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Extravagant Parties That May Be Over the Top

Event planning is always a really big job. It takes months of planning, organizing, and patience to get the work load finished in time. The day of the event itself may be the most stressful time in an event planners life, and that’s just for your average Joe’s event. What happens when it becomes a massively extravagant event? Welcome to the craziest parties you may have ever heard of.

The show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills demonstrates just how willing some of these families are to spend money on parties for their own pleasure. One example comes from Adrienne, she threw a spa party in her own home that cost somewhere in the ballpark of $100,000. This event included the use of a laser machine, spray tanning booths, hydro-facials, 2 manicurists, 3 masseurs, 3 waiters, and a personal chef. Each guest was also given a personal red velvet cake that had edible gold dust sprinkled on top, because sprinkles just wouldn’t be enough.

In another episode, Taylor Armstrong threw a party for her 4-year-old daughter, Kennedy. She forked out $60,000 total to include a lavish set up of decorations, mocktails and cocktails, a live band to perform a song for the 4-year-old, and diamond barbie necklaces as party favors to all the children.

The craziness doesn’t stop there though, another reality TV show called My Super Sweet 16 highlights teens’ excessive 16th birthdays and what all it takes to make their “dreams” come true. One such party was a Moulin Rouge themed party that cost nearly $180,000. It took 4 weeks of intense preparation to organize the shin-dig. The cake alone cost $1,500, her friends were each picked up by limousines, and she was announced and walked out to can-can dancers. Her birthday gift that evening was a BMW X3.

Another episode featured Aaron Reid’s birthday in which he rented out the 40/40 club that is owned by Jay-Z. His invitations were portable music players with a recorded invite as one of the tracks. That night, P-Diddy and Kanye West attended for the entire night; the cost to have Kanye for an entire night alone is $3 million.

To highlight a few other episodes: Natalie had diamonds set into her manicured nails for her party which cost $800, and Sierra had people dress in white and drive in limos to the homes of her friends to hand deliver her invitations. With each invitation came a miniature Louis Vuitton cake and a letter informing them of all the gifts she would like to acquire.

While these $60,000 – $100,00 parties are impressive, celebrity weddings can top them all! Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston spent $1 million on their wedding that included 50,000 flowers and a special fireworks show at the end of the night.

When Khloe Kardashian married Lamar Odom they too spent $1 million; it was held in Beverly Hills and Khloe wore a custom Vera Wang dress.

Christina Aguilera and Jordan Bratman spent $2 million on their wedding; they rented out a private vineyard and the ceremony included a 14-piece orchestra. Christina wore a designer gown, and the couple partied with their friends until 5 a.m.

Chelsea Clinton married Marc Mezvinsky and they spent $4.8 million total. $750,000 went to catering, $11,000 for the cake, $250,000 on jewelry, $600,000 for their air-conditioned tents, and $500,000 in flowers.

Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas spent $1.5 on their nuptials. Their invitations were written in invisible ink, the reception was in the New York plaza hotel, and they used 50 rent-a-cops for security.

So while the event you’re planning may seem like a nightmare, just think of how nightmarish it must have been to plan one of these doozies of a party.









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Deion Branders: What Your Brand Can Learn From “Prime Time.”

I’m willing to bet you’re familiar with Deion Sanders, but where you know him from is a complete shot in the dark. After becoming a star of Florida State University’s football, baseball, even track team, Sanders began his equally impressive career in the NFL, MLB, and PBL.

Deion Sanders fully branded

PBL, of course, stands for “Personal Branding League” and I just made it up. Despite Sanders’ resounding success in professional sports, his greatest legacy may be how he elevated himself from “talented collegiate athlete” to a “multi-faceted entertainment personality with the on-the-field talent to back up any and all bravura.”

Deion Sanders is already in the NFL and College Football Hall of Fames, but he’d have an entire wing devoted to his exploits if a hall of fame existed for Personal Branding. While still enrolled at FSU, Sanders began thinking seriously about his future. He saw money, he saw success, and he began creating a vehicle that would allow him to reach the wealth and fame he felt he was destined for.

The vehicle? He turned himself into “Prime Time” or “Neon Deion,” and became what may be the most recognizable sports personality of all time.

Deion Sanders as "Prime Time"

Here’s some obvious context about brands: They inspire loyalty and provide designations amongst similar products. When dozens of brands are selling toothpaste, for instance, consumers need to have a way to decide between their options. Enter Brands, stage left, with their accompanying loyalty and trust in tow.

19 year old Deion Sanders looked around and saw a plethora of similarly priced, indistinguishable tubes of toothpaste all waiting for the Major Leagues to pluck them off the shelf. This didn’t work for the man destined to become Prime Time.

According to longstanding FSU Head Coach Bobby Bowden, Deion Sanders knew that “You could make a lot of money if you sell yourself.”

So he did. Deion Sanders effectively became Prime Time and donned gold chains, giant rings, and cruised around Florida State in his brand new convertible. In the inaugural episode of FOX Sports Net’s Beyond the Glory, Sanders’ mother smiles affectionately as she says that he “created a monster.” An extremely hungry one at that.

