As a child, your mother and father probably taught you to be careful about choosing your words. After all, words can be hurtful…a good rule to live by. But words can also be really powerful.

Take brand names for example. The name is the foundation of a successful brand. Choosing the right one can make it or break it. A good name conveys the personality of the company, service or product. It should be relevant, memorable and evoke emotion. And, it sets the expectation for the entire brand experience your company, service or product delivers. Done right, everything clicks and fits together brilliantly. Done wrong, it’s another story.

When I first heard about the Revel Resort project in Atlantic City, NJ, it was being heralded as “Atlantic City’s future.” I thought, wow, Revel!?! That could actually work. My mind immediately began generating a stream of synonyms like enjoy, indulge, joyfulness, luxuriate, play, relish, savor, take comfort, et al. The prospect of “Revel-ing” in A.C. was exciting, so the next logical step was to plan a girls’ weekend. Done.

Upon arrival, it was evident to me that Revel was not created with a brand-first philosophy. Why? No one was engaging me or setting the expectation of what Revel had to offer.  Whether your name is Revel Resort or Ripley’s Believe It Or Not (A few blocks away. Tagline: We own weird.), you need to create a brand experience with every touchpoint. Moving on…

The valet greeters were friendly, although I had to pepper them with questions to learn how I would navigate this physically impressive (and massive) property. As I headed toward the entryway, I wondered how elders and physically disabled guests would make their way around. Revel’s welcome experience should begin with greeters, at the front entrance, who explain what to expect, the distance to the check-in area, the check-in process, approximate waiting time, maps and what to do with that extra 2, 3, 4 or 5 hours of downtime you may encounter. (The complimentary chocolate chip cookie they provide in the check-in line does not suffice.)

Because of the shear size of the Revel Resort, guests are left to wander around feeling lost while waiting for their rooms to become available. The directional signage isn’t very clear so guests always seem hesitant when trying to navigate the property. Again, some sort of brand ambassador should be monitoring the check-in area to help guests form a good opinion of the Revel brand. The complimentary 4:00 pm Tequila Sunrise could help…if you knew it was available.

Other things we did not revel in: The only pool currently accessible to those of us who hadn’t planned to spend $1,500 minimum food and beverage in a private cabana (10 am to 6 pm) is smaller than the fountain in Love Park. There are far more guests than lounge chairs by the Love Park pool, although if a brand ambassador would have directed us to the lower deck, there were ample chairs. This deck is kind of a red-headed-stepchild to the private cabanas and the Love pool. No food service, just a beer and soda stand staffed with one lonely bartender.

Then there was the O Bistro, a food establishment that on two occasions told us they are a partner of Revel’s, so they really couldn’t answer any of our questions. (One of them was a manager! OMG.) The casino-level restaurants were adequate, although we did not dine at the “premier” restaurants. I’m sure Amada is as good there as it is in Philadelphia. We did enjoy our meals at Village Whiskey.

The casino did have a cool Las Vegas vibe. It was perfectly lit and the décor was really interesting. I am not a gambler, so I can’t provide much of an opinion from that perspective. To our surprise, there were $15 Black Jack tables on a Saturday night.

Credit where it is due: The guest rooms are beautiful!!!!

The bottom line is that I never felt as if I was reveling in anything, nor did my friends. I also overheard a lot of guests complaining about one thing or another. That’s why I found this to be surprising: Revel chairman and chief executive Kevin DeSanctis was recently quoted as saying “We are excited about what we have delivered from a product and experience perspective.”

Here’s some sound advice for anyone developing or revamping a brand: If you choose a high-impact name like Revel, you must be prepared to back it up. I believe they would be much more successful at hitting the mark by continually asking themselves: Would our guest revel in this? If not, don’t do it, don’t build it, don’t offer it. (Just ask the CEO of Southwest Airlines.) Strive to impress your customers with every single brand interaction and make it brand relevant. This type of brand reinforcement will provide big returns.

As I was stopped at a traffic signal on 16th Street, in Philadelphia, a few weeks ago, I noticed an illuminated KPMG logo on the side of a building. Four solid rectangles with an italic letter overlapping each in an uncomfortable way. It got me thinking about this category, and the brands within it.

KPMG along with Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (a.k.a the Big Four) represent serious global business. In 2011, they realized a combined annual revenue of $103.6 billion. Yes billion. Yet their brands are not conveying the same story. (more…)

Flip through the newspaper almost any day of the week and you will find a consistent presence of ads promoting various repair, heating, cooling, and roofing companies. What strikes me about these ads is their similarities…in design, message, brand and sizable media investment. I often wonder how an entire category can get things so wrong. (more…)

You’ve seen them, the low budget TV spots for local businesses like pizza shops, law firms and car dealerships. The “talent” is horrible. The creative is unthinkable. And, the production quality is even worse. But someone must think they are acceptable because they’re running. Could this be possible? Can “5 minutes of fame” be so blinding that these local businesses can’t see the truth?

I was watching the Philadelphia Flyers game on Sunday night and could not believe my eyes. A spot for Uncle Tomy’s pizza, in South Philadelphia, featured a Hulk Hogan look alike, missing several teeth, screaming at the viewer. Really? Missing teeth? This is the best impression you can make for your business and brand? Eat at Uncle Tomy’s; lose some teeth. (more…)

I have often wondered why hospitals believe “the statistics and awards game” is an effective strategy for their brand, marketing or advertising. Let’s face it, “number one” in this, and “more procedures” in that, seems like a losing battle…especially in the Philadelphia market (a.k.a. the birthplace of medicine).

We have award-winning hospitals that provide the latest and greatest healthcare has to offer—on practically every corner. So, I wonder how much of this “sameness” consumers can absorb before it reaches saturation and they simply tune it out?  When I think about the category, I become dizzy. Here’s a good example of what I mean. (more…)

During my last visit to Atlantic City, I saw more freaks, and more blight, in a two-hour period of time than I could believe. I quickly decided there would be no reason to return to Atlantic City. Ever. So, when I saw the article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about A.C.’s new marketing campaign, my curiosity got the best of me. (more…)

Every time I see the Citadel logo, my immediate reaction is to cover my ears to prepare for the ear-piercing, obnoxious sound of a cruise ship horn as it departs from the port. Now, I haven’t asked Citadel what the graphic is intended to represent, but its shape, style, small star over the “i” and colors suggest they serve the travel category versus financial services. So, I decided to delve further into this brand to see if I could make sense of it. (more…)