“VANILLACIDE: when an original idea or plan is repeatedly changed until it becomes less interesting and unique than it was first intended to be. Vanillacide is most often used in business contexts, where it refers to the scenario of new and creative proposals undergoing a series of changes in order to make them generally acceptable to people, but in the process becoming so ‘watered down’ that they lose their original individuality and appeal.
The term vanillacide was coined by Steve Manning, Chief Executive Officer at Igor, a branding agency in the US. The expression is a blend of the adjective vanilla in its modern sense of describing something as ordinary and lacking in any special or extra features, and the suffix -cide, which denotes an act of killing. Unlike vanilla, which can simply be used to show that something is of a standard variety, vanillacide always has disapproving overtones, suggesting that something has become unnecessarily conformist and ‘bog standard’.”
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, songs, culture, history, mythology, etc, tells you how emotionally connected people are to them. The more the better.
And it reveals what each brings to the table for marketing, branding and advertising campaigns.
Garden of Eden (apple w/ bite logo)
Issac Newton (product name)
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
Apples and oranges
How ’bout them apples?
Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
Upset the applecart
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 wonders of the world.
Seven musical notes.
Seven days a week.
Seven deadly sins.
Seven colors of the rainbow.
Seven years of bad luck.
Seven visible planets.
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. 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. Better Living Through Science.
Igor. Building The Perfect Beast.
BOTTOMLINE: The 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.
Landor Founder, Walter Landor, Details The Agency’s Naming Process:
Walter’s wise words are not just arcane, academic theory; Landor’s process produces results:
From Landor’s website, we’re not sure if this is writing or if it’s just typing: “We started from a strategic platform, using a prototypical process involving the client in building the creative idea with an iterative journey approach. Expressing the values of the new banking paradigm, we then gave shape to the clients’ desires by translating them into infinite opportunities.” [Full case study]
From Landor’s website: “The new name, Enactus, was initially inspired by the idea of compounding “Entrepreneurial Action,” but it was created to transcend those roots and encompass the strong emotion that the brand evokes. The name encapsulates the intricate balance between youthful energy and a sophisticated stature that defines the organization.” [Full Case Study Landor understandably removed this naming work from their site]
“Tan” suggests dominance: From Landor’s website: “Our Hamburg and Asia Pacific offices collaborated on the name Magotan, alluding to the Latin word magnus and the kingly color magenta; tan suggests dominance…” [Full Case Study Landor understandably removed this naming work from their site]
From Landor’s website: “Landor developed the name Centravis, which directly communicates the central positioning of the brand as combining the best of all worlds. The suffix “vis” means force, or power in Latin, and underlines the ambitious and growth-oriented business strategy…” [Full Case Study Landor understandably removed this naming work from their site]