Your brand should be equally hungry and equally driven. You should have all the bravura and skills necessary to make a name for yourself and create a loyal, excited fan-base.

Thankfully, Neon Deion’s remarkable trajectory contains some valuable lessons:

1. Look to Your Idols

Deion Sanders curated his public persona carefully. Any brashness or perceived sloppiness was deliberate and helped build his Prime Time character. And this “monster” was solidified in no time, complete with high-stepping touchdowns and an ecstatic fan-base.

The Prime Time character worked so well because Deion Sanders was passionate about it. It was a persona he actually enjoyed, one that was honest to who he was. But if the only input was Sanders’ own personality it hardly counts as a character — instead, he pulled from four of his sports idols.

Deion Sanders' Prime Time personality

Prime Time learned his brashness from Muhammad Ali, but also his confidence. Muhammad Ali was cocky, but he had the skills and success to back it up. Hank Aaron provided the perseverance to endure any trials that Sanders would face. Sanders has found near universal success, but his autobiography Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life outlines some of the troubled waters he overcame.

O.J. Simpson’s legacy has been all but destroyed, but he was once respected for his prowess on the football field. Deion Sanders claims that he learned team loyalty and care from Simpson because he “always took care of his linemen and they took care of him.” I don’t think it’s a stretch to apply this mentality to Sanders’ later philanthropic ventures, including founding a Preparatory Academy to help High School students make it to college.

Prime Time’s fourth influence was Julius Irving’s “constant professionalism” and flair. Irving’s professional impact may seem counter-intuitive since Prime Time spent his early days driving his custom “PRIME TIME” license plates around town talking on a giant cell phone, but as cartoonish as that sounds, Sanders approached it all as a job, just like Julius Irving.

It’s worth noting that Neon Deion’s idols literally came from different fields. All four men are athletes, sure, but that’s just like your brand turning to other brands, even if they’re in different markets. If you love a particular campaign from Coca-Cola, give it a shot. An approach from DiGiorno pizza catches your eye? Done. Menchie’s frozen yogurt? Don’t be shy, make it yours.

As long as your influences are a natural fit to the brand you create, they can come from anywhere. It all comes down to the attitude you project and as long as it’s a cohesive brand you’re in the clear.

2. Be Recognizable

Prime Time became a success because he stood out and made a name for himself. Whether it be a bold marketing campaign, an exciting new product, or a fresh approach to social media, your brand needs to make sure it stands out as well. Deion Sanders understood this burden — For him, success meant “I gotta high step, I gotta throw my arms in the air…I gotta make sure the attention is on me!”

Deion Sanders with his "Prime Time" jacket

Sanders kept his brand close to his chest, wearing his Prime Time leather jacket to training camps and working hard to advertise his versatility. He was known for his prowess in both the NFL and the MLB and was able to use that arm of his brand to score commercial gigs like this one:

Your brand should strive to create an equally recognizable persona. As a company full of individual employees, make sure that everyone is aware of your voice, your character.

When Deion Sanders intercepted an end-zone pass on the last play of his final college football game (you can’t plan this sort of thing) the announcers screamed “Picked off by Prime Time! Neon Deion!” Prime Time hosted Saturday Night Live shortly after winning his first Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers and even his opening monologue, while not particularly funny, is fully aware of the Prime Time brand.

This is the complete acceptance you want for your brand. When people think of your target market or product, your brand should be the first thing out of their mouth.

3. Have the Quality to Back It Up

Simply standing out wouldn’t have been enough for Deion Sanders, and it’s not enough for your brand. You need to make sure you have the quality needed to be taken seriously — for Prime Time this meant being an extremely talented player on the field, for you it means putting out a product that never disappoints.

Deion Sanders playing football for Florida State

On a lesser athlete, the Prime Time persona would have been a crude, aggravating disaster. For Deion Sanders it was a whopping success. No one is going to challenge your personal behavior when thousands of fans are screaming your name and you’re setting all kinds of league records.

For example, Prime Time hit a Major League home run and scored an NFL touchdown in the same week. The touchdown happened the very first time he touched a football in the NFL, and after initially botching the catch. That’s a legacy you can’t contradict.

4. A Legacy that Lasts

Deion Sanders has since retired from sports, and while he’s no longer flaunting the Prime Time character he’s certainly worked hard to maintain Neon Deion’s relevance. He’s a frequent NFL Analyst, he coached a Women’s NBA Team and he’s always quick to apply sports related lessons to life in motivational speeches and interviews.

When speaking about his new reality TV show, Sanders said “I want you to know me as the best father that ever lived!” The man, regardless of what character he’s presenting, has an insatiable thirst to be the best.

Can the same be said about your brand?

Deion Sanders as Leon Sandcastle

For a great example of how the Deion Sanders brand has managed to stay relevant, look no further than his series of Leon Sandcastle videos he did in 2012 for the NFL Network. In the series, Deion Sanders reapplies to the NFL as Leon Sandcastle and takes the sport by storm.

