What isn't in a name?

Naming might be one of the most primal occupations humans have devised, and one of the most important as well. Cross-culturally we find strange and beautiful naming traditions and rituals that all contribute to the quality, complexity, and hue of the world we live in, shading objects with moods and intentions. Words, similarly to design, are so completely integrated into our daily life that we often don't recognize how they affect us. For example, I believe almost all Americans in some way have a positive association with Oreo's–a word that is just as delightful to say as the experience of untwisting the chocolate cookie base from the milky bit in the middle and eating them. On the other hand, the knock-off brand “Duplex” cookie that Western Family makes, carries none of the same weight as Oreo, mostly due to the inferior taste of the cookie, but also in large part because of the awkward and the vacuousness of those two syllables to a children's ears. Nobody wants a “Duplex,” but everyone wants an “Oreo.”

Rap music in particular glorifies  brand names and commercial articles  much the way F. Scott Fitzgerald does in “Great Gatsby,” lauding the particular poetry that commercialism offers. I don't think it's insignificant that brands with the most timeless names have remained in some sense successful;

they have buried themselves deep into our psyche, into our unconscious experience of everyday life. Adidas, Kleenex, Xerox, Federal Express, Gatorade, Band-Aid, Mercedes-Benz, Google, Levi's, Rolls Royce, IKEA, Sony, Microsoft Windows; all of these names breathe a certain poetry, the simple act of speaking these names out loud provides a refined pleasure. In the same way that Homer's recurring epithet “rosy fingered dawn” in both the “Iliad” and “the Odyssey” fastens events related in the stories to memory, we make our experiences browsing the web concrete by naming that action googling–it is at the same time our own experience and a corporate (in both senses) experience.

I propose several guidelines for naming in the business sense (and these will be broad rules because depending on the market the intended audience changes):

-Sound is the most important. The name should not be prone to trivialization based on its phonetic piddling. An example: the web based conference portal “Dimdim” does not gain any degree of professionalism or seriousness by the unpersuasive allusions of its simplistic and echoed syllables.

-Describe your service or product in the most simple and direct way without patronizing your audience or being overly obvious. This sounds simple enough, but this quality made the likes of Shakespeare.


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