Editorial

It's all in the namePerhaps a rose might smell as sweet by any other name. But it is doubtful whether the same could be said for a Marlboro cigarette, an Oreo cookie, a Kodak camera, a bottle of Coke, or any...

It’s all in the name

Perhaps a rose might smell as sweet by any other name. But it is doubtful whether the same could be said for a Marlboro cigarette, an Oreo cookie, a Kodak camera, a bottle of Coke, or any of the other consumer brand names that have helped build franchises of incalculable worth on the strength of their names and the imagery built around them.

Few marketers would challenge the importance of the role that names such as Marlboro have played in building businesses. Yet fewer, still, would know even where to begin if they were asked to come up with one.

Naseem Javed, founder and president of ABC Namebank, a company specializing in the creation of names, has spent the past 15 years helping corporations bring some discipline and science to this arcane link in the marketing chain. Now he brings his business to life in a new book titled Naming For Power.

For anyone in business who has been through this most agonizing of creative challenges, many of Javed’s experiences and anecdotes strike a familiar chord. Overall, his book provides an entertaining and instructive romp through the name game, while driving home the point that naming has as significant a role to play as any of the other pieces in the communications whole.

In many instances, as Javed describes the origins of some of the better-known product names of our commercial past, his analysis sounds much like dissection of a familiar advertising campaign.

‘Sometimes, in creating variations, we encounter a combination of different kinds of names,’ Javed writes. ‘For instance, the long-popular Brylcreem came from a hair dressing preparation `brillantine,’ along with a stylized variant spelling of the word `cream.’ Whether the name is created through an extensive process of rearrangement; whether it was born by twisting sounds, adding letters, dropping syllables, or through the miniaturization of lengthy concepts using acronyms and prefixes, one thing is certain:

‘The art lies not in inventing these names, but in matching ideas with a few letters of a symbol, which can then convey an image to the potential consumer in an approporiate and memorable manner.’

The right name, well-conceived and properly integrated into a marketing plan, has as much potential power in influencing consumer response as any of the other marketing tools, Javed says.

‘Names are like weapons, marketing weapons, which have one main function: to come to the mind of a buyer at the time of a purchasing decision,’ he says.

In short, the importance of coming up with the right name is not to be underestimated.

And lest there be any readers left wondering about the long-term effect that naming can have, they might be wise to consider the following:

Laurentia, New Britain, Cabotia, Columbia, Boretta, Britannica, Ursalia and Mesopalagia are all names that were being considered by the Fathers of Confederation in 1867 before they finally settled on the name Canada.