Naming Faux Pas

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!


Why didn’t they 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. These 12 letters could just as easily spell…Kid Sex Change. It’s obvious that not only the name, but also the logo and signage could have benefited from professional help.

2. Poor Audio Communication – Sometimes I wonder if companies make decisions based on how something looks on a piece of paper, versus how it sounds. A classic example is AcipHex, an excellent medicine for relief of acid reflux symptoms such as heartburn. By its nature, AcipHex is a classic pharmaceutical name…it uses the “Aci-“ from acid (the problem), the “pH” represents the change in stomach pH by using this product (the solution), and the “-ex” is a classic pharmaceutical drug suffix. Text book naming for an Rx drug!

Now pronounce the name. Yes, it really does sound like “ass effects.” I used to work in the heartburn category, and I cannot tell you how many times people asked me whether that really was the name of the drug because they thought I was kidding.

The website mentions the following potential side effects:

“In adolescents, the most common side effects with ACIPHEX include headache, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In adults, the most common side effects with ACIPHEX include pain, sore throat, gas, infection, and constipation.”

So I guess there could be “ass effects” after all, huh? No false advertising there.

3. Failure to Check International Communication – 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 of my naming clients will conduct international name verification to ensure that the names I develop have no problematic connotations in the major foreign languages. Clearly, Assitalia never thought of that!

4. Failure to Properly Check Common Law Usage – Checking with a trademark attorney is critically important, and most people do this before they start using a name (or they pay a steep price to change things if a conflict occurs). But sometimes people fail to conduct a deep dive into common law usage to see how their proposed name is being used outside of the trademark system.

My favorite “What Were They Thinking” observation in this area comes from the UK. Directgov, the sector of the government in charge of educating the public about the government, launched a site to explain Britain’s government to small children. It was called "Buster's World," and it featured 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" were entered into a search engine, the top result was not a friendly dog educating you about the government, but rather a gay porn site. Needless to say, Directgov has since changed the name of their website.

Obviously, hiring a professional naming service would have nipped most of these problems in the bud.

Anyone have stories about similar “Naming Faux Pas?”


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