What is in a name? - Factor 3

What is in a name?

Sadly we don’t get to pick our own names. That important job falls to our parents who are given a mere six weeks to decide how you’ll be known for the rest of your life. Is it any wonder they sometimes get it wrong? Would you marry Phil Anderer?

Choosing a name for a company, service or product should be given as much consideration as the business plan or marketing strategy.

Whatever name you choose, it must communicate a product offering, a promise of performance, a personality and differentiate you from your competitors.

It’s also vital that you get it right first time. As Royal Mail will testify, once that name is stuck in the minds of the public, it’s very difficult to change. Rebranding as Consignia from the verb to consign, probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but the public hated it and 15 months and £2.5m later they reverted back to Royal Mail.

To avoid costly mistakes, consider the following general principles:

  1. Don’t try to imitate your competitors – being a ‘me too’ won’t make you stand out from the crowd
  2. Avoid difficult spellings or pronunciations
  3. Try to signify the company, product or service
  4. Keep it simple and memorable
  5. Do canvas opinion
  6. Steer clear of the offensive or suggestive
  7. Consider acronyms
  8. Check for inappropriate language variations (Nova in Spanish means ‘doesn’t go’ – something GM didn’t consider when naming it’s Vauxhall Nova)
  9. Keep in mind how it will play out with your audience
  10. Check domain registration availability

Sadly, some companies do get it wrong. Reebok were caught on back foot after they discovered that their new women’s athletic shoe Incubus meant “an evil spirit, believed to descend upon sleeping women for the purpose of sexual intercourse”. Nice.

Altria, Philip Morris USA’s parent company, from the Latin altus meaning high, sits a little too close to Altrix meaning wet nurse. And finally Enron (remember them?) they were considering calling itself Enteron until they found it was a medical term for entrails.

Of course, some do get it right. When Andersen Consulting split from Arthur Andersen it spent £121m globally rebranding itself Accenture. When Arthur Andersen’s involvement in the Enron affair came to light, even the finance director must have agreed it was worth every penny.

The right name can offer a wealth of advertising and marketing opportunities and deliver a clear and strong message; but whatever name is chosen, companies must ensure that the brand values, expectations and attributes can be delivered.


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