“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford
From Today’s Entrepreneur Magazine:
What do I want a name to accomplish for my company?
A name can help separate you from competitors and reinforce your company’s image, says Steve Manning, founder of Sausalito, Calif.-based Igor, a naming agency. He suggests clearly defining your brand positioning before choosing a name, as Apple did to differentiate itself from corporate sounding names like IBM and NEC. “They were looking for a name that supported a brand positioning strategy that was to be perceived as simple, warm, human, approachable and different,” Manning says…
…Does the name sound good and is it easy to pronounce?
Manning says the sound of the name is important in conveying a feeling of energy and excitement. You also must be sure potential customers can easily pronounce your company’s name. “It is a hard fact that people are able to spell, pronounce and remember names that they are familiar with,” he says, pointing to Apple, Stingray, Oracle and Virgin as strong names. But he doesn’t like such company names as Chordiant, Livent and Naviant. “These names are impossible to spell or remember without a huge advertising budget, and the look, rhythm and sound of them cast a cold, impersonal persona,” he says…
…Is the name visually appealing?
You also want to consider how the name looks in a logo, ad or a billboard, Manning says. He points to Gogo, the inflight Internet service provider, as a good name for design purposes. “It’s the balance of the letters, all rounded and friendly, versus a word with hard, angular letters like Ks and Ts and Rs,” Manning says. Other visually appealing names include Volvo because it has no low-hanging letters and Xerox for the symmetry of beginning and ending with the same letter.
Bad Branding At Its Best. Clichéd Stock Photography:
An important first step when naming a business, product or service is to figure out just what it is that your new name should be doing for you. The most common decision is that a name should explain to the world what business you are in or what your product does. Intuition dictates that this will save you the time and money of explaining it, which actually turns out not to be true. Why not?
The notion of describing your business in the name assumes that the name will exist at some point without contextual support, which, when you think about it, is impossible. The name will appear on a website, a store front, in a news article or press release, on a business card, on the product itself, in advertisements, or, at its most naked, in a conversation.
There is simply no imaginable circumstance in which a name will have to explain itself. This is fortunate, because having a descriptive name is actually a counterproductive marketing move which requires an enormous amount of effort to overcome. A descriptive naming strategy overlooks the fact that the whole point of marketing is to separate yourself from the pack. It actually works against you, causing you to fade into the background, indistinguishable from the bulk of your competitors.
The following is a list of companies in the naming and branding arena. While each of their names describes what they do, you can clearly see the heavy marketing price they pay for such a shortcut:
DNA Brand Mechanics
The Branding Iron
I.D.ENTITY Identity 3.0 Idiom
Creating New Names
The Name Works
The Naming Company
Ivarson Brand Vision Strategic Name Development The Brand Consultancy Lexicon Branding Independent Branding TradingBrands The Better Branding Company Not Just Any Branding
There are three pieces of advice that will serve you well in avoiding a similar dilemma:
- Names don’t exist in a vacuum: There are competitors–the idea is to distinguish yourself. Business is a competitive sport.
- Names don’t exist in a vacuum: The notion of describing your business in the name assumes that the name will exist at some point without contextual support. This is never true for any business or product.
- Names don’t exist in a vacuum: When judged without the context of a clear positioning platform and an intimate understanding of how names work and what they can do, the best solutions are either never considered or quickly dismissed.
For example, any one of the following intuitive concerns could have been enough to keep these powerful names from ever seeing the light of day:
- Says “we’re new at this”
- Public wants airlines to be experienced, safe and professional
- Investors won’t take us seriously
- Religious people will be offended
- Tiny, creepy-crawly bug
- Not macho enough – easy to squash
- Why not “bull” or “workhorse”?
- Destroys trees, crops, responsible for famine
- Derogatory cultural slur
- You’ll be picketed by people from small, hot countries
- Yahoo!! It’s Mountain Dew!
- Yoohoo! It’s a chocolate drink in a can!
- Nobody will take stock quotes and world news seriously from a bunch of “Yahoos”
- Only foretold death and destruction
- Only fools put their faith in an Oracle
- Sounds like “orifice”–people will make fun of us
- Means something is missing
- The Generation Gap is a bad thing – we want to sell clothes to all generations
- In need of repair
- A slow, ugly, and dangerous fish–slow, ugly and dangerous are the last qualities we want to associate with our fast, powerful, sexy sports car
- The “bottom feeding fish” part isn’t helping either
Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac
- I don’t want hillbilly residents of Dogpatch handling my finances.
