Steven MasonBranding, Naming, Patent Broker, Negotiation

The Brand Mason - Creative Destructionist & Autodidact. Ideation, naming, branding, positioning, advertising, strategy, difficult and complex negotiations, patent portfolio positioning and sales - for technology and CPG startups and emerging growth companies. I help CEOs and Founders view seemingly intractable problems and challenges from uncommon perspectives and formulate long-term, no-bs solutions. I can rephrase, rewrite, recast anything spoken or written to cut through the conventional or social media noise and hit your targets right between the eyes. 25+ years of iconoclasm and still ticking. My guarantee: I'll tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear.

Recent Answers

It's not entirely clear what your situation is, but there are a few possibilities.

If you have only a prototype, but the ability (including capital) to manufacture it and you are seeking to be on their shelves, then you'd be dealing with the appropriate category buyer. But your odds are quite low. Why is your product better than others on the shelf? What kind of price point and sales velocity can be expected? Do you have the capital and capacity to fill an opening order and orders after that (the faster you grow, the more financing you need, because your working capital will never be sufficient based on the pay terms of the vendors). Is your prototype full working and ready for production? Or is it just an idea, because buyers want products to put on the shelves, not ideas that might or might not ever be able to be manufactured.

If you are looking to have someone else manufacture your product, then you probably don't want to go to a retailer at all. They sell products. They're not in the manufacturing business. You'd need instead to deal with manufacturers in your product space, but with one whom you don't compete with or where your idea would advance the state of the art. Then there are question as to whether you have an IP protection or whether you product is fundamentally different than others in the same space. Hence, you perhaps need to be talking either to pharma companies like Merck or to medical device companies like Medtronic (depending, of course, on what your product does).

There may be other possibilities. But there's not enough information in your question to be more specific.

Should you have any specific questions, message me to request a call and we can get into this in more detail.


There are many people with no formal experience or training who are brilliant marketers. David Ogilvy never graduated from college, for example. Neither did Steve Jobs. Few hold a candle to either of them.

But here's the problem implicit in your question: You're asking how to proceed. Do you have within you the intense curiosity and love of learning necessary to tackle this job? Do you know how to ask the right questions? Have you gone out there and read, for example, the 25 greatest marketing and advertising books of all time? What have YOU done already -- or are you doing right now -- to prepare for this? Because if you are fundamentally incurious, then you cannot do this job and you certainly cannot lead others. If you have a towering intellect coupled with an intense curiosity, on the other hand, and you have drive, passion and perseverance, you could very well succeed.

In other words, it's up to you. You need to ask yourself if you're in over your head. You need to ask yourself if you have the innate curiosity and drive to know, to investigate, to question -- things necessary for you to succeed and to lead others.

Your questions do concern me. You seem to want others to tell you what to do. Now if you'd come here and said you'd read the histories of marketing for many start-up companies; you've read the great marketers and advertisers of the last 50 years; you've watched or gone to talks by thinkers like Sinek -- and then you had questions about applying those ideas to your challenges, that would be utterly different. Until you aren't operating from a vacuum of knowledge, even the best advice in the world won't help you because you'll lack the worldview to apply it correctly.

So it's on you to decide which path you want to take.

There are two different ways for you to stand out:

(1) Focus on a particular service at which you excel and where the value you provide and the results you produce are significantly better than others' results in your field.

(2) Focus on a set of services which you provide under a conceptual umbrella. This requires your abstracting from different concrete services a particular aspect which all those services share and at which you excel. For example, if you know more about social media, SEO, PPC, email and other forms of marketing for auto dealerships, then you could be the Digital Marketing Guru for Auto Dealerships. That's a point of difference. Or you might be the only person who knows how to properly budget for and allocate spend among social media, SEO, PPC and email -- because of special analytical abilities you have (or applications you've developed).

Either of these approaches can work. What will absolutely NOT work, however, is your marketing yourself as a "provider of digital marketing services." That's generic, indistinguishable from anyone else, and lacking a "reason to believe."

In sum, you most powerfully differentiate yourself. Whether you do that based on a particular service you provide or a set of services under an umbrella depends on your abilities and expertise.

Should you like to explore this further and develop a powerful, differentiating message based on your authentic abilities, message me.

Best regards,

No. They are difficult to spell, challenging to pronounce and violate a wealth of basic linguistic principles. But don't believe me: You can prove this to yourself.

Give the names, written down, and nothing else, to 10 people who don't know you. Ask them to pronounce them.

Next, pronounce the names for 10 other people and ask them to spell it. Both tests will fail.

