SO, GARY VAYNERCHUK IS A NUT
That's pretty evident.
He's also enviable as a businessman. At 40 years old, he's a small-business entrepreneur with a net worth of $10 million.
You might know Gary Vee as the guy behind Wine Library.
His irreverent and badly-produced videos about wine made him one of the first YouTube stars--and he completely didn't fit the idea of a wine snob. He was accessible.
He spoke in plain, unvarnished language about wine, and always maintained that one of his goals is to someday own the New York Jets.
(Wine tasting with a New York Jets spit bucket was obviously more than just an affectation. More like an effort at good ju-ju.)
GARY VAYNERCHUK IS A SELF-PROMOTING WUNDERKIND
And it's not just social media smoke and mirrors.
In the early 1990s, he built a website called Wine Library. He was doing internet retail sales of wine before most people knew what the internet even was.
In 1998, after graduating from college, he took over his father's store, Shopper's Discount Liquors.
In seven years, Mr. Vaynerchuk grew the annual sales from $3 million to $50 million.
This man knows how to self-promote and how to sell stuff.
Gary Vee has long been a magnetic and engaging huckster, and he has the revenue to prove it.
SO, I'M READING HIS MOST RECENT BOOK
(Did we mention Mr. Vaynerchuk inked a 10-book, $1-million deal with HarperStudio?)
The latest book (his fourth), called #AskGaryVee, is named for The #AskGaryVee Show, a YouTube series that he launched in 2014. Fans ask him questions in social media, and he replies to them on YouTube.
It's basically a variation on the let's-turn-our-blog-into-a-book model.
Which is a fine model, especially for someone who knows what they're doing.
But, barely 15 pages in, it's clear he and I are in trouble.
He's telling me to stop worrying about naming my company. The name doesn't matter. If I want to stand out and disrupt my category, I should just stand out and disrupt the category.
As proof that the name doesn't matter, he says:
"Are you going to tell me that 'Apple' or 'Vine' is an earth-shatteringly clever name? Or 'Snapchat' or 'Reddit'? Do you have any idea how many people wish they had a different last name so they could use it for their company? They're talking to a guy named Vaynerchuk! 'Oh, that's unique and cool and...' No, it's really not. My name is good because I made something out of it."
Well, first of all, the latter point is very true. He has made something out of "Vaynerchuk."
That said, Vaynerchuk is a cool name. It's unusual. It makes you look twice. And it lends itself to brand truncation. Like Federal Express became FedEx, Gary Vaynerchuk became Gary Vee.
What about Apple Computer? That is, after all, the original name. And it was named in a time when personal computing was in its infancy and regular people found the idea of computers intimidating.
AND STEVE JOBS, WHO WAS KIND OF A NUT, WAS ON ONE OF HIS FRUITARIAN DIETS
He had also just returned from an apple farm.
Jobs thought the name Apple Computer was "fun, spirited and not intimidating."
So, really, there was some brand thinking involved.
How did he want people to feel about his business?
That it was fun, spirited and not intimidating. Perfect for a guy who wanted to sell huge numbers of computers to the masses.
And I will tell you that, as someone who up to that point had found computers to be nothing like fun, the product actually lived up to the brand promise. The Apple Computer was very cool and accessible.
SO THE APPLE NAME MAKES THE PROSPECT FEEL SOMETHING
What about Snapchat?
Well, it seems pretty obvious.
It's about sending short snaps that disappear.
But did you know that wasn't the first name?
According to the website Rewind & Capture, Snapchat was originally called Picaboo. It wasn't catching on until they started marketing it as a sexting tool. Apparently, a draft of a press release says, "Picaboo lets you and your boyfriend send photos for peeks and not keeps!"
When the cease-and-desist letter arrived from the photo-book company Picaboo, they changed the name to Snapchat.
Seems that name has some resonance with the target demographic of 18-25 year olds who are "famously known for selfies and sexting."
Seems that the name Snapchat means something specific and makes them feel the right thing. See also: 10 billion videos sent daily.
THE TWO NAMES MR. VAYNERCHUK DISMISSES AS NOT EARTH-SHATTERINGLY CLEVER?
They are derived from some insightful brand thinking.
And here's something else they do.
They can aid people who aren't the same kind of relentless self-promoters as Gary Vaynerchuk.
If someone who's a marginal self-promoter saddles himself with a stupid name, how is that going to help him?
Granted, Mr. Vee does say that if your product sucks, it doesn't matter how good the name is.
On that point, we agree entirely.
But to dismiss the value of properly naming one's company indicates an utter lack of understanding about branding and why branding works.
LOOK AT YAHOO!
Yeah, I know.
They're everyone's favorite multi-billion-dollar whipping boy right now.
And there may be hope for them.
But the company name is an indicator of an entire series of brand mistakes.
Yahoo! began life as "Jerry And David's Guide To The World Wide Web." They were just two guys at Stanford who were cataloguing websites.
When it was evident the guide was a viable product, they realized they'd need another name.
A shorter one.
"I dub thee, Yahoo!"
THE ACCEPTED STORY: YAHOO! STANDS FOR "YET ANOTHER HIERARCHICAL OFFICIOUS ORACLE"
It's supposedly a reference to the hierarchical nature of its database, the office people who would be using it, and the fact that it would be a source of truth and wisdom.
I once heard an NPR interview with a Yahoo! founder who claimed that the name really meant nothing, but one meaning they had reverse-engineered was "You always have other options." (And as The Fabulous Honey Parker says, "Yes, and people took them.")
And there's another version of the story that says the founders like the name because of its reference to an unsophisticated, rural southerner, who is "rude, unsophisticated, uncouth."
YES, BRAND POINTLESSNESS ON PARADE
And according to the accounts in the business press, pointless branding bolstered by years of lack of vision.
There's never been an actual focus for Yahoo! and its mission.
That's why a brand once worth over $100 billion just sold to Verizon for less than 5% of that figure.
The infamous Peanut Butter Manifesto written 10 years ago by Yahoo! SVP Brad Garlinghouse confirms that.
Mr. Garlinghouse says, "We lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company. We want to do everything and be everything -- to everyone.
"We've known this for years, talk about it incessantly, but do nothing to fundamentally address it."
LACK OF FOCUS WAS EVIDENT EVEN IN NAMING THE COMPANY
And that was well before Yahoo! was ever worth $100 billion. It was a good product. It burgeoned in the dot com boom. But it never knew where it was going and lost its way.
Conversely, Gary Vee has always been focused.
He's always been about promoting Gary Vee.
And he's a relentless self-promoter.
Of course he thinks naming a business doesn't matter. And his product doesn't suck.
And his is a tiny business worth a fraction of Apple, Snapchat or Yahoo!.
THE BRAND NAME MATTERS
Don't discount it.
And don't saddle yourself with something that makes no sense or is a backronym or is somehow contemptuous of some group.
It'll come back to bite you in the butt.
Name smart. Have a reason. Have purpose. Be aspirational. Be appealing. Make people like you.
It'll all work out much better in the long run.
Especially if your name isn't Vaynerchuk.
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.