And this might be the best lesson brands can learn from Prime Time…he never stops working hard to stay in the conversation, even if it means a sort of meta-commentary on his own brand / life or a complete reinvention.

What other lessons have you learned from professional athletes?


10 Event Planning Pitfalls You Don’t Want to Make

Safety, Cleanliness, and Organization are key to a successful event! Fear that you may be forgetting something about the big day you’ve been planning for the last six months? The following are a few blunders that have come before you; check them out and see how you can solve the problem before it ever arises.

Problem: Not getting all the resources or talent you may need.

Solution: Make sure all resources are part of your skills assessments; even people like vendors, outsourcers, contractors, etc. Sometimes these people are forgotten because of the crazy amounts of work to be done, but it’s important to have the right people and the right set of skills needed to pull off your event.


Problem: Not keeping track of changes that occur.

No matter how much planning occurs in the first few steps of event planning, there are bound to be changes made to the plan within a few days of the event occurring. Not keeping track of these changes can mess with things like your budget!

Solution: Use a formal tracking system, it can help you keep control of what all is being changed and how it will affect your budget and your timeline. Make sure everyone is coming to you with any changes so that you can assess the changes it will make to the rest of the plan.


Problem: Varying Expectations

Sometimes your expectations can conflict with another’s expectations and on the day of an event things might go terribly wrong in your mind, while someone else thinks it is going great.

Solution: Make sure you’re vocalizing your expectations and being clear about what you do and don’t want to happen the day of the event.


Problem: Poor Promotion

You will end up with only a handful of people at your event if you don’t make it known how spectacular it will be.

Solution: Have promotion as part of your early planing; let people know it’s going to be happening weeks in advance so they can plan for it, then as you get within a few weeks of the event make it a huge deal with flyers, banners, online promotion, and word of mouth to ensure that plenty of people know that this event is not worth missing!


Problem: Not being able to contact your people

If you don’t know who is in charge of what, it will be impossible to stay in contact with everyone you need to be in contact with in order to make your event run smoothly.

Solution: Keep track of who is in charge of what via a spreadsheet. Make sure you know who to contact and what their contact information is for each category of your event.


Problem: Overlooking competing events

It’s easy to be so focused on your own event that you don’t think to make sure you won’t have a noisy neighbor event going on right next to your own.

Solution: Look into all events going on in the area the day of your event. Check with venues next to yours to see the hours things are happening, check city/community websites to ensure no big town events are occurring either.


Problem: No “what if” plan

What if your venue is outside and it starts raining or snowing, or the sun is so darn hot that no one wants to dance? What if your venue has a sudden fire two days before your big event? What if? What if?

Solution: Plan B; have a backup plan, always! Even if that means a cancellation or rescheduling plan, you should have one. It will be a million times more stressful and difficult to come up with a new plan on the day of, when things are going wrong.


Problem: No Parking

It can be difficult to know how much parking you will actually need at a given event, but it is an important thing for your guests. You don’t want them to start their day stressed out and mad about not being able to even get to your event!

Solution: If you are unsure about the amount of parking available at the actual venue, find a parking lot a bit further away and lock that down for your guests. Then all you need are a few charter buses to haul people back and forth.


Problem: Stinky Bathrooms

Nobody likes to go into a bathroom that has obviously been used over a hundred times that day and hasn’t seen a good scrub down since the day before.

Solution: Think about this beforehand and make sure you hire someone to be on bathroom patrol. Guests will be much more spry if the restrooms are not a disaster.


Problem: No plans for a medical emergency

Emergencies happen every day: seizures, heart attacks, sharp object accidents, etc.

Solution: At the very least know where the nearest emergency room is so you can get there in a timely manner if needed. Have evacuation plans posted if you are indoors. And if you deem it necessary you can even contract with an ambulance to be on site for the duration of your event.


We know there is a lot of planning to be done before the day of a big event, but we hope that these little reminders will help you to plan for even the little things so that your event can be as successful as possible.









The 6 Best Fictional Brands

Branding is essential to the life of a company or corporation. An image or logo can greatly increase the popularity and familiarity of one’s brand, but sometimes all it takes is a great name and reputation. We’re all familiar with the major brands that exist today: Nike, Apple, Hanes, Ralph Lauren, Goldman Sachs, etc. These companies have spent years conquering their respective fields and establishing their brands throughout the world.

Branding can be equally effective in fictional worlds. Many movies and TV shows have also established fictional brands within their properties. Ironically, some of these fictional brands have become more popular and familiar than other real world brands. Let’s take a look at some of these fictional brands and companies and see what has made them either so “successful” or popular within pop culture.

