I recently purchased some bar stools from Wayfair. As many of you know, much of the furniture sold on Wayfair requires assembly, and these bar stools were no exception. As a proficient assembler of IKEA furniture, I figured I could handle it.
I started out by taking everything out of the box, and reading the assembly instructions. There were 4 legs, two marked A and two marked B (all 4 legs looked to be identical). There were four side supports, two marked C and two marked D. The seat was marked E.
I assumed that the first step in the instructions would involve the legs marked A, but I was wrong. The first step said to mount the legs marked B into the base E. Why start with the legs marked B? Was this just a bad translation of foreign language instructions?
I’ll give the designers more credit than that. In fact, they may have been leveraging a type of cognitive bias. Face it, when things go as you expect them to go, you pay less attention. However, when the instructions start with Leg B instead of Leg A, you read the instructions more closely.
This bias is also useful in name development. Entrepreneurs love descriptive names. A food processor that does a fast job of chopping up food gets named “Fast Chop.” Entrepreneurs think this makes life easier because they do not have to spend money to advertise the benefits of their product…the name says it all!
In reality, “Fast Chop” gets lost in a sea of competitive products with similar names (“Quick Chop” or “Turbo Chop”). To stand out you need a name that is different and causes the consumer to stop and notice. In other words, you often need to put the assembly instructions in BACD order!
Here is a visual way to demonstrate the issue. In the three groups of circles shown below, the circle in the center is always the same size. However, as you can see, the center circle looks smaller or larger based upon the size of the other circles surrounding it. The group of circles on the right has six similarly sized circles, and you can see how it is impossible to distinguish one from another. If you want to stand out, it is far better to be the outlier, such as the center circle in the first two groups of circles.
A portmanteau is a linguistic blend of words in which parts of multiple words are combined into a new word. Common language examples include smog, which is a combination of the words smoke and fog, and motel which combines motor and hotel.
Some big companies used the portmanteau technique to develop their names. Microsoft is a portmanteau of microcomputer and software. Groupon combines group and coupon.
However, sometimes companies refuse to admit that their portmanteau name doesn’t work.
Consider this manufacturer of pool maintenance products.
Yes, I get that they slammed “pool” and “life” together to get their name, but no matter how many times you look at this name it is hard to not see “Poo Life” isn’t it? And who wants to live a “poo life” anyway?
Here is another one. Yes, I see what they did here by combining “smart” and “tours.” But step away from the page for a second and look at it…what the heck is a “smar Tour” (or did you mean “smarT ours)?
Portmanteau names can be very good when the combination makes sense. But you have to have some common sense (as in most things in life). Combining words together to make a brand name can work or can look very stupid. Don’t be stupid!
I read an interesting post on the Inc. magazine site about how Amazon Alexa will change the way we name companies. While I wholeheartedly agree with the author, there are many more considerations in developing a great name.
My book 10 Steps To Successful Branding contains a simple 10 step checklist that enables you to determine if you have a great name. One of the items involves the pronunciation and spelling so Alexa can understand the name. But the nine other items on the list are also important.
If you want a pdf of the checklist let me know!
Naming contests. Sounds like a good idea, right? A company needs a new name and it decides to engage its employees to come up with a new name. What could go wrong? Continue reading
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!
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.