Naming a name!

Juliet:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art myself…
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

Romeo:

I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

Shakespeare in his classic love tragedy Romeo & Juliet gives out a message that names of things do not really matter, but what things are is what matters. In the context of the play and in many other contexts of life it makes complete sense.

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But, when it comes to naming your venture or your product it needs prudence, relevance & wit!

Why a good name?

From the brand perspective, a good name is vital for a venture. It’s like that sexily clad, most attractive hooker by the window that invites customers into that particular brothel. It’s the one thing your customers will identify you and your venture with for time immemorial. It is that name which reflects you and your company’s attitude & what you stand for.

Think – Pepsi, Coke, Google, Adidas, Amazon, Apple – all these names not just remind you of the company & its products, but the also evoke a particular emotion which we relate with each of these brands. That emotion is what makes us recall / remember these brands. And that is the importance of a “name”.

Why this post?

Recently, I’ve been in half a dozen discussions where we have been brainstorming a good name for a venture or a product being rolled by a startup. That inspired me to writing this post. This has a direction in which we thought while thinking up a name, a few personal experiences – my philosophy to deriving names – if you please 🙂

Empty Names?

Look around and think of popular brands that you can recall – all of them usually will have “empty” names that will relate to something the product stands for or the brand means. There are far few names which mean “literal things”. For example, Pepsi – in reality means nothing, except that it may be a derivative from “pepsin” the digestive enzyme used in that drink. But we associate it with “a refreshing fizzy drink” now, coz that’s our association.

Safe? Boring? Interesting? Innovative?

When thinking up names, you can either choose to be safe and boring. In other words, think up literal names for your venture or product. If you are selling books, you can call yourselves “The Book Sellers”; if your product is a pill that helps you maintain your weight and diet, it can be called “The Diet Pill”. Thanks to the bombardment during IPL, I remember Max mobile & fo a long time thought that Micro Max and Max were but the same, till I was proven wrong by a friend. This is the danger of a bad name – you will never make an identity for your brand / product / venture. Frankly, in today’s world where there is a million messages bombarded to the users; recall & recognition are huge challenges. These names don’t stand a chance.

So, you have no choice but to be a bit brave. Go all out and get innovative!

Pepsi, Coke, Google, Adidas – these are famous names now, but how easy was it to remember when they started out? They had a zing to it and the entire brand experience made the name stick for a long time! Pepsi was sold as “Brad’s Drink” first – imagine!!!

When you think up a name it’s a brand you are building based on the name. You do not want it restricting your growth after a while when you diversify and realize that your brand name doesn’t relate to what you do.

When I think up names I consider these, in no particular order though:

  1. Who is the initial audience I will cater to?
  2. Does my name sound “exciting” enough for them to try me out
  3. Does the name invoke interest for people to “know more” – frankly, does a name like “GoCarry” invoke interest in wanting to know more for an online shopping protal? For me, NO! It sounds like something I have heard of before, something stale.
  4. Does the name tease your audience? Google / Cisco – these names have a zing to it. It sounds unique and has freshness to it till date. Some company names I like which does bring a kind of newness on reading their names are – Lifemojo / Redbus / Xobni / Reditt / DeskAway / Twitter
  5. Will my name stand relevant 2 years from now and beyond?
  6. Does my name have an unique association that people can recall easily (of course, this also has to do with brand association, but some parts can be achieved in the name)
    1. For Example: Madhouse – we chose madhouse as we had read about this house of great fervor -where a lot of innovation, etc happen in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Grabiel Gracia Marquez and when were looking for a name – it came naturally to us. Also we thought the name is disruptive and will be remembered by people for its uniqueness as it’s a uncommon name.
    2. For Morpheus – we went to the top level of “What we were going to do” and somehow it was aligning ourselves with entrepreneurs’ dreams to achieve and make it a successful business. And so, we said okay we are dealing with dreams here. And since Madhouse was M and we did quite well as a business, we said lets look up names in M. Then we got an idea and said lets look up Greek God Names and we found Morpheus.

Look at something you can relate to. Something the entire team believes in. There is this now popular, then – a college rock band, I know of called – “Thermal and a Quarter” its called so coz 3 of them were pure Malayali’s and one was a quarter malayali. So Three Malayali’s and a Quarter Malayali – Thermal & a Quarter 🙂

You can also consider something that’s common among the founders, something that is near and dear to the founding team. Something that the team can associate with or are passionate about!

You may want to be a little conscious about “What is it that you are naming”. You do not want to call a doctor management system “Cookie”. But you also do not want to call it “EasyDr.”

Don’t be safe in choosing a name, experiment. If it does not work – you can always change it in the initial days of your company. But then, if you have a safe / neutral name – okay, its safe, but you will miss out on the excitement of experimenting. And most importantly, miss out on “Customer Recall and Recognition”. I mean, how many of us consume “Bhag Bakri Chai” – Really?! It may be the best chai in this world, but!

