Interview with Mark Skoultchi from United States

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Mark Skoultchi

Mark Skoultchi is the Principal and Project Lead at Catchword, and is responsible for creating brands all over the world with one catchy name!

Interview with the 2022 MUSE Creative Awards Winner - Mark Skoultchi

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your creative background.

I’m Mark Skoultchi, a Principal and the Project Lead at Catchword Branding, ranked the #1 naming agency in the world for the past six years by Clutch. I head Catchword’s East Coast operations (New York), though my clients hail from all around the country and the world.

I joined the company in its early days, more than 20 years ago, after earning a BA in history from Brandeis, a JD from SUNY Buffalo, and several years as a creative director at Interbrand. Over the past decade or so I’ve come to love design as much as writing and have taken up building websites for friends in my spare time. Like many of my Catchword colleagues, music is central to my life, so on any given Sunday, you’ll find me playing guitar or listening to a new band.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a creative?

I’ve always been attracted to exploring the possible, to facilitating expression, to finding the most strategic and engaging way to communicate ideas. Because if no one understands you or is moved to listen, it doesn’t matter what you’re saying.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

The Catchword team are experts in every aspect of brand naming, from brand and naming strategy to name development to domain names to visual identity design. At Catchword, the team works together very closely, so whether you’re on the “account” side or the “creative” side, you weigh in on creative every day. I evaluate names and designs and often contribute to idea development and refinement in addition to managing projects, pitching business, and researching and developing strategy.

4What does “creativity” mean to you?

My perspective on creativity is communication focused, so for me creativity always involves making a connection with an audience, even if that’s an audience of one.

5To you, what makes a “creative” idea and/or design?

A creative idea uses imagination to connect with others in meaningful ways. It engages heart and mind, expresses your truth. It builds trust so that your audience is open enough to hear you, so that they can recognize a piece of themselves and their truth in your message.

6Tell us about your creative and/or design process.

At Catchword, we use a proven process evolved over more than two decades working with clients in every sector. Whether we are providing brand naming services only or a comprehensive strategy, naming, and design package, we begin with discovery: a deep dive into the client, their offerings, their needs, and their marketspace via research and interviews. Once we’ve immersed ourselves and have a clear understanding of their business and business objectives, we help the client crystalize their positioning and messaging.

For naming projects, we then work closely with the client to determine naming parameters, such as construction types (e.g., English words, invented words) and tonality. Developing this kind of creative brief is key for naming, copywriting, design, any creative project to ensure that your team and the client team are on the same page and to provide objectives by which to measure candidates. After the roadmap is sorted, we begin creative development.

Over two rounds (broad followed by deep exploration), we create a staggering number of candidates, covering every viable name message, construction, personality, and style (because you don’t always know what you want until you see it.) Client feedback guides our second round so that we can really zero in on names that resonate. Once the client has narrowed the field, we conduct trademark prescreening and cultural/linguistic evaluation on a smaller list of candidates to check availability and avoid inappropriate associations. Our design and copywriting processes are similar.

7What's your favorite part of the creative process and why?

I love the blue sky creative phase. Turn off that internal critic and explore those tangents, pull every thread, go ahead down that rabbit hole, at least until another metaphor grabs you. One of the magnificent things about project-based work is that every project is different, there’s no end to the new things you can explore and learn about. Creative work not only benefits from curiosity, it rewards it, and namers are the kings and queens of the curious.

8Describe your creative style and its main characteristics.

At Catchword, we blend the creative and strategic, the art and science of branding, rigor and inspiration in equal measure. To find a name that strategically and creatively expresses brand messages AND is available as a trademark you have to start with more candidates than you think. Our masterlists for a standard two-round company or product naming project are typically 1,500 names and up. And our agency doesn’t play favorites or harbor biases in terms of naming style or construction—we explore the avenues that best map to our client and their objectives, whether that’s single English words, phrases, coinages based on Latin or Greek, on-the-nose compound words, highly unexpected metaphors, or something else. We don’t prescribe a name, we work with our clients to create a name.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your creativity process?

I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2022 MUSE Creative Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Most people are unaware of how much time, energy, and creative thinking goes into brand name development. And, often the work involves a considerable amount of brand and naming strategy, as was the case here for the development of the PerSe brand name for Semtech’s new portfolio of sensing technology.

Winning this Muse award for PerSe is not just a proud moment for Catchword and our work on this project, but for the practice of name development more generally. It demonstrates the importance that creative associations like MUSE now place on the work agencies like ours do. It means the world to us, and to our industry, to be recognized for our work on this brand name and the other three for which we received honors this year.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2022 MUSE Creative Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

Catchword developed a name and naming strategy for a new portfolio of sensors that detect human proximity to mobile devices to regulate power savings, auto on/off capabilities, gesture controls, and more for leading high-performance semiconductor supplier Semtech.

Catchword explored a variety of creative avenues, including extending the naming convention of one of Semtech’s most successful brands, LoRa (short for “Long Range”), chipsets that connect sensors to the cloud. The chosen name, PerSe, derived from Person Sensing, is a short, memorable two-syllable intercapped name—just like LoRa, enhancing naming consistency across Semtech.

