The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

What’s In A Name?
May 23, 2013, 6:04 am
Filed under: Comment


Without doubt they’re very important.

They can provide ‘clues’ into what you believe, represent, offer.

They can also open or close doors for you in the future.

Names are important … but the one thing we cannot forget is that they are also very dependent on the context they appear in and the standards by which they operate.

One of the things that bothers me hugely is how quickly people judge without context.

I often say to clients that if we brought them the line, ‘Just Do It’ … I’m almost certain they’d chuck us out of the room because they’d say things like:

“Just do what?”

“It sounds demanding.”

“It sounds negative.”

But as we all know, when nurtured and developed over time, people don’t see it as that, they see it as a statement of action and potential … a statement that is a liberator not a dictator … a statement that is universally liked and revered … a statement that has helped NIKE set themselves apart from every single brand on the planet. Not just in the sports category, but in every category.

Why am I saying all this?

Well because I recently saw something that highlights the importance of context.

There it is, the original iPhone.

Yes, years before Apple’s ubiquitous product came along, there was this big, lumpy piece of plastic.

Sure it wasn’t portable.

Sure it wasn’t very pretty.

Sure it wasn’t very innovative.

But at a time where the internet was still in its mass market infancy, it let you connect to the World in ways that were beyond comprehension just a few years earlier.

So what happened to it?

Nothing. It died on it’s ass.

I have no knowledge why that was the case … maybe it was a lack of distribution, a ridiculously high price-point or simply because it was a crap product … but my reason for highlighting this is because according to some branding companies, a massive contributor to the success of a company is all down to the name they have.

Of course they would say that because it means they can charge huge amounts of cash for [mental] companies to use their ‘proprietary tool’ to identify a brand name that will be distinctive, relevant, powerful and a absolutely, definitely, unquestionably, certifiably dead-set, super-hit.

What a load of fucking bollocks.

Don’t get me wrong, having a good name is important, but to think [1] that is the most important things [2] that the name can affect success entirely independently from what the brand does or makes, is utterly insane.

So next time someone says an idea is “too negative”, “too aggressive”, “too self focused”, “too distinctive” … remind them that it’s not about the name, but about the behaviour and the power to shape that is not just in their hands, but in their ambition.

37 Comments so far
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Apple should launch this. It would be the biggest change they’ve done to the iphone in the last 3 years. Have a word with Cook will you Baz. Your millions of shares depend on it.

Comment by DH

Which Samsung would then copy but add features, like coffee maker and air mattress.

Comment by Rob

To answer your question about why that iphone failed. Look at the fucking thing.

Comment by DH

$500 plus $20 per month and, like dial-up, you couldn’t use the phone and the net simultaneously. Much like today’s model then.

Comment by John

I am very impressed John. What you describe sounds very similar to the “internet phone” Amstrad released in the mid 2000’s. Do you know when this original iphone was produced? I am assuming well before Alan Sugar decided to follow their lead with his piece of obsolescence.

Comment by George


Comment by John

You are the human wikipedia. With that information, I can safely say the Amstrad version of the phone reaches new depths of tragic.

Comment by George

When Rob writes “I recently saw something” it doesn’t take much to infer that someone sent him a link that must be easy to find.

Comment by John

He probably bought it.

Comment by Pete

you fucking know it. to go with all his fucking shit films, documentaries and shitty gaming systems from 1985.

Comment by andy@cynic

No I didn’t buy it thank you very much. But John’s insight into how sad & pathetic I am is alarmingly accurate.

Comment by Rob

Context is everything.

Comment by George

Totally agree and yet many agency processes ignore this and approach their task by focusing purely on the competition and usage habits. Narrower thinking leads to narrower potential.

Comment by Pete

As for names, well there are a few really good ones and some obviously bad ones, but the huge majority lie in the middle and make no contribution at all.

But many people don’t realise that. About ten years ago, maybe more, an otherwise savvy investment banker told me that Yahoo’s pre-eminence was due to their having the best name.

Talking of Yahoo, of course, raises the issue for naming agencies of why names can’t sustain a business forever.

Comment by John

And having worked with a naming agency, I can tell you that the proprietary process is usually hiring a few people in a room to make a list of ideas, pick the ten best and see which one sticks with the client.

