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Marketing Nomenclature, and the Naming of Names - by Naseem Javed - classic article Feb 2003

a rose by any other name may be hard to find on the web, and would not smell so sweet

see also:- Rebranding STEC to sTec (spoof), Branding Strategies in the SSD Market


Editor's intro:- - Getting the name right for your new product, company or service is a difficult process. The cost of getting things wrong is unbelievably high. Pulling a national ad campaign when you expand into another country may be the least part of your worries. Having a brand name which has a negative phonetic association in another language or having a web site which can't be found by your customers because of awkward hyphenation, are just the tip of the iceberg. So when Naseem Javed approached me about running an article on MarketingViews, my first thought was - "Great! Here we have a world renowned guru who is going to point our readers in the right direction." Then I realised that choosing just one of Naseem's suggested articles would leave me wondering about all those others that you should also see. So instead this article is a sampler of several articles which will give you an idea of the vast range involved in this subject.
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A Study on Corporate Image & Trustworthiness In January 2003, ABC Namebank International completed a global survey. A list of 5000 major international corporations was compiled and each corporate name was analyzed for its marketing power, image, ownership and trustworthiness in four categories...

Suitability: how truly a name describes itself and the nature of it's business?

When names are totally irrelevant to the business, they often mislead or confuse shareholders and consumers alike...

83% names failed this acid test of name suitability.

Registrability: how the corporation globally owns a name with its identical DotCom.

When names are tangled in trademark litigation worldwide they only become a liability and an expensive burden to the corporation, bleeding marketing and advertising dollars. Companies in this group each have hundreds or, at times, thousands of similar and identical names in the global marketplace. E-commerce, with all its vengeance, only crushes these names on search engines. Customers and shareholders can hardly find the right company at the right time.

85% failed

Psycho-analysis of a Corporate Name? When a name is used in business it must be unique, powerful, proprietary, related to the business, exciting and able to arouse curiosity and equally pleasing to the mind. Therefore, it is not wise to have a twisted spelling and hard to pronounce names or some wild ideas that the subconscious mind simply refuses to accept. 'RockCloud', 'PurpleRhino', or 'Kukamanga' (meaning 'Great Corporation' in Ugabooga dialect of the Roman Empire.) Do you really care? Hell no, the mind simply shuts down and lets the name scream while drowning.

A name should simply pop up at the time of a purchase decision otherwise it is absolutely useless if it wanders through and comes out of the mental fog a day after the purchase. This is how sales are missed. When a name is unique, the brain recognizes it as such, Sony, Panasonic, Telus, Celestica, and files it away nicely, while recognizing it's unique position among the other daily mumbo jumbo. When it is generic, like United or General, then the garbage kicks in verbal branding and it can become a verbal diarrhea. United Systems, United Payroll, United Services or General Insurance, General Distribution or General Production and so on. A common day usage term, such as a dictionary word, has the least recall and the same applies to numbers, the mind does not remember numbers, slashes, dashes, dingbats and symbols etc. Studies have shown again and again that only unique, one of a kind, clear and powerful names, survive and become legends.

In business a corporate name is normally a single word. Two word names are problematic, three words are more complicated. Four words? - why not kill the business first? Also, if there are dozens of others using the same name in dozens of different types of businesses, then your name is only shouting and the voice is being lost in the crowd.

Color-Blind Customers of Today Think of Blue and what comes to mind is a blue ocean. A blue sky? Sometimes Big Blue, which is IBM. They did truly acquire a secondary meaning and a legendary position of being recognized as such.

Green thoughts are often for money, grass, and vegetables. And sometimes for The GHOSTBUSTERS or THE GREEN PARTY, which is for the environment and flushed with green money.

Use of color as a name or to identify a corporation is far too stretched. The customer at large is somewhat color-blind to these branding tactics... Naming is more serious than a First-Grader's box of Crayolas

Testing corporate names on the Web

See also:- Naseem's book Domain Wars
If you're going to go through the trouble of maintaining a corporate Web site, you better make sure people can find it....

Unfortunately, domain names are often the most neglected and misunderstood components of the corporate communication strategy. Too often they are left at the discretion of a Webmaster or trademark clerk. To properly organize domain name structure, one needs an internal mandate under a corporate communications strategy and the right budget -- rather than a mere $30 registration fee.

