Some companies have great brand names. Others rely on a combination of luck, aggressive marketing, or leverage.

When naming a product or company, it can help to use something that people are already familiar with. This allows you to enter the market in such a way that your brand seems familiar to consumers who have actually never heard of you before. It also gives you material from which to draw on for marketing or other communications with consumers.

A good example of this is Oz Moving. I was confronted with a subway ad for Oz Moving the other day, and it got me thinking about how this may help, or hurt, their branding. They use the Wizard of Oz, trading on its name and the general populations’ familiarity with the story, in order to relate to potential customers. (Whether or not they need or have permission to do this is another topic.)

At first, I thought this was a good strategy. It takes a small company that cannot spend the kind of money it takes to become a household name, and basically makes them a household name. “The Wizard of Moving”, I read on the ad, and I laugh to myself. I know what they mean. And for a small company, that’s great.

The real problem becomes establishing an identity yourself. Can you grow using a name like that? Could your brand ever replace the thing that its leveraging? In my mind, the answer is no.

The flaw in using an external entity to boost your brand is that you rely on that entity to survive. Therefore, you’re stuck with it. And what was once a nice marketing tool, becomes a hindrance.