- They don’t sound serious, and this is about a very serious matter.
As you can well imagine, this kind of negative deconstruction is at the root of why a committee can’t agree on a non-descriptive name that has any meaning. It’s also what gave birth to the second major school of bad naming: the “unique empty vessel” that “can become whatever you want.” Here are some of the victims:
Acquient, Agilent, Alliant, Aquent, Aspirient, Aviant, Axent, Axient, Bizient, Candescent, Cendant, Cerent, Chordiant, Clarent, Comergent, Conexant, Consilient, Cotelligent, Equant, Ixtant, Livent, Luminant, Mergent, Mirant, Navigant, Naviant, Noviant, Novient, Omnient, Ravisent, Sapient, Scient, Sequant, Spirent, Taligent, Teligent, Thrivent, Versant, Versent, Viant, Vitalent and Vivient.
As with the descriptive list, these names are not part of an elegant solution, they are the seeds of a branding nightmare. This type of name is arrived at because of the lust for a domain name, consensus building and as a shortcut to trademark approval. At some point in the process marketing left the room, and nobody seemed to notice. And while they may technically be unique, it’s at the level of a snow flake in a snow bank.
The third type of name is the evocative name. These include the aforementioned Apple, Stingray, Oracle, Virgin, Yahoo etc. While everyone respects evocative naming when done well, most corporations don’t go down this road because it’s the toughest to understand and execute.
On a very fundamental level, here are the basic ingredients of the best evocative names:
A competitive analysis is an essential first step. How are your competitors positioning themselves? What types of names are common among them? Are they all projecting a similar attitude? Do their similarities offer you a huge opportunity to stand out from the crowd?
Apple needed to distance itself from the cold, unapproachable, complicated imagery created by the other computer companies at the time who had names like IBM, NEC, DEC, ADPAC, Cincom, Dylakor, Input, Integral Systems, Sperry Rand, SAP, PSDI, Syncsort, and Tesseract.
They needed to reverse the entrenched view of computers in order to get people to use them at home. They were looking for a name that was not like a traditional computer company, and supported a Positioning Strategy that was to be perceived as simple, warm, human, approachable and different.
The next step is to carefully define your positioning. The idea is to position yourself in a way that rings true in a fresh way–that cuts through all of the noise out there. The goal is to have your audience personalize the experience of your brand, to make an emotional connection with it, and ultimately to take you in. To redefine and own the territory.
One of most important things that the best of the best brands accomplish is to be thought of as greater than the goods and services offered, to create an aspiration. Nike’s “Just Do It’ helps them rise above selling sneakers. Apple’s “Think Different” is bigger than computers. Fannie Mae’s “We’re in the American Dream Business” elevates them from mere mortgage brokers.
On a product level, Velveeta, Slinky, Mustang, Snapple, etc., are tapping into something outside of the narrow definition of what it is they do, and are allowing the consumer to make the connection, to personalize the experience. This type of active engagement created by playing off of images that everyone is already carrying around in their heads is an essential ingredient in creating a great name.
From there, a name should contain as many of the following qualities as possible. The more of them that are present, the more powerful the name:
- A name that people will talk about.
- A name that works its way through the world on its own.
- A name that’s a story in itself, whether it’s at the local bar, on the job, or on CNBC.
- What does the name suggest?
- Does it make you feel good?
- Does it make you smile?
- Does it lock into your brain?
- Does it make you want to know more?
- How does the name physically look and sound?
- How does it roll off the tongue?
- How much internal electricity does it have?
- How does it sound the millionth time?
- Will people remember it?
- Does the name have attitude?
- Does it exude qualities like confidence, mystery, presence, warmth, and a sense of humor?
- Is it provocative, engaging?
- Is it a tough act to follow?
- Is the name a constant source of inspiration for advertising and marketing?
- Does it have “legs”?
- Does it work on a lot of different levels?
The key is to step outside the box that the industry – any industry – has drawn for itself, and to do it in a fresh way that hits home with the audience. To accomplish this, it is necessary to think about names in this fashion:
- Positioning: different, confident, exciting, alive human, provocative, fun. The innovative name forces people to create a separate box in their head to put it in.
- Qualities: Self-propelling, Connects Emotionally, Personality, Deep Well.
- Positioning: different, confident, superhuman, evocative, powerful, forward thinking.
- Qualities: Self-propelling, Connects Emotionally, Personality, Deep Well.
