One of the best things about working for a marketing agency is that creativity is part of the job description. This often is self-fulfilling, especially when it comes to naming the agency itself; your ability to come up with a one-of-a-kind handle for your company is a signifier to potential customers of your branding brilliance.
Sure, there are still venerable organizations out there like Wieden & Kennedy and Ogilvy & Mather. But nowadays, it seems like only something truly unusual – preferably inspired by the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdoms – will do. Personally, I think it’s fantastic. In a crowded industry, a little bit of creative branding can go a long way to make your agency stand out from the multitudes. But it’s not easy to catch people’s attention without coming off as too bizarre. Here are just a few of my favorite unusual marketing agency names, with some insights into how and why they got that way.
Animal: From Frogs to Felines
There’s a scene in the wonderful Canadian television series Slings & Arrows where the beleaguered Shakespearian theatre company decides to upgrade their brand image. They hire an avant-garde advertising agency, Froghammer, to help them promote and rebrand the festival. The most amusing part about that scene for me is that I didn’t even blink an eye when they brought in the team. It sounded like a perfectly normal agency name to me.
Indeed, frogs are a very popular critter in the world of marketing monikers. New York City-based StrawberryFrog has been a successful agency for many years. Why the froggy label? The idea is that unlike other, old-style agency dinosaurs, a frog is nimble and adapts quickly to change. And a Strawberry poison dart frog (yes, there is such a thing) is agile as well as exotic and slightly dangerous. The bright coloration is a warning to predators that the animal is toxic. Of course, that didn’t prevent StrawberryFrog from getting swallowed up by APCO Worldwide in 2012. (No offense, but doesn’t APCO sound more like an auto body shop than an agency?)
After a quick search, you’ll find that there’s more than one way to brand a frog: there’s also Sagefrog, StormFrog, CreativeFrog and LeapFrog Solutions. It’s a veritable terrarium of amphibian agencies. There’s no denying that amphibians and reptiles make for great logo designs and creative treatments. I’m particularly fond of the jaunty fellow with a sack of cash who represents Lead Lizard, an Act-On agency partner. Digital agency Lounge Lizard keeps their logo treatment pretty subtle (about as classy as a lizard gets), but they do have an excellent “virtual bar” interface on their site that makes you want to hang out and have a beer with them.
Big Kitty Labs, based out of Columbus, Ohio, has a swell name but a disappointing lack of giant felines on their site. Not so Walrus, a full-service advertising agency, where a giant spokes-walrus will take you on a tour of their services, show you their past work, and even provide you with a recipe for clams casino. (While you’re there, be sure to check out their Yacht Name Generator, because it is awesome.)
Vegetable: Lettuce Entertain You
When you’ve run out of animal spirit guides for your marketing naming needs, it’s natural to start looking around the house – or specifically, in the refrigerator – for inspiration. Fruits and vegetables are a great fit for creative organizations because they indicate freshness and health. (And after all, it worked for Apple, right?) Besides, what’s not to love about a name like Square Tomato? It’s got a snazzy logo, a strong sound, and it actually means something. According to their site, “A square tomato, which ships and stores more efficiently than a regular one, is a product of ingenuity and engineering that achieves a business objective. That’s also our description of modern advertising.” And did you know that you can actually grow your own square tomato? It’s true!
There’s also Carrot, a full service digital agency in Brooklyn, Lettuce Digital, based in Melbourne, Australia, and let’s not forget advertising powerhouse Pepper Global. And as for fruits, you can find Pear Advertising, a Midwest based agency, Vancouver, B.C.-based Orange Creative, and Cherry Thinking, a small U.K. company with a rather adorable website that takes you on an animated tour of a charming street in southeast London.
High Heels & Bananas is an interactive agency in Pennsylvania that takes the fruit theme in an unusual direction. Apparently, the founders were brainstorming for a name when one of them blurted it out and it stuck.
However, it seems there are some fruits and vegetables that nobody loves enough to put on the front cover of a business plan. Cauliflower, kiwi, zucchini, and rutabaga, for example, are apparently still available if you’re casting about for a produce-focused label.
Mineral: We Will Rock You
Sometimes a name can help reinforce the focus of the agency while also providing a natural visual identity. That’s certainly the case with Granite Marketing. With an emphasis on representing outdoor sports products, they provide a rock-solid presence in their industry. (Why no one has taken feldspar yet, I don’t know. It’s a great word and a cool rock.)
But sometimes names don’t always have to mean things – they just have to sound good. With nearly 20 years in the business, The Stone Agency is a recognized strategic brand consultancy. But this Raleigh, North Carolina company was named after the founders, Chris and Michele Stone, not a particular boulder. Likewise, Gravel Agency, based in Quebec, Canada, was named after its founder, Michel Gravel. Purple, Rock, Scissors is an Orlando, Florida digital creative group whose fun handle has a modern vibe, but, according to them, no official or philosophical meaning.
If you’re thinking of starting a marketing agency of your own and you’re afraid all the good titles are taken, never fear. There’s an agency name generator to help you find the right identify for your budding business. (Mine is Pink Giraffe Interactive, and my co-worker got Hot Owl Media. Be sure to look for us next year on the A-list of agencies.) Did I miss any amazing, out-of-the-ordinary names? I know there must be many more out there, so be sure to share them in the comments.
And if you’re with a marketing agency that already has an awesome appellation, but you’re looking for a different kind of boost, be sure to check out this eBook to discover the nine essential strategies that can help agencies of any size take advantage of the power and growth potential of marketing automation.