The Game of the Name

February 10, 2000
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By Bonnie Hilliard, Akron Business Magazine; Associate Editor

Imagine … somewhere deep within the recesses of someone’s brain is THE NAME, and just behind it is, THE TAG LINE, waiting to lure millions of dollars to your business. But, whose mind do you mine to find it?

If you’re one of 71 Fortune 500 clients you beg assistance from the brain cells of Daniel Moneypenny, well-sought wordsmith and a self-described “mental skydiver” in the naming business. Ask for a product name, a positioning statement, slogan or advertising theme and watch the steam roll from a revved-up brain in overdrive.

Moneypenny is president of Emaginit, the latest incarnation of a writing career he began in 1977 as a student at the University of Akron. He operates out of a Silver Lake office, but has enclaves in Phoenix, Cleveland and Chautauqua, NY where he goes to ” hide where no one can find me” to clear life’s inevitable cobwebs.

For this guy, the whole world is his office, because wherever he goes, the necessary equipment follows: his quicksilver creativity.

In the business of naming and brand positioning, every word counts. And Moneypenny has millions of them floating around his gray matter, waiting to be plucked and arranged. His clients have words of their own to wax on his behalf, lauding him for increased sales as a result of some catchy ad or slogan.

Moneypenny is a handy commodity for the new crop of dot-coms looking for that big-ticket name. In the last year he has launched names for a half dozen worldwide web companies, including Bluespring.com out of Cincinnati (a billing company). Amway Corporation’s Quixtar.com and Inaquest.com, a subsidiary of Proforma’s office supply franchise. Each name sells for between $15,000 to $40,000. Sound high? Not when compared to the big naming and design firms, which might charge up to half-a-million dollars for the same thing and offer only a fraction of the name options as he does.

Ideation is not genius-level thinking as much as it is a matter of eyeing the subject from every angle, allowing “free-fall” thinking, testing, sensing, rearranging. Moneypenny has the ability to empty his mind and allows thoughts and phrases to erupt like a Mensa club’s word association game. “This isn’t something you learn in college. It’s more like operating on instinct and feeling, and tapping into sensitive impressions of people and things,” he explains.

One of 11 children, Moneypenny learned early to think fast and talk even faster. He remembers people ribbing him about his boundless energy and curiosity, which over the years has taken him through an eclectic assortment of careers and hobbies. After college, he went walkabout across the U.S. for a decade. He served with the Air Borne U.S. Army, ran competitive long distance, and experimented with a strange mix of jobs: forest fire fighter, antiques, sales, modeling, railroad, car factory, cable TV and business ownership in sporting goods.

Giants like Exxon International and Merril Lynch call him one of the top namers in America for classic one-liners like: “We make owning it easier” (Rent America) and “You put more than your trust in us.” (Century infant car seats), or the U.S. Safety Council’s “Too many cars are running on alcohol.” Moneypenny estimates he has created hundreds of thousands of ad concepts and  has thousands of contacts in his business database.

Moneypenny said many businesses are launching IPOs, reinventing themselves with a new look, a new glossy image and name. “The economy is in such a flux that you’ve got to keep your business visible, supple and vibrant. E-commerce is going to fly right now, but it will settle down. People still make things happen. People are the ones you have to reach, whether it’s a dot-com, a print ad or a television spot.”

Finding the right name is no longer easy. If you’ve searched the trademark vaults and dot.com registers you know the shortage. Seems all the good names are taken, especially ones with direct suggestions of quality, heritage, product attributes. Not true, says Moneypenny. He expects to name one large dot-com per month over the next year.

Moneypenny competes against big branding and advertising firms, but he wins out with light-speed turn-around, guaranteed satisfaction and lower fees.

Where most companies provide a few choices, Moneypenny might submit 200 names to start. “I keep writing until they get what they want. Clever is wonderful, but trademarkable and clever is even better. If they can’t clear it through the legal end, they’ve got nothing. Our niche is volume and exposing our client to as much good creative as they deserve,” he said.

Lest you think his name is an indication of the love of his life, think again. Money is not the goal, and never has been, he says, and as proof, tucked into his day planner are his wife’s and two children’s photographs. The couple is expecting their third child in January, so another photo will  be added soon. Thoughtfully, his advice boils down to hard work, researching the competition, staying ahead … and one more thing: “Build your business around making money, yes, but more important, build it around what you love. Time is not just money. Time is your life.”