Acme Corporation

This is the company that is heavily featured in the Looney Tunes cartoons, particularly the episodes dealing with Wile E. Coyote’s attempts to capture the elusive Road Runner. Coyote’s schemes typically involve products made by the Acme Corporation. Such products include anvils and explosives, however they have also been known to produce some wildly inventive traps used by Wile E. Coyote. The word “acme” has Greek origins that suggest peak or prime. Ironically, Acme’s products usually are faulty and prone to fail leaving Coyote hilariously injured. One has to wonder how such a company continues to return a profit; Wile E. must be their sole reason for staying in business.


Oscorp Industries is a multi-billion dollar corporation within the Spider-Man properties. The company was founded and is run by Norman Osborn. As depicted in the latest Amazing Spider-Man films, Oscorp has been investing in radical scientific discoveries leading to genetic reconstruction and performance enhancing chemicals. In the films, the corporation is seemingly responsible for producing Spider-Man’s most notorious villains. With this type of business, the future cannot be too bright for this corporation.

Wayne Enterprises

This corporation was founded by the Wayne family in the fictional city of Gotham. Bruce Wayne now runs the company which is a frontrunner in creating cutting edge technology that has formed very profitable military contracts. These discoveries also provide Bruce Wayne with a plethora of gadgets to use as his alter-ego, Batman. We will see the newest version of Bruce Wayne and Wayne Enterprises with the release of the new film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes

Though this shop may not be as big or profitable as some of the corporations mentioned previously, it is loads of fun. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is a joke shop run by the Weasley twins, Fred and George, in the Harry Potter universe. Fred and George were always pranksters throughout school, so what better career venture to pursue after school than sharing their mischievous talents with the wizarding world. Such products include: Love Potions, Pimple Vanishers, and Pygmy Puffs. The sign outside the store tells you exactly what you need to know about the shop: “Why are you worrying about You-Know-Who? You should be worrying about U-No-Poo — The constipation sensation that’s gripping the nation!”

Sex Panther by Odeon

Brian Fantana, the fictional womanizing news reporter from the Anchorman films, first introduced the world to the notorious men’s fragrance known as Sex Panther. The product is best described by Fantana himself:

“It’s called Sex Panther by Odeon. It’s illegal in nine countries. Yep, it’s made with bits of real panther, so you know it’s good.”

Has there ever been a better slogan for a product? Though some may claim that the cologne smells like pure gasoline or a used diaper filled with Indian food, the results speak for themselves: “60% of the time, it works everytime.”

Stark Industries

Let’s take a bit longer to explore this fictional international corporation that is run by Anthony Edward Stark, also known as Tony Stark or Iron Man. Marvel Comics, and particularly Marvel Studios, have really progressed the popularity of Stark Industries with their wildly successful film franchise that includes Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, and Marvel’s The Avengers. Stark Industries has also crossed over into the other Marvel Studios’ properties including the Hulk, Captain America, and Thor films. In fact, Tony’s father, Howard Stark (who founded the company) played a prominent role in the transformation of scrawny Steve Rogers into the formidable super soldier now known as Captain America. It was Stark Industries, primarily Howard, who was responsible for creating Captain America’s nearly indestructible shield.

Howard and Tony Stark made their fortune based on a large military contract with the U.S. government. Stark Industries created sophisticated, yet highly dangerous weapons for the various military branches. After Tony Stark is held captive by a group of terrorists known as the Ten Rings in Afghanistan, Tony learns that his company’s weapons are falling into the wrong hands like these terrorists. In order to escape, Tony creates an arc reactor to power the electromagnet that is keeping shrapnel from entering his heart. After creating the ground-breaking arc reactor, Tony then builds a war suit that is powered by the reactor. Using this new suit, Tony is able to eliminate many of his enemies and escape from captivity.

After returning to the United States, Tony vows to take the company of Stark Industries away from creating weapons of mass destruction, and use his knowledge and resources in creating clean energy for the world. Since that time, Stark Industries has followed Tony Stark’s dream and has become the prominent name in clean energy. Though the company has shifted its focus, Tony still continues to experiment with creating new Iron Man suits that can fulfill numerous functions in order to protect those closest to Tony. He also protects the innocent from threats such as an alien invasion on New York. Saving the world has to be good for business. We will see what Tony and Stark Industries are up to in next year’s film, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Some speculate that in the film Tony may be responsible for inadvertently creating the film’s titular villain, Ultron, who is an A.I. robot. We will have to wait and see if these speculations turn out to be true in 2015!


The Successful Branding of 13 College Dropouts

Success is hard to come by, but easy to dream about. A simple Google search of “how to be successful” generates “about” 160 million links, all waiting to instill their boundless knowledge.

I’ve spent my own life making lists of goals, asking advice, constantly trying to build my personal brand. In my eyes, a strong brand would lead to a great job and, ultimately, financial reward.

No matter who I asked or how many goals I scribbled down, there was always a placemark I had to reach first – a gatekeeper I had to vanquish before I could become successful.

But before I could land my dream job and swim in my pool of gold like Scrooge McDuck I had to…

Attend college.

That was a lot of buildup for something so commonplace. The importance of going to college is no secret, with every student in the country hearing the mantra throughout their life. I can still flashback to my own parents trying their hardest to teach me this lesson.

