Top-10 Naming Blunders For a Company, Product or Brand

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Top-10 Naming Blunders For a Company, Product or Brand
Sujeet James Sarwan, Training Head, India, Member
Here's a list of errors you should avoid when choosing a name for your brand, product or company:
1. Using your family name. Unless your name is unique and memorable, it contains minimal promotional value, and determining the brand value and transfer of the name upon the sale of the business is often problematic. And in my case, how many customers have met someone named Smith that they didn't like?
2. Mimicking another company's brand. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but why flatter your competitor? Worse, there's liability for infringing upon another's Commercial identifier.
3. Describing your product or service. This is the most frequent and serious mistake. A descriptive name is a ticket to the courthouse and to endless, expensive, and time-consuming litigation because it's bound to be imitated eventually by your competitors. The courts have determined that you can't monopolize any part of the language. You can either create a new word out of nothing, such as KODAK, or give a totally new meaning to an existing word, like CREST for toothpaste.
4. Having brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming monopolizes expensive management time and generates more arguments than deciding on the merits of chocolate versus vanilla ice cream. The result is a predictably colorless compromise that lacks the marketing punch and legal clout you need. Group interaction in naming has its place, but such endeavors need method, structure, and common goals to be effective.
5. Holding a naming contest. Holding a public or employee contest to coin a name makes as much sense as practicing medicine by popular vote. It's haphazard at best. And a contest requires a winner, even if the best entry is unsuitable. Have a company picnic instead.
6. Ignoring the customer. Insiders are too close to the product and its history to be open-minded. A commercial identifier that's effective in the marketplace looks outward; it speaks the customer's language, not the engineer's or designer's. It should motivate your prospect, catch his or her fancy, and be long remembered. Don't focus on your achievement. Consider what will attract the public.
7. Creating techno-babble. Cold and unpronounceable combinations of Zs and Xs, just don't communicate in advertising. The minor technical gloss doesn't make up for the lost opportunity to carry a high-impact message to the market several times a day.
8. Choosing availability over exclusivity. Just because a name's not already registered doesn't necessarily make it a good candidate for your product or company
9. Taking the logo for granted. A creative ad and a snazzy logo help the customer remember your commercial identifier. A logo should enhance the impact of a name, but great graphics won't save a weak name. Do your best when coining your identifier, and then take it to the graphic artist.
10. Leaving your mark unprotected. Registration is your most powerful weapon and should be your top priority.
Feel free to add...

Add 11: Trying to be Funny and Failing
Roger GILLAN, Consultant, China, Member
All good points! I'd add one more:
#11 Trying to be funny and failing. For example: "That Italian restaurant on the corner" (see in Sydney, Australia). OK, I remember the name, but I'd never go there to eat.

Add 12: Omitting to Solicit Reactions in Multiple Cultures / Languages
Hermanson, Business Consultant, United States, Member
Agreed. Choosing a name involves both strategy and identity.
Another suggestion is to
#12 Solicit reactions in multiple cultures / languages. If you are naming an company with global reach, even if just through the internet, at least check countries in your supply and distribution chain.

On Nr. 1: Family Brand Names can actually be Good
T. Marskamp, Management Consultant, Netherlands, Member
Nice list and it's important to be aware of these issues.
About using your family name, I have another opinion: take Walt Disney, his brand became very famous and there are more such examples. What to think of Henry Ford and his T-Ford.
What's most surpirsing is that both of these names don't sound memorable, but they are now!

Add 13: Picking a Brand Name that Sounds Old Fashioned in Time
Anne Crick, Jamaica, Member
Don't choose something that will become dated or sound old fashioned in a few years.
This is a great list though...

Blunders in International Business
Catherine M. Bing, CEO, United States, Member
You might find the book by David Ricks, "Blunders in International Business" (not just about naming blunders) quite interesting.
One naming blunder I thought that was quite funny was naming an airline EMU, which is a bird that can not fly.

