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What’s in a Name?

Chany Rosengarten

If you found it tough to pick a name for your firstborn that would satisfy your spouse, parents, and in-laws, imagine the challenge of finding a name that will attract the attention and win the trust of thousands of potential customers! A lot more than you can imagine hinges on the crucial decision of what to name a store or product. Marketing experts and store proprietors share the philosophy and ideology of the corporate name game.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Walking down the avenue or flipping through a magazine, a plethora of names jump out at you. More than just words, these names are powerful marketing tools that often manage to convey the status, age, taste, or spending habits of the consumers they attract. What goes into the corporate naming process? How and why are these names developed? Here’s a peek into the process. The multiple considerations and motivations just might turn your own baby-naming angst into child’s play.

The Relationship Builder

A & B Fish. Jerusalem II Pizza. Shop Smart. Glatt Mart. DB Electronics. Onyx. The Hat Box. Corporate names range from the proprietor’s name or initials to descriptions of the business, enigmatic phrases, tired clichés and overdone copycats. For the entrepreneur, finding an appropriate name that will attract buyers can be a bewildering challenge. That’s why many start-ups utilize the services of marketing professionals to help give their venture an identity.

“We might not know your business as well as you do, but we do understand how to build a relationship between business and customer,” says Ari Treuhaft, creative director of KZ Creative. “That’s what a name is all about: building a relationship from the first word and on.”

How do marketers come up with the name? Professionals are trained for this, explains Yitzchok Saftlas. “I’ll ask a person with whom I’m working on a name to bring me two names that he likes, and two names that he absolutely does not like,” says Yitzchok Saftlas of Bottom Line Marketing Group. Saftlas, who trained in New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), is the brainpower behind many names of popular businesses and initiatives. “With my training, I can decipher what types of names do not agree with this person. This will help me get to a name that clicks for my client. It will be different than the two names he brought in, but it will give me an idea of his speed.”

He then uses varied tools, including research into the market, and creativity. “Then I ask Hashem, Ata chonen l’adam daas, grant me the wisdom I need. Everything in this world is HaKodosh Baruch Hu’s creativity anyway.”

Names are about association; the right name will trigger certain feelings and connotations for potential clients. Ari Treuhaft provides an inside glimpse at the naming process. “When choosing a name, we ask ourselves, what is this product all about? What are five different qualities in this product, and which words translate those qualities on a personal level? As a person, what words talk to us about the qualities of this product?

“Then we let the creative juices flow, focusing on words that convey the message of the business in a very personal way. It’s a lot of brainstorming and research. We will pass a list of names around the office. My colleague Eli Kaufman will add a few ideas and we’ll spin them off each other. Then we whittle it down and present our final choice to our client. He may like the concept, but prefer a different word. So we’ll go back to the drawing board with this concept and find a different name for it.”

Not only must a name be catchy, it also must speak to the intended clients. A very snazzy or trendy name might roll off customers’ tongues, but it may not be the right choice when the desired customer demographic is more settled and staid.

In Israel, many groceries and other stores include the word “Zol,” meaning cheap, in their name. This particular quality is not the first thing Americans look for when choosing their favorite store, so you don’t often see “Cheap” in a an American store’s name. Groceries often play up the kosher status, service, or even location of their store to pull customers in.

As Yitzchok Saftlas explains, “It’s all about the market you are looking for. A personal banking firm does not need a memorable name. They don’t need a name that catches on like wildfire because they are looking for a select, limited number of people. Everyone has computers on the other hand, and Microsoft is named to go over well to every man in the Unites States. Geico spends lots on advertisements just pushing their name. They hang billboards that say nothing more than ‘Call Geico.’ They target every person in America with a car, so they market aggressively to any driver who cruises under the billboard and needs car insurance.”

People are sometimes disappointed with the name he comes up with, says Zevi Zilberberg from KZ Creative. “I tell them, if a heimishe guy were to ask me to name his bank, and I’d give him the name ‘Bank of America’ or ‘City Bank,’ he’d wonder if this simple name is all I can come up with. But the fact is that those are very good names. A name is about communicating a message to the people the business wants to attract. It is an important first impression. Coming up with a good name requires you to think about the quality of your product. It’s not about having a cool play of words, or a cute line. It’s about developing the relationship in the first minute of interaction.”


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