Punk-me was always ready to pull out the “well, so-and-so didn’t go to college!” argument, as though that was the world’s most infallible trump card. And to be honest, this argument has quite a bit of weight behind it. It’s only becoming heavier as more and more startup companies strike it rich and students drop out of college to pursue their financial dreams.

Deciding not to attend college wasn’t always such a big deal. Several lists of the “100 Most Successful Entrepreneurs Who Didn’t Go To College!” include individuals like Christopher Columbus and Thomas Edison. As far as I’m concerned, if college wasn’t the norm, then dropping out or bypassing it shouldn’t be noted. If we’re talking about the late 1400s — seriously, why does Columbus show up on so many of these lists? — I’d be more interested in who DID go to college back then.

But I digress.

Opting out of college is all about finding success by taking risks, right? Going against the grain, against the advice of parents, mentors, society, to follow your passions – it’s not easy; but when you decide against making a college degree part of your Personal Brand, you need to make sure you have the gumption and skill to fill in the gaps and excel.

And while we’re talking about excellence, here’s our list of 13 contemporary entrepreneurs who prove runaway success can be found without a college degree.

Ansel Adams (Photographer):

  • Photographer Ansel Adams may be the oldest person on this list, but his abundant output and acclaim (and this author’s personal bias) make him a worthy candidate.

  • Adams struggled with formal schooling from a young age, finally graduating from 8th grade at the age of 15, only to later display the diploma in the guest bathroom of his house.

  • He proves that artistic pursuits can replace formal education. Biographers credit his proficiency at piano with providing structure and discipline to a life that was previously so volatile.

  • And Adams had the talent to find success, even without education. Before he turned 20, he had his photographs of the Yosemite Valley published to wide acclaim.

David Geffen (Entertainment Mogul):

  • Before he became the “G” of DreamWorks SKG, David Geffen had founded two extremely successful record labels and signed countless influential artists. Asylum Records came first in 1970, followed by Geffen Records in 1980.

  • Geffen’s first foray into the entertainment industry came when he worked in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency, after dropping out of three different universities. Geffen proves that a college education isn’t required to be successful, but it is handy for getting a job. He had to forge a letter from UCLA saying he was a graduate for him to even make it into the William Morris mailroom.

  • Despite Geffen’s runaway success, he once described himself as “like the guy behind the curtain in THE WIZARD OF OZ.” This may be the best lesson of all — if you have the creativity and ability to be someone, don’t let anything stand in your way.

Richard Branson (Virgin Group Founder):

  • From an early age, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group (as well as several other business ventures,) seemed destined for entrepreneurial success. His first go-ahead was a magazine called Student, which he started when he was 16. By 20, he started a mail-order record business which led to opening a chain of Virgin Record stores in 1972.

  • Dropping out of college did little to stem Branson’s insatiable spirit. He’s since founded Virgin Airways, Virgin Mobile, and Virgin Trains. Saying the sky’s the limit for Branson would be an understatement; with the founding of Virgin Galactic, he hopes to make space travel an option for citizens.

David Green (Hobby Lobby Founder):

  • David Green founded the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby on August 3, 1972. You don’t need to attend college to see an opportunity when it presents itself — capitalizing on the personal decorating fad of the early 1970s, Green started a home business called Greco Products.

  • The rest has been immortalized in wall placards, nic-nacks, and crafts around the country. Green has ensured that each Hobby Lobby store is owned and operated by the home corporation, helping to build his personal wealth.

Steve Jobs (Apple Co-Founder):

  • Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College due to the school’s financial requirements, and in 1976, together with Steve Wozniak, founded Apple Computer Company in the garage of Jobs’ parent’s house.

  • Despite his missing collegiate diploma, Steve Jobs had the confidence and technical know-how to make his personal brand relevant. His first job at Atari came based on a version of the video game Pong that was designed by Wozniak. Even at this early stage, Jobs proved that he had the business acumen and vision necessary to later drive Apple to its current prominence.

Debbi Fields (Mrs. Field’s Cookie Founder):

  • There’s more money in the cookie industry than you’d expect. At least their was for one of the earlier Cookie Magnates, Debbi Fields, founder of the Mrs. Field’s Cookie Company. For Fields, a college degree was supplanted by a contagious cookie concoction. She remains the spokesperson of the brand, but sold the business to an investment group in the 1990s.

John Mackey (Whole Foods Co-Founder):

  • Some entrepreneurs seemed destined to turn one dollar into two, others seem destined to make the world a better place. John Mackey co-founded Whole Foods Market in 1980, after dropping out of college to start an earlier health food store named SaferWay in 1978.

  • Mackey has since turned his attention towards more altruistic endeavors, including animal welfare and political activism.

John Paul Dejoria (Paul Mitchell Co-Founder):

  • John Paul Dejoria’s business conquests include the one-two punch of Paul Mitchell and Patron Spirits Company. Actually, it’s probably better to describe his ventures as a one-two punch-kick combo since they’re so different.

