A day in the life of... a brand naming consultant
Published: 04 Jul 2017 By Ben Davis
Sasha Stack is a partner at Lippincott, a creative consultancy that specialises in brand, innovation and culture.
Sasha works in the brand strategy group and leads the naming team. Let's find out what she does with her day...
Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?
Sasha Stack: At Lippincott, we help companies position their brands for success, which might include everything from defining a brand’s purpose and personality, to innovating and launching a new product or service, to naming a spin, to engaging a global employee base.
Our naming team develops corporate and product names as well as naming systems… all through the lens of a brand’s strategy.
I get to touch a bit of everything we do as a partner in the brand strategy practice who leads Lippincott’s naming team.
E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organization? Who do you report to?
SS: While we have defined practice areas, we work fluidly across them. In my naming role, I sit between brand strategy and design as a name must be “on brand” and have aural appeal, but it also needs to be visually appealing and complement a broader identity system. As a member of the brand strategy practice, I report to Michael D’Esopo, the director of our team.
E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
SS: Curiosity + courage — Change is a constant and our job is to be on the pulse and learning. Our recommendations aren’t always proven, sometimes they require being out-in-front and trying something different. Particularly for a name, it’s about demonstrating the latent potential within a candidate.
Flexibility + rigor – Working in a service industry, the client’s needs come first. And, business realities can change the trajectory of a branding effort overnight. But, as consultants, we need to have a plan to account for what we know and anticipate what we don’t.
Objectivity + a point of view — Beyond filling a capability gap that a client might not have in-house, we’re frequently brought in as a third party to help define the process and perspective to get to an answer that the clients hasn’t been able to arrive at or agree to. That means we’ve got to come in open and objective, ready to assess the facts, but also with experience and analogies at the ready to demonstrate where we’ve seen others succeed and fail.
E: Tell us about a typical working day…
SS: Splitting my time between brand strategy and naming and working with several clients concurrently, there’s rarely a "typical working day,” but it usually starts with a good walk—whether to the office or through an airport—to get my plan in order for the day.
Then, it’s a series of in-person meetings or phone calls with my internal and external teams to learn about a challenge, brainstorm answers, develop names, and review and refine recommendations and presentations. And, whenever I can find it, a quiet moment to hone my own thinking on all of those activities.
Lippincott worked with Bain Capital to define brand architecture and a new visual identity. See 'work'.
E: What do you love about your job?
SS: I’m always learning—even after eleven years. About new industries, new realities, new possibilities. But, on the flip side, I get to bring insights and analogies from prior experiences that spark new thinking for my clients. And, I work with an amazingly talented group of people across Lippincott who have skills that make the final product (but also the process of getting there) so much better—more thoughtful, more beautiful, more actionable.
E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
SS: We want to know how a brand can help a client move the needle on bigger business metrics. The first question we ask is “How do you define success for this effort?" Sometimes it’s about attracting a new audience or building understanding with a broader audience, sometimes it’s about focusing what a brand stands for or providing the foundation for exponential growth. We view our work through the lens of our client's realities and priorities.
E: What are your favorite tools to help you to get the job done?
SS: When it comes to naming, a good thesaurus (or three), a big monitor and an Internet connection, a pen and paper (for when there’s a thought just off the side of my monitor), some fresh air or time in a spot where I don’t usually do work, and a diverse team that breaks a list down and builds it back together.
E: How did you get started naming brands, and where might you go from here?
SS: I definitely didn’t know that my job existed when I was starting to think about the job I wanted. And, I’m still pretty amazed that I get to name things every day. I started as a brand strategist who just happened to have a love for language inspired by a passion for reading, a great Latin teacher in middle school, and creative writing professors in college who pushed me to tell stories.
I’m expanding my naming skills— naming children and creating the occasion wedding hashtag—but, to the above, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the ability to come to work and think about what to call things.
E: Which brands do you think are doing digital well?
SS: Brands that are making the digital more experiential or even a cornerstone of their experience.
There are the hallmarks, Amazon, Zappos, even Warby Parker at this point. But, there are so many brands—big and small—finding new ways to break through and establish a human element to an increasingly digital experience—from Bank of America introducing its Erica chatbot to Allbirds ensuring the shoe fits when you can’t try it on in a physical store.
Another place where brands are standing out digitally is when they’re assisting you in decision-making, whether it’s choosing the XFINITY TV package that’s right for you via a simplified package and tiering naming architecture or Betterment helping you with financial planning. It’s a pretty exciting time to be thinking about brands holistically.
E: Do you have any advice for people who want to work in branding more broadly?
SS: Whether you recognize it or not, you’re a branding expert. You interact with and make decisions based on brand preferences every day. Why do you walk two blocks out of your way in the morning for coffee vs. buying the cheaper cup in the lobby? Being aware of and curious about where those biases and preferences come from is key to succeeding in branding (and a really fun part of the job).
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