Where all to look:

Experiment with words, look for palindromes, seek “sounds-like” words, look up mythology, history of various cultures and countries. Look into science, math – google, red quanta are a couple of examples. Look at founder names – adidas, konika. Look at nature, wildlife, etc. The options are plenty, it only needs some innovative thought & a good sense of humor to arrive at a good name!

These are some of my personal experiences and tried tested methodology of arriving at a good name. Somehow, many a times its super instinctive too. So do not suppress your instinct. Happy Naming!

Interesting link to company names and how they originated here. So, what’s the story behind your company / product name?

Taglines: Dead & Redundant Or Relevant?

Taglines traditionally are defined as a part of the brand building exercise that sums up the mission, intent and image of the business. When I studied brand, logo elements and the importance of the “tagline” in theory, as a student, I was fascinated about the fact that if the tagline copy was written intelligently – it can work wonders. I admired “Just do It” and still do! I did use some of the do’s and don’ts while designing logos and creating brand identity documents in my career.

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When I was creating the logo element for  Madhouse, my first startup, I religiously spent sometime figuring out what the tagline should be. I dint even think of my logo without a tagline. The belief was that, we should be able to use the tagline without the company /brand name eventually to create the same recall and recognition in users minds. Inspired by the Nike Swoosh!

As time went by, I noticed that most new generation internet companies were emerging without the tagline! What mattered the most was the brand name or the name of the business and not so much the tagline. I remember the likes of ebay, amazon, yahoo, google, apple, rediff, indiatimes, etc. not having a tagline. And as we move on, many more established companies are dropping their taglines.

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I guess, the way things have changed in branding, building companies, communicating the value of the business – brand recall is a great challenge and consuming, now imagine adding a tagline to it and trying to push the whole branding. Its too much to ask!

The reality for today is that Taglines are redundant! They are nothing but noise in the business scheme of things. Having said that, I think for statrups / new companies having a tagline is a personal choice. Thought, its important to get that darn tagline right – if not it’s a disaster of sorts before your company has started!

To quote relevant examples from my real-life experience: While working

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with LifeMojo as part of the MVP business acceleration program in 2008, we discussed at length to have a tag-line and when we launched the site we did have a tag-line too. But soon we realized that the tagline was not adding too much value, if anything, the logo was looking clunky and bad trying to

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accommodate the tag-line. And so, we just knocked it out! On the contrary,  the tagline Deskaway is Simplify Teamwork and this for me is the perfect summation of what Deskaway stands for as a business.

And so… Contemplate real hard if you’d like to have a tagline for your company or not. And if you’d still like to have a tagline for your business / startup here’s some insight that I’ve garnered through some years of experience:

  • Taglines can be of two major kinds:
    • Ones that have a direct reference to the business – company, service or the product, Deskaway’s tagline for example or Kingfisher Airlines’ Fly the Good Times or United’s Fly the friendly skies
    • Ones that reflect the philosophy of the company – Nike, Just Do it! Or Nokia, Connecting People.
  • So when you are contemplating having a tagline for your business. There are few things you may want to think about:
    • What’s the purpose the tagline is going to actually serve? “I’m lovin’ it” has become synonyms with the golden arch and McD’s burgers now. But to achieve this they’ve been at it for years now.
    • The tagline should actually add value to your brand, the business offering and enhance the perceived value of your business.
    • What do you want to say as part of the tagline? Do you want it to reflect your mission? Connecting People; Your business philosophy Always low prices, always or talk about the product offering directly? Utterly Butterly Delicious!
    • A tagline must reflect the feeling / emotions of the customer and not what the people behind the business want customers to perceive.
    • Ensure that the tagline is short enough to fit with your logo unit and to be reprinted anywhere – from a visiting card to a huge sky-drop size hoarding
    • The tagline must be well written to gel with your business ideology and should convey something.
    • The tagline should be simple in language, no buzz or jargon usage
    • A tagline should serve its purpose at least for a few years for the business.
    • A tagline has to be direct to appeal to the larger customer base, so that they can identify it and recall it when required.
    • Intellectual taglines are recipe for disaster
    • A tagline that has no recall is a tagline worth removing
    • A bad tagline is as good as a ruined brand. Better not to have a tagline, than have a bad one

In all, I frankly don’t remember many taglines of companies that are doing well. I remember an one off “Just Do it!” or “I’m lovin’ it!” coz these are the rare gems that have risen out of a lot of crappy taglines by established companies.

So, as a last tip – if you’re not sure what you want the tagline to be, if it hasn’t come naturally to you – then don’t waste your time on thinking up one – its not worth the time spent. Not at all for a startup!

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