Furthermore, they are neither memorable nor evocative.

You're falling prey to the Latinate myth: if I create a name using etymologies or metonyms, and glom them together, I will have a great name. But you won't. You'll have a glommed-together name instead that does not evoke the meaning of any of the etymological roots or metonyms! Sometimes 1+1 = 0.

For details on the linguistic and branding criteria, read my LinkedIn post "Names That Got Game: 4 Steps To A Killer Name & Getting Buy-In" at:

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me.

Best of luck,

When they are really the same thing, sure. But look at Apple: Mac, iMac, iPod, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch (don't really like that one). Do you stand for one thing and one thing only and is that your app or your product -- and are you quite sure that's all you'll ever be? Works for Facebook. But if you're a product company and you've got a ton of different SKUs and require subbrands because they're in different categories, then no. That's why Procter & Gamble and other huge CPG firms have corporate names, but each of their products or product families get names like Tide.

If you expect to be acquired before you ever reach a second product/app or if your first one is going to be that successful, why confuse people? It's harder to remember 2 names than it is to remember 1.

Free free to set up a call if you'd like to explore this further.

Best of luck,

You're overthinking this by a lot. And you are making the mistake of starting from the view that they will never cover the "gap." So this means you have accepted their premise that their offer is a legitimate one. You can always split the difference between two reasonable offers, but when one offer is out of whack, then you have to reject that offer, period. You must start with the premise that their offer has no standing, any more than my offering to hire you for $10/year. If you are psychologically prepared like then, then here's what you do:

You go to Company B and tell them the truth: I am passionate about your company and this job and would love to work for you. But your offer of $100K doesn't reflect my actual market value, $150K. I have a standing offer for that from a company of comparable revenue and size. I'm not interested in a long back-and-forth and I'm sure you're not, either. If you truly can't do this or don't feel that's my value, I respect and understand that, as I'm sure you'd respect and understand why I can't accept your $100K offer. [Note: I can't emphasize enough how important this last sentence is. You diplomatically reject their offer completely. This is the diplomatic equivalent of walking out of the room, but very gracefully. If you deliver it right and you believe it, it's tremendously effective.] But I do hope I can work for you -- what can you do? [Then, stop talking. See what they say, no matter if the silence is 2 minutes long. And, btw, are you saying this to HR? I hope not. You're saying this to your hiring manager.]

Further points:
-Do they have an amazing bonus or stock package?
-Are there other reasons the offer is lower? I'm not taking those into account.
-If they say: How about $125K? You MUST respond, "I appreciate that very much, but I believe my market value is fair and proven, so I would have to say, "No, thank you." Then, again, be silent.
-Other alternatives:
-They pay you a $50K signing bonus and guarantee in 12 months to raise your salary to $150K.
-Or you accept the $100K, with the understanding that they will review you in three (3) months and move you to $150K then, if you're not fired, of course.
-Or they give you a ton of stock or a 100% bonus plan. But first they have to accept the market value itself.

Also, consider the possibility that they are cheap and simply do not value anyone where they should. I don't know enough details to answer any of these questions, but this is how you should approach it.

First, please understand that you didn't "get" a provisional patent. Provisional patents are simply filed. They are not examined, and there is nothing to grant. All they do is establish a "Priority Date" enabling you to cite the filing in "Related U.S. Application Data" if and when you file for a utility patent (which, in due course, will be examined). Further, if you do not file within 12 months of the date on which you filed the provisional, your application will be deemed abandoned and you lose that priority date.

Second, when industry people said they'd buy it, did they tell you at what price? Because without a price range, their statements, while earnest, mean nothing. Even if they knew the price, is that price sustainable and achievable based on fixed and marginal manufacturing costs? I don't know and neither do they.

Third, you're correct that since you don't know the handtool market, and you have no desire to, you'd be crazy to stay involved. Nevertheless, if you were an inventor, why should you be cashed out now? Why shouldn't you hold on to a percentage for your contributions to date? I'm not saying you get the same share as the other co-inventors, assuming that, if they even get investors, they remain on in a meaningful capacity, but certainly you should get some share, representing your contribution to date. I also don't know how much time you have left before making a go/no-go decision on the provisional-> utility.

Further, if all of this comes to pass, how are they going to sell it? If it's via e-commerce, rather than through traditional sales reps, WDs, and the like, then perhaps there is a role for you. Not enough information to say, but certainly a consideration.