In addition to selecting PerSe for the umbrella brand, Semtech adopted Catchword’s recommended strategy for naming products within the portfolio, assigning the three descriptive names Connect, Connect Pro, and Control. These terms quickly telegraph the products’ end-benefits, while allowing the PerSe portfolio brand to stand out and accrue the most equity.

We decided to enter this work because it clearly illustrates just how complex, challenging, and exciting naming work can be. Naming projects are highly varied, some fairly straight-forward and requiring just a creative recommendation, and some much more complex, requiring significant strategy work. The PerSe project involved a range of creative and strategic challenges that we were able to meet with an elegant solution.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

Every good product name needs to richly convey the brand themes and story as well as brand personality and tone, appeal to an engage target audiences, separate the brand from the competition, be free from in appropriate cultural or linguistic associations, be easy to say, spell, and remember, be ownable, and remain relevant as the product evolves.

If that isn’t enough, for PerSe, not only did the name need to clear a high creative bar, it needed to make sense with an existing popular product line: LoRa. This two-syllable, intercapped, abstract but highly meaningful coined name stands for “Long Range” (the product line’s key functionality). Semtech hoped to repeat LoRa’s tremendous market success with its new line of sensing products and felt strongly that a name of similar style, that recalled LoRa and that brand’s success, would bolster its chances. The business reasoning made some sense, but created a unique creative challenge for our team because, while the existing convention provided clear guardrails for naming, it also strongly limited the messaging and stylistic avenues available to us. Particularly in a trademark space as crowded as B2B technologies, it bodes well to have more flexibility in the creative exploration not less, and our team was pretty well boxed in.

Fortunately, we were able to ideate the perfect name solution for Semtech. Abstract on its face but still highly suggestive of “Personal Sensing” (the key functionality of the product line), PerSe successfully leverages the LoRa naming convention, recalls that brand and its market success, and still stands apart, a distinctive brand name in its own right.

13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

Catchword has received quite a few awards at this point, a number for projects that I led. It’s a great honor and, of course, fun and validating to see your team’s work recognized. Clients and potential clients respond to the awards too. Knowing that your new company name has won a MUSE would warm the heart of even the stoniest CEO.

14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

As I noted before, it’s all about curiosity. I love that learning about new technology, new ideas, new solutions and all the ways we can communicate about them is part of every day. Related to that is connecting with great clients and helping them succeed and collaborating with my Catchword colleagues.

15What makes your country specifically, unique in the creative industry?

Artists in the US have great freedom but little support, which means that they often end up as commercial creatives, which in turn means our industry benefits from an incredible talent pool. Fortunately for all of us, many creatives in the US pursue both their art and their commercial careers. The Catchword team alone includes poets, musicians, and screenwriters.

16Where do you see the evolution of creative industry going over the next 5-10 years?

The rise of 24/7 opportunities for digital engagement has completely changed marketing strategically and creatively. I expect the industry to continue in that direction, with more and more targeted and personalized means of communicating with customers. Creatives will need to embrace that. However, the fundamentals of branding will never change—understanding who and why you are, what you do and for whom and communicating that clearly.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Creative Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

For people at the beginning of their career: Find a company that does what you want to do, does it well, and has a solid company culture. Then get a foot in the door any way you can, even if it isn’t your dream role. Work hard. You’ll learn a ton, including whether this field is really for you, and eventually they will recognize your abilities.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the creative industry?

Surround yourself with top quality work. If you’re a writer, read great writing. If you’re a designer, interact with amazing design. In naming, we often use traditional reference works, such as thesauri, and visual and language dictionaries as well as collections of images and artworks that spark unexpected connections.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.

I’m a sucker for dog shows.

20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

Gosh, I hate to pick just one since I’ve been inspired by so many people in my life. However, if I had to choose, I would say my father. A scientist, professor, and family man, my dad is equal parts brilliance, caring, and kindness. He’s also the hardest worker and the most curious mind I’ve ever known. I’m certain that my tireless work ethic is the product of his parenting and a reflection of the way he’s lived his own life—now at 81 years old and still working 60 hours a week! And, as a man of science, he’s prone to examine things from every angle, an intellectual trait I picked up and that’s served me well in all my creative pursuits.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

Read, think, learn, create, ask questions, and most of all be a human being.

22Which THREE (3) friends/peers would you nominate to participate in the next MUSE Creative Awards?

Chuck Guest, Erin Milnes, Bruno Benedini

Winning Entries

PerSe: Technology Solution Portfolio Naming | 2022


Catchword developed a name for a new portfolio of sensors that detect human proximity to mobile devices to regulate power savings, auto on/off capabilities, gesture controls, and more for leading high-performance semiconductor supplier Semtech. Semtech Corporation is a leading supplier of high-performance analog and mixed-signal semiconductors and advanced algorithms had developed a portfolio of sensing solutions to detect human proximity or interaction with a device, for use in smartphones,…
(read more at MUSE Creative Awards)

Mark Skoultchi

Mark Skoultchi is the Principal and Project Lead at Catchword, and is responsible for creating brands all over the world with one catchy name!

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