A Simple Way to Make Your Business Memorable

“Memory is a net; one finds it full of fish when he takes it from the brook; but a dozen miles of water have run through it without sticking.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, 1858)

“People spend $185 on a bed-and-breakfast and remember the name of the place for the rest of their lives. But they’ll spend $4,000 on a cruise and not be able to remember the name of the cruise liner.”

The personnel director of the cruise line my son is going to work for this summer made this comment at the interview after LSF failed to remember the name of one of the two cruise ships he’d been on.

It occurred to me that he was right. I’ve been on two or three cruises and can’t remember what the ships were called. I remember that one was the biggest ship in the world when I was on her (but she may have been eclipsed by now). Another had some kind of regal-sounding name — but I can’t tell you whether it was Royal this or Princess that.

There’s something wrong here. Why don’t cruise lines promote the distinctiveness of their ships?

If it were my ship, I’d develop a competitive advantage in something that would appeal to a market I could go after and promote the heck out of it.

That, in fact, is exactly what Disney did with its cruise ship. It took advantage of the Disney characters and designed its boat to be a floating Fantasy Land. To emphasize the unique selling proposition, they called it something different too: The Big Red Boat. And guess what? That’s the only cruise-ship name any of our family members can remember.

MP tells me that of the hundreds of travel agencies he dealt with during his years as a travel writer, he can remember the name of only one: a lady who specializes in cruises who calls her business “The Cruise Lady” — a name that’s hard to forget.

SG, a close friend of my ex-partner, bought a cruise ship to amuse himself during retirement. Since 9/11, he’s been struggling to keep it financially afloat. He told me once that he’s had a good deal of success in marketing to the gay community. So I’m thinking: Why not crank that up and call the boat the Floating Rainbow?

What’s the unique selling proposition of your company and/or main product? Does the name you have reflect that? Or did you opt for something safer and more forgettable? One of the nice things about choosing a more distinctive name is that it forces you, more or less, to work harder at that thing you are promoting. That’s usually a good thing.

My son leaves for his first tour next Monday. I have a week to try to memorize the name of his ship.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]