Ruin Your Life…and other funny stories

Oh these kids today, with their Snaptwit and their Instant Grandma. Why back in my day… [insert your personal nostalgia here.]

So you’re a Boomer or a Gen Xer and you can’t make heads or tails of these crazy beings entering your workplace, or worse yet, buying your products. Your ability to make a living depends on blobs of protoplasm that have the entire world at their fingertips yet know less about it than any previous generation. You’re attempting to appeal to a generation that believes in the myth of “multi-tasking,” and consequently are essentially in permanent states of ADHD — without meds.
Good luck.

Well, you would at least have a window on the varied demographic layers of the marketplace if you’d have attended the last AMA luncheon, where speaker Jennifer Sutton of Bright + Co. in Greenville enlightened the gathered about the broad differences among American generations.

Consider these matrices of generations in the workplace, currently checking in at four – The Silent Generation (born 1922-1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Gen Xers (born 1965-1982) and Millennials (born 1983-2002). (Source: Greg Hammill, Fairleigh Dickinson University Silberman College of Business)

I’m sure somewhere on the cloud exists the PowerPoint portion of Jennifer’s presentation, which I heartily recommend that you read, with the caveat that doing so yields a pale approximation of the living color version. For the full effect of the best presentations made to AMA, (shameless plug alert!) you need to come to the luncheons. Cleverly, they include lunch as well.

But I can give you a general sense of things.

These young’ins are crazy, and they’re taking over. Consider:

  • They call people they’ve never met “friends,” and consequently like to work in big groups. Which you abhor.
  • They’ve grown up sending sex chatter and salacious photos to their “friends,” and consequently have no moral filter. Hope they don’t do that to your customers.
  • They don’t know the difference between news, comedy and advertising. Indeed, they don’t know what news even looks or sounds like. They think Buzzfeed is a news source. Unaware employees are sub-optimal.
  • Sharing atomic details of their lives is their default mode. Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon already know more about them than their moms do. This could come back to haunt you, their employer.
  • They think 140 characters is a long communication. Research shows that tweets under 100 characters have higher read rates.
  • The first of them are already in their 30s. You’re stuck with them.
  • And that’s nothing. There’s another generation coming up behind them. A generation that didn’t experience Sept. 11, has never seen a map, and is its own favorite photograph subject.

But before your brain explodes and litters the hallway with Saved By the Bell trivia, here’s the real consolation for employers, co-workers and marketers. We all grow up. Boomers – the rock ‘n’ rollers who never trusted anyone over 30, wore long hair and hated the government – now have children over 30, lost their hair and run the government. (Okay, maybe that last part isn’t quite so reassuring.) Gen-Xers, the first to grow up en masse without married parents, have learned how to mate and co-exist as poorly as the rest of us.

And now Millennials are showing signs that they may be human and competent to navigate workplace rules and marketplace heuristics. They are more civic-minded, more tolerant of differences and less jingoistic than the rest of us.

Hooray for them.

Still, just to be sure, hold their phone while they’re driving.

–barry waldman

Keep Calm and Read This Dreck

I’m not you. That’s a good thing, because if I were, there would be at least two more versions of me than are absolutely necessary. Or even remotely desirable.

But I’ve digressed, even before I got gressing in the first place.

The point is, even though you are not me, you are probably aware of the ‘80s band Huey Lewis and the News. And you’re probably well aware that they’re over. They’re so over that KC and the Sunshine Band has a good laugh with Bobcat Goldthwaite about them.


This is such a simple concept. Tide stopped bemoaning ring-around-the-collar. Schools stopped showing Reefer Madness to teenagers. Brett Favre actually retired.

Clearly, not everyone has grasped the concept. That is the only explanation for the sudden explosion of sayings, each distinctly less clever than the previous one, riffing off the British wartime exhortation to Keep Calm and Carry On.

At my non-profit workplace someone has a poster that says Keep Calm and Raise Funds. I saw a shirt that said Keep Calm and Bowl. There’s even a Keepcalm-o-matic website that allows you to match Keep Calm with anything you can imagine. Keep Calm and Eat A Cookie. Keep Calm and Be Belieber. Keep Calm and Love Ariana. Evidently, you don’t have much of an imagination. The only connection among these items, besides their transparent disconnection from keeping calm, is their utter lack of creativity.

In case you’re considering a Keep Calm t-shirt, poster, hat, tattoo, engagement speech or other further co-opting of this now malign saying, let me be the first to clue you in.

It’s over. Been over. Was over after about the third use.

You see, the original propaganda was clever. The first adaptation was mildly clever. The re-purposing of the first adaptation was a clever rip-off. All subsequent versions: total rip-off, not to mention the evil opposite of clever. Trite, brainless nonsense.

Which brings us to the Got Milk? ad campaign from 20 years back. A paradigm of advertising genius, most notably when paired with Oreos for maybe the most brilliant 60 seconds in television history. (Aim low, my friends!)

Got Milk? took off like a scud missile on mescaline . . . and then the copycats descended upon it. Got Jesus? Got Cocker Spaniels? Got Lawn? Got Comfortable Footwear? And people are still producing them. Can you imagine what these conversations sound like?

“I’ve got it! Let’s adapt that inspired Got Milk? campaign to our purposes and make it – ready for this? – Got Tomatoes?”

