Do you recognize the guy with the cigar in the photo accompanying this post? He was a comic character, Raymond J. Johnson Jr., created by comedian Bill Sagula in the 1970s, who was forever introducing himself to anyone he’d meet with a string of names, like: “You can call me Ray. And you can call me Jay. And you call me Ray Jay. Etc.”

At Hammock, we are beginning to feel like Ray (or Jay or RJ, or RJJ) …

When Hammock Inc. started more than 20 years ago, the services we provided (and still provide) put us into a segment of the marketing and media world called “custom publishing.” We considered our service to be assisting our clients in building strong relationships with customers, something we thought “loyalty marketing” was a good term to describe.

However, as the primary way we assisted our clients back then was publishing magazines, we were happy to be called custom publishers. We were even one of the co-founders back in the mid-1990s of the Custom Publishing Council, the trade association of custom publishers.

But later, during the early 2000s, lots of people in the custom publishing field decided they wanted to say we were a custom media company because we do more than publish magazines. And you know, they were sort of correct — we were in the media business, and yes, we do lots more than magazine publishing. Indeed, we always have. So, while we didn’t change our name, we were more than glad to respond when anyone called us Hammock Media. (We did however, see the writing on the wall and knew this name thing was going to be hard to keep up with, so we dropped the word “Publishing” from our name and became Hammock Inc.)

A few years after that, the term “Content Marketing” came along, and people wanted to call the type of business we are in a content marketing company. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of that term. But I’m always happy to describe Hammock using words that potential clients use, so we started describing what we do using the word “content.” We even voted for the change of name from Custom Publishing Council to Constom Content Council — now an association with more than 100 member companies.

The services we provide our clients have stayed consistent, despite the tools and channels evolving from just magazines and video and laser discs back in the early 1990s to everything from, well, magazines to mobile apps today.

The goals and objectives of our clients stay fairly consistent. Using various forms of media and content to help our clients meet those objectives is still our service.

Today, we use the phrase, “customer media and content” as a shorthand way to describe what we do. But as our clients know, we view media and content as “tools and channels” for what we actually do — assist people who work at companies to evolve “marketing” from something that seems, at times, “fluff” into new ways they can build stronger, deeper relationships with their customers.

But what people want to call us still continues to change.

For example, in this month’s Folio magazine, a term we’ve been using for a couple of years, “marketing services,” has finally gotten the official industry nod. Here’s some of what Folio writes:

“Just in the last year, marketing services has exploded out of its ‘custom publishing’ origins to become a renewed revenue source and attractive acquisition target.

Marketing services sprang up out of custom publishing as a new business strategy in late 2010, early 2011 and while some derided it as a strategic ‘flavor of the month,’ publishers large and small are clearly making a serious business out of it.

The phrase was borne out of the multiplatform and integrated marketing projects that were being offered — projects that ‘custom publishing’ seemed too quaint or old-school for marketers to relate to.

And to add to its industry-wide significance, it’s become its own M&A category. In 2011 marketing and interactive services accounted for, by far, the highest volume and deal value for the year. According to the Jordan, Edmiston Group, the category accounted for 291 deals worth a combined $15 billion dollars. In all, it represented 32 percent of total deal value, accounted for 17 of the 32 biggest deals and made up a third of total transaction volume. If M&A is a reflection of a market’s vitality, then marketing services was considered pretty robust in 2011.

In forming their new divisions, many publishers have taken services they’ve historically offered as standalones (custom publishing, website development, lead gen) to the next level under the umbrella of a dedicated group. While publishers can tap existing resources and brand-related salespeople can funnel prospects to marketing services, it’s a different enough business in terms of sales cycles, lead times and tech development that a separate approach is warranted.

VITAL STATS: In 2011, marketing services as a category accounted for 32 percent of the year’s total M&A deal value: $15 billion.”

So there you have it: You can call us Marketing Services or you can call us Customer Media or you can call us ….