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Make Your Brand Name Count

Hello my nameIf you’re in a position to name something: a business, a product, an event, anything, please make it count for something. I recently witnessed a naming crime that was nothing short of tragic, on three different levels. Two family-owned companies with synergistic offerings decided to merge. Both companies had decent names. Not great but decent. Both names had meaning to the market. That is to say the market understood the origins of the names and what they stood for. There were existing market relationships with both brands. Either name would have been a workable moniker for the combined company. Either would have been a meaningful banner to carry forward. However, the owners decided that the new company should have a new name. Fair enough. Why settle for a good name when you can have a great one? But then the wheels came off the bus.

The two owners decided, apparently with no input from trusted advisors or even the rest of their families, that the new company would have a monogram identity. The name would be the initial of one family name followed by the initial of the second family name. Then they decided to add an X … for no particular reason at all! So the final name ended up being something like ABX Industries (not the real name). As mentioned, this decision is so bad it’s tragic. Here’s why.

First of all, monogram names consign a company to the Lost Island of Boring, where no one notices you or cares about you. It is, what we call in branding, genericide. Unless it’s a legacy brand like IBM or GE, a monogram name immediately submerges a business into an alphabet soup of forgettable business entities. Its identity will be camouflaged by all the other monograms swimming around in the market. It will be almost impossible for the brand to stand out, become memorable and stay top of mind. It would have been easier to build a more memorable brand with either one of the two original names.

Second, the new name is inward-facing. The owners opted to give themselves a little pat on the back by ensuring their initials are the first read of the new identity. Hey, why not? They deserve it. After a generation or two of hard work and success, it’s only fitting they should get a little recognition, even if they’re the only ones to see it. But the name of the company is not the place to compliment oneself. The name is where you posit a relationship with a market. The owners should have chosen a name that 

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was market-facing. Instead they chose a name that means absolutely nothing to the market and will not draw business toward them. The prospects of building a strong relationship with the market are much greater when the market has some understanding and appreciation of a brand’s name. If the owners really wanted some sort of pride of accomplishment, it would have been better to put their names on a public endowment or charity. Then, choose a business name that would help grow the company.

Third, this was just such an awful, agonizingly painful, missed opportunity. Realistically, you only get to name, or change the name, of a marketable asset every couple of decades. This was their chance to really field a winner. They could have taken the opportunity to research the market and learn how best to interface with it. They could have chosen either one of their existing names. They could have coined a new name that would retain old customers while attracting new ones. Instead, despite having no experience with naming anything, they decided to wing it and go it alone. And they really blew it.

Someone in their families’ next generation will be responsible for growing this company. They’ll probably be saddled with this name, at least, for the next 15-20 years. Why force them to suffer a meaningless, forgettable name for all that time? Why put any obstacle between the business and its market? Any success this business has in the future will be in spite of its really bad brand name. It will be a hinderance to awareness, demand and, ultimately, revenue.

Naming is key to identity. The name of any brand is the first step in building a positive relationship with a market. Running a business is hard enough without trying to swim upstream while doing it. Choose a name that is recognizable, memorable, and has some meaning to your market.

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Best Branding Reads
Week of May 25, 2020

Nation-Branding Soft Power: The Case of Brand China
An engrossing, tragic case of China’s recent brandicide.

How to Build a $100 Million Brand People Love
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Seeking Sustainability, Finding True Brand Mission
Best possible outcome today. Best possible outcome tomorrow.

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Worst Logos Ever, Redesigned.
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Best packaging of the year. You see? Something good has happened in 2020.

5 Reasons Empathy Drives Business Success
Hard facts about the soft skills.