Brand Naming Survival Guide: Beware The Literalist.

 

In every naming project, potential names are subject to scrutiny. They should be judged on how well they map to positioning, memorability, stopping power, emotional impact, connections to the collective consciousness, distinction from competitors – the sum of which answers the most important naming question, “Is this name interesting?“.

The literalist will critique names based on dictionary definitions or a singular association, reliably in the form of an objection. Their claim will be that a word’s negative meaning or association(correlation) means that the value of the word as a name will also be negative(causation). The evidence they cite in their efforts to kill a name is irrefutable fact, yet completely irrelevant and counterproductive. A negative definition or association does not a negative name make – there is no causation from correlation.

Here are some of the known tactics a literalist will use to kill great name:

Slack

-In business, Slack means “characterized by a lack of work or activity; quiet

-A Slacker is someone who works as little as possible. A terrible message for our target audience

– Slack means slow, sluggish, or indolent, not active or busy; dull; not brisk. Moving very slowly, as the tide, wind, or water.

lululemon

-We are an upscale brand for women, lululemon sounds like a character from a 3-year olds’ picture book: “lululemon and her best friends annabanana and sallystrawberry were climbing Gumdrop Hill, when suddenly from behind a rainbow the queen of the unicorns appeared…”

 

Virgin Air

-Says “we’re new at this”

-Public wants airlines to be experienced, safe and professional-

-Investors won’t take us seriously-Religious people will be offended

 

Hotwire

-It has one meaning, “to steal a car!”

-Crime is the last thing we need to be associated with

 

Yahoo!

-Yahoo!! It’s Mountain Dew!

-Yoohoo! It’s a chocolate drink in a can!

-Nobody will take stock quotes and world news seriously from a bunch of “Yahoos”

 

Oracle

-Unscientific

-Unreliable

-Only foretold death and destruction

-Only fools put their faith in an Oracle

-Sounds like “orifice” – people will make fun of us

 

LoveSac

-Do we really need bullet points for this furniture store?

LoveSac has 70 stores in malls across the U.S.

 

If you encounter a literalist, keep your distance, maintain eye contact, and take the threat seriously. Do not run in any direction. Don’t bend over, crouch down or go fetal. Wave your arms in an alpha manner. Throw any toxic item you can find – Keurig pods, inspirational posters, focus group data, etc. If attacked, fight back. If this doesn’t work, your last chance for survival is to enlighten the literalist:

These literal objections are not reasons to abandon a name, rather they have demonstrably positive effects on a target audience. Consumers don’t process names literally, they process them emotionally. Getting your committee to acknowledge this difference and to interact as the public does with names, rather than the way the dictionary does, is essential:

 

Slack

-Positioning: DISRUPTIVE, naming the problem we solve!

-Qualities:  confident, different, focused on solving the target’s problem.

 

Hotwire

-Positioning: DISRUPTIVE, a travel hack, exciting, fun.

– Hotwiring a car is a hack, that’s why this name works

-Qualities: Exciting, different, memorable, viral

 

Virgin

-Positioning: DISRUPTIVE, different, confident, exciting, alive, human, provocative, fun. The innovative name forces people to create a separate box in their head to put it in.

-Qualities: Self-propelling, Connects Emotionally, Personality, Deep Well.

 

Oracle

-Positioning: DISRUPTIVE, different, confident, superhuman, evocative, powerful, forward thinking.

-Qualities: Self-propelling, Connects Emotionally, Personality, Deep Well.

 

The ‘common wisdom’ that naming in large groups will discourage a literalist attack is nothing more than urban legend. In fact, the larger the committee, the more likely an attack will be.

Brand Naming Case Studies.

Further reading: Outwitting Squirrels 

 

 

Double Dutch

When you are in Holland you are always in The Netherlands, but when you are in The Netherlands you are only in Holland about half of the time. Most people use the two names interchangeably – but not you, not anymore. Besides, using the names incorrectly is considered an insult to the locals, depending on the circumstance, as is clearly explained here:

Calling the Netherlands “Holland” is like calling Great Britain “England”. Holland is the old name of the western provinces North-Holland, South-Holland and the small province of Utrecht. About half of the Dutch population lives in this region, where you can find the “four big cities” Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

In summary, Holland is a “Nether Region“, not a country. It’s an area within the country of The Netherlands.

Next time we’ll let you know where all things Dutch fit into the naming architecture, including, but certainly not limited to:

dutch-elm, dutch-elm beetle, dutch-kentucky syndrome, dutch-process cocoa powder, dutch-processed cocoa, dutch-type, dutch 200, dutch and flemish literature, dutch antique marble, dutch arch, dutch art, dutch auction, dutch auction preferred stock, dutch barn, dutch belted, dutch binding, dutch bob, dutch bond, dutch borneo, dutch boy, dutch cap, dutch capital, dutch case-knife bean, dutch case knife bean, dutch chair, dutch cheese, dutch chile, dutch clinker, dutch clover, dutch cocoa powder, dutch colonial, dutch colonial style, dutch colonization of the americas, dutch comfort, dutch concert, dutch corner, dutch courage, dutch cupboard, dutch curacao, dutch cut, dutch disease, dutch doll, dutch door, dutch door bolt, dutch east india company, dutch east indies, dutch elm, dutch elm beetle, dutch elm disease, dutch elm fungus, dutch euro coins, dutch famine of 1944, dutch flat, dutch florin, dutch foil, dutch football league, dutch football league teams, dutch genever gin, dutch gilt papers, dutch gleek, dutch gold, dutch golden age, dutch government in exile, dutch guiana, dutch harbor, dutch harbor–unalaska, dutch hip hop, dutch hip roof, dutch hoe, dutch iris, dutch island, dutch john, dutch kentucky syndrome, dutch language, dutch lap, dutch leaf, dutch leonard, dutch limburg, dutch liquid, dutch literature, dutch lunch, dutch marble, dutch master, dutch metal, dutch mineral, dutch monarchy, dutch monetary unit, dutch music, dutch myrtle, dutch national flag, dutch nazi party, dutch new guinea, dutch nightingales, dutch oil, dutch oven, dutch oven furnace, dutch paper, dutch parliament, dutch people, dutch pink, dutch politics, dutch process cocoa, dutch process cocoa powder, dutch processed cocoa, dutch pudding, dutch railways, dutch reformed, dutch reformed church, dutch republic, dutch revolt, dutch roll, dutch royal marines, dutch rush, dutch school, dutch schultz, dutch settle, dutch sewing, dutch shepherd dog, dutch terms using, dutch tile, dutch tilt, dutch treat, dutch type, dutch uncle, dutch war, dutch war of independence, dutch wars, dutch west india company, dutch west indies, dutch wife, early dutch renaissance, east India company dutch, fancy dutch marble, first anglo-dutch war, first anglo dutch war, fourth anglo-dutch war, fourth anglo dutch war, german or dutch brass, go dutch, going dutch, high dutch, hope dutch, in dutch, isle of hope-dutch island, isle of hope dutch island, kitchen dutch, klm royal dutch airlines, low dutch, middle dutch, my old dutch, old dutch, old dutch marble, pennsylvania dutch, pennsylvania dutch language, royal dutch shell, second anglo dutch war, south african dutch, the dutch monarchy, third anglo dutch war, united dutch provinces, upsee dutch…etc.