| Magazine Feature |

What’s in a Name?

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!

Illustration: Avishai Chen

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.”

A Name Is an Ad Forever

In the Internet age, entrepreneurs often launch websites along with their businesses. That’s often another consideration in the naming process, since 98 percent of the English dictionary is already in use as URL website addresses. If you’re thinking about launching a start-up, Internet domain is your first consideration. “I would even advise a proprietor to buy the name right away,” says Saftlas. “Ten dollars now, to pin the name down, will prevent regret later. Another thing to check for is if this name is trademarked already. Check the state registry to ensure your name is still free.”

One solution in the very crowded market is to look for a name that is not part of the language yet. Concocting a word for a business or product will give the proprietor first rights and a better chance at procuring a URL address. On the downside, it may require extra effort to introduce these new names to consumers who thought they knew it all. But if business owners are ready to do a lot of advertising, a new word might stick more than an old word does. Names like Google, Yahoo, and Acura have made it big when they became an integral part of the English language.

These company names are not just a collection of letters strung together haphazardly. The creative developers pay careful attention to the meaning and “feel” of the word, even if it is not yet part of the language. Some of the names are a combination of morphemes, three letter units that are the root of a word. Others are names whose original spelling has been changed for mass use. “We recently branded a product starting a new line of kosher cleaning products,” says Ari Treuhaft. “It includes six or seven different cleansers. So we had to come up with a name that encompasses all of them. Though the products are kosher, we wanted to bend away from a kosher inclined name, for a more corporate and fresh sounding name. We ended up with Myst. When you think of mist, what do you see? Clean, fresh. We spelled it with a Y to stand out from the crowd.”

When creating a word, it’s important that it be readable, possible to inject in a spoken sentence, and easily spelled and pronounced by any person on the street. The developers of Google arrived at the name because they wanted to indicate the sheer amount of information they index. They used a funky derivative of the mathematical word googol, which means 10100, or the number one with a hundred zeros following.

Plenty others choose to append their own names to their businesses. My father thought it was good enough to name me Zalman, they think, so why shouldn’t it work for my store as well? Last names are fairly popular as well. Yitzchok Saftlas explains that these names work if the proprietor has already established a positive reputation. For example, Kushner Real Estate Groups is comprised of family known to own many holdings. They can therefore cash in on the expertise associated with their name. However, if an unknown young man is starting a business, and his circle of friends includes the two minyanim in his local shul, he’s better off with a name that describes what he offers. Mr. Saftlas might also use a hybrid solution, combining the proprietor’s name with a description of his product for a name that is both personal and effective.

Initials are commonly used to name businesses, but do nothing for the image of the company they represent. Sometimes the ABCs are attached to a description of the product of service for names like A&B fish, S&S Furniture and S&W Ladies Wear. Although the letters tell us nothing, they give the store some identity. Letter naming was very popular back when clients relied heavily on the yellow pages. A name like A&B, ABC, or ACE gave a company the advantage of being spotted first in the listing. Today, with customers turning to search engines to find products and services, catchy, memorable words “sell” the business more effectively than a string of letters.

In contrast to the initials or last-name model, descriptions work well, as they tell the customer in a very direct way what the company is all about. This no-nonsense naming technique can be utilized in creative ways to highlight the business specialty. Rainbow Lighting tells us that the store sells lights, but also gives us the feeling that their products have dazzling qualities. Supreme Health’s products seem to be a cut above. In describing a company, stores should be wary of names that are so tired they make customers yawn. Better Wear tells us nothing. Better than who? In what way? Says who? A description gives the company an opportunity to communicate a message to their customers; smart proprietors use that opportunity wisely.

Names at Work

For Mr. Biegeleisen of The Buzz, a Brooklyn electronics store, naming his business was a careful component of his overall marketing plan. The Buzz was a name that made sense on several fronts. “My marketer, Sam Ash came up with a name that symbolizes the time right now,” Mr. Biegeleisen explains. “He gave me a whole list of names and one of them was The Buzz. We chose the name to create a buzz. At that time, everyone was talking about us. Our grand opening attracted thousands. Our store was a new concept. We had warehouse products and prices along with boutique showrooms of high-end housewares plus a keilim mikveh on premises. It created a tremendous buzz. On another level, the name was appropriate because our venture had two proprietors: Biegeleisen and Zinger (we were later joined by Mr. Burman). Our last names gave us the acronym for Buzz.”

Did the name catch on? “We get phone calls from around the country. A person from Oklahoma called to ask where our closest location is. This told us our name was a real success, a catch. The name sounds as if we are a national chain. Our name definitely helped create the buzz. It’s natural for people to say, I was at The Buzz or I’m going to The Buzz. It’s a small word, only one syllable. You can put it in any sentence.”

Glatt Mart manager Dov Bauman feels that his store’s name, while not the fruit of any marketing guru, still has a certain power. “Our name is a fairly good name,” he feels. “That’s why so many other businesses have incorporated the term ‘glatt’ in their names. In fact, there are two more Glatt Marts in different states.”

