Nov 272015
 

Before diving into your Latin dictionary when you consider naming your company, product or service, consider the wide array of brand name styles and product name options in use today.

Abbreviation Raychem, Microsoft, Amtrak
Acronym AARP, BP, AFLAC, IBM, KFC, TCBY,TIAA-CREF, UPS, USAA
Alliteration Dunkin’ Donuts, Roto Rooter, Planters Peanuts,
Piggly Wiggly, Brooks Brothers
Appropriation Java (for software), Bloody Mary’s (for a restaurant), Blackberry, Caterpillar
Classical Roots Pentium, Quattro, Avis
Composition PowerBook, PageMaker, Comcast, Nutrasweet, Accuvue, Bisquick
Descriptive Bed, Bath & Beyond, Bath & Body Works, Airbus, Volkswagen, Toys R Us, E*Trade, General Motors,
Evocative London Fog, KitchenAid, Frigidaire, In-n-Out Burgers
Fabricated Exxon, Kodak, Xerox, Häagen Dazs, Verizon
Foreign Words Volare, Montero, Samurai
Founders Hewlett Packard, Hilton, Disney, Ford, Dell
Geography Winnebago, Silicon Valley Bank, Budweiser, Mutual of Omaha
History Ticonderoga, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, ebay, Cisco
Humor Cracker Jack, Yahoo!, Bullfrog, Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants
Ideophonemes 7-UP, 7-Eleven, Union 76, V-8, WD-40, 3COM, Cambio 16
Merged Packard-Bell, Rolls-Royce, ExxonMobil
Mimetics (alternative spelling) Krispy Kreme, Krazy Glue, Kwik Kopy, Kleenex
Mythological Oracle, Midas Mufflers, Mercury, Nike
Onomatopoeia ZapMail, Sizzler Steakhouse, Kookooroo, Kisses
Oxymoron True Lies, Steel Magnolias, Intimate Strangers

.

More naming resources:

Naming How-To:

Naming Mistakes
Six Factors for a Memorable and Motivating Name
History of Best Known Brands
Styles and Types of Brands
Choosing a Name
Try a Recycled Name
Web 2.0 Naming Considerations
What is Brand Architecture
Approaches to Brand Architecture
Brand Architecture and Business Strategy

Companies and Products:

MSNBC vs. msnbc.com and The Bigger Naming Problem
Macy’s Blunder with Marshall Field’s Name Change
Banks and the Name Game from Bank Marketing Magazine
AIG Name Change to AIU
Breaking Up the Motorola Brand
Google’s Speedbook Disaster
Renaming a Small Business
Proxios CEO Talks About Renaming Process
Naming a Green Sportswear Company
Unintentionally Funny Names-BARF
Unintentionally Funny Names-Putzmeister
Unintentionally Funny Names-Bimbo
Renaming a $2 Billion IPG Agency
Renaming Iraqi Freedom
Selected Naming Portfolio

Nov 152015
 

Some of the best known and most valuable brand names have surprising histories and unlikely provenances. Few came from high-priced naming consultants. Here is the brand name history for some well-loved brand:

7-Eleven Named for stores new extended hours from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Adidas Named for nickname of Adolf “Adi” Dassler
Altoids Made up name suggesting a medicinal benefit
Amazon Most voluminous river for a site with hoped for voluminous sales
Apple Steve Job’s favorite fruit, simple and not cold or unapproachable
like IBM
Arby’s Enunciation of founders’ initials Raffel Brothers
Bally Named after Lion Manufacturing’s popular pinball machine: Ballyhoo
Bic Marcel Bich used his own name, but dropped to H so as not to offend
Bridgestone Is translation of Japanese name that means “bridge of stone”
Budweiser Named for famous Bohemian town in Pilsen region now known as Budejovice
Canon Japanese name of Buddhist bodhissatva for mercy Kannon
Caterpillar A photographer said the tractor looked like a creeping caterpillar and
the name stuck
Cisco Short for San Francisco, also the Stanford Department Computer Information Services
Coca-Cola Made from coca leaves and kola nuts—coca-kola
CVS Convenience, Value and Service
Danone Named for nickname of founder’s first son Daniel—Dan + One
eBay Was originally Echo Bay, but that was taken,
so Echo was shortened to e
Fuji Film Named for highest mountain in Japan
Google A misspelling for math term “googol”
Grape Nuts Original formula used grape sugar as an ingredient; product had nutty
taste
Häagen Dazs Completely made up name that sounds Northern European and rich
Harpo Oprah written backwards
Kinko Nickname of founder with wild, curly hair
Marlboro Named after streets in London
M&Ms For partners Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie (son of Hershey president)
Nabisco Short for National Biscuit Company
Pepsi Named for digestive enzyme pepsin
Qantas Short for Queensland & Northern Territories Aerial Service
QVC Quality Value and Convenience (not to be confused with CVS)
Reebok Named for African antelope rhebok
Snapple Named after first flavor Spice N’ Apple
Samsung Korean for three stars
Sun Microsystems Stanford University Networks
Toyota Founder name Toyoda turned out to be hard to spell
Volkswagen German for peoples’ car
Volvo Latin for “I roll”

