Saturday, March 31, 2007

Names v/s Übermeters

In case you haven't figured it out yet, the thing I have been doing the past few months is comparing names and trying to understand which names work better than others based on certain Übermeters I've come up with. (Based on experience, gut feel and inexact memory sciences.)

One of the things that struck me about this is the possible question people might pose to themselves about whether right the way to come up with good names is to sit down and anally follow the Übermeters I have come up with? Not. These parameters I have so helpfully thought of are not meant to help you throw up names. What they are meant to do is help you understand which of the names you, or your naming company, have created will work.

My craft of enduringly naming brands is about sitting yourself down with your list of names and using the parameters to understand which of the names you have thought of will be memorable. The way to do it is to first think of names and then evaluate them against the Über-meters. (Not sit yourself down with the rule book and try and churn out names by the book.)

For instance, don't tell your blank sheet of paper you need names with alternating stop-start sounds, euphonious vowels and consonant combinations and good back stories, to name three of the most important qualities good names must possess. Do that and you'll be left with a bunch of hide-bound rubbish. The way to do it is to have fun with names, minus the rules. That done, evaluate/edit the list, seriously, against the parameters to end up with brand names which will register, better.

It's a bit like writing, actually. As David Ogilvy said, write with passion and edit carefully. Or something like that. The point is not about exactly what he said but what he meant by it. Kinda like coming up with good names, without getting inflexible about things. Get what I mean? Good. go play. Or, better still, come to me.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hell's Kitchen v/s Hitler's Cross

The thing I like about the names I'm comparing is that they do, wonderfully, what a name is supposed to: grab you by the eyeballs. I mean, how can you not pay attention to a brand that calls itself Hell's Kitchen or Hitler's Cross? In terms of basic functionality, both names do the job evenly well. So which names scores higher for me?

It's not enough for a name to get your attention. It must do it without being unacceptably offensive. Unfortunately, Hitler has too much going against him to be acceptable in any form whatsover. Maybe the only acceptable place for Hitler as a brand name would be for something hellacious and totally negative like a prison or some such thing. Politically correctly speaking, Hitler stands for everything bad about this world and if you're trying to build a brand you want people to be positively associated with, stay away from what the world considers totally, unarguably and politically unacceptable. In a different time and a more tolerable world, Hitler may have passed muster, but not anymore. We're too conservative and too scared to swallow anything too controversial.

Hell, on the other hand, is a more acceptable word/concept than Hitler. (Amazing, eh?) Besides, the name Hell's Ktichen has the word kitchen in it and cues in the product category (restaurant) - which Hitler's Cross doesn't. (Maybe the people who started Hitler's Cross ought have called it Hitler's Larder or some such thing less inflamatory. Hmm...probably not. Hitler is just not meant to be patronised. Only detested. No matter what, if anything, might be good about the monster.)

History apart, both names satisfy all the basic parameters you need for a name to be memorable. Unfortunately, a back story/History (as I have demonstrated in some of my previous posts) is an important factor when it comes to choosing a word, or set of words, for a name. Hell's Kitchen win. Hands down.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Numbers v/s Words

Do words make for less memorable brand names than numbers? It's difficult to generally agree or disagree with the question I have posed my self here but I am inclined to believe that when it comes to brand names, people remember numbers better than words.

A quick poll will demonstrate that most brand names are words. And if most brand names are words, it doesn't take an Einstein to tell you that a number in a roomfull of words will stand out. In which case, to bring up a case in this point, why is Wal-Mart a bigger brand than say 7/11? Because, as I've repeated time and again and again, a brand name is only a part of the marketing mix. Wal-Mart is a bigger brand than 7/11 because it has a stronger value proposition.

Other non-word aspects of brand naming will bring us to things like hyphens and slashes that are built into brand names. These little bits of non-alphabet cues are smart things to put into brand names. Point is, anything that makes a brand name stand out in a world full of brand words is a good thing to consider when you're looking for a memorable brand name.

Back now to the original topic of this post. Do numbers make for better brand names? Simple answer: Yes. Complicated nuance: Just coming up with a number for a brand name doesn't mean you're on your way to building a big brand. But it is a good starting point. Takeaway thought: The next time you're thinking of new brand names, you might want to spend a little time thinking of numbers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Slate v/s Salon

I love reading off the web and Slate and Salon are names of my two favourite general interest websites. I love the writers that contribute to these websites. I find the views aired by them unusual without being pointlessly radical. I also like both the names. The question of relevance here is, which of the two names is better? Tough call, which is what makes it even more fun to try and take a call.

Both Salon and Slate are short and sweet. Both Salon and Slate have a nice set of alternating vowel and consonant sounds that make them easy to pronounce. And both websites have memorable stories on offer. So what makes Slate a better name?

For starters, it's the 't' in Slate that will make it an easier name to remember. 'N' is a soft sound. The rule of thumb is that if a name ends with a soft sound, it will be less memorable than one which ends in a stronger consonant sound. What else does Slate have going for it?

