Savvy Socializer

Name Game

Coming Up: Jon Paul searches for a name to match his gay Mary Tyler Moore attitude.

Once I’d worked through my feelings about Marc Jacobs’ perfumed crotch, and what exactly that said about my brand, it was time to tackle a new name for my “network.”  Alphabet City had always been the name of my sitcom life that coursed through the streets of the East Village.  And so I had adopted ABCityblog as the title for my site that began as a promotional vehicle for the book.  As it turned out, ABCityblog was a cumbersome name—people always looked at me funny when I said it.  “ABCity what?”  Now was the time to start anew—with a brand identity that encapsulated my idea that I was living a network of life filled with shows that were funny, honest, smart, and optimistic.

My initial thought was to head in the Oprah direction and give my new network a personal touch.  Maybe something using my initials, like, or perhaps more fun using one of my nicknames like  My Kern+Lead branding expert Will explained that nonsense names get a lot of attention—think “Google.”  He suggested maybe I consider something made-up that allowed me to give it meaning.

After discussing it with Chef, I warmed up to the idea of creating a word.  On book tour, I learned that it was my optimistic voice—that gay Mary Tyler Moore attitude—that readers really connected with.  So I wanted the name to telegraph that immediately.  After hours searching for possibilities, I settled on—it had my initials, played on my favorite word, and was available (where as obviously wasn’t).

So I polled about 20 of my most loyal fans—a cross section of women and gay guys—and asked them their thoughts on the two different directions: or

Almost resoundingly, everyone responded to the idea behind JoPtimist.  Except for my dear friend Dana—also my editor at Condé Nast Traveler and later Bon Appétit.  I can always count on Dana to push me to be better.  And this time was no different.  Her response?  “Neither is grabbing me.  Have you thought of anything else?”  Ouch.

I shared with her my entire research list:,,,,,  And one more,, which I noted, “I’d have to buy this one for $688, I do like it, but the price…”

The thing is, I really liked Poptimistic, but was trying to talk myself out of it because of the expense.  Dana’s response: “I know it is pricey but poptimistic really rings my chime. your URL is like a haircut, something you wear every day and really telegraphs who you are. I think springing for the $688 is worth it, after all you are going to be saying it a million times….”

Chef agreed whole heartedly that the name was terrific, and the cost worth it.  Will the designer was jazzed.  And so with just a few quick calls and keystrokes to—I was the proud father of a new network name.

Thankfully, I learned my lesson not to be short sighted and cheap when it comes to brand image.  Now, I make up excuses just to say Poptimistic.  Because every time I do, I smile.  When people hear it, they often say, “Poptimistic?  So cute.”  And that’s a brand name that’s totally worth it.

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