  • After graduating High School, and spending two years in the US Navy, Dejoria held a few odd jobs, including one for Redken Laboratories, a popular hair care company. He was soon fired and retaliated by founding Paul Mitchell with a $700 dollar loan.

Anne Beiler (Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Founder):

  • If the booming tech industry is the most popular reason to bypass collegiate education, the food industry wins second place. After learning customer service and old fashioned pretzel making when she was younger, she began selling hand-rolled pretzels in 1987. The soft, addictive pretzels took off and the evidence is likely visible in your local mall.

John Carmack (ID Software Co-Founder):

  • Like many other entrepreneurs entering the technology industry, John Carmack dropped out of college to be a freelance programmer. In 1991, he and a few of his contemporaries founded ID Software, a video game company that has pioneered several advancements in 3D graphics.

Jake Nickell (Threadless.com Co-Founder):

  • Jake Nickell was able to combine his defunct pursuit of an art degree with his passion for communal input when he co-founded the t-shirt company Threadless.com in 2000. He tapped into a crowdsourcing model that has only expanded in the years since, using it to generate ideas, clientele, and a close knit community of rabid fans.

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook Co-Founder):

  • Harvard University provided Zuckerberg with the initial idea and environment for TheFaceBook, but the skills needed to build and fully realize the website came from his own determination and skill. He was known as a computer programming prodigy long before he arrived at Harvard.

  • After launching Facebook on February 4, 2004 Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard during his sophomore year.

Ashley Qualls (WhateverLife.com Founder):

  • By appealing to the growing market of internet savvy millennials, Ashley Qualls became a millionaire by the age of 17. Her website WhateverLife.com supplied free MySpace templates and her revenue came entirely from third-party advertising.

  • Qualls stands in contrast to several other teen-entrepreneurs because her venture was entirely independent. There were no older siblings or business-savvy parents to turn to — At age 17, Qualls even had to sue for her right to control her finances.

Branding Lessons from Stradivarius

Imagine being one of the most powerful and expensive brands in the world, commanding literally millions of dollars for each and every product sold and resold. Every passing year makes your product more valuable, not less. Professionals sweat, save, even steal for the opportunity to use one of your products, and unlike most extremely high-end products, it’s as much for their own gratification as it is a status symbol.

What makes this particular brand so interesting (besides everything mentioned above) is its limited scope. As one police chief mentioned with a hint of incredulity: “It’s important to note that this violin is very valuable, but very valuable to a small population.”

That’s right, he said violin. But we’re not just talking about any violin. The violin in reference above — and the stringed gems this entire article revolves around — were hand-crafted by the official maestro of strings, Antonio Stradivari. As for the “Police Chief” part, we’ll get into that a little later.

A recent episode of NPR’s Planet Money Podcast explores the Stradivarius brand and attempts to uncover what makes them so popular and valuable, even to this day. A Strad (as fans and players affectionately refer to them) known as the “Macdonald” is currently up for auction in New York, with the minimum bid set for $45 Million dollars. If this bid is met, and we’ll have our answer on June 25th, 2014, it will be the most expensive musical instrument ever sold.

But how did we get here? How did this brand transcend history to become the brand, a brand so illustrious that you lie to your cab driver when he asks if you’re carrying a Stradivarius to protect from theft?

And more importantly, what can you learn from the Stradivarius effect?

Brand Coordination…

Branding 101 teaches you that product consistency is key, especially in a crowded marketplace. With only 650 Stradivari instruments left in existence, each is renowned for its musical capabilities and unique sound. A Strad is the best you can get, no matter which model you stumble upon.

While we don’t recommend this level of scarcity, we do recommend this level of precision. When you’re creating a product, whether it be websites, hamburgers, or electronics, you need to make sure that every product rolling off the proverbial conveyer belt sticks its landing. This creates a level of trust and loyalty amongst your customer base that can’t be bought, no matter how much money is poured into marketing campaigns.

As Musical Instrument Consultant Tim Engalls explains in the podcast, “what’s special about a Strad is that it sounds like a Strad.” A circular explanation is all that’s needed when the product truly speaks for itself. Why not strive to make your products in a similar way?

…and Culmination

Another huge ally in the battle for customer acceptance is the history of your brand, fabricated, exaggerated, or absolutely true.

Stradivarius’ history has created a product that is appealing to both musicians and non-musicians. Remember that Police Chief from earlier? He was speaking at a press conference after a particular Strad was stolen from violinist Frank Allman. Allman was tasered in the back while leaving a performance hall and his beloved violin was the target of the crime. The criminal wasn’t a musician, but the instrument was still his dream theft.

When a musician buys a Stradivarius instrument, they’re buying a slice of life. In fact, it’s often a slice of several lives. Distinguished violinist Joshua Bell is interviewed on the podcast about his very own Stradivarius…a violin that cost $3 million dollars. Bell is one of the most famous contemporary violinists, but his instrument has been active for centuries longer

Here’s a quick rundown of the violin’s story.