FOCUS GROUPS ... Why do they fail? Focus groups! Just the sound of the phrase has a magical quality: To be "focused" is to have your head on straight; to have your eye on the main goal; to know precisely what must be done. And "group" radiates with a warm sense of involvement, caring--yes, of democracy.

To paraphrase the famous quotation, democracy is a lousy system, but it's still way ahead of anything in second place. Or, to quote directly from a famous essay by the great British writer E.M. Forster, "Two Cheers for Democracy." It's a wonderful system of government.

But it is no way to choose a name for a company or a product!

Do focus groups have any value? You bet. They are superb for gathering new research on a concept; for creating interesting, often highly creative ideas; for discovering public opinion about something. But they are not for developing names!

TRADEMARKS ...

Why are they worth their weight in solid gold?
...One morning, I was ushered into a large boardroom of a major automobile manufacturer in Detroit. The problem was quickly obvious: The final choice of a name for a vitally important new car product had not only failed to hit the public; it had just hit the fan.

The management was very upset, and everyone in the room was pacing back and forth like an investment company the day after Black Monday.

O what a branding mistake Let's face it, when it comes to naming a company, a product or a Web site, O is just a hole, a zero, zilch, nil, a no-nothing. On its own, O has very little weight or much to offer – unless Placido Domingo is singing that romantic vowel in the midst of an opera.

But in commerce, O is little more than a bridge that builds goofy names for low-tech products such as the Roll-O-Matic or Bun-O-Matic.

Whoever advised Oprah to go with a one-letter name for her magazine was oh so wrong.

It's a good thing…corporate image is only a house of cards…

Every single day of the year a big corporation for some strange and unexplainable reason goes down the drain…most often it's the top person caught with hands in the cookie jar. The image gets shattered. What took decades to build now stands like a crumbled ruin in smoke and beyond repair. The same story is repeated again and again.

American lady, Martha Stewart is just a small fry in this jungle of deceptive maneuvers. ENRON, WORLDCOM, ADELPHIA, TYCO and PARMALATs of the dark corporate world with losses totaling some trillion dollars now all point to some type of a revival and return of true honesty in big business. The images of big corporations have to be changed, as it has now evolved from "big is bad" to "big is corrupt". A half a century of brilliant corporate communications and good public affairs responsible for building the big corporate images are all about to be erased. New rules for new corporate image maintenance are a must. What was associated with only third-world's uniformed dictatorships are about to become the new hallmark of the western commerce. Unfortunately only hands full of bad apples are shaking the entire trees.

Corporate image is like a house of cards, delicate and fragile, like a crystal palace, it can't have stones thrown at it. Image is not a fort that you can attack again and again and hope that it will survive. Images rest in the sub-conscious minds of the customers and shareholders alike. This is a very sacred place, access able only through subtle messages and a solid track record, slowly building into images of respectability, confidence and trust about a particular corporation. One mistake and these images are shattered, like a glass never to be repaired again. For this reason, nasty scandals kill the corporate images once and for all. Patchwork and bandages only prolong the agony.

Big branding should take credit for making big icons, it's the corporation itself that gets confused with all the new glitter and loses its focus. The true engine of our global commerce is still the small-medium enterprise, humming along to keep the economies going. True to value and integrity this sector deserves the credit for being earnest about it's existence and for having to build it's images in the dark shadows of collapsing giants.

While marketers are trying hard to build brand new name identities for the global e-commerce the customers are getting mixed signals about ethics in business. Sobrietyof image structures with true name identities that clearly define the set goals are in play. While casual branding immersed in holistic treatments without focus only create more doubts in the minds of shareholders and customers.

There is a new and a very powerful under-current of e-commerce, packed with better due diligence and better ethics, ready to emerge with brand new icons of the future. The practice of corporate image and global branding should take notice and equally acknowledge that image is like a house of cards, it's frailty that makes it so powerful, it's clarity and pristine structure that appeals to masses and it's vulnerability that makes it so valuable. Therefore, it must be built slowly, wisely, correctly and delicately, without any room for errors…after all, it's a good thing.

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Naseem Javed
About the Author

A world-renowned authority on corporate nomenclature, author of two major books, Naseem Javed is featured in over 100 articles worldwide, annually. Today, Naseem is invited to speak all over the world. His talks are always very insightful, provocative and serious and at times outrageously hilarious. He advises CEOs of Fortune 500 and other leading corporations on all matters of complex global naming in the e-commerce.










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