What’s in a Name?

Growing up, I never really liked my name.  It was unusual enough that I couldn’t find it on any pre-made jewelry or coffee mug like Lisa or Mary could.  I couldn’t order a nameplate for my bicycle off the back of a cereal box like a Debbie or Susan could.  And it was always obvious when I was in trouble in class because I was the only one with my name.  As a result of this childhood trauma, I swore I wouldn’t do the same thing when I had the chance to bestow names upon my own children.  I promised I was going to name them something “normal” and I was going to call them by their first name so that teachers wouldn’t get it wrong the first few days of school.  Of course, twenty years later, I broke these two golden rules with both of my children.  My daughter goes by a nickname we gave her that no one gets right, even after she spells it several times, simply because it is a unique spin on a more common name.  And my son goes by his middle name, but of course his “odd” first name is what gets printed in the yearbook, called out in class and snickered at by his friends.  In my defense, I went with family names that meant something to me (something my mom had actually done in naming me!).  I keep telling them that it could be worse… I could have gone all Hollywood and named them Apple or Kal-el or Shiloh….

As a market researcher, I use a little more science and a little less personal touch when helping my clients choose a name for their new product or company.  But it’s important not to totally remove the “feelings” evoked when someone first reads or says the name of what you have to offer in the marketplace.  This is especially true as the American melting pot becomes filled with more and more diverse cultures, ethnicities and religions.

Perhaps the most famous case study used in market research class is when Chevrolet introduced a small car to the Mexican auto market years ago.  It didn’t sell at all – despite relative success north of the border.  Of course, if they would have done proper research, they would have known that “Nova” in Spanish translates to “No go”….not exactly the strongest attribute car shoppers are looking for, regardless of where they are located!  

Smaller companies shouldn’t think that naming research is a waste of time or money either.  A more recent example I stumbled upon is a local “Korean Fusion Bakery” originally opening using the name “Blu Puppi”.   Now, I admittedly know nothing about the Korean language or its cuisine, but I can safely bet that I know why their parking lot was virtually empty each time I passed.  Over a year later, they now boast a new sign that announces the restaurant’s revised name as “Blu Sky”.  For a lot less than the price they paid for that first illuminated sign and its likely impact on lost business, I could have told them they were way off base for maximum achievement here in the South! 

As these two extreme examples show, the name of your product or service can literally make or break your chances at success.  A good market researcher can use a variety of techniques to find just the right label for your company and its reputation.    Don’t be afraid to use market research to ask others, especially those who might bring a different point of view, background or custom to the table.  What is it they say about not getting a second chance to make a first impression?   If you need help with naming your product or service, give me a call – I promise to use proven market research protocols in helping you and won’t force you to use my family names!


About marketsinmotion

Freelance market research consultant working magic for clients every day!
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3 Responses to What’s in a Name?

  1. Kedaladly says:

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Christian, Satellite Direct Tv

  2. Robyn says:

    Product naming is both challenging and rewarding. I think you have to invest in the research as it’s like insurance down the road. And finally as someone who goes by their middle name that is spelled uniquely I completely identify with the personal naming as well!

  3. Pingback: Pay It Forward – Share Your Story

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