Bottom line: this product is certainly not assured of success. If you can be handsomely cashed out, you may very well want to take it. If you can't be handsomely cashed out, why should you accept nothing? You have the leverage and, depending on how much time you have left until the provisional expires, you may have time. If there's very little time left and you truly believe in the value, and you're willing to risk the $10K-$20K needed to patent this device, then list your co-inventors, cite the provisional and have an attorney write/file it.

You may say: What about the rights of co-inventors? Here is where US Law becomes very strange. See: -- but by all means, consult an IP attorney -- this is just so you know the basics of your rights. But basically this means that if you did file a utility patent, you could, without any other co-inventors' permission, sell to a different entity than they! Confusing? You bet.

Last, while your post is professionally worded after the first sentence, please, for your own sake, never in writing should you, as a businessperson, use as a subject the egregiously wrong grammatical construction "me and my partners" (obviously, it's correct as an object). If you're going to be negotiating for equity or a cash-out with investors, you can't sound like a high school student sneaking a smoke in the bathroom. My partners and I -- impressions count -- and ell the more so when the error is the first thing I read or they hear! Someday you'll thank me for the tip even if you think I'm an ass for pointing it out.

Good luck.

Imagine for a moment you'd talked to Steve Jobs, pre-Apple, and asked him for his portfolio, prior experience, references, etc. Or imagine you'd talked to Lee Clow (the primary, but not the only, conceptor of the 1984 ad). Had he ever done anything like that? No.

So experience, portfolio, references -- sure, they're all OK -- but they miss something even bigger. How does the CD on your project THINK/problem solve/ideate. What questions does he or she ask? How incisive and intelligent are those questions? How quickly does the CD grok what you're doing and trying to do? How willing are they to challenge your beliefs or suggest alternatives? How well, how compellingly does this person communicate? What if it's John/Jane A Smith and the firm is named JAS Branding: now, there's a real winner! -- it's so bad, you know s/he couldn't possible have an original thought.

As the financial regulators like to remind us, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Otherwise, there'd never have been a New Coke.

You're hiring creativity and a brain or brains. You have to ask yourself: can this individual (or this individual leading a team for this firm or using other people) hit it out of the park.

Nothing else matters.

Feel free to contact me, 15 minutes gratis, if you have any questions.

-- Steve

First of all, why do they know or want to know your size? I'm not saying to lie: I'm saying that if your website says: "We are a 10-person company ...." then you're not leading with your best differentiator. Don't volunteer information many won't ever ask for. If they ask, tell the truth. But what's the truth? If you know they're going to ask, because it's a required DoD question, e.g., then immunize yourself by addressing it first. If you have 11 people, you also have fewer than 25 but more than 10. Never make yourself smaller than you have to be, as it's already obvious you're not a behemoth or they'd have heard of you already. That's why I'm less than 6 feet tall, rather than "taller than 5 feet."

But beyond that, lead with your big company clients. If you tell me that IBM, P&G, Cisco and Merck are your customers, and you've got testimonials from each of them, then that's all you need. Lead with it. They are your complete validation. Now, if they ask about your having 10 people or you need to tell them that, your answer is simple: "That's exactly the question IBM, P&G, Cisco and Merck asked and in fact, they hired us because at only 10 people, we can be <explain what you do better than anyone else>. They've been so happy with us that they've doubled their business with us in the last 3 months. In fact, we expect our company to double in size in the next 12 months (again, assuming that's your actual projection -- use truth to buttress your case)." I've beaten much larger companies out -- for over 30 years -- using precisely these tactics.

Good luck to you. Happy to discuss should you have any questions.


Khuram's reference to what I call the "gap technique" is spot on. Few people will rate something 10/10 or A+. This gives you the opportunity to ask them how to achieve that highest rating. Once you do that: "Shut up and listen!" :) -- One of the worst mistakes is to get a participant talking (and many people talk way too much) but then to cut them off even though they're giving you substantive information (obviously, if it's drivel, then you do want to move on). You also have to assess those you survey: some are founts of information and insight while others have nothing to say. All are not created equal, as it were.

In all surveys, whether in person or on-line, I recommend open-ended (i.e., unprompted) questions (where possible) followed by close-ended (i.e., prompted answers) questions. In other words: What is your favorite brand of cookie (with no list specified)? Perhaps they say Oreos. Later on, after they've forgotten that, you have a list: Which is your favorite cookie brand: a) Little Debbie; b) Mrs. Fields; c) Oreo; d) Duncan Hines? Now if those two don't match up, how valuable are these answers? So that gives you the ability to test for validity. Once you present the prompted answers, you've poisoned the well, which is why they have to come later.

Hope this helps and should you have any questions, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you.


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