On 2: Mimicking a Product, Brand or Company
lenworth grandison, Jamaica, Member
Very good list. People sometimes become obsessed with a name they see, makeup or heard, maybe it looks good or sounds good and they go right ahead and imitate same, not realizing that the name of a product or service must have it's unique identity, must be memorable and should resonate with your target market.

On 3. Describing your Product or Service
Britton, Project Manager, United Kingdom, Member
I would strongly disagree with point 3. Though arguably less protected, tying the name to the product or service, especially for the newly established entrepreneur enterprise, significantly reduces the resources needed for establishing (and maintaining) brand awareness.

On 12: Company Names Blunders
Abdul Rahman, Management Consultant, Malaysia, Member
@Hermanson : your reaction reminds me of two insurance companies in Hong Kong; Lee Kee Insurance and Fu Ling Yu. I guess we just have to be mindful of how our company, product or services names may sound in another cultural setting.

On 12: Checkout Brand Name Meaning in Multiple Cultures and Languages
Upadhyayula Narayana Das, HR Consultant, India, Member
@Hermanson : indeed in the era of globalization brands are marketed across nations. Therefore while coining a name it is advisable to find out if there is such or similar word in another language and if so what does it mean?
I read somewhere about this gaffe: a new motor car brand was named 'Nova', because the brand manager felt it conveyed the meaning 'new'. But the words 'no va' mean 'does not move' in Spanish :-)

Brand Name - Why Waste Time?
Anand H, Member
I'd rather not waste time on just arriving at a name for a product or service. I'd rather focus on the core aspects of my business and "believe" in it.

On 12: Always Check the brand Name When Going Global
Peter Henriksen, Student (University), Denmark, Member
Always check how customers relate to the word internationally.
In Denmark, UPS has been laughed upon, since the word actually in Danish means: whoops.
Which is not the best for a packet distribution company :-)

What Makes Brand Names Important
Belay Gezahegn, Director, Ethiopia, Member
@Anand H : naming a product is actually important. However, the most important thing is the capability of the product to satisfy customers demand. I think this is what customers or users value. The brand or name of a product becomes important when the quality of the product is appreciated by customers.

On 1: Family Name as Brand Names
Mohammad Owais, Manager, Pakistan, Member
@T. Marskamp: those names were chosen in an era when global corporates did not exist and marketing was not a management science subject!
In my view family names are a no no for the 21st century!

Add 14: Using Acronyms or your 15. Initials
Joost van Boeschoten, Management Consultant, Netherlands, Member
Simple acronyms such as CBO carry no meaning except for the initiated, the inner circle of intimi that actual know the brand/company. The psychological effect on people who don't know the name: "these guys think they are big, and nobody has ever heard of them, what an arrogance".
Your initials combined with a generic service oozes that you are a tiny business. Example: JD-consulting sends out the message: "I am John Doe and I am a consultant on my own, and will do anything that brings in money".

Don'ts for a Brand Name
Arpit Mutha, Manager, India, Member
Good list. One possibility to consider for a brand name can be - identify the consumer - Funk, Easigo..

On 3: Reflect the Capacity of the Product when Naming a Product, Brand or Company
T V N Murthy, Entrepreneur, India, Member
Keep in mind that the brand name could reflect the capacity of the product.
For example if the brand name explains or gives a clue about the product, what it is, in my view it will add sense to a brand name. A creative name like Nano for a small car is easily remembered in the sense of a small car.

On 1: Family Brand Names
Joseph N. Kosure, Student (University), Kenya, Member
Do we forget that some family names have made long -lasting impression in ocustomers' minds and memories? Mercedes Benz, ToyotaD dell, etc!
To me a family name in a business brand is not a blunder. It is the image that the business cuts that matters.

