All the best names are provocations: Virgin, Yahoo, Spanx, Caterpillar, Pandora, Apple, Oracle, Banana Republic, Hotwire, Crossfire, Typo, et al. To qualify as a provocation, a name must contain what most people would call “negative messages” for the goods and services the name represents.
As long as the name maps to one of the positioning points of the brand, consumers never take its meaning literally, and the negative aspects of the name just give it greater depth. The negative becomes an engaging positive.
Nothing is more powerful than taking a word with a strong, specific connotation, grabbing a slice of it, mapping that slice to a portion of your positioning, and therefore redefining it. This naming strategy is without question the most powerful one of all.
Caterpillar is the most effective name in the earth-moving equipment sector precisely because it is not “Bull” or “Elephant” or “Workhorse” or anything else that is linear and obvious. Caterpillars are weak and easily squashed, yet Caterpillar is the most engaging name in its industry. And of course the word “Apple” is the antithesis of high tech, and an “Oracle” is not scientific nor reliable.
Here are some of the strong, specific negative images that were instantly overcome by powerful, provocative names:
Abbott Laboratories (ABT) on Wednesday unveiled the name of its planned pharmaceutical company spinoff, “AbbVie,” which Abbott says evokes its heritage and the Latin word for “life.”
Of course ‘Vie” is not the Latin word for “Life”, but hey it is only one letter off. Like “Dead” and “Deal”, or “Good” and “Goop”. What’s one letter? Everything — not to mention the crazy notion that Abbott believes we all speak Latin.
The Naming Agency of record on this one? None have dared to come forward.
EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Inside the AbbVie naming process:
The company says the name (pronounced mohn-dah-LEEZ) was inspired by the suggestions of two Kraft employees. It is intended to evoke the idea of a “delicious world” as “monde” is derived from the Latin word for “world” and “delez” as an expression of “delicious.”
Kraft is claiming the name has meaning. The difference between “Having a meaning” and “Being meaningful” makes all the difference.
We offer full & half-day naming workshops, onsite at your offices. Whether you need help to kick-start a project, are stuck in the middle of a naming exercise, or need assistance choosing a final name and getting approval and buy-in, we will customize a workshop to ensure the most powerful results for your naming needs.
A proven, logical and transparent process is essential to ensure the strongest, most effective results for any naming project. It is essential to establish agreed upon criteria within your organization on what your new name needs to do for you and provide a shared set of tools for your team to best create & evaluate names with.
These workshops are designed to assist you in the hands-on process of naming via the best practices outlined in our definitive Igor Naming Guide.
Our intensive workshop will take you in-depth through:
• Competitive Name Analysis
• Name Generation
• Name Evaluation
• Trademark pre-screening
• Naming Architecture Design
• Naming Process Design
And of course, the naming experts of Igor will be able to answer any and all of your questions about naming.
Can physicists produce insights about language that have eluded linguists and English professors? That possibility was put to the test this week when a team of physicists published a paper drawing on Google’s massive collection of scanned books. They claim to have identified universal laws governing the birth, life course and death of words.
The paper marks an advance in a new field dubbed “Culturomics”: the application of data-crunching to subjects typically considered part of the humanities. Last year a group of social scientists and evolutionary theorists, plus the Google Books team, showed off the kinds of things that could be done with Google’s data, which include the contents of five-million-plus books, dating back to 1800.
Published in Science, that paper gave the best-yet estimate of the true number of words in English—a million, far more than any dictionary has recorded (the 2002 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary has 348,000). More than half of the language, the authors wrote, is “dark matter” that has evaded standard dictionaries.
Igor, a Sausalito, CA based naming & branding firm that has created names and brands for Turner Broadcasting, Nokia, MTV, Hasbro, Wynn Resorts, Dupont, Seagate and Cisco, has appointed Zoe Sexton as its Managing Director.
Sexton, a strategic business consultant and branding coach, has lead innumerable start-ups and established companies through their branding and marketing efforts for the past 15 years. She has solid experience across multiple sectors and in personal brand identity. She began her new duties as of January 2012.
Zoe will manage operations, client services and brand strategy for Igor’s global clients. Ms. Sexton has designed and implemented a new suite of services for clients, including workshops and research models to help growing companies and expanding firms embrace the most effective naming and brand strategies.
Steve Manning, founder and CEO, said Zoe is a unique communicator who brings a new perspective to Igor, as well as an unmatched ability to analyze highly complex and competitive market sectors invaluable in strategic planning for Igor and its clientele.
“Zoe brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her new role, and we look forward to her contributions and leadership in expanding our agency and services while exceeding both our revenue expectations and those of our clients,” Manning said.
Zoe Sexton holds an MBA in Strategic Leadership from Dominican University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in film from University California Santa Barbara. Zoe, who lives in Mill Valley, CA, is an author, speaker and is well-known as an established, charismatic member of the Marin County and San Francisco Bay Area communities.
Ben & Jerry’s is renaming its Oh My! Apple Pie ice-cream to ‘Apple-y Ever After’ in the UK, in support of proposed government legalization of gay marriage. It has also redesigned the product’s packaging with a new motif of two grooms atop a wedding cake. The move echoes its 2009 effort in the US, when it renamed Chubby Hubby to ‘Hubby Hubby’ to celebrate gay marriage legalization in its home state of Vermont.
Full respect to Ben & Jerry’s for launching another amazing product name while (once again) simultaneously drawing attention & support to a pressing human rights crisis.
This creepy PR salvo consists of turning homeless human beings into walking hotspots at SXSWi, and having them wear t-shirts identifying themselves as such. Much like hailing a cab, you flag down a homeless person and have them stand next to you while you feed your jones for sending pointless texts to you friends via human antennae – texts that probably read, “this is so cool. using homeless dude as as WiFi spot at SXSWi. not going to pay him LOL!”
Yep, they don’t necessarily get paid. There is a suggested donation of 2 dollars per 15 minutes.
Their dehumanization is complete. They are just part of the machinery now – Borgs.
Par for the course from what has become the soulless, self-indulgent juggernaut called SXSWi. This cruel novelty is brought to you by marketing firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty via BBH.
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:
The Branding Iron
Creating New Names
The Name Works
The Naming Company
Ivarson Brand Vision
Strategic Name Development
The Brand Consultancy
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:
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.
Qualities: Self-propelling, Connects Emotionally, Personality, Deep Well.
Go back and see how the other names deconstructed above 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.