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Now Hiring ... Ninjas?

CHICAGO ( MainStreet) -- There are many ways for a company to position itself as innovative, from creating a product that revolutionizes an industry to simply using unconventional fonts on a website. Now even job titles have become part of the innovation toolkit, an opportunity to signal a company's out-of-the box approach.

It's no surprise that the trend has been propagated by Internet start-ups, given that many of them boast of their casual, nonhierarchical work environments. (Come to the office in jeans and flip-flops! And feel free to bring your dog!) With the organizational charts and cubicles of traditional corporations replaced by flexible work groups and open-plan offices, plain-vanilla job titles were open to re-interpretation as well.

The online men's clothing catalog Bonobos calls the workers handling customer interactions "Ninjas" -- a powerful, memorable title that could have some downside.

What better way to show the world that your business thinks differently than by describing your employees differently?

For an example of inventive job descriptions, consider the team at Punchtab, a Silicon Valley company founded last year, where staff titles include "Socializer," "Alchemist" and "Pixelwrangler." The company produces an online loyalty platform that website publishers can use to reward frequent users (by awarding "points" for activity such as Facebook likes and blog comments). It makes sense for a social-media based company to use attention-grabbing, buzzworthy titles.

It's worth noting, however, that the company's engineers are still called just that, signaling that there's less room for whimsy when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of keeping a business running.

Quirky job titles are fine, as long as they're true to a company's DNA, says Phillip Davis, founder and creative director of Tungsten Branding in Brevard, N.C. A clever job title communicates a sense of humor and approachability that can be very appealing. But a confusing or overly wacky title may turn someone off from doing business with you.

"It can add color and character that supports the brand message, but at some point it can also detract," Davis says. "For example, I could call myself the Head Lightbulb of Tungsten Branding. No one will know who that is. You're communicating that you're self-absorbed, more brand-centric than customer-focused. It becomes more about you and less about them."

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