What's in a Name, MONI? Ask a Man Called Thoma

What's in a Name, MONI? Ask a Man Called Thoma
Martin Thoma, principal of Thoma Thoma, shown with the brand name and logo for MONI. (Nancy Nolan)

It was a big job, renaming an established company, and for branding guru Martin Thoma it was the holy grail.

The call came from Jeff Gardner, CEO of Monitronics, a Dallas company that monitors more than a million home and business security systems. Gardner was familiar with Thoma Thoma, the Little Rock marketing and advertising agency, from his time as CEO of Windstream Holdings Inc.

After taking over Monitronics in September 2015, Gardner found that the company needed a new strategy after 22 years of subsuming its brand to the hundreds of security alarm installation companies it served. He hoped to usher in an era of focusing on modern smart-home users by taking his message directly to consumers.

So, after 10 months of intensive work with the Thoma firm, Monitronics is now MONI; the logo reads MONI Smart Security.

“Getting the brand right was imperative,” said Thoma. “Jeff needed help to thread that needle.”

Thoma turned to Mary Read Askew, an account executive recently hired from brand specialists Badger & Winters of New York, to manage the project. Then the Thoma team dived into months of deep engagement, discovering three brand pillars to feature for the company, along with teasing out its most appealing attributes and testing them with market research. One tool was Thoma’s proprietary Brand Navigator.

They found that Monitronics was known for its rapid response to alarms, thanks to its acquisition of a subsidiary with fast technology, and for its customer “intimacy” and overall satisfaction, which was later ranked No. 1 by J.D. Power & Associates. The third pillar was Monitronics’ comprehensive approach in moving the concept of home security beyond the burglar alarm.

“It’s your home, your safety, your loved ones,” Askew said. “These were the themes that resonated with consumers in our research. But there was also a lack of awareness about Monitronics; that became apparent.”

So Thoma sought a simple, memorable and repeatable name that would show up readily on the internet. The team began identifying and testing prospective names, placing a particular focus on whether they could be registered as trademarks and as domain names online. “We and the clients arrived at MONI, a name that was the nickname of the company for employees and dealers for many years,” said Thoma, who led the naming effort with Melissa Thoma, his wife and co-founder of the firm in 1987.

For the past three years, the Thomas have worked at a modern, quirky space in Riverdale. A repurposed Mr. Coffee pot is home to an office pet, a tropical fish named Corey Values. See, smart branding applies to even the tiniest things.

But back to MONI. The new name made some headlines in the trade press when it was announced in September. Reports even went into the “color theory” that informed the logo design. Last week, MONI announced that it had won a Gold MarCom award for outstanding achievement in rebranding. The awards are judged by the Association of Marketing & Communication Professionals.

At the time of the launch, MONI revealed plans for a direct-to-consumer marketing model including telephone efforts, internet advertising and TV and radio commercials, a campaign the new name is expected to enhance.

At least 30 employees at Monitronics were heavily involved in the rebranding, which was kept strictly secret, Thoma said, emphasizing that any renaming effort is a deep corporate commitment.

Gardner agreed.

“Rebranding a company with more than 20 years of history is no small feat — it requires a coordinated team effort,” the CEO said. “Our internal team worked closely with creative consultants to dig deep and study the Monitronics brand, along with our business strategy, to determine the best path forward. The MONI name honors our history and signals the start of a new era of smart home security.”

Thoma said he was fortunate to have a good company with an excellent reputation to work with. The many startups naming themselves these days don’t have that advantage.

“A good name is not going to save a bad product,” Thoma said. “But a lot of these startups that have done poorly saddled themselves with clunky, terrible names. Names that didn’t mean anything. MONI has meaning and resonance.”