You’re gonna need a bigger boat with a different name

The unofficial mantra of the United States Marine Corps is “adapt, overcome and improvise”. Despite being a pacifist, I've always liked this credo. It acknowledges the reality that things do not always go according to plan and leaders find a way to sidestep landmines and overcome challenges.

Recently, we were handed a dream project for a new client. The scope included a complete brand creation, from naming and brand development to website design and implementation. On top of that, the client was one of the smartest nice guys you could ever hope to work with. After extensive research and exploration, we chose an evocative company name that articulated his value proposition in a memorable and ownable manner.

We were days away from presenting creative designs for brandmarks and web design when the proverbial other shoe dropped. The client attorneys wouldn't approve the name because of a potential trademark infringement with another company. We felt like we had been punched in the gut. This meant not only coming up with an entirely new name, but completely redoing all the identity development that had been created to date, as this work was predicated on the name.

I was reminded of the production of Steven Spielberg's Jaws in 1975. The filming on set was notoriously fraught with problems, not the least of which was a mechanical shark that failed to work properly. After weeks of shooting, most of the shark footage had to be scrapped entirely. To improvise, Spielberg instead filmed from the perspective of the shark, suggesting the impending carnage instead of showing the creature itself. Alluding to the shark instead of showing it proved far more effective and chilling, proving that there is nothing more terrifying than our own imagination. The movie has been remade and ripped off countless times since then, but never to the same eerie effect.

The project is still ongoing and we are back to square one. We may have one shark that failed to launch but we are going to create a blockbuster nonetheless.

Stay tuned.