“Lester, that is magnificent! Your mind works in glorious and mysterious ways!”

“Yes, jaws will drop when such enlightenment reaches their eyes!

This doltishness is polluting our world and must be stopped! If I were King, or Robert Mugabe, I would not just outlaw any further use of the “Got” trope, I would institute the death penalty as punishment. And on second conviction, a hunting trip with Dick Cheney. Anyone unaware that “Got” and more recently “Keep Calm” are over, is criminally negligent and must be put out of our misery.

Of course, you might disagree. After all, Huey Lewis and the News are still touring.

–barry waldman

Our George Washington

Shortly after this fine young cannibal introduced a third child to the Lowcountry,  she showed up as a guest at our March confab. As she sat inconspicuously at a table of no particular note, few would have guessed that a superhero was in their midst.

Fortunately, our official AMA paparazzo, Andy Hagedon, pounced upon this rare sighting and provided us with photographic evidence of her appearance.

She’s Laura Angermeier, and she’s about as inaptly named as Barenaked Ladies. Sweetmeier, perhaps. Lovelymeier. Warmmeier. Never Angermeier.

The three beings Laura birthed are called Andrew, Katie and the Charleston American Marketing Association. A freshly-minted college graduate working as a third-string marketing assistant at an enterprise approaching oblivion, Laura nonetheless spearheaded the creation of our humble organization. She simply noticed there was no AMA . . . so she started one.

Laura is our George Washington, but with real teeth.

At the outset, perhaps a dozen people would gather for an AMA lunchtime seminar. But Laura’s warmth and persistence, and the support of an equally dedicated team of volunteers, propelled the group to dramatic growth. Today we stand as the first new chapter anywhere in the country in 14 years, recipient of several national awards and queen of the local professional communication landscape with more than 100 members.

Having pointed Charleston AMA in the right direction, Laura slinked off to motherhood and freelancing without the credit she richly deserves. May this hosanna get buried in a sea of gratitude for a young woman who saw a need and filled it, to our collective benefit, without recompense or due recognition.

Thank you, Laura. Come on back.


barry waldman

A Zyxpyx By Any Other Name


I have a friend ’round these parts whose name is Yvonne. She’s bright and friendly and has a great sense of humor and mispronounces her own name.

Yes she does.

Yvonne is a French derivation of John, related to Ivan and Johan and Joanne and Joanna and Jan and Ian and Sean and all those other John derivations. And the name is pronounced Ee-von.

Yvonne pronounces her name Yuh-von. It’s not like her parents purposely bestowed upon her an alternative to the name Ee-von. They thought they were naming her Ee-von but didn’t know how to pronounce it. So she’s Yuh-von.

I haven’t the heart — or maybe it’s the heartlessness — to bring this to Yvonne’s attention. Besides, she’s not alone.

Most Americans don’t seem to know how to pronounce the name Naomi. I’ve never quite understood how you get Nigh-oh-mee out of that spelling, but now we have people who think that’s their name.

Of course, the name is pronounced Nay-oh-mee.

My trusty sidekick at work correctly argues that your name is whatever you say it is. Sure, if you name your daughter “La-a,” you can call her Ladasha. You chose the name.

But if you name your kid Xavier, you’ve chosen a name that already exists. And the name Xavier is pronounced Zay-vyer, not Ex-ay-vyer. An “X” at the start of a word or name in English is pronounced like a “Z”. Think xylophone or xenophobic. (X-ray is a little different because it was literally an “X” ray.)

At this point you’re thinking — which puts you in a different class than me right off the bat — you’re thinking, what in the wide world of integrated marketing communications are you jabbering on about? Have you lost what small scattering of marbles were formerly clanking around in your head?

Au contraire, Pierres.

Shakespeare noted that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But he didn’t say anything in defense of a word like “pustule.” Because there is no way to make that word sound like something you’d want with your lunch.

“Hey Margaret, slap a pile o’ pustule on that ham sandwich, wouldja?” Doesn’t work.

Nor does President Melvin Finzheimer. Or Irving Poopsciewiecz. Or Gertrude Dolt.  (I’m showing great restraint in not mentioning how hysterical it would be to have a president named “Newt.”) How many billions and billions do you think McDonald’s would have served if the man who purchased the franchise from the McDonald brothers had renamed the restaurants after himself. Would you purchase a hamburger from Kroc’s?

Your company name is a bit like clothing: it reveals something about you, , even sometimes inadvertently. Google and Yahoo are telling us that they’re fun, geeky and maybe not too self-important. General Motors says more staid, perhaps even stodgy. A bank in my hometown was Dime Savings Bank. Didn’t inspire visions of wealth.

Hook, Obviouslee, Slant and Blue Ion intrigue, and suggest a certain creativity. Rawle Murdy, Davis, Bosworth live off the impressive reputations of their proprietors. Firms named for  people’s initials always struck me as evincing a lack of cleverness, unless the initials spell a word, like ELM or HAF. (My firm would be HAF-WIT Marketing. Hey, don’t say you weren’t warned.)

The point — besides the one atop my head — is that names matter because they communicate all kinds of things. Personally, I would take great care in picking a company name and I’d make sure I knew how to pronounce it.  Of course, Joe Theismann might disagree.


barry waldman
(but you can call me berry)