‘What’s in a name?’ – Medicine Man 20-year celebration

It’s hard to believe that this month twenty years ago we’d formed a business but not found the right name. Rather like being the proud parent of a newborn that you refer to as ‘the baby’ for weeks to incredulous friends and family.


The idea to set up shop crystallised during the summer of 2000 when working as the MD for a large (sadly now defunct) sale promotion agency. We continued to dream ‘if only’ into 2001, with the overwhelming desire to do our own thing our way.

So, a name was important as it would provide tangibility to the business, but the right name to fulfil our promises to ourselves and future clients had to feel right. Plus of course a quick check on the fledgling internet (via dial up) to ensure that we weren’t copying everyone else.

Many names came and went, we considered every creature (and colour), surnames, abstract words, marketing related words. The breakthrough moment came whilst driving back from a meeting just weeks before we jumped ship and stopped moonlighting whilst trying to coax potential new clients that may just come with us. Medicine Man.

Medicine Man came in a flash of inspiration. Its earlier roots stemming back to days at a large Omnicom agency where consultants had been engaged to determine how we could do even better (despite being market leaders in our sector).

The consultants fanned our egos, massaged our reputation so much that we glowed with pride, and just at the point of the ecstatic yes, yes, yes moment, laid it on the line with the brutal truth. That whilst we did everything brilliantly our clients asked of us, we never stopped to listen to them or understand what their businesses and real issues really were.

Further confirmation of the ‘critical daylight’ truth was affirmed in the Haystack Agency research paper that confirmed clients felt agencies were great in so many ways but failed in the all-important and critical areas of customer understanding and insight.

From the outset we established four core principles; build relationships (based around our personal values), understand our client’s businesses, listen to understand what’s important to them and think through a structured strategy that was an intrinsic part of the business.

Medicine Man fitted perfectly as it played to our marketing communication problem solving capabilities.

Whilst I’m here, I’d like to thank my brilliant team and fabulous clients (but don’t intend to do an Oscar Night Award ramble). But the people you choose to be around count through good and more challenging times, and for that we have been immensely lucky to work with the best.

Thank you and to the next 20 years with who knows what is around the corner to look forward to…