In 1936, Polish virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman played this very Strad for the last time. While performing the second half of a concert on a different violin, the Strad was stolen from his dressing room by an aspiring violinist named Julien Altman. Altman spent the next 50 years playing his heart out on this “famous fiddle” but never achieving widespread recognition for his skills. The instrument itself was equally overlooked, as Altman covered it in shoe polish for his entire tenure with the violin, successfully hiding its identity.

On his death bed, Altman confessed to the crime and the mystery of this particular Strad was finally solved. It wasn’t a piece of stolen property, but a prodigal instrument that was welcomed back into the world with open arms and given a home on the world’s most prominent stages. Joshua Bell encountered the instrument on a whim, as he entered a shop to purchase new violin strings. Bell describes the instant connection he felt with the Stradivarius violin as a sort of magical chemistry, similar to the feelings you have upon meeting your future spouse. His hands were shaking within 10 seconds.

This sort of history is what helps elevate the Stradivarius brand. Complicated dramas, backstories, and ripped-from-the-headlines nuances create a textured relationship with an item, especially when it’s something as intimate as a musical instrument. I mean, deathbed confessions?

So what sort of checkered past will your brand have in 300 years? How does your story distinguish you from the crowd? Think of Coca-Cola’s image: the Planet Money podcast host David Kestenbaum describes Coke as “bubbly, caramel-colored sugar water.” And while this is the literal definition of the product, no one will ever describe it as such. Instead, they’ll recall the commercials where a bottle of coke brings people together.

For your brand, make sure you culminate the kind of history and emotion that will last. If you can link your product to a resonant emotion it will have a stronger place in people’s hearts and minds.

Your Brand is What You Make It:

Strong brand reactions are impossible to break. The transcendental status of a Stradivarius instrument is ingrained in the culture and minds of world-class musicians. Much of the Planet Money podcast is spent detailing recent tests that try to understand the public’s perception of these instruments.

Violinists were given what’s essentially a blind taste test consisting of both Stradivarius violins and modern violins, and the modern violins were deemed more favorable. Amidst the outrage at the first tests’ results, a second, even more impartial test was carried out, concluding in the same manner. (Details of both tests are in the podcast, but here’s an interesting tidbit: the tangible perception of Stradivari are so strong that a drop of perfume was placed on the chin rest to keep participants from smelling the old wood. This could all be a sort of violin placebo effect.)

These results shook up the violin world, essentially telling them that their religion, their ultimate brand was a fraud. When musicians are lucky enough to purchase a Stradivarius, they spend millions of dollars on it. When they’re not so lucky, they spend their life dreaming of the mythical instruments.

You may not have the historical background to make your brand this palpable, but this is a reaction we should all hope for. The crushing defeat is unfortunate, but the Stradivarius brand had a story so beloved and believable that people still hold onto the myth. They should be happy that they no longer have to spend millions on an instrument, but instead they’re disappointed.

Sometimes the myth is more powerful than the brand. So make sure your story is carefully considered and nurtured.

Can you think of any brands that are similarly revered?


The Best Event Planners in Movies & TV

When it comes to looking for event planning ideas, people often look through magazines or simply Google for ideas. However, when you already have an event you’re looking to plan, one of the best sources you can use is movies. Granted, there are many unrealistic things that happen in movies that includes movie weddings and parties; however, you can pull out some great ideas from these fictional events. This has inspired us here at Namify to come up with our favorite wedding planners in movies and television:

Mary Fiore from The Wedding Planner (2001)

Jennifer Lopez set the standard for the ideal wedding planner as her character Mary Fiore. She was the go-to wedding planner of the Bay Area in California. She knew all the tricks, delivered encouraging speeches to those with cold feet, and had a bunch of hidden disaster-related necessities lining the inside of her suit jacket. She even stayed expertly-focused when planning a wedding that involved a groom for whom she had feelings. Talk about professionalism.

Franck Eggelhoffer from Father of the Bride (1991)

George Banks (Steve Martin) is already having a hard time accepting the fact that his baby girl is now a grown woman who has fallen in love. How can he possibly plan a wedding as well? Luckily, the Banks family hires Franck (Martin Short) who is a bit eccentric and someone who George has a difficult time warming up to. Though the bill was probably a bit higher than he would’ve liked, George has to admit that Franck planned the perfect home wedding that George’s daughter will never forget.

Jane from 27 Dresses (2008)

Sometimes the best wedding planner is a really good friend. That’s Jane, Katherine Heigl’s character from 27 Dresses. She never thinks of herself, and says yes to twenty-seven of her friends’ request to be their bridesmaid/maid-of-honor. Not only does she gladly wear some outrageously hideous dresses, she even takes it upon herself to help plan the weddings. Talk about loyalty. In the end, when looking for someone to plan your ideal wedding, you want that someone to be the kind of person who will put your needs before their own.