More naming resources:

Naming How-To:

Naming Mistakes
Six Factors for a Memorable and Motivating Name
History of Best Known Brands
Styles and Types of Brands
Choosing a Name
Try a Recycled Name
Web 2.0 Naming Considerations
What is Brand Architecture
Approaches to Brand Architecture
Brand Architecture and Business Strategy

Companies and Products:

MSNBC vs. msnbc.com and The Bigger Naming Problem
Macy’s Blunder with Marshall Field’s Name Change
Banks and the Name Game from Bank Marketing Magazine
AIG Name Change to AIU
Breaking Up the Motorola Brand
Google’s Speedbook Disaster
Renaming a Small Business
Proxios CEO Talks About Renaming Process
Naming a Green Sportswear Company
Unintentionally Funny Names-BARF
Unintentionally Funny Names-Putzmeister
Unintentionally Funny Names-Bimbo
Renaming a $2 Billion IPG Agency
Renaming Iraqi Freedom
Selected Naming Portfolio

Oct 162015
 

Here are the five biggest  naming mistakes you can make when branding your company, product or service.

1. Mistaking the name for the brand.

Your company or product name is just part of your brand. Not realizing this, many novice branders put too many expectations on their name.

It is important to realize your name works in a context. Other elements such as your logo, messaging, the entire visual look of your brand, and the communication tactics you use join your name in the heavy lifting that goes into creating your brand.

Some of the leading brands in the world don’t look like much when stripped of all other brand elements. Take the name ebay. Would you have looked at that word a dozen years ago and said, “Wow, a leading global brand!”? Not likely. Add the logo, the visual context, the attitude and personality,the story of the brand, the experience–then you have that leading global brand.

I’ve seen a number of naming projects end in failure. One client wanted a name that meant “synthetic oil”, “wear protection”, and “smooth operation”. It had to work around the world and have no more than 6 letters. Believe me, there is no combination of 6 letters in any alphabet that can deliver on those expectations! This client was simply putting too much on the shoulders of the name. Your name definitely needs to communicate, but it cannot, by itself, be your brand.

2. Looking for a “likable” the name.

Any time a client starts evaluating the “likeability” of a brand name candidate, the project is doomed. Likeability is an entirely nebulous concept that is impossible to objectively define. Likeability is in the eyes of the beholders.

Likeability can actually be harmful as a criterion of a “good” name. Years of research have shown a strong link between likeability and familiarity. People tend to like names that are in their comfort zone of the known and conventional. That means likeable names are not going to stand out as different, and that is a critical naming mistake. And being distinctive is the most important quality your name can have.

3. Lacking criteria that define a “good” name.

Since “likeability” is a poor standard for determining a good name, what standard should you use?

The best name is the one that makes the right people (your customers) think the right things (about your product). You need to define what your brand will stand for, both in a logical sense of features and benefits and in an emotional sense of feelings and associations. Your name has to suggest, inspire, or reference this brand definition.

Second, your brand needs to be different. You can’t choose a name in a vacuum. You must consider what your competitors are doing. Avoid anything that even comes close to mimicking their brands.

You can name a dozen other criteria for choosing a “good” name, but if you get these two, you are 80% there.