As an exercise, go back and see how the other names deconstructed above–Apple, Caterpillar, Banana Republic, Yahoo!, Palm Pilot, The Gap, Stingray, and Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac–stand up when held to these high standards. These are the qualities that separate a potent, evocative name from a useless one that is built without a considered positioning platform, such as BlueMartini or FatBrain. Random names like these disallow audience engagement, because there are no pathways between the image and the product–there is no connection to be made.
Want more? Download our Naming Guide PDF.
Nobody knows the words to this song- but no matter. Enjoy.
Yesterday we saw a lot of attempts at humor from tech companies, with varying degrees of success. To help shake off that April Fool’s Day hangover, Vooza, the satirical “startup” that has been putting out spot-on parodies of modern tech company culture since this past summer with fake (but scarily real sounding) buzzwords like “Radimparency“, is coming clean about what it’s really up to — creating a fresh kind of web-based advertisements for startups.
Depending on your bent, these new tools make eating, breakfast, lunch, dinner and second dinner at your desk either more convenient & empowering or more depressing & oppressive. We’ll go with the latter.
RIM went all-in today, ditching the negativity associated with their name and putting full effort and confidence behind the BlackBerry name. Via Reuters:
Research In Motion Ltd unveiled the long-delayed line of smartphones it hopes will put it on the comeback trail on Wednesday but it disappointed investors by saying U.S. sales of its all-new BlackBerry 10 will start only in March.
Chief Executive Thorsten Heins also announced that RIM was abandoning the name it has used since its inception in 1985 to take the name of its signature product, signaling his hopes for a fresh start for the company that pioneered on-your-hip email.
“From this point forward, RIM becomes BlackBerry,” Heins said at the New York launch. “It is one brand; it is one promise.”
Whatever other difficulties the company faces, the name change to BlackBerry is exactly the right move from a naming, branding, marketing and advertising perspective.
It does mean if the new BB10 model smartphone is a flop, then the name
“BlackBerry” will be irrevocably tainted, but after several years of poor performance, the BB10 is the company’s last chance anyway, so going “all-in” is the only way to go.
This new Volkswagen ad is an Internet age update of two iconic pieces of advertising & marketing from the ’70′s.
And this one from 1971:
38 years ago, the last Corvette Stingray rolled off the assembly line. Since then, the car has simply been called “Corvette”. But now the Corvette Stingray name is back, re-launched on the coolest vette since the ’67 model. Well done.
“There are some words that initially sound good when you write them. They’re words that make you sound bigger, faster, smarter, or more appealing to your customers, prospects, and audience. Unfortunately, everyone else has exactly the same idea in mind and as a result, we end up with tired words, words that are overused, and no place is this more common than in the press release. In partnership with Marketwire, SHIFT Communications sampled 5,000 press releases from 2012 to find the most overused words. Take a look and share the graphic with your fellow communications professionals so we can start to use different words next year.”
Simultaneously labeled “Strange Change”, “Lost World” and “Time Machine”. The cooker itself was named “Time Machine”, and once you threw away the box it was the only name on anything, so that is what everyone called it.
A rare, refreshingly insightful article about naming, via Jalopnik:
This week, Infiniti found themselves the subject of much ridicule after their decision to rename all of their cars with a “Q-” or “QX-” prefix followed by two numbers.
It’s not like “G37″ or “JX35″ had a ton of personality, but now fans of Nissan’s luxury brand will need to make do with even vaguer, more nonsensical names like “Q60″ and “QX70.”
All of this got me thinking about car names. What makes a car’s name good or bad? Does a name have anything to do with a car’s success in the marketplace? Do names even really matter?
I believe that car names are important, and that good ones can at least help establish some appeal for the vehicle — while bad ones can backfire and make buyers ignore a car that might be great on its own.
Often, naming a car is a dance between the automaker, marketers, designers, advertising people, focus groups and other people tasked with these kinds of things, as well as going after whatever name hasn’t been used yet or just plain making something new up. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
It could be argued that for the luxury car companies, the name of the model itself is less important than the badge. People like being able to say “I have a BMW” or “I have a Lexus,” but you don’t get the same effect when you say “I own a Chevrolet.” Usually, you need to follow that by specifying whether it’s a Cruze, a Malibu or a Silverado, but a BMW is a BMW. It carries a cachet that doesn’t require elaboration with the actual model. If we follow this logic, perhaps Infiniti’s rebranding won’t be such a big deal.
