In my NameFlashSM name development business, I sometimes get asked by clients, “Should I change my brand name?” From a purely selfish standpoint my answer should be “YES!” because I get paid to generate names! But the reality is that there are times when you should not change your name, despite the negative impact on my cash flow.
So how do you decide if you need a better name? Here are some tips on when you should or should not change your name.
Consider changing your name when:
I’ve asked a lot of my advertising agency friends how their agencies would approach name development if a client asked for help in this area. The response, virtually without exception, is that they round up everyone they can at the end of the day, order a couple of pizzas, and hold a big brainstorming session to generate ideas.
In the same vein, some companies consider holding a naming contest to develop names instead of hiring a professional name developer (such as my NameFlashSM name development business). After all, isn’t it important to allow our customers/employees/associates to have input on our new name? And, we could offer a prize of free (insert product name) for a year so it would not cost us anything!
One of the unique features of my NameFlash name development process is how I do a trademark screen for the names I am planning to recommend. I do this trademark search because I want to present names that are available from a trademark standpoint. I also check domain name availability and common law use, because you do not have to register a trademark to own a trademark if you establish use.
A few years ago, Procter & Gamble launched the Olay Total Effects line, and introduced us to “Anti aging skin care products that moisturize and fight seven signs of aging.” In case you don’t know, the “seven signs of aging” are “look of fine lines and wrinkles, rough texture, uneven skin tone, surface dullness, appearance of prominent pores, noticeability of age spots, and dryness.”
Interesting. And wouldn’t you know it, Olay Total Effects works on all seven signs of aging (imagine that).
The skeptic in me thought that maybe there were more signs of aging that Olay was not designed to work on, but I let it go, figuring that I was not an expert on skin care.
Like many professional name developers, I opened 2010 by making fun of the Apple iPad name. Steve Jobs gave a strong case for naming the “tablet pc” in a way that was consistent with previous Apple naming conventions (iPod, iTunes, iPhone), but many of us poked fun at the similarity of the name with feminine hygiene products.
Who’s laughing now?
A tutoring organization, Chyten (www.chyten.com), opened a new location near my home. Chyten tutors kindergarteners through graduate students, and the website looks nice enough—pictures of happy college students sitting cross-legged on the quad, a parent login, news and events…but the question is, how do you pronounce it?
Name developers occasionally are asked to develop acronyms for clients. Sometimes acronyms are terrific short cuts that resonate. Who hasn’t heard of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)?
Sometimes acronyms are trouble. The CNN article has numerous examples of “bad luck” with unfortunate acronyms (e.g., when your acronym develops a bad meaning). Perhaps some of these acronyms are a result of bad luck…but I believe most of these cases are unfortunate examples of naming sloppiness and bad branding!
As a professional name developer, I am often amused by the decisions companies make when naming products. Here are just a few of the naming faux pas I have observed.
1. Poor Visual Communication – Naming is an emotional decision and you often get caught up amongst the trees instead of seeing the whole forest. Sometimes you just need some perspective before you commit to a name. Of course using a professional name developer helps provide that outside perspective! But sometimes all you need to do is take a step back and ask yourself, “What is wrong with this name?”
As an example, the owners of this business probably think they have a terrific name for their consignment store: “Kids Exchange.” It isn’t a bad name, but I bet they get a lot of jokes about people wanting to swap their kids for some other kids. But the “What Were They Thinking?” award goes to the owner who approved their logo/signage. This picture is worth a thousand words!
The Urban Dictionary is a web-based dictionary of slang words and phrases. Anyone can submit to the Urban Dictionary, but submissions are reviewed by volunteer editors and are rated by site visitors. Some people in the naming business think the Urban Dictionary is the new “Bible for Branding.” I politely disagree.
Last year a new vodka launched, and there was considerable controversy over its name, RangTang (http://adage.com/adages/post?article_id=142601). Apparently in the Urban Dictionary, rangtang has a slang meaning that is sexual in nature.
In the UK, Directgov, the sector of the government in charge of educating the public about the government, recently launched a site to explain Britain’s government to small children. It's called "Buster's World," and it features a cute dog named Buster who leads the site's patrons through a plethora of games, videos, and cartoons with the goal of giving children a basic understanding of how the British government works. Unfortunately, when the words "Buster's World" are entered into a search engine, the top result is not a friendly dog educating you about the government, but rather a gay porn fetish site having something to do with balloons (…?). Needless to say, Directgov is in the process of renaming their website.
Hiring a professional naming service such as NameFlash would have nipped this problem in the bud. We check trademarks, domain names and common law usage of the names we recommend, and very simply, this name would not have gotten through our screening process. Few non-professional namers conduct this type of screening and the result can be a disaster that leads to bad PR and the added cost of changing the name and all the materials associated with the name. In this case Directgov had an interesting idea, but clearly dropped the ball in screening, which is a terrible shame, as Buster the dog really is quite cute!