Comment by John

I agree with your investment banker that part of Yahoo’s early success was their name. It stood out in a sea of dotcom companies and encapsulated the sense of “next generation” rising. Unfortunately Yahoo didn’t realise they needed to eventually back that up with well made, meaningful products and services and the rest is a bad case history.

Comment by George

I don’t know why you’re saying yahoo is badly run when they just spent a billion buying tumblr. Oh, now I get it.

Comment by DH

why the fuck are you wasting your time slagging off those daft fucks at yahoo when theres branding consultants to be smacked down. get your fucking priorities right.

Comment by andy@cynic

Well said. But Yahoo are a bit mental aren’t they.

Comment by Rob

Just so you know Rob, I’m ignoring this post.

Comment by Bazza

you should be ignoring your fucking share price.

Comment by andy@cynic

He can’t when all the shareholders are reminding him about it.

Comment by Pete

Naming strategies. An oxymoron if there ever was one.

Comment by Lee Hill

I’ve often thought naming was a waste of time for anyone but brand wankers.
How many people know Nike is the greek God of victory? The brand people.
Who cares why Orange is called Orange? No one but brand wankers.
The only rules I think worth bothering are- describe what you are/do (Pot Noodle, Yorkshire Tea) describe your approach (Virgin) or come up with something distinctive that’s loosely relevant to what you do or your history (Nike, O2). Or just name it after the founders (Honda, Ford, Ben and Jerrys) Anything else is masturbation.
Just like idiots that spend hours pulling apart words on a brand onion that no customer will ever see, but you have adhere to and won’t change no matter how the market/culture shifts without paying Interbrandwank another $100,000

Comment by northern

Did someone nick your tea or something?

Mind you, I’m in a uber-fucked off mood because someone has allowed a bollocks situation to thrive meaning innocent people will have to take the brunt of others indecision and unprofessionalism.

Can you feel the venom in me right now?

The only bit that is calming me down is that I have ‘borrowed’ your “stay our the zoo and get in the jungle” line and it is featuring in a presentation that I’ll be giving in Australia soon.

Yes, another “holiday” by your definition.

To be fair though, it will be a few weeks since the last one.

Comment by Rob

Isn’t that a youporn soundbite?

Comment by John

About to go into a pointless meeting…..

Comment by northern

Sit in the middle.

Comment by John

Maybe he’s the cause of the boringness. I doubt it – but a planner can’t discard any possibility at the outset. Ahem.

Comment by Rob

Sat at the edge, just wanted to get out alive.
And steal my soundbites at will, my entire career is built on borrowed quotes

Comment by northern

a great post. though, as always, the comment section is almost as if not way more entertaining and interesting. well, except this comment of mine…

Comment by seb

fuck me, look whose back in town. id be less fucking shocked if lord lucan knocked on my door and asked for some triple a batteries.

Comment by andy@cynic

What about the phone number for a good nanny service?

Comment by DH

As you have switched comments off on today’s post, I will make my comment here instead. The events in London have disturbed me deeply as well. The points you make in your post are likely to be a fair representation how many people feel right now. I agree with all you have said, especially the bravery of the women, the overall conflict and confusion I feel about the overall situation and the belief this was not an act of religion, but of violent men who use that label to justify their actions.
I found this quote that an MI5 director said last year that seems to share that view.
“I suspect that any problems we may have here will come from lone actors attracted to extremism and violence.”
People do need to talk about the claims and realities of these violent acts but with such a sensationalist media, I fear that could not be done in a controlled and mutually beneficial way.
Good post Robert. If only there was a simple answer.

Comment by George

Let’s be honest, it does have a connection to islam, but it is connected to the extremist groups, who are totally unrepresentative of the religion or the majority of the peace loving followers. That doesn’t mean it is or should be “society versus muslims”, but that’s what these extremists want because it helps them fulfill their own needs, which I agree, has little to do the true nature of the faith. Society needs to talk about this, we need to bring clarity and calm or it will keep simmering across cultures to the point of total boil over.

Comment by Pete

I think this is true of the names and labels we give ourselves as well.

Comment by muggleinconverse

If it’s the same as the Amstrad internet phone we used to have at Comet back in about 1999 there’s a reason it failed dismally. It was terrible!

Great post on the Woolwich incident too. The idiots who do those horrible things are no more representative of Islam than the KKK are representative of Christianity.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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