Phonetic representation of the name Tenacious Offense

If you found the title of this post a little confusing, then you have some idea what’s wrong with the name Tenacious Offense. This name belongs to young Seattle-based company that seems to be a kind of rent-a-bizdev team for small startups trying to land big clients. Thanks to Brant Williams for writing and sharing his concern about his company’s name.

The Name Inspector was quite surprised to learn that the phrase tenacious offense is actually attested in the world of sports. Much more common is the phrase tenacious defense, which gets 57,700 hits on Google vs. 238 hits for tenacious offense. The expression tenacious defense was the inspiration for the name of the satirical rock duo Tenacious D. You know, Jack Black and that other chunky guy who sometimes prances around in his tighty-whities while rocking.

The first problem with Tenacious Offense is that it has an ambiguous pronunciation. It’s unclear whether the first or second syllable of the second word should get the main emphasis. Both pronunciations are fine English phrases. The second pronunciation has a pretty bad meaning, though: it can be a criminal infraction, or in the social world, a faux pas or insult. It takes some imagination to work out what a tenacious one would be like, but it sure couldn’t be anything good, or anything you’d want to happen during a business meeting.

Of course, the company would like to call to mind the sporting meaning of tenacious offense, with the emphasis on the first syllable of offense. They’re trying to say that they’ll work hard and persistently to score for you and help you win. They use the common metaphor that casts business as athletic competition, and extend this metaphor into their job titles. Brant Williams, for example, has the title Offensive Coordinator–a position normally associated with a football team. But does he really want to have the word offensive in his job title?

The sound of this name doesn’t really help to make it more appealing. It’s pretty long, at five syllables, and gets an unusually mushy, noisy quality from all those hissing fricative consonants. The spelling isn’t very crisp, either–with the syllable cious, the double f and the silent e, it uses lots of extra letters to represent its sounds.

The basic message that this name is trying to deliver is a good one. The idea of hiring a special team to go score points for you is powerful. The Name Inspector read the marketing materials sent by Brant and wanted to hire the company immediately. So they do know how to sell–they just aren’t doing it with their name. Maybe it works for their market, though. Brant says the name was given to them by their clients and partners.
[tags]Tenacious Offense, the name Tenacious Offense, tenacious defense, tenacious d, business development, bizdev, sports metaphor[/tags]

12 Responses to “Tenacious Offense means no offense”

  1. on 02 Mar 2007 at 11:17 pm Brant Williams

    Thanks Chris,

    Insightful and entertaining read… I’m grateful for the feedback. As with Brian and Michael from LiftPort – the proof will be in the execution and results of the business…and we won’t be changing our name either ;-)


  2. on 03 Mar 2007 at 6:36 am Joshua Neely

    Funny you took the name that way. I have had several dealings with Tenacious Offense and never thought of the name as anything other than the meaning Brant implies. They are a young company but they have strong credentials and proven results. I look forward to working with them again.

  3. on 03 Mar 2007 at 8:13 am David Gerald

    Amusing and informative. You make good points with clever writing. The company name itself seems to be a conversation-starter. Since I believe ‘Tenacious Offense’ markets primarily through word-of-mouth and referrals most of the downside is probably mitigated.

  4. on 03 Mar 2007 at 9:09 am John Patton

    Clever analysis, a good read….. Interesting for me, perhaps for others: as a happy Tenacious Offense client, I’ve never taken the meaning to be anything other than Brant intended. I was a word of mouth referral – no confusion from the start.

  5. on 03 Mar 2007 at 6:34 pm Todd Dean

    I found the name quit amuzing since our K4 members are looking at possibly investing in Tenacious Games. So you have Tenacious Offense doing due diligence with Tenacisou Games. I’m sure there is a joke in here somewhere. But at the begining of the day I would make rather deal with a proactive name like Tenacious Offense verses Tenacious Defense.

  6. on 05 Mar 2007 at 9:18 am Jenny Capella

    I am in exactly the same position on this as Joshua Neely, above. It never occured to me to think of it other than with a sports analogy, and this, coming from a completely NON sports-educated person!

    Brant and his team are the “real McCoy”–this said from direct experience. The only thing is, if you hire them, be ready to get more than you dreamed of. If you can handle that, go for it:) Jenny

  7. on 07 Mar 2007 at 3:13 pm Brian Laks

    I’ll agree that both pronunciations flashed in my mind when I first read it. It’s a bit of a mouthful (which is ironic because the word-of-mouth traffic seems their best), but if the customer knows it and has no problem with it, I guess it just comes down to a matter of taste. I probably wouldn’t recommend it for a retirement portfolio, but for a business development company it could be appropriate.

  8. on 31 Mar 2007 at 12:03 am Summer

    Brant Williams!!! How the heck are you and what is this company you have??? =)

  9. on 24 Apr 2007 at 8:33 pm Patrick Kane

    A fun and interesting read. The reality is that anyone can name a company anything they like. If you asked the general publib 20+ years ago what “Starbucks” was….99.9% ob the living world would not have any idea.

    I’ve actually met Brant….and I could not care if his company name was “www.don’”. It’s the business that you build and the brand that you develop around your customers that makes sense. This is coming from an Irish immigrant with a new business called “”. Brant is the real deal…

  10. on 10 Jun 2007 at 10:54 am Sunbreaks

    Ok, so obviously people who know this company or the folks who run it are fine with the name, but I’m not a major sports fan and I definitely didn’t realize there was a positive spin to this one. As soon as I saw the name I thought of the negative connotation, mostly because it’s hilarious! Even if I became a client, I would always remember my initial shock at anyone naming their company something so hysterically awful. I guess they really are tenacious though if they plan to keep it…

  11. on 03 Oct 2007 at 10:08 am DONT HURT M3

    “my initial shock at anyone naming their company something so hysterically awful”

    Ummmm…what? You don’t have to know anything about sports to realize that any venture capitalist dedicated to business development with a name like “Tenacious Offense” has tremendous marketing appeal. How this is a topic of discussion is odd…seems like a no brainer to me.

  12. on 04 Oct 2007 at 10:59 pm Danny Bronski

    I think that most people with even a superficial knowledge of sports would consider this a pretty good name and easily digestible metaphor, except…

    it’s too damn long.

    Tenacious O would have been a much better choice.

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