Names for sporty cars are the easiest ones to get right. You need a name that invokes speed, excitement, performance, and viscousness. If it sounds like it can kill you, it’s a good sports car name. Viper, Challenger, Cobra, Firebird, stuff with “GT” in it — all good names for that kind of car.
Nissan’s Yutaka “Mr. K” Katayama is a genius for many reasons, and one of them is that he ordered that the original generation of Datsun Z be called “240Z” instead of “Fairlady Z.” He knew Americans — specifically, American men — would never buy a sports car with a name like that. I am convinced that this is why the Miata unfairly gets as much shit as does for being a “girly car.”
Read full article here
Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales. Throw in Northern Ireland and bingo, you’ve got the United Kingdom.
The distinction between The Netherlands and Holland is a tad trickier, obfuscated by the fact that their tourism board disingenuously promotes the whole place as Holland. But they are not one and the same. Just so you know when to use which name, we’ve laid it out here.
With just a couple of weeks until the new year arrives, it’s time to start thinking about the trends that are dominating brand marketing and will stick around or get even bigger in 2013. These are the brand marketing trends that can open significant opportunities or create big challenges over the next 12 months. Is your brand ready for them?
1. Brand Accountability
Social media reputation management has never been more important, and brand transparency is critical. In 2013, even the smallest mistake can become a huge public relations problem. You need to be ready with response plans in place to protect your brand reputation.
2. Brand Trust
Social media also makes it easy for consumers to confirm if a brand really walks the walk and talks the talk. It’s a lot harder to earn consumers’ trust in your brand today, and it will be even harder in 2013.
3. Brand Flexibility
The world is changing faster than ever, and so is the social web. To top it off, hyper-connectivity will reach record levels with the growth of mobile device usage in 2013. Your brand needs to drive the change, not just try to keep up with it. If your brand isn’t able to adapt, another brand will.
Apple has always been sloppy with trademarking names. Here is the latest of a dozen similiar issues they have had these last few years, via WebProNews:
The iPhone 5 just recently launched in Brazil last week as Apple’s flagship device made its way into 50 more countries around the world. At the same time, a local Brazilian electronics manufacturer is going to compete with the iPhone 5 by selling the IPHONE.
IGB Electronics SA announced this morning that the company will begin selling the IPHONE in Brazil as an entry level Android device. The first device to be sold under the IPHONE name is called the Gradiente Neo One. It runs on Android 2.3, and features dual-sim capabilities, 3G, Wi-Fi and bluetooth.
So, how is IGB able to sell a product called the IPHONE in Brazil while Apple currently sells the iPhone? The company had applied for the IPHONE name in 2000, and finally secured the rights in 2008 from a patent regulator.
The marketing geniuses at Neutrogena, realizing how crowded the women’s skin care product sector is, have been selling vibrators. But not just any vibrator, a vibrator that a woman can, with head held high, take through airport security, buy at the drugstore, and leave in plain sight for the kids to find. Brilliant.
It’s the Neutrogena Wave, a sex toy with plausible deniability built-in.
Here’s to wiggle room:
One of the funniest aspects of alleged naming & branding firm Landor, is the ridiculous rationale they cite for the work they produce. Oftentimes they will, with capricious authority, justify a design based on what certain colors “mean” or “communicate”. These “reasons” become all the more comical when parroted by the officers of their most recent victim.
Landor’s latest for a financial company is a re-worked logo. Fiserve’s Chief Executive Jeffery Yabuki, performs the squawk of shame for the Journal Sentinel:
The new logo, which is the word fiserv. – with a period – is orange because it’s different from the common industry logo color of blue and “has a certain heat and energy to it, but not the kind of danger you perceive when you see red,” Yabuki said.
Red bad. Red is color of Danger. Danger bad for financial company image.
Unless of course you can sell it to another financial client. From the bowels of the Landor site:
Landor created an identity and retail space for HSBC Direct. The use of white communicates the simplicity of the brand, while red projects a contemporary attitude.
|Says Blandor the Imponderable: “I fondly recall Poppy and I attending the semi-annual wisdom tooth convention. As we sat on our haunches, grooming each other and eating our sack lunch of turkey biscotti and marshmallow toast, we would randomly jump up and shout, “Wottle up the bull throttle!”. We would then travel the 3 hours home, in complete silence, until our arrival at Mandible Station.”|
Too funny. A parody of the corporate creative process.
“What if there were no stop signs, and a major corporation was charged with inventing one? They’d brief their agency and let them do it. Sorta”