Naming a Company, Product or Brand
abraham garshong
@Hermanson: this page is an interesting topic and a great contribution from Hermanson that the name should be tested for reactions in different cultures and languages to ensure it is not offensive and it strikes the right cords.
Family names can be a great brand when the name has already been positively marketed. It however, comes with a risk though in that should the family name go down e.g. through a scandal in politics, it might affect the product brand.
I also want to mention that it is good to consider the type of product and the name to give e.g. perfumes go with sentimental names whilst construction might go with something more masculine. The key is to make it simple for people of all ages and cultures to mention and remember and easily identify with. A double syllable name/word is preferrred by me. Thanks.

Car Model Naming Blunder: Mitsubishi Pajero
Carlos Talavera, Consultant, Paraguay, Member
@Upadhyayula Narayana Das: A Japanese car company named "Pajero" a pick-up truck model, which, in some latin countries, means a person who masturbates.

Brand Name of a Company
BENSABER, Consultant, Algeria, Member
@Hermanson: If the company is expected to locate in different countries, it is necessary, taking into consideration the national or regional culture, to ensure that the company name or trade mark is not pejorative or negative or a link with a deity.
In addition, the name should be easily remembered aurally. Some phenomena are not available in all languages​​.

Add 16: Making a Brand Name Complicated / Hard to Remember
Mulandaulwa Sichamba, Accountant, Zambia, Member
@Anand H: the points listed are good.
A brand name should not be complicated nor hard to remember by people. It should be simple, reflecting the product you are making. A brand name should also add value to the product. Coming up with a good brand is not wasting time but an investment (goodwill).

Top-10 silly web names
Ahmed Qadir, Director, Pakistan, Member
Check out this list of "10 silly website names" for some amazingly bad web site names.

Elements in Identifying a Brand
Dr Gary Jones, Business Consultant, Australia, Member
Great comments. You have to look at the name of my company to see where I come from, when discussing branding.
More seriously, aside with naming, other brand elements are of importance in establishing / identifying a brand such as - logo and or symbol, packaging design or other differentiation and distinguishing elements - which together all make up the brand elements.
As far as logo's are concerned and their power of association - think of the Nike swoop - you immediately think of Nike and training shoes.

Mythical Brand Naming Blunders
van Dam, Student (MBA), Netherlands, Member
@Upadhyayula Narayana Das: Nova is pronounced quite differently in Spanish than no va. This story seems to be an urban legend.
Another one is when Suzuki hit the market with the Alto. Alto is Spanish and means high as well as standstill.

On 1. (Family) Brand Names Can Be your Greatest Preemptive Approach
lamson ndebele, Entrepreneur, Zimbabwe, Member
Sometimes naming your company after the family name can be good. It depends on the surrounding environment and culture.
Your family name CAB be the ingredient you need to be recognized right there and then... In our country there was this dude called Thomas Meikles and he named his business after himself and his brand is still there up to this day. A brand name in marketing can determine the type of customers you can get by using your name if you are well known... That's my opinion and great article and it has helped me a lot...

Brand Name - Why Waste Time?
Yosef, Coach, Indonesia, Member
@Anand H: agreed, my opinion is first conduct a survey to check what are the most remembered names at this time by targeted customers. Then conduct brainstorming to seek a proper name.

Branding is No Rocket Science
Anand H, Member
Christening a "name" for business is not rocket science. It is not a complex thought process. If it were, people would end up frustrated naming their babies. It's as simple as boys have to be named like boys and girls like girls.
Some may argue people are not products, but products need endorsements! Indians go in for shorter names in the west; people change names according to numerology etc.
The 10 (16) points listed above are just a tip of the iceberg, a common sense and obvious compilation. They are not exhaustive if one really delves into the subject of naming brands.

On 16: Make Keeping your Brand Name Easy
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
@Mulandaulwa Sichamba : I agree the name should not be hard to look at, pronounce, remember, nor have difficult spellings and swearwords.

Add 17: Having 'sons' or 'bros' in the Company Name
Anjali R, Student (MBA), India, Member
A brilliant article. I would say that adding words like 'sons' and 'bros' into the company name is very weird. The reason can be most of the times neither the sons nor the brothers are interested in the business.