It has a more vivid imagery. Most people will find it easier to put a picture to Slate than Salon. A Salon, for the schooled, is a living room. (A salon for the unschooled is little more than a hard-to-pronounce word.) A living room is a harder image to remember because it has more complex associations and elements. A slate on the other hand, for the schooled and the unschooled, is a simple black board. (Which is closer to writing and reading than a living room is.)

The proof of the pudding would, of course, be in the checking. Expose Slate and Salon to people who've never heard of them and you'll see that Slate will be the name that will be easier remembered.

Monday, March 26, 2007

General v/s OGeneral

From this post I discovered that Fujitsu has a brand of air conditioners called General, which the layperson refers to as 'OGeneral'!

The post also goes on to wonder why Fujitsu hasn't done much to correct the error that the layperson is, obviously, making by referring to the brand as OGeneral? Simple answer: OGeneral is a more memorable name than General. Clearly the layperson has taught Fujitsu a thing or two about brand naming. I mean, it doesn't take much of a brand namer to tell you that General is hardly a distinct brand name for anything.

In fact, I wonder why Fujitsu, which in itself is such a nice brand name (with strong consonant sounds like 'j' and ts'), decided to go with something as flat as General? (They could well have called it Fujitsu.) General is, well, a general brand name. OGeneral on the other hand is quite unique.

Oddly enough, I don't see the reverse 'G' in the logo that Brandnama is referring to and I'm not quite sure why people chose to see what is clearly General as OGeneral? Strange, and instructive, what people see in a logo, which in itself is a lesson logo designers and people who don't care much for research would do well to make a note of.

Speaking of logos, what does make this very general brand name called General stand out is the dotted 'A'. A simple little touch that elevates what is a very pedestrian brand name, stylishly. (Apart from, of course, the invisible to me but not to the layperson 'O'.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Trylateral v/s Cluenatic v/s Whonami

The puzzle pasha of my world, Brandnama, has come up with a new game for the lateral-minded. He has called it Trylateral. The same gent had also come up with a game called Cluenatic. Which of the two names do I like better? Which is likely to score better on the naming charts. Which is better structured to make a greater impact? Let's see.

What does Trylateral have going for it? For one, it has a lovely vowel/consonant rhythm about it. For two, it highlights the product promise upfront and most unclumsily. For three, it's a nice play on the tri-structure nature of the game. So why do I think Cluenatic is a better name? Simply because 'lunatic' is a more memorable word than lateral. (In all other parameters, Trylateral and Cluenatic score almost equally.)

Needless to say, Trylateral is the perfect name for this new game but the point I'm trying to make is this: the more memorable names born out of compund words are the ones that contain more impactful component words. 'Lunatic' is, marginally, a more memorable word than 'lateral' and if you were to put both the names to the test, Cluenatic will score higher on the recall charts.

This is not to say Brandnama should go and look for crazy words to build into Trylateral. All I'm trying to deconstruct are the reasons Cluenatic is a more memorable name than Trylateral.

Incidentally, yours truly, too, has a little game he has come up with called Whonami. I wonder how that scores in comparison to these two names from the pasha of naming and puzzles? Hmm...Tsunami, now that's an impact filled component word. Tick.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Unilingual names v/s Multilingual names

In yet another interesting aside from what you see on most naming blogs, my friend Brandnama has done a nice little post on Tamil brand names, which got me thinking about the unique merits of one particular brand name in that list: Kutcheribuzz.

What is Kutcheribuzz? Why do I think it's a smarter name than all the other brand names in the list? Why didn't they call it Kutcherikadai or Kutcheripet or something else that's all Tamil, like the other brand names on the list? Perhaps because the guys at Kutcheribuzz know a thing or two about coining inventive brand names.

What I like about Kutcheribuzz is that it appeals to and registers faster with an audience much wider than the core segment it is addressing. The smart thing about Kutcheribuzz is that it talks to Tamil and non-Tamil speakers while continuing to retain the ethnic charm contained in the term for its core offering, Kutcheris.

Kutcheribuzz's core audience might well be people who speak and understand Tamil, but in a sea of Tamil names it's biligual nature is a smart, memorable way to stand out. In addition (actually, because of) to the bilingual soundness of the name, Kutcheribuzz throws up a host of memorable sounds that make it much easier to recall. (Sounds like 'tch', the 'k' and the 'zz' to name the most important three.)

Now go back and take another look at that list. Then, forget about it. A few days down the line, try and recall a name from the list. There's a very good chance that the name you will remember is Kutcheribuzz. Lessons for brand creators: In a world where languages are increasingly borrowing from one and other, it makes sense to explore the greater possibilities that lie in opting for mixed language names.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Thrifty v/s Budget

Time now for a subtle, nuanced and what some might call simplistic trip into brand naming. Yesterday, while walking down the street, I came across this rent-a-car company called Thrifty. A few minutes later, I spotted an outlet for Budget. And that's when I wondered which of the two names is better?

In terms of vowel and consonant sounds that stop/start any name/word, both Budget and Thrifty score well. Perhaps Budget scores a bit higher for some. But the some aside, aurally speaking it's pretty much a dead heat. They're both visually well-structured and make memorable audio/visual impacts. Now ignore the fact that Budget is an older, larger company with a global footprint. Instead, let's turn our attention to some of the other parameters you as a customer might consider when evaluating which brand to be associated with.

