Brand Naming Survival Guide, Chapter 1: 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 solely on dictionary definitions, 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 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. Neglect, reduce, tardy

 

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 one?

 

 

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, Gartner reports, 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: naming the problem we solve!
  • Qualities: confident, different, focused on solving the target’s problem.

 

Hotwire

  • Positioning: a travel hack, exciting, fun.
  • Hotwiring a car is a hack, that’s why this name works
  • Qualities: Exciting, different, memorable, viral

 

Virgin

  • Positioning: 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: 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.

Further reading: Outwitting Squirrels

 

 

Lost at sea – The most common mistake in brand naming

The most common mistake in naming is choosing a name that gets lost in the sea of competitive sound alikes. We’ve cobbled together a list of clothing brand names that contain the word “Bay”, with a few “Harbor” names thrown in for spice.
This mistake is easily avoided by creating a Competitive Taxonomy prior to naming:

Aqua Bay
Back Bay
Baja Bay
Banana Bay
Bantry Bay
Bay City
Bay Reef
Bay Trading
Beach Bay
Bermuda Bay
Bikini Bay
Billion Bay
Bimini Bay
Blackwater Bay
Blubay
Brittany Bay
Buckley Bay
Buffalo Bay
Burk’s Bay
Capstan Bay
Chileno Bay
Coral Bay
Eastbay
Eccobay
Emerald Bay
English Bay
Falcon Bay
Ginger Bay
Hampton Bay
Harbor Bay
Highland Bay
Inner Harbor
Jamaica Bay
Kahuna Bay
Kips Bay
Kylani Bay
Latigo Bay
Lawton Harbor
Lunada Bay
Madison Bay
Mango Bay
Marino Bay
Mission Bay
Misty Harbor
Monterey Bay
Moonlight Bay
Orca Bay
Paradise Bay
Parrot Bay
Peppermint Bay
Peregrine Bay
Sag Harbor
Solar Bay
South Bay
St. John’s Bay
Sterling Bay
SunBay
Thornton Bay
Thunder Bay
Union Bay
Victoria Bay
Willow Bay
Yucatan Bay

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