On 1. Family Names and Brand Value
Lenyatso, Teacher, Botswana, Member
Its true the use of family names may some present some problems to some customers and affect the brand value and market value of the business. Selling of the brand name can also be problematic.
It should however be noted that family names may evolve to brands in their own right independent of the family and name.

Naming a Company, Product or Brand
Sally laxamana, Events Marketer, Philippines, Member
Brands are made, not born. New brands need to be introduced at the shortest time possible.
A good name does not guarantee a good brand. So we go for high recall due to high impact, association, event, etc.
Next, brand managers are hired to ensure the growth of the brand.

Cultural Insensitivity and Fooling Customers
Gafar Bamikole, Accountant, United Kingdom, Member
It may be impracticable to avoid all the name blunders, but a choice that is repugnant, abusive or sarcastic towards other cultures may spell doom for the successful incursion of the product into the foreign market.
Legal and regulatory checks are required if a product is destined to overseasí market to avoid misleading customers and inconsistency with local laws.

On 12: Naming Blunders for a Company, Product or Brand
Ibrahim Danyaya, Student (Other), Nigeria, Member
A related error that I think should also be avoided when choosing a name of a company, product or brand is adopting one's local language names. The name adopted may mean something marvellous in one's own language, but could be offensive in another language. Therefore, adopting a local language name can do more harm than good to a product or brand as regards acceptability by all customers.

On Branding your Organisation
Ann-Marie Lorde, Project Manager, Barbados, Member
Good list, provides food for thought. On # 1, it is the excellent or terrible product and service that is delivered that marks the organisation as exceptional or a total failure. Walt Disney and the Ford model speaks volumes for excellence in the eyes of many.
However, a product and service that is good will drive the competitor to do better and nurture innovation. So in conclusion it is the organisation's desire and tenacity for success that will take its brand a long way rather than the name on its own.

Avoiding Naming Blunders
Ahmed Khator, Manager, Kenya, Member
In my culture you take seven days to give a baby a name. Now I understand why! To avoid making a blunder and be stuck for the rest of your life! Good tips.

Check Out Brand Name Meaning
Upadhyayula Narayana Das, HR Consultant, India, Member
@Van Dam: a brand name is not just a word that is pronounced but is a composite of many elements including the written word, verbal, symbolical, visual etc. So it could still be confused even if the pronounciation is different.

Naming Blunders for a Product Company or Brand
lenworth grandison, Jamaica, Member
@Gafar Bamikole: Good point, lot of companies have fallen prey to these blunders especially in foreign markets.

Brand Names That Families Love
Arif ur Rehman, Professor, Pakistan, Member
@Ahmed Khator: I fully endorse Ahmedís perception of naming kids on the 7th day. In Pakistan too, itís the familyís combined brainstorming sessions that come up with the best possible name so blunders of sorts are avoided.

Naming Blunders for a Product Company
Kyamiza Raymon, Student (University), Member
Hallo, thanks a lot for the information. It is a common practice in my country for the local investors to use family names. Oh I wish they knew the huge blunder they make. Keep teaching us. Ray.

On 9. Memorable Logo Most Memorable Identifier for Company
KATHRYN STEINER, MBA, Entrepreneur, United States, Member
As a graphic designer, I believe that branding is most impactful with a catchy name that can be incorporated into the logo. The logo can be symbolic of the company, and therefore be an extremely strong identifier for the company, for example Starbucks. If possible, this should be the case. Customers and potential customers do not need to see the name Starbucks, however, when one sees the logo/symbol for Starbucks, they immediately associate it with the company. This is most effective.
Brands must be captured in a way that makes it easy to remember and associate with the company... Family names could present a challenge. There are many factors involved, and should be taken on a case by case, company by company basis. I studied typography, and enjoy selecting the proper font, which I believe is a critical element to a successful logo, consequently brand recognition... Association.. etc...

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