Would you like to be seen wearing, or sitting inside, a brand that advertises itself as Thrifty? Isn't Budget less thrifty-sounding than Thrifty? Considering both Budget and Thrifty are pushing the same benefit, my gut feeling tells me Budget will score higher on positive cues if researched. Why? I think it might have a bit to do with the fact that the word 'thrifty' is more easily used as an adjective to describe a kind of person than 'budget'. Not too many people like to be called thrifty. People are rarely labelled budget.

Lesson for budget brand-launchers: Most people don't want to advertise themselves as penny pinchers, which is something Thrifty is doing more obviously than Budget. Unfortunately, unknowingly and unresearchedly.

Laughing Cow v/s Happy Cow v/s Skinny Cow

Brandnama believes the name Skinny Choice is a bold naming choice by the people at Nestle. I agree. It's a bold choice but I don't think it's a very good choice.

First up, as you can see from the title of this post, it's not very original. Secondly, I don't think the word 'cow' has too many positive associations vis-a-vis people. Thirdly, the word 'skinny' isn't a nice word. And that, pretty much, sums up why I think Nestle should have gone with something else.

If a name is all it took to build big brands, Skinny Cow, would have sunk without a trace. Fortunately for the Skinny Cow, she has Nestle's deep pockets to back her. Personally, I think Happy Cow or Laughing Cow would make for a better name for the same line of slim desserts from Nestle.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Home Depot v/s Home what?

The marketing story goes that women still don't find Home Depot a great place to go to. Is it because of the name or is it because Home Depot is for people who are into home improvement, which is (as Tim Allen so lovably demonstrated) a very male thing? (Perhaps the only male thing still left in this rapidly equalising world.)

It's probably the latter and yet, more and more single women are setting up homes. More single women are living alone. And more single women are doing their own set of home imrpovement activities. So what can Home Depot do to attract more female customers? Should Home Depot go in for a new name? Should it extend the brand and start something targetted only at women? Simple answers: No, no. Indeed, thanks to the strong 'P' sound, 'Depot' is a very masculine word. But 'Home', unlike 'House', is a pretty feminine word. The one thing Home Depot must not do is change the name. What it can do is soften/change the logo, and maybe even the colour scheme. I think that should bring the women in. Would that drive the men out? Probably.

Come to think of it, Home Depot should forget about customising their current store for women. What it should do, if it's so keen on attracting women, is launch a new home improvement brand for women. My punt is that a combination of the high brand equity enjoyed by Home Depot and the perception of caring for the other side that will be derived from this new brand launch will make it a success story.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Long Tail v/s Elongating Tail

My fellow ideator Blaiq says in a paper, which can be found here, that Chris Anderson's Long Tail should actually be called 'Elongating Tale'.

In principle, what Blaiq says makes sense. Accurately speaking, the Long Tail concept is an 'Elongating Tail' concept. The problem though with calling it 'Elongating Tail' is pretty obvious to me. And for those of you out there to whom it isn't, here's why Long Tail works better than Elongating Tail. The word 'Elongating' sounds like a description of a process of/for for something that is an abberation and doesn't roll off the tongue easily. Long Tail on the other hand, sounds pithy, right and familiar; good qualities to have in a name for a new concept. Adverbs and verbs do not make for good brand names. (Great brands, though, might make for good adverbs and verbs!) I'm quite sure 'Elongating Tail' wouldn't have worked.

Indeed, 'Elongating Tail' might be a more correct description of the product but that's not the only thing a good name should aim for. In fact, correctness of description is hardly one of the important principles of naming. Fact is, Anderson wanted to create a brand/brand theory and had to choose a memorable name for it. Good call, Chris.

Madatadam v/s What dreams may come v/s Naming schizophrenia

In a post about this very well-written blog, Brandnama says a few interesting things. He says, sometimes, your blogurl may not be the best name for your blog and that your blogname can allude to some of the more interesting things your url does not or cannot. is it a good idea to give the same thing two different names? I don't think so, and the title of this post illustrates the problem Shyam's naming choice will confront him with.

If you have two different names for the same thing/ person, it only adds to the noise. I thnk Shyam should give his/her blog the same title as that of the url. The descriptor space is where he should look at adding an interesting story. A descriptor is like a baseline and that's where you build in the mystery, the drama and the other juice you want the name to allude to.

Oddly enough, Shyam has chosen to title his/her blog rather more boringly than the name he has chosen for the blogurl. The blogurl, madatadam, is an interesting choice of name and is grounded in some good naming principles. So whatever prompted Shyam to title his blog should be dismissed. If Shyam does want to say something interesting about dreams, he/she should tag it to madatadam.

Shyam, the public face/name/calling card of your url should be the url. Your url is too interesting to be tucked away behind the routine nature of your blog title. People will remember 'madatadam' better than 'what dreams may come'. So why not make it madatadam and tag it with what dreams may come?