I recently found a fantastic tool that provides data on Google searches: www.answerthepublic.com. It is a fantastic search listening tool.
Just for fun, I wanted to see what people search for under the category of “name my…” Here are the top-rated entries for each letter of the alphabet:
A: Name my airpods
B: Name my business
C: Name my car
D: Name my dog
E: Name my Esty shop
F: Name my frame
G: Name my game
H: Name my house
I: Name my iPhone
J: Name my Jeep
K: Name my kitten
L: Name my location
M: Name my molecule
N: Name my necklace
O: Name my organic compound
P: Name my plant
Q: Name my qartulad
R: Name my rings
S: Name my song
T: Name my tune
U: Name a US state
V: Name my van
W: Name my wheel
X: Name my Xbox one
Y: Name my YouTube channel
Z: My name zodiac sign
Some of these are quite expected (e.g., name my dog; name my business; name my kitten). What’s with the fixation on jewelry (name my necklace; name my rings)? And I was stunned to see that more searches are done on “name my car” than “name my cat.”
Anyone who has spent some time studying the English language would know about collective nouns, which are nouns that denote a group of things. As a professional name developer, I often use collective nouns as building blocks for names of companies, products, or services. Here are some examples of collective nouns:
I recently signed up for Peacock, the streaming service from NBCUniversal. The next day I received an email from them with the subject line: “Welcome To The Flock!” Well, the inner geek in me Googled “what do you call a group of peacocks” and found that the proper collective noun would be a “muster of peacocks” not a “flock of peacocks.”
I’m a big fan of cute marketing tactics that engage new customers, and the outreach on the day after I signed up for Peacock was good. But I do wish that NBCUniversal would have utilized proper proofreaders to ensure their content was grammatically correct!
And yes, I know “Welcome To The Muster” as a subject line would suck. So pick something else that would be grammatically correct!
A few years ago, the dairy industry took the plant-based milk industry (almond milk, etc.) to court over the use of the term “milk.” Here is what the dairy industry spokesperson said:
“You haven’t ‘got milk’ if it comes from a seed, nut, or bean,” said Jim Mulhern, the president of the National Milk Producers Federation. “In the many years since we first raised concerns about the misbranding of these products, we’ve seen an explosion of imitators attaching the word ‘milk’ to everything from hemp to peas to algae.”
Lawsuits have not been very effective at resolving the issue. Plant-based groups insist they should be able to use the term “milk” when selling their products, so long as they aren’t trying to pass off their products as being conventional milk.
Then came the controversy over the use of the word “rice” in the name “Cauliflower Rice.” The marketers behind cauliflower rice felt so strongly that they’ve argued it’s a freedom of speech issue, protected by the US constitution.
But topping the list is the chutzpah exhibited by Just Egg. You see, a product called “Just Egg” should be (wait for it) just eggs, right? Nope. Just Egg is a plant-based egg substitute.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a plant-based diet if that is your preference. I just don’t like it when companies use misleading branding to sell their product. And in this case, I believe the name “Just Egg” crosses the line by suggesting their product is made from actual eggs.
Sometimes you’ve got to take your hat off to a company that does a great job in naming. Today I want to honor Evil Genius Beer Company.
First of all, let me go on record and tell you how hard this is for me. I live in Pittsburgh, and Evil Genius Beer Company is in Philadelphia. People from Pittsburgh aren’t supposed to like anything from Philadelphia (huge sports rivals).
I don’t know how their beer tastes, but I do know these guys are Naming Geniuses. If you visit their “Beer Name Hall of Fame” you will see why I feel this way. I also love the format of presenting the names in the style of the opening credits of Star Wars!
Here are a few of my personal favorite names from their beer selections:
• THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL (HAZY MANGO IPA)
• I’LL HAVE WHAT SHE’S HAVING (CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT IMPERIAL STOUT)
• #ICANTEVEN (WATERMELON BLONDE ALE)
• NEW PHONE WHO DIS? (CARAMEL MACCHIATO PORTER)
I could go on and on…check out the names in their Beer Name Hall of Fame and if you get to Philly have some of their beer and tell me if the beers live up to the names!
We’ve seen some good branding and some bad branding with COVID medicines. Here is a rundown of some of the branding in the COVID space:
Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine = COMIRNATY®
Here is what Pfizer says about the brand name COMIRNATY: “…represents a combination of the terms COVID-19, mRNA, community, and immunity, to highlight the first authorization of a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, as well as the joint global efforts that made this achievement possible with unprecedented rigor and efficiency – and with safety at the forefront – during this global pandemic.”
