That’s right, you do. It was rather memorable. Lucky for them, as they named their first song on their first album (their second single release) after their newly formed band.
That takes real guts.
And guts can result in glory…or defeat. Brutal defeat that is. A risk that many new ventures are willing to take when they name their product the same as their company, or vice versa. It is a move that most often is based on a swift launch. Rarely is the decision to name an offering and its company alike a choice of strategic nature.
When Talk Talk decided to choose Talk Talk for their ‘inaugural song’, there was a risk involved in case the song sucked, but the band had a decent amount of control over that. The song did not suck, instead it defined a sound that they built their entire career on. You hear Talk Talk (Company Name) and you automatically hear the song Talk Talk (Product Name) in your ears. Smart move.
In the entrepreneurial world though, betting on your one product to turn into a hit is a gamble that only gets amplified once you decide to diversify your portfolio of offerings down the road. Levi’s had a major hit with their jeans, then they tried selling khakis and failed doing so under their brand name; they had to create Dockers.
Here’s to you, Talk Talk, for tempting entrepreneurs to take this risk. For the ones that aspire to lead through brand strategy though, you may peruse our white paper on brand architecture instead (while listening to any 80’s hit of your choosing).
When I caught up with our long-term collaborator Matt Dandurand of Media Contour the other day he mentioned that he came across a breed of hilariously ‘mis-named’ IT companies. He had to share this phenomenon with me as it was very hilarious, yet so awfully sad at the same time, and he insisted that I dedicate a blog post to it that can turn this whole thing into something educational for my readers.
I was doubtful.
Then Matt shared how, during some research he was conducting on IT companies, he came across a company named ‘Blue IT’. He thought it was funny, especially when typing the url. A quick Google search later he found a slew of them that blew it, all the same way.
Now I am not in the business of picking on a random company’s name, it seems a bit cheap, but I do feel this serves as a great pointer to the fact that naming is to be taken seriously, regardless of company size and industry. Ample time needs to be spent to ensure, yes, that you don’t blow it. This guide will help you. It focuses on what makes a great brand name, now that we know what makes an unfortunate one.
On this blog I already talked about what makes a name successful and how to pick a domain name, but many of you ask if I find a fabricated name to be superior to a descriptive name, and how to best navigate the types of names that one can consider, quickly. Short and actionable, I’ll give one sentence of advice on each type of name. 3, 2, 1, go:
Advice: Great as it immediately conveys what it is/does – only if you will never expand your product offerings – but limiting and hard to find a sound domain name
Advice: Not a top choice as existing connotations, domain name difficulties and Search Engine results can quickly come in the way for a new company
Example: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Advice: Great if you are the brand, you already have a legacy and if you are Bill, and not Lance
Advice: It’s genius, of course! In all seriousness, it is a great path, if easy to pronounce and recall, and backed by a great story
Example: AOL (America On-Line, Remember?)
Advice: A solid option to sound like a larger company from the start; only if your customers can recall your letters and if you can get hold of a reasonable domain name (sorry, three- or four-letter combos are all sold out)
Example: Wanelo (Want, Need, Love)
Advice: Great option if tied to a tag line – otherwise the same criteria applies as with Fabricated names
Advice: Don’t do it, it’s pure laziness – unless word of mouth is not important to you (Wait, you spell it just like Supply but with a v instead of the u?) and you cater solely to ages 18-28
Advice: Don’t do it out of laziness (I picked our street number, easy does it) as no one will recall it – do it only if you can create shared meaning (7-Eleven: open 7 – 11, 7 days a week) or showcase value (Social 123 – easy as 1-2-3). See my post on numeric names for details.
There you go – no more excuses. Just do it, or dig deeper via our white paper, or if all fails (or you have better things to do, like starting a business) call me for help, or call us for hands-on naming magic.
There are far more than 101 ways to use numbers in your brand name and end up with a name that no one but affiliates will easily remember. You fail before you even launch your product or service. Most numeric brand names see the light of day because someone is either lazy or tries to be overly smart. Both are not case studies for delivering a timeless and memorable brand name.
The lazies pick inspiration from immediate surroundings such as the corporation’s address, area code or adjacent freeway, in which case they hit rock bottom. Besides the missing message or depth in the name, needless to say this is a short term strategy until the company moves or expands. The more creative kind utilizes the area’s sights, attractions or even weather, as was the case with the highly respected Venice, CA based agency 72andSunny, who since expanded to Amsterdam, where it is more often 52andCloudy.
The overly smart create an arbitrary number based on the founders birthdays or other personal anecdotes or fun facts. 37signals (The company behind collaboration tools such as Basecamp) falls into this category as the name is derived from the 37 radio telescope signals identified by astronomer Paul Horowitz as potential messages from extraterrestrial intelligence (Source: Wiki). Those numbers (hence your brand name) mean nothing to the target audience, until they happen to read your About section on your web site, hoping to learn more about the reasoning behind the name (which is not the case with 37signals). Regardless, they won’t remember your secret number easily, or may I call it your brand pin code. In the worst case scenario your arbitrary number may be offensive to some religions, groups or even segments you may start catering to in the future.
Numbers in your name are risky and often forgettable, but there are ways to win the numbers game. Here are two rules to follow in order to get on the winning streak:
If your brand name will focus on a sole number, that very number needs to be significant to others. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight comes to mind. The name is derived from the number of electors in the United States Electoral Office. His followers would either know, or want to adapt to the number quickly as it is tied to knowledge surrounding a topic they themselves are interested in. Since it is a niche blog for a niche audience, Nate can get away without attaching a word to the number. Even with this approach, be aware that there will be companies with the same name and that any sole number domain name will likely be taken and just as expensive to obtain as it will be to gain IP rights. 7-Eleven is a successful example of creating a distinct name by using a number while showcasing a unique consumer benefit (open 7 – 11, 7 days a week), which perfectly transitions to rule #2:
The number, or word needs a partner to add value and create purpose. This forms an Alphanumeric Brand Name. If you are able to connect a meaningful number to a meaningful word, such as Social123 (Easy as 1-2-3) or 99Designs (99 equals big variety), you create a story and build a strong value proposition. You will have the added benefit of obtaining IP rights and securing your domain name swiftly.
Now you can play by the numbers, but be aware that if you enter the numeric brand name game, it most often is a gamble!