4. Going for “memorability”.

The standard advice of brand experts far and wide is to go for memorable names. This ridiculous piece of advice is useless to most branders. The problem is three-fold:

a. First what do you know about what makes a word or name memorable? A really different brand isn’t necessarily memorable. PWC Consulting spent $110 million to change its name to Mondays, a very “different” choice with disastrous results. A short word is no more memorable than a long one. Chevrolet is more successful than Geo. Hidden Valley Ranch is a full three words and five syllables of memorability! Spell-ability isn’t intrinsic to memorability. Winnebago isn’t spell-able–how many folks forget there are two “n’s”? How can you evaluate memorability when you don’t know what criteria actually contribute to it?

b. Memorability is inextricably bound to the rest of your brand elements. Memorability is created by your communications more than by your name. Was AFLAC a memorable brand? For years, the company operated under this string of letters. You can imagine the talk internally about having to change the name something better. After all, it sounded like the quack of a duck. Bing! AFLAC became a powerful brand, not because of a great name, but because of a great duck. That said, maybe there is hope for TIAA-CREF (but maybe not.)

c. You can’t see memorability by simply looking at a name. You have to test for memorability. You’ll need quantitative research to track reaction over time to know if your name is “memorable” or not.

Nothing is wrong with memorability, but thinking you can just look at a list of words and determine memorability is a common naming mistake… But don’t attempt to use this criteria when looking at a list of words.

More naming resources–to help you avoid naming mistakes:

Naming How-To:

Naming Mistakes
Six Factors for a Memorable and Motivating Name
History of Best Known Brands
Styles and Types of Brands
Choosing a Name
Try a Recycled Name
Web 2.0 Naming Considerations
What is Brand Architecture
Approaches to Brand Architecture
Brand Architecture and Business Strategy

Companies and Products:

MSNBC vs. msnbc.com and The Bigger Naming Problem
Macy’s Blunder with Marshall Field’s Name Change
Banks and the Name Game from Bank Marketing Magazine
AIG Name Change to AIU
Breaking Up the Motorola Brand
Google’s Speedbook Disaster
Renaming a Small Business
Proxios CEO Talks About Renaming Process
Naming a Green Sportswear Company
Unintentionally Funny Names-BARF
Unintentionally Funny Names-Putzmeister
Unintentionally Funny Names-Bimbo
Renaming a $2 Billion IPG Agency
Renaming Iraqi Freedom
Selected Naming Portfolio

Jan 222015
 

NFL-Gate-Scandal-NamesDeflategate–the shameful scandal involving under-inflated footballs that Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the entire Patriots organization unbelievably have no knowledge of and no responsibility for–is the latest in a long line of gate scandal names.

As noted in this post from the past, Watergate opened the floodgates for gate scandal names–Deflategate will surely not be the last.

Gate Scandal Names Instant Associations

Effective brand names are those that generate the right instant associations. People have to “get it” and understand the core of what you are trying to communicate in a femtosecond. The popularity of gate scandal names is that you instantly understand that what you are talking about is sordid and scandalous.

The NFL seems a fine breeding ground for scandals–who can forget the wardrobe malfunction that became Nipplegate?

Unlike the wardrobe malfunction, Deflategate has the potential to seriously damage the NFL brand. Nipplegate was about a celebrity during the half-time show. Deflategate’s unsportsmanlike cheating goes to the heart of the sport of football.

Go Seahawks!

Oct 302013
 

Why is the Redskins team name suddenly a huge controversy? If it is racist, why wasn’t there a huge outcry back in the 1960s? Why has it taken decades for the eternal victim class to make this an issue in 2013? Truly, this is another example of people with nothing better to do suddenly throwing a temper tantrum to get quoted in the media. Offense is taken much more than it is given.

redskins-team-name

NFL team names celebrate some sort of image. These names are about honor. Anyone who has sung themselves hoarse (I’ll admit it, but beer is soothing) singing “Hail to the Redskins” knows they are singing about honor, respect, pride and achievement, not denigrating a skin color or race.

  • Is Pittsburgh insulting steel workers with their team name?
  • Are Nordic types offended by purple-wearing vikings?
  • Is Nancy Pelosi bent out of shape her hometown team is an outrage to the early California pioneers?
  • And how about Buffalo?–what a slap in the face to everyone called Bill for gosh sakes!
  • And Houston fans must feel terribly affronted that their team is called–gasp–Texans.

The Redskins should stay with the Redskins team name. Fans who paint their bodies burgundy and gold should continue to do so with pride. Someone on Twitter suggested the team should change their logo to a potato–that’s a much better choice than destroying years of tradition and homage just to shut up the latest batch of complainers.

redskin

My recommendation: Call them the Washington Thinskins.

Fun fact–the Green Bay Packers were named after Curly Lambeau’s employer, the Indian Packing Company, which paid for the team’s first jerseys and let them practice on company property. How offensive to Indians and native Americans (who are not at all native to this continent).