Whew…that’s a lot of explanation. In my experience, when you have to spend that much time explaining your name, you probably do not have a very good name.
Moderna Vaccine = SPIKEVAX®
SPIKEVAX is a more straightforward name that directly references the unusual spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and “vax” for vaccine. This name is like a fastball down the middle of home plate. Nothing fancy, but pretty effective.
AstraZeneca Vaccine = VAXZEVRIA®
AstraZeneca says VAXZEVRIA is the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone. This naming strategy was revealed by the developers of the name. “When AstraZeneca approached Brand Institute about partnering on the name for their COVID-19 vaccine, their goals were clear,” said Brand Institute’s Chairman and CEO, James L. Dettore. “AstraZeneca is committed to helping end the deadliest pandemic in a generation by supplying the COVID-19 vaccine at no profit to hundreds of millions of people around the world. Every village and every town was a phrase that was introduced early on, and I still remember it. This creative direction became one of the dominant themes explored in the development of potential brand name candidates.”
Interesting sidebar: Did you know that each of the above vaccine names were developed by the same company? Brand Institute is the Goliath of the drug naming industry.
However, Merck may have topped all of the vaccine names with their new drug, molnupiravir.
Merck Oral Antiviral Medication = Molnupiravir (drug generic name)
Merck announced on October 1 that Merck and Ridgeback’s Investigational Oral Antiviral molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50% compared to placebo for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19. This drug could be a game changer as it is a simple (5-day course of therapy) oral medication that can help treat COVID-19.
The generic drug name, molnupiravir, is also groundbreaking.
Generic drug names are not brand names. The Merck Manual explains the difference:
When a drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA—the U.S. government agency responsible for ensuring that drugs marketed in the United States are safe and effective), it is given a:
• Generic (official) name
• Brand (proprietary or trademark or trade) name
For example, phenytoin is the generic name and Dilantin® is a brand name for the same drug, which is a commonly used antiseizure drug. Diazepam is the generic name of a sedative that is marketed by some companies under its generic name and by other companies under brand names such as Valium® or Vazepam®.
Dean Li, Merck’s head of research and development, revealed the origin of the molnupiravir name to the medical publication Stat News. “Our prediction from our in vitro studies and now with this data is that molnupiravir is named after the right — you know, it’s named after Thor’s hammer [Mjollnir], this is a hammer against SARS-CoV-2 regardless of the variant.”
Well played Merck. I think Merck just won the COVID naming challenge!
Frank Winfield Woolworth, who founded the F. W. Woolworth Company in 1879, was the innovator in variety stores known as “Five-and-Ten-Cent Stores” which featured a wide selection of low-priced merchandise at a low fixed price. For many years the company did a strictly “five-and-ten cent” business, but in the spring of 1932, it added a 20-cent line of merchandise. By 1935, the company’s directors decided to discontinue selling-price limits altogether.
A similar situation arose this past week when Dollar Tree Inc., who is known for selling goods for $1, announced it will establish new higher price levels such as $1.25 and $1.50, citing broken supply chains and higher labor costs as the reasons for the increase.
Dollar General Corp. broke the $1 price point several years ago, and Five Below Inc., which features goods at prices below $5, recently announced it will sell goods priced above $5.
Have these brands outgrown their names?
I believe they have outgrown their names, but I also do not expect them to change their names. Establishing a new trademark is expensive and time consuming, and companies would not want to risk losing their existing equity in their brands.
However, their situation should make you think about your branding situation, especially if you are just starting your company. Don’t pick a name that you will outgrow in a few years.
Burlington Coat Factory was started as a wholesale outerwear business in Burlington, New Jersey. I’d say their name was limiting in two ways: geographically (because they would expand beyond Burlington, New Jersey) and from a product line standpoint as they quickly evolved to other clothing items. How much business was lost because people thought they sold only coats?
The Dunkin’ Donuts brand recently dropped Donuts from their name and became just Dunkin’ to reflect the fact that most of their sales come from drinks not donuts.
Don’t outgrow your name. Plan for future expansion by at least considering what your business will look like in 10 years. Then make sure your name can accommodate that future!
A 22-year-old Bitcoin Millionaire has launched a “smartphone for Conservatives” called The Freedom Phone. Here is the New York Times article that details his effort.
