“What’s in a name”


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;” From Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, 1594: Bill got it right back in the day and marketers today would be wont to abide by his wisdom. The activity of brand and product naming can engulf hours of unproductive and costly (hundreds of thousand of dollars) time for companies in focus groups and computer generated similes. Why, because the expectation in the value of the “right” name is unwarranted. If you are seeking the “right” name eureka magic pill moment for your brand or product to catapult it to stardom, don’t, save your money, time, angst and energy on better things. This is not to say there aren’t “bad names” – there are and anyone with a wisp of sensibility can discern one, it’s not quantum mechanics. An obviously inappropriate or bad taste name is just that, inappropriate and or in bad taste. Inappropriate like Nova (no go) in Spanish speaking countries, or in bad taste like Yuk Chuck Grubs for a new seasonal regional small plates restaurant…no, that might just work? A “good name” is related to execution, not it’s inherent rightness, A good name is simply only as good as the brand or product it represents. A good name grows into place through brand or product experience. We’ve all known a “good” Bob and a “bad” Bob the name having nothing to do with the Bob we’ve known. No one would have come out of a naming ideation session and declared Ikea the magic name for a low price value furnishing retailer, or Barneys for an huber up scale fashion boutique…or Mercedes for a high-end automobile manufacturer. Name any successful company or product and it will have a successful ring to it’s name, unsuccessful companies or product names, not so much. The subject of naming deserves a book, but a quick example might help to illuminate. When the new President of Ford, Alan Mullally took control of the company one of the first actions he executed was out of his experience set, he brought back the venerable Taurus name which had been changed to 500. He sought the magic pill of the iconic Ford Taurus name. Naive marketing on his part, yes it was iconic, yes it was one of the most popular, best selling cars in Fords 100 year history, Yes it “was” a great name, unfortunately after 18 years the Taurus had become the “iconic” rental car, a dismally failing Ford model. Having nothing to do with its name the model had become design and engineering dated and less able to complete with its Asian and European competitors. Bad product = bad name. Most of the Germans automobile companies, car hounds that they are, have a good marketing approach to naming nomenclature, in the “Blur Age” of brands and models they simply use engineering alphanumerics to name their vehicles, keeping the focus on the mother brand and since by and large the core brands are good – BMW, Mercedes, Audi the various model names are henceforth good, Ford 500 not-with-standing. So, if you’ve been charged with developing a new brand or product, focus your energy, time and money on the execution of the product, the name will take care of itself, ask brand Barack Obama.


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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