Okay–comments now open for those wishing to post their gratuitous accusations that I am a racist.

UPDATE: This clear-eyed article in “Real Clear Sports” debunks much of the bunkum behind this fake controversy: What Should Be Redskins’ New Name?

UPDATE: Here is a fun idea from a spoof circulating online: Dan Snyder, owner of the NFL Redskins, has announced that the team is dropping “Washington”
from the team name, and it will henceforth be simply known as “The Redskins.” It was reported that he finds the word “Washington” imparts a negative image of poor leadership, mismanagement, corruption, cheating, lying, and graft, and is not a fitting role-model for young fans of football.

Jun 212013
 

wwz

In celebration of the release of World War Z, here is a run down of the best and worst named zombie movies:

Best

1. Night of the Living Dead
Not only the best zombie movie, but the best named zombie movie.
It has the wit of juxtaposition with living vs. dead and the ominous
promise of night.
2. Shaun of the Dead
Stops your eye and gets your attention with the play on words.
References the classic Dawn of the Dead with a sense of humor.
3. Zeder
Zingy–with a play on Zed, which is undead jargon for zombie and
is a portmanteau for “deader.” Totally ownable as a brand.
Apr 282013
 

9780982082935_Merriams_guide-to-NamingI am pleased to announce the second edition of my book Merriam’s Guide to Naming is now available. In the half dozen years since the first edition, I’ve led over a hundred company and product naming projects for Fortune 500 multinationals, mid-size companies and start-ups. As part of this work, I’ve helped executives wrestle with questions and deal with challenges that were not adequately covered in the first edition. And, in reviewing dozens of magazine articles I’ve written and media interviews I’ve given, I realized I had a large body of new knowledge on the subject of naming. Merriam’s Guide to Naming was quite overdue for a redo. Click here to order.

Jan 182013
 

When a brand’s strength is tied to a real person–when it is a celebrity brand–its fortunes rise and fall with that person’s reputation and behaviors (see Osama bin Laden, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods). In the case of the Livestrong brand, Lance Armstrong’s “doing the dirty” complicates his business and his charity.

lance-armstrong-livestrongThe Livestrong brand is tightly tied to the cancer fighting Livestrong Foundation, but the brand is not strictly altruistic. The Foundation licenses the brand, which is personally owned by Lance Armstrong, and it is the driver of his multimillion for-profit empire. The dynamic is a complex one. Armstrong’s modest fame as a cyclist built the Foundation, and the Foundation burnished Armstrong’s reputation, catapulting his fame, marketability and fortune far beyond that of a mere road racer. Can you even name any other famous cyclists?

Lance Armstrong has confessed to doping by Oprah. The irony is the profit and fame dynamic of Livestrong was a key driver in Armstrong’s decision to cheat. He needed performance enhancing drugs to stage the comeback that built his celebrity that built the foundation that built the million-dollar enterprise. Now those performance enhancing drugs are dragging down the whole thing. It pays to be a winner. Being a cheater? No so much.

More: When a Brand Is a Person

Oct 232012
 

Jets player Tim Tebow has filed trademark applications in some seven categories for the term “Tebowing.” The blogosphere has erupted in complaints that the football player is trying to trademark kneeling in prayer.

tebowing-trademark

A look at the actual filings (you can look at them here) show that is simply not the case. The applications are for the word mark itself. People can rest assured that they can take a knee in prayer without paying a licensing fee to Tim Tebow.

Trademarking your personal brand makes sense. Lady Gaga sued last year to protect her name, which has been valued at north of $1 billion. Trademarking a gesture, however, is not so easy to do, especially one so common as kneeling in prayer.

Jun 292012
 

The latest AIG rebranding is actually re-rebanding: Returning to its old name, finally correcting a an ill-considered and ineffective name change.

AIG Rebranding 2009

“AIG is trying to outrun its old reputation by adopting a new brand. Will it work? Most people aren’t buying it. The entity, formerly known as AIG, is firmly attached to its reputation of irresponsible financial stewardship and credit default swap schemes that played a major role in the global financial collapse of 2008. The payout of millions in bonuses, particularly to executives responsible for the collapse along with lavish executive spa trips using the millions of US taxpayer bailout money haven’t helped. With record losses mounting and a reputation in shambles, a name change isn’t fooling anyone.”

© 2014 Lisa Merriam