Monica from Friends (1994-2004)

Courtney Cox’s neat-freak character from the hit sitcom may be overbearing at times, but she will get the job done and in an orderly fashion. She is not a professional planner, but her organizational skills are unmatched, and she is always in competition to be the best at anything she does. So, when her friend Phoebe asks Monica to be her wedding planner, Phoebe gets more than she bargains for. Monica’s strict planning leads Phoebe to have a meltdown and fire her, but then she comes to realize how much Monica was undertaking and ends up begging Monica to come back and save the day. Monica even has to act on her feet to create a beautiful street wedding when a heavy snow storm makes it impossible to have the wedding at the intended venue. She always delivers.

What other fictional wedding or event planners are among your favorites? Maybe this list will even have you revisit these characters to see what ideas they can provide you.


2013’s Most Successful App Start-Ups

The year 2013 took away Tom Clancy, Jr and Nelson Mandela and gave us a government shutdown and Typhoon Haiyan in their stead. Yellow Pages and the City of Detroit filed for bankruptcy. In a year of bad news and bad business, where’s the silver lining?

If Twitter’s IPO doesn’t do it for you, then check out a few of these start-ups 2013 gave us:


Have you played this app? Who are we kidding! Statistics say you’re at least familiar with this game. It is officially the fastest growing app in iPhone history reaching 1 million users in only eight days! This takes our love for game shows, trivia, and competition, and pits them in a social network where you can play with friends or strangers, achieve rankings, and connect in yet another social media form. QuizUp was released initially for the iPhone, but in March of this year, became available to Android users.

Flappy Bird

While Flappy Bird’s mysterious disappearance may be suitable for an episode of “Cold Case,” the success of this app is indisputable. App creator Dong Nguyen was making $50,000 a day at the time he pulled his popular app from the store just a couple of months ago. Though Flappy Bird may best be remembered by its insane virality in 2014, the app was actually launched in May of 2013 at the same time T-Mobile hit the New York Stock Exchange.

MYO, by Thalmic Labs

If you haven’t seen MYO yet, that’s completely forgivable, most haven’t. However, check it out….now. It’s probably going to blow your mind. MYO makes the Kinect and Wii look like stone age technology. The MYO band wraps around your forearm and can sense the electrical pulses in your muscles to know your every motion. Watch videos, explore their site because very soon, these will be used. Everywhere.

Uber, Lyft, RidingO

If you’re from any of the major metropolitan cities, then you’re probably familiar with Uber, Lyft, or RidingO. Pretty cool, eh? If you know nothing about them, here’s the scoop. They take the concept of crowdsourcing to the world of taxicabs. No joke. Instead of having to start a taxi company, hire drivers, purchase vehicles, and then drive around looking for business, these companies simply crowd sourced rides. You download the app and say where you need a lift to. Someone in the area who is willing to make a quick buck will respond back, come pick you up and take you where you need to go. Payments can be done electronically after (and variable payments are even offered if you like/disliked the service of your “driver!”) The new world of taxis are here. Grab your smartphone and get to it.


Developers of this app set out to battle complicated directions and addresses. Rather than trying to remember street address, apartment number, and possibly even ZIP code of everywhere you might want to be, these British innovators divided the entire world up into 57 trillion little squares–each with their own three-word code. Now do you want to know where that restaurant is? If you have this app, all you’ll have to do is tell it to give you direction to Dime, Clap, Nine and you’ll be set. This web-based app just hit smartphones and if it’s the next big thing, we won’t be surprised.

The last three start-ups worth highlighting actually launched prior to 2013. However, they were practically unheard of before hitting the big-time paydirt in our year of focus. They are worth mentioning here because they didn’t receive proper recognition in top start-up lists in their respective years.


This app initially launched March 5, 2011. Did you know that? Neither did anyone else. After being acquired by Twitter though, Vine is immensely popular and a staple to mega social media networks today. The concept is simple: short videos to share with people like pictures. The payout? Substantial.


Launched in September of 2011, SnapChat’s initial purpose is hotly debated. Suffice it to say this: SnapChat turned the paradigm of social media and social conversation on its head by providing a communication service where nothing could be saved. The app had a rocky start, but starting in 2013, SnapChat began processing more than 100 million “snaps” each day. Today, SnapChat has the big kids of social media waving big checks, but has not yet accepted a buy-out offer.


This viral dating app launched in September of 2012 and became incredibly popular in 2013, winning TechCrunch’s “best startup of 2013” award even though it wasn’t started in 2013. Users link up their Facebook profile and are then given the chance to look at other user’s profiles nearby. Users simply swipe left or right depending on whether or not they’re interested in getting to know someone better. If an “interested” swipe is mutual, Tinder will open up a chat option to begin communication. In a world of popular online dating, Tinder stands out as a free option. With more than 50 million users, Tinder is bound to have someone for you.

So sure, some big businesses may have gone under in 2013. Congress may have been shut down and insider trading may have been busted open, but amidst turmoil, some innovators have started up companies to become the big businesses of tomorrow. Here’s to seeing what you guys accomplish in 2014 and for years to come.


Quiz: How to Choose an Event Venue