Branding is important to businesses, communities and states, and it’s been getting a lot of attention lately in Maine. The Maine brand, used in tourism advertisements, is “It must be Maine.” That doesn’t really tell me much. I liked the old brand, “Maine — The way life should be” a lot better.

As Linda and I have traveled the state for our Travelin’ Maine(rs) column, I’ve been taking notes about business names that successfully brand a company and/or service. The Peanut Gallery in Turner, a child care center, is one of my favorites. It makes you smile, doesn’t it? And isn’t this just the place you’d want for your child?

A couple of Maine painters have created effective branding names. The Blue Collar Painter in Turner, with a blue sign, is memorable and conveys an important message about this fellow’s work ethic and even the prices he charges. He works hard and is not getting rich at it.

In Northeast Harbor recently, a fellow drove by in a truck bearing his business name: Gentleman Painter. Well, of course, we’d like our painter to be a gentleman.

We appreciate Forever Farm in Turner and hope it is true. In Belgrade recently, we saw a sign “HJ Blakes’ For Goodness Sakes.” I haven’t heard the term “for goodness sakes” for a long time. It does convey something about that business, for sure. I’ve always loved Amato’s sandwiches as well as the Portland-based business’s brand: “Since 1902 — It’s real Italian.” And it is.

And I find it impossible to drive by Fielder’s Choice in Manchester, “Quality Homemade Ice Cream Since 2004.” A simple, but true statement. It’s also inexpensive.

Brand is defined in an interesting way. It’s a “charred piece of wood,” and “a mark put on criminals with a hot iron.” Ouch. But it’s also “a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer” and “a characteristic or distinctive kind.”

Some names may brand the service or product in an unfortunate way. You might think the Freeport restaurant, Buck’s Naked, conveys the wrong image. No, the customers and staff are not naked. But the meat is naked in this really good barbecue restaurant. Perhaps the name attracts new customers? I wonder, do they arrive fully clothed?

A Cambridge furniture maker calls his business “Plain but Nice.” That’s an interesting brand, but I’m not sure it conveys a positive image. And the Holden business called “Pete’s Pretty Good Ice Cream” has never drawn us in for a dish of Pete’s product. Perhaps “Pete’s Wicked Good Ice Cream” would be more effective.

Many Maine communities have brand names, but you probably don’t know most — if any — of them. Portland’s brand “Yes, Life’s Good Here” is certainly optimistic, and Old Orchard Beach’s “It’s a shore thing” is at least accurate. Bangor’s “Queen City of the East,” Bath’s “Maine’s Cool Little City” and Presque Isle’s “The Star City” wouldn’t draw me there.

Strong’s “Toothpick Capital of the World” and Farmington’s “Earmuff Capital of the World” are at least entertaining. Bucksport’s “Center of the Known Universe” is ambitious but wildly inaccurate. Millinocket’s “The Magic City” should be changed to “The Magic’s Gone.” Cherryfield gets it right with “Blueberry Capital of the World.”

The greater Greenville area has launched a new branding initiative to float its sinking economy. Roger Brooks, an internationally known community branding expert, presented the Moosehead Lake Region Branding Initiative in an exciting speech to a packed auditorium at the Greenville Consolidated School in April.

I was there, and it was great to see the townspeople so determined to rebuild their town by making it “America’s Crown Jewel.” Brooks talked a lot about curb appeal and the need to fix up the exteriors of stores and restaurants, and even suggested a new pavilion for staging as many as 40 weekend events on the shore of Moosehead Lake. “That takes you beyond recreation like every other Maine town offers,” he noted.

You couldn’t help but be inspired by Brooks’s wild enthusiasm for this region. “Look at what you’ve got,” he said, using words like legendary, amazing and breathtaking. And each was demonstrated with photos and banners. He said he took all of his photos in a single day. Over the next three years, the community will work to create and implement a plan to match what’s there with their brand. If they succeed, it’ll be the best brand in Maine, for sure, and make life in Greenville the way it should be.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at

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