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What’s in a name?

The first time I was asked to find a name, it was by an outstanding Art Director who called me and told me: “A company manufacturing and selling slatted bed sets needs a name for a new “articulated” slat system. The constraints are: It cannot end with “flex” because of Lattoflex. It must evoke the user’s benefits. It must suggest the name of the company. If you find it, you will receive the Naming Nobel Prize!!!!”I asked: “What’s the name of the company? ” He answered: “Pirelli”. I INSTANTLY answered: “Pirelax”. Followed a long silence…. “Gil! Are you there?” “Yes, I am. It’s exactly what they want!”. It does not end with “flex”. It evokes the user’s benefit. It suggests the name of the company. “How did you find it so quickly?”

The company bought it. In fact, they paid a good amount of money for it. And I received a fair amount for my key contribution.

People don’t pay for 3 seconds of effort. They pay for a Creativity-oriented life, for the inspiration it allows to happen, for the understanding of the strategic importance of a name and for a pertinent name to emerge.

Good names are “storytellers”

Good names are rare.

By “good” names, we mean those who immediately evoke a concept, an activity,
a product, a service, a benefit… or several!

“Good” names help a person “see” something, “sense” one or several benefits and advantages.

“Good” names generate feelings of Curiosity, amused interest and spontaneous confidence.

They push people to “seize” those benefits and advantages by “acting” i.e. acquiring
the product or service.

In other words, good names can tell a story in one word.

Naming is about the essence of Creative Thinking

Finding a name is the exact opposite of an exercise in Crazitivity
I mean, it is not about finding something “funny”, listing names that do not exist, or trying to say anything that will sound original for the sake of being original.

In fact, naming is precisely an exercise in “Serious Creativity” which we define as “the capacity to create Value within well-identified constraints”.

Naming is about finding what is pertinent within constraints, something that creates Value – like fame, bonding, remembrance, brand qualities – within the constraints of what is! (Are we talking about Chocolate, Cosmetics, Consultancy, Cars or deluxe Leather Goods) and what does the Future looks like is (for a lasting Future positioning).

A name can be considered as a concept. An abstraction.

The whole difficulty of naming is to find the way to connect this abstraction with a concrete proposition – a product, a service, a company- in the most pertinent and efficient way.

It supposes that the essence of that product, service or company is embedded in the name, without saying it verbatim. A name with a “spirit” conveys the spirit of what is being named. It conveys a Universe.

Examples of names found

Preliminary remark: some of the names listed hereunder were rejected for wrong reasons such as fear of damage to the original image, lack of Imagination of the Client, Old Fashion Conservatism or sheer Stupidity!

  • 2 women operating a Communication Agency want a name for their newly created company. I propose “AL2”, a pun if French which means “the 2 of them together”
  • A women starts a coaching company focused on helping her customers be better equipped to face their responsibilities. The name “Response Abilities”.
  • The first 2nd hand contemporary Design store in Brussels (1971) which I co-created . I named it “In Store” and Gilles Fiszman designed the Logo. In store means in stock i.e; “You can take it with you” + The store that is « In”. Graphically, it represents a home with a chimney. More than thirty years later, and after a revision by the new owners, the name and the spirit of the logo remain the same.

  • A delegation of infographics students of the University of Valenciennes (Northern France) representing their school at the Monte-Carlo Infographics Festival in 1992 need a name that has more to do with Art than with the Technology used.
    The name: “Imagicians
  • Romano Scuvée, who was an excellent designer and the creator of Motive Packaging showed me this “divided” salad bowl he had just invented (at a time when salads and greens were becoming more and more popular. “How would you call it?” he asked me. “Well! We are in Belgium! Let’s make it the first bilingual salad bowl in the history of the country. Let’s call it “Sal/Sla”!

Etc. Etc.

How can you find good names?

  1. Open your Mind
  2. Understand and connect with the essence of what the name is supposed to convey. This is your purpose
  3. Make the constraints super clear
  4. Try options freely, let your imagination flow
  5. Let more come and play while being very radical on how they serve the purpose
  6. One of them will become obvious. Because Creativity is always logical in hindsight. Logic would never have taken you where you needed to be!

The benefits of good names

Names become good names because of the spontaneous confidence they generate due to the longevity of the company, proofs of consistency in Quality, stories associated with their Value-creating actions and initiatives.

Other benefits can be

  1.  Remanence.A good name sticks! Others don’t. Some even become the “household” name to illustrate the archetype. I once heard someone say he had a “Parker” Bic!
  2. Associations. A good name can become associated with a symbol of something. When someone says “This is the Rolls Royce of….”, you know the service or product is associated with Excellence. Or when you hear a Boss tell an employee “This company is not the Club Med!”, you know “Club Med” has become the symbol of doing anything you like in terms of no stress, no cares, no worries, no obligations
  3. Trust. When a product is associated with people’s name, it means that a person or a team of persons have dared to associate their name(s) and reputation(s) and feel totally committed to guarantee the quality, reliability, consistency of the product or the service. It is often the case in advertising agencies: Doyle, Dane & Bernbach, Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, BBDO, JW Thompson, David Ogilvy Young and Rubicam etc. It is also popular in large “service” companies such as Ernst & Young, Coopers & Lybrand, Deloitte & Touche, Arthur D. Little etc. Others include famous restaurants or providers of Food-associated products like Alain Ducasse, Joël Robuchon, Roger Verger, Thierry Marx or Baskin Robbins and MacDonald.
  4. Added factors. If a name is palindromic (i.e. it can be read equally from left to right or from right to left), it adds to point 1. Look at names like ABBA, Civic, Radar, Kayak, Level, Aviva, OXO, Pop, Rotor, SAS, TNT, SMS, XANAX. They are striking visually, graphically and acoustically. And some have become world famous.

In conclusion, considering what has been said so far, finding a good name is not easy.
It takes research (finding a name that already exists is a waste of Energy, Time and Money), Observation, constant mental activity, Serious Creativity and originality.
And Talent!

A good name has great economic Value and can generate a lot of income. It is therefore worth a lot of money, even if it only took a few minutes to find.
It is not the time spent that must be taken into consideration but the talent of the finder and the geographic zone of utilization. The fees for use in the European Union, or in the “geographic” Europe, or that plus the United States of the world are not the same.

Keep it in mind! And good luck!

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