Month: April 2008

What’s in a name nayme naime mname?

Ok – I haven’t blogged in about 2 months, but this I just have to say.

Its about names. I have worked, in some capacity or another with about a dozen start ups, and maybe three dozen or more products. All of which had names.

Startups especially tend to spend an undue amount of time, and often money as well, on choosing one.

What is a name for? Its for identifying a product or company. I know your name. It means I can refer to you, talk about you, and others know who I mean.

So. Let’s talk about the online music company I consulted for that wanted to name themselves “Audacy”. Cute. I get it. But this is an audio thing. Anytime the name was mentioned, it would have to be spelled. Oy.

Or my recent client who wants to change a perfectly good, though 5 syllable, name to a 3 syllable one that is clever but unspellable and unreadable. I won’t mention Will by name (sorry Will – perhaps I can change your name to whylle) who has a geat idea with an absolutely inscrutable name.

People want their name to be clever, memorable, evocative of the intense thoughtfulness and wonderful qualities of their brand/company/product. They want it to become a “verb” like “Google”.

Horse manure.

If you are successful, then your name won’t matter. Who gives a second thought to coke, google, ebay, intuit, adobe, charmin, amazon, aol, fedex as to the quality of the word itself?

So – there’s not a ton of upside to a great name.

There is, however downside to a bad one. Like one that you can’t spell or remember, or get the URL to.

Here are the 3 laws of acceptable product and company names.

Breaking them does not mean you’ll fail, it means you have an extra challenge that you could have avoided. And aren’t there enough when you’re trying to launch something successful?

So –

1. You gotta be able to get the URL.

I know its hard these days, and this motivates people to all sorts of twisted spellings and such. But here’s number 2:

2. It should be obvious how to spell it.

I hear about it from a friend, i go check it out. Except if I can’t find it cause you spelled it Cynergy (sorry guys). This is ANTI-MARKETING. you are loosing people before they can even get interested. Word of mouth? Doesn’t work! Yeah- most people will send a link. But I still have actual conversations with people – don’t you?

3. It should, please, be obvious how to pronounce it.

So my friend, Whylle – the way he pronounces it makes it make some sense. But I he had to spell it out for me, so to speak. Same with the little 5 syllable to 3 syllable company.

I expect both of these companies to meet with some measure of success. 5 syllables, in fact, really rocks (I don’t know as much about Whylle’s company yet – stay tuned, cause after this I’ll owe him some good press, if I like it). But this success would come just a touch easier if they got a name that worked for them, instead of against them.

Oh yeah, Audacy? They blew half their operating budget on getting a new name, and that was good indication of their general decision making ability.

So one last thought on this – if you’re spending more time or money on your name and logo than on making sure your product knocks it out of the park for your intended users – then its time to re-think. Are you futzing with the name because you feel blocked on other fronts? Or is it perhaps time to take a breath and get focused again on what matters – providing value for people who care in a way that has a reasonable chance of paying the rent.

faithfully yours,

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