Choosing a new brand name ? Do an A.S.S. count.

ASSOCIATIONS + SLOGANS SCORE

Let’s say you’ve got two metaphorical names under consideration for your new computer company, Apple and Strawberry. Both names meet your brand positioning criteria:

Simple, warm, human, approachable, organic, disruptive.

Half your team champions Apple and the other half love the name Strawberry. It’s pointed out that the names couldn’t be more similar, they are both red fruits, so why not flip a coin and move on?  The Chief Obfuscation Officer calls for a month of testing, reliably in the unreliable form of crowdsourcing or focus groups.

At which point you become the hero by jumping up and shouting, “I demand an A.S.S. test!”

A test that takes minutes to complete.

When leading name contenders are locked in a battle, tallying up the number of associations each have in our collective consciousness – in stories, legends, idioms, etc, tells you how emotionally connected people are to them. And reveals what each brings to the table for marketing, branding and advertising campaigns.

 

Apple

  • Garden of Eden (apple w/ bite logo)

  • Issac Newton (product name)

  • William Tell

  • Snow White

  • The Tree of Life

  • McIntosh (product names McIntosh, eMac, iMac, Power Mac, MacBook, Mac Mini)

  • One smart apple

  • A bad apple

  • Easy as apple pie

  • An apple a day

  • Apple of my eye

  • Apple polisher

  • Big Apple

  • Apples and oranges

  • How ’bout them apples?

  • Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

  • Upset the applecart

 

 Strawberry

  • Strawberry Fields

  • Strawberry shortcake

  • Strawberry blonde

 

Sometimes the positioning of the name your looking for is simply a single big idea – an iconic, definitive name that captures the imagination.

This was the case for a B2B software startup we named, so the first and winning tactic was to find a name that had the most cultural connections that were really big ideas. The clear winner was Seven:

 

 Seven

  • Seven wonders of the world.

  • Seven musical notes.

  • Seven seas.

  • Seven days a week.

  • Seven continents.

  • Seven deadly sins.

  • Seven virtues.

  • Seven colors of the rainbow.

  • Seven chakras.

  • Seven years of bad luck.

  • Seven visible planets.

  • Seven heavens.

  • Seven dwarfs.

  • Seven samurai.

  • On the seventh day god rested.

  • Lucky number seven.

 

Of course there are many more, but you get the idea. Before we presented Seven to our client, we needed to determine if Seven could possibly be trademarked around the world, given the 700,000+ trademarked software names globally. We came up with a strategy, and Seven is trademarked worldwide. The ability to legally finesse a name like Seven is critical, because naming is not simply about finding the best name for the job, it’s about finding the best name for the job that you can legally use.

Apple vs. Strawberry isn’t a fair fight. But it’s not always so lopsided. If the A.S. portion of the test doesn’t produce a winner, move on to Slogans. Put two names side by side and see which inspires the most taglines that play off the name.

Of course none of the taglines anyone can remember actually play off the company name, they’re too expected and make the name one dimensional.  Imagine, “Virgin, A Brand New Experience” or “Apple, Easy as Pie”.  Deadly.

But the exercise does reveal the power, connectivity and relevance of an unexpected name.

In this example, let’s say we’re naming a creative agency and a leading name contender is:

 

 Igor

  • Igor. Bringing Your Vision To Life.

  • Igor. Get Over The Hump.

  • Igor. A Few Spare Parts and a Good Storm.

  • Igor. Throw The Switch.

  • Igor. A Moveable Beast.

  • Igor. Own Your Shadow.

  • Igor. No Job Too Horrifying.

  • Igor. The Other White Meat.

  • Igor. Never Say Die.

  • Igor. A Good Brain Is Hard To Find.

  • Igor. Alive!

  • Igor. Better Living Through Science.

  • Igor. Building The Perfect Beast.

 

BOTTOMLINEThe number of ASSOCIATIONS or SLOGANS that potential metaphorical brand names generate tells you how emotionally connective each name is and how much branding, marketing & advertising ammunition they contain.

 

More on the existential hell of a naming agency naming itself.

How To Create Names Like Facebook, Instagram & Snapchat

 

Instagram and Snapchat are identical constructions. Each simply substitutes new words from an accepted utility name: Instant Message. Insta & Snap are synonyms for Instant, and Gram & Chat are substitutes for Message.

Since Instant Message is already a universally adopted name, you know that Instagram and Snapchat will be accepted as well. If what you’re naming doesn’t map to a two-word generic, break it down into one first.

You can do this by re-purposing an unrelated, well-known compound word, as in Apple’s Wi-Fi base station being called “Airport” – a port accessed through the air. It’s easy to remember and readily embraced because everyone knows the word Airport already.

Proposing a name like Airport to a committee will be met with immediate pushback such as, “Everyone hates the experience of an airport” or, “Last time I was there they cancelled my flight, I had to sleep on the floor and I missed my child’s birthday” or “The first thing I think of is stress, long lines and bad service”- as if any of this will make the name less successful, which of course it doesn’t.

As soon as the name Airport is applied to a Wi-Fi device the primary definition disappears, your audience puts the clever double meaning together in their heads in an “aha!” moment, and they smile at the warmth & humanity you’ve brought to the game. Airport contains all of the ingredients of an unforgettable, best of breed name.

Because this simple concept is inherently difficult for bureaucracies, names like Airport are rare indeed – but they do happen.

 

“Vanillacide”: How Radical Concepts Are Destroyed By Too Much Consultation

From the book “Shoot the Puppy: A Survival Guide to the Curious Jargon of Modern Life“, by linguist Tony Thorne, Head of the Language Centre at Kings College London:

Vanillacide  

I first heard this bizword when I shared a microphone recently with a Californian, Steve Manning. The occasion was a BBC radio discussion of the ongoing craze for re-branding companies, something Steve, boss of the US naming agency, Igor (as in the doctor’s assistant in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein), is an expert on.
Vanillacide is an updated version of the old notions of death-by-committee, or the death-of-a-thousand-cuts by which new and creative proposals are diluted and diluted until they become universally acceptable – and wholly unoriginal.
Agencies like Igor pitch new names to companies looking for a change of image. In Steve’s own words, ‘The best way to get 100 people to sign off on a name is to come up with something that has no meaning and offends no one – the surest pathway to vanillacide.’
This example of what used to be called a ‘portmanteau word’, known to linguists as a ‘blend’, is formed by bolting together the suffix of ‘suicide’ (if you think of it as self-destruction) or ‘homicide’ (if you think it’s a crime) and the slang use of ‘vanilla’ meaning insipid, conformist or harmless, which probably began with the gay and feminist movements in the late 1970s.
It’s not only progressives such as Steve Manning who perceive a general tendency in global corporate capitalism towards a deadening uniformity. Insider ironists now refer to ‘blanding’ and ‘blandwidth’. Timid, over-systematised decision-makers are accused scornfully of ‘blanding out’.
Doubts about conformism coincide with growing doubts about the value of using focus groups to test new names, products or services. There is, however, a trick for getting round the play-safe herd instinct displayed by committees or focus groups: it’s sometimes referred to as ‘wild-carding’ and consists of giving your client a list containing your favoured suggestions, plus at least a couple of ultra-radical, even crazy solutions.
In rejecting the most extreme, they are likely to ‘compromise’ on something that is still fairly daring. It might not work for everyone, but the Californian corrective to vanillacide is to junk consensus-seeking and embrace go-with-the-gut antimethodology, or, to use another trendy biz-term, ‘corporate voodoo’.