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!
Can Your Brand Pass The "10 Second" Test?
Aflac, the company that uses the duck as its advertising icon, has started a new "You Don't Know Quack" campaign.
Their new campaign challenges NASCAR driver Carl Edwards to explain in 10 seconds how Aflac policies help protect people. Carl's response, obviously scripted, was "If you are sick or hurt, Aflac pays you cash – fast – to help pay for things major medical insurance won't cover – things like car payments, mortgage and more."
Google is using names of sweets for its codenames for Android Operating System versions. Listed alphabetically the names thus far are: 1.5 (Cupcake), 1.6 (Donut), 2.0/2.1 (Éclair) and now, 2.X –to be named Froyo (which means Frozen Yogurt).
Am I the only one who finds this amusing? Some bloggers are actually attacking Google, saying that their codenames are sending the message that "sweets are good for you." Give me a break!
HEY EVERYBODY! Our Pizza Tastes Like Cardboard!
Um…well…yes it does actually, and your sauce tastes like ketchup. That’s why I haven’t eaten your pizza since my daughter's 10th birthday when it snowed 3 feet and you were the only place open.
The new Domino's Pizza ad campaign explains that they listened to consumer feedback and completely redesigned their pizza based on that information. The video clip shows some focus group feedback that is pretty painful. The obvious question is…what took you so long? The pizza had been lousy for years and I am sure focus groups (if you did them) have been telling you that for years!
This falls into the category of "you can't think of everything when naming…can you?"
Something that will crack me up and usually leave others staring at me is what store signage can spell when the bulbs in some of the letters in the names have burnt out. My personal favorite is from a Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon where somehow the only letters that remained from “Steakhouse and Saloon” were “HO SALOON.” No comments please from people who work at Lone Star as I am not implicating anyone; just thought it was funny!
I’m not saying that you need to evaluate all possible scenarios for burnt out letters in your storefront name—but let’s just say that you might want to keep a large supply of extra light bulbs on hand and check your exterior signage frequently!
A few weeks ago I posted a Twitter Poll (Follow me @NameFlash) to gather opinions on Anti Monkey Butt Powder…Good Name or Bad Name? The results indicated that about 70% of people thought Anti Monkey Butt Powder was a bad name.
However, the real learning came from the comments I received about the post. The people who thought it was a bad name were making fun of the name and talking about how they would never buy such a product. The people who thought it was a good name were people who suffered from what might be described as a “chafed butt” due to extended horseback riding, motorcycle riding, or truck driving. Some of the people who responders were actual consumers of the product and were very defensive about the name—they thought it was perfect!
So the owners of this store probably think they have a terrific name for their business: “Kids Exchange.” Well I beg to differ. First of all, what is a kids exchange, anyway? What do you do here? Swap your kids out when you get tired of them or turn them in for cash like those gold-buying places that seem to be cropping up everywhere? A naming professional could have helped prevent this confusion.
However, this picture goes one step further—why did they not put a space between the words “Kids” and “Exchange”? Proper capitalization would have been helpful as well. Not sure why this is a problem? Look at it a bit more closely…there it is. These 12 letters could just as easily spell…Kid Sex Change. I don’t think that’s what the store is about, but who am I to judge? Either way, it’s obvious that not only the name, but also the logo and signage could have benefited from professional help.
The photo below pretty much says it all.
Assitalia is one of the biggest insurance companies in Italy. I am sure the company developed its name without thinking about international considerations. In Italy, the name is probably fine. But if they ever wanted to expand to an English speaking country…well, let’s just say there might be a problem.
Most companies for which I develop names for insist that I do some sort of name verification to ensure that the names I develop have no problematic connotations in the major foreign languages. Clearly, Assitalia never thought of that!