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GIVE IT A NAME (ANY NAME)

I’ve done quite a few ‘naming work- shops’ over the years for new products, services or companies. There are many good books written on the subject stating the magic formula. I got given a cracking one by Interbrand called, I think, ‘Naming’ some point in the 90s. It’s very important what you call yourself (apparently). It can make the difference between success and failure. I know I read it in that book.

But I’ve started thinking a lot about this recently and I think I might have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter one iota. I reckon it’s one of those things that marketing folk agonise over and real people couldn’t care less about. Someone will probably pull out a killer stat to prove me wrong but I’ve never heard a real person say it mattered.

I’m well aware that I’m arguing against a century of received wisdom and lots of big brains so I’m going to have to explain myself.

Before we start, I know that it is quite important that you don’t call your food company ‘Ploppy’ or that you make sure that you do due diligence to your global product name not translating as ‘go kill yourself’ in Serbo-Croat. But that can often be a matter of pure bad luck. Beyond that, go for it.

Have you stopped to consider the ludicrous nature of naming a business-to-business mobile email device after a small purple fruit? Then think about the mobile network, that you’ve signed that piece of hardware to, being named after another fruit of a different colour. If you applied the traditional rules of product naming for a sensible B2B audience to this scenario it would almost be a case study in what not to do – ‘Yes Sir Martin, I’ve got your Blackberry connected to Orange’. What? Come again? And don’t get me started on Apple…

I wonder what percentage of Scottish Widows customer base is made up of black-clad ladies from north of Berwick who have recently lost their husbands. I’m no Mystic Meg but I reckon it’d be somewhere just shy of sod all.

There were lots of pimply, insecure teenage boys walking around with the word ‘Virgin’ emblazoned on their T-shirts in the mid 80s (yes, yes, me included) and it didn’t seem to bother them too much. It really ought to have done, if you think about it.

And when was the last time you walked past the Carphone Warehouse and were greeted by a bunch of confused customers shaking their heads – ‘Nah, not interested mate. Don’t need a ‘car phone’ and that place looks nothing like a warehouse. I’m off to get my strawberry connected to the pineapple down the road at Phones 4u – that’s a proper name’.

So, I reckon beyond not calling your new brand something that means ‘I hate your face’ in Polish, you’re laughing. Mind you, on a different tack, I am slightly convinced that SsangYong doesn’t sell many cars in the UK because no one has the faintest idea how to pronounce it and is too embarrassed to ask someone (but that doesn’t help my argument, so feel free to ignore it).

Beyond the absolute basics I reckon that naming doesn’t really matter that much. Have a brilliant product, great customer service and a brand people can trust. Then have a quick squizz at your local greengrocers and see what’s being left by the Telco industry that you can rob.

Greengage.com, anyone? It’s still available.

Kevin Chesters – Executive Planning Director at mcgarrybowen.

Follow Kevin on twitter @hairychesters.