The name is great. The positioning is great (liberate Americans from their “Big Tech overlords”). The marketing has been great (his launch video has over 1.8 million views). And he’s already sold over $6 million worth of these phones.
The problem? The phones suck. CNET, the product-review site, said the $500 device appeared to be “nearly on par with a $200 budget Android phone.” Ouch.
The NYT article explains some of the issues that arise when trying to launch a new phone without the assistance of the major tech companies. But I have no sympathy for anyone who is dumb enough to buy this. Or any of several products marketed via the Conservative media these days (Ivermectin anyone?).
But you’ve got to admire the straightforward naming and positioning. Credit where credit is due.
The Delta variant of COVID is spreading like wildfire in the US and is having a devastating effect on the unvaccinated. At the present time, 99% of COVID deaths are among unvaccinated people. In fact, a recent Washington Post opinion piece estimated that the odds of dying from COVID if you have been vaccinated are lower than the odds of dying by getting hit by lightning.
Yet only about 50% of people in the US are fully vaccinated and the rate of new vaccinations is slowing down dramatically. Furthermore, there is a widening divide of vaccination rates between Democratic voters and Republican voters as shown below:
Sarah Sanders, former White House Press Secretary and current candidate for Governor of Arkansas, may have identified a novel way to nudge Republicans to get vaccinated. In this Washington Post article she urges Republicans to “Take The Trump Vaccine.”
Here is how it could work. The Moderna and J & J vaccines were developed under the Operation Warp Speed initiative created by the Trump Administration. The Pfizer vaccine was not in the Operation Warp Speed program. In order to overcome vaccine hesitancy among Republicans, the government should rebrand some of the Moderna and J & J vaccines as Trump Vaccine and offer it exclusively to Republicans. Everyone likes to have exclusive products, and a vaccine just for Trump supporters could get vaccine hesitant people to roll up their sleeves.
Branding can help save lives.
Would you guess that the same company that makes Hershey’s Ice Cream also makes Hershey’s Chocolate? I did. However, despite being founded in the same city, in the same year and having the same name, Hershey’s ice cream and Hershey’s chocolate have no affiliation.
The Hershey Chocolate Company was founded by Milton S. Hershey in 1894 as a subsidiary of his Lancaster Caramel Company. Hershey Creamery Company, also known as Hershey’s Ice Cream, was also founded in 1894 by Jacob Hershey (not a relative of Milton Hershey) and four of his brothers in 1894.
Both companies have been engaged in on-again, off-again litigation for about a century over the Hershey’s name and trademark (Hershey Chocolate filed the first lawsuit between these parties in 1921). Eventually they reached a settlement where each company was to disclaim the other. Today, the ice cream company’s website notes that it is “not affiliated with Hershey’s Chocolate” at the bottom of its homepage (©PRODUCTS OF HERSHEY CREAMERY CO. − NOT AFFILIATED WITH HERSHEY’S CHOCOLATE). Hershey’s Chocolate does not return the favor as they make no mention of Hershey’s Ice Cream.
Would the Hershey’s name be able to be shared in this manner if both companies tried to get the trademark today? I think it is doubtful because of the similarity of the goods offered. Nevertheless, this stands as an example of how two very similar names can coexist.
I have been approached numerous times about developing a name “…with a .com domain available and no more than 6 letters” or something like that.
Limiting the number of letters and requiring a .com domain means you will end up with a random letter name/domain such as ksnhent.com (which is available!).
Clients who insist on making domain availability the primary reason for choosing a name are making a huge mistake.
A far better approach is to hone your brand’s strategy and test it with consumers until you find the positioning that is going to make all the difference in your business, then develop a name based on that positioning.
David Ogilvy once said “The results of your campaign depend less on how we write your advertising than on how your product is positioned.” The same is true for your name. Spend time developing a positioning that rings the bell with consumers and then go find the perfect name that brings that positioning to life.
Sound like a difficult thing to do? Not really. I know I am biased by my 25+ years of experience in building great consumer brands, but this task is not difficult. Time consuming? Yes. At times painful? Yes. Expensive? Could be. But in the end, the process of honing the brand positioning and using that as a basis for name development will pay dividends for years to come.
The one downside is, it is unlikely that a name based on a strategic foundation will have a short .com domain available. However, you can add modifiers to the beginning or end of the name to get a .com domain.
Here is an example. Let’s say you have developed a strategically based name of “Regal” for your brand name. Of course, www.regal.com is already taken. But here are a few ideas for domains that are available for a minimal cost: