Design for People: Names + Words

Some names are designed for people, others maybe not. 

We have been naming brands for just about fifteen years now and during that time we've been fortunate enough to name a chair for Herman Miller (Setu), a multinational software division of Fiserv (StoneRiver) and Simple Seed Organic Rice. During our methodology, we go down paths and draw inspiration from a universe of possibilities. When the filtering begins, one of the hard to measure criteria is "how does it feel?" Some names because of their phonetic roots, audio cues or latent meaning just don’t feel right.

This isn't about the absolute blunders which many people reference when considering naming. Like this more recent one by Panasonic, which is impressively idiotic. If this is indicative of your definition of bad name, then we need to set the bar a bit higher. 

Examples of names not really working but not offensive or idiotic (like example above) might include:

Natural spring water named: Zephyrhills 
– It just doesn't sound like something a human being should be consuming, simple? How can something that sounds like a drug name (see below) feel “natural”?

Bakery holding company named: Bimbo Bakeries
– While there is likely an argument for existing equities, the negative meaning just has to trump all such views. Check with the meaning and if it changes around you, change your name.

Clothing brand acronym: WESC
– WeAretheSuperlativeConspiracy, apparently WASC just wasn't right? Acronyms are a jumble of letters making for a hard to remember, irrelevant name. Avoid acronyms at all costs.

Drug name for high blood pressure: Edarbi
– In order to own a name in pharma, the name has to be unique to be worthy of Trademark, but sometimes the phonetics are just not as good as one would like. Say it out loud to yourself.

These are distractions, not names. They don't add to the brand message but rather cause confusion or misinterpretation. These are not the names that might be offensive or obnoxious in other languages, those are also plentiful. This is where names make a contribution or hold back awareness, social value and brand memorability.

The lesson here is not the extremes, it is the small spaces in between when it comes to names. Seek memorability using authentic story elements. Don't distract or confuse with jumbles of letters, strange phonetics and odd meaning. And, ask yourself, "What does the name feel like?"

We'll cover examples on the other end of spectrum “good names” in a future post.



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