Dov explains that Glatt Mart started as a mom-and-pop store opened by his father. He doesn’t know why his father chose the name Glatt Mart, but he thinks that, at the time, it fit the store perfectly. “It’s not the best name, but we did lots of marketing and are proud of who we are. People know us and recognize our orange bags and our name. Baruch Hashem, we have good products and we sell worldwide. Just the other day I got an order from Beit Shemesh. I have an entire freezer of frozen products waiting for a mother to pick up and take to her son in Eretz Yisrael.”

Mr. Yitzchok Saftlas feels that Bauman may be selling his name short: “Glatt Mart is a great name!” he avers. “It tells you exactly who they are in a direct, simple way.” “Glatt” refers to their kashrus standard, while “Mart” tells of a store that is serviced, affable, and affordable.

The proprietor at Jerusalem II Pizza — known to most customers simply as “J-II” — is busy serving up piping slices and doesn’t think too deeply into the name. “My friend has a J-II pizza store and encouraged me to do the same,” he says between slices. Mr. Saftlas explains that this name works because the business is very local. They are trying to attract a very small demographic and they don’t advertise much, so their name does not have to stand out from the crowd.

On a more emotive level, the proliferation of J-II pizza stores might say something about the Jewish People. Perhaps this name is so popular among Jews because we are all seekers. Who doesn’t want to think of Jerusalem (even when ordering pizza)?

Ari Treuhaft of KZ Creative sees these types of overused names as signs of laziness. “But it works,” he concedes. “If they have good pizza and they are around the corner, they’ll be busy. They are not serving a wider clientele, so their name is not important. It always depends on the message you want to communicate.”

Pomegranate is a unique name for a supermarket and has drawn attention and wows for its innovative concept. Both KZ design — the marketing force fueling Pomegranate’s success — and Bottom Line Marketing are of one voice about that name: “The name works because of the marketing backing it.” How is a pomegranate related to a supermarket? It isn’t. But the marketing has portrayed Pomegranate as an experience — an exotic, special place.

“Before Mr. Banda opened his stores, he came down to our office with two choices for a name,” remembers Ari from KZ Creative. “One was passion fruit, the other choice was pomegranate. That really told us a lot about who he is as a person and what he was trying to accomplish. He wanted a cut above the rest, something exotic. He wanted not just any fruit, but a unique fruit people associate with prestige. He ended up sticking with pomegranate, because it worked better in terms of logo, design, and color scheme. The fruit is used only once a year, on our Rosh HaShanah table. This is the message Pomegranate has conveyed with its name, advertisement, and shopping experience. Were the store to have failed, the name would be considered a bad mistake. But we have come to know it for its beauty and innovation, and therefore our response is, ‘Oh, wow, what a creative name.’$$SEPARATEQUOTES$$”

Name Changes

A name gains value as it matures and settles into consumers’ consciences as a brand that’s here to stay. In fact, brands are worth so much, they can go up and down in value, depending on the image developed over time. Triarc Companies bought the Snapple brand from Quaker Oats for $300 million only to sell it to Schweppes for $900 million. Although a local business name goes nowhere near that number, a good name should be valued for its worth.

“Unless you are trying to disassociate from a bad reputation, it’s not worthwhile to change names,” says Yitzchok Saftlas. “If the image is not tarnished, it pays to cash in on the familiarity and the years the name has accrued for itself.”

“Renaming can be done, but it has to be done over time,” feel the experts at KZ Creative. “We would have to do a lot of research on whether or not the name resonates with the customers. If you own a beketshe business known as G&G and you’re planning on going after the same demographic, stay with the name people have known for years. But if G&G were to somehow start selling beketshes across the country, I’d tell them to look into a different name.”

There’s another solution for companies looking to reach new markets: developing multiple, distinct names to reach different demographics. “We just worked for a company that produces one line,” Treuhaft relates. “We came up with two different names, labels, and brands. One of the brands has a more natural elegance and the other is straightforward with an edge. Our client is testing the market with his first brand and we already developed the second, totally different brand. It’s exactly the same product, but selling in different places. One is for cheaper stores, and the other will be sold in higher-end places.”

Even within the observant Jewish market, a business owner must be attuned to the preferences and nuances of different segments. If a fundraiser wants to communicate with the chassidishe market, he will need a different approach than when he turns to the Modern Orthodox spectrum.

Haolam Cheese is one company that is targeting different crowds, even within the Jewish community. Legally the company is called World Cheese Company. But when it comes to marketing and branding, the developers have segmented their product line to appeal to different demographics. They have three different brands: Haolam, Migdal, and Millers, all under the same umbrella. Haolom is the chalav Yisrael branch, and accordingly, the marketing for this brand talks about being part of the kosher world for three generations.

Jewish consumers appreciate names in the Hebrew language. Masbia is one such name, devised by Mr. Saftlas for a soup kitchen. For donors and recipients, the word bespeaks dignity. Ohel is another example of a Hebrew word that goes straight to the heart of what they do, providing shelter and support to those in need.

The KZ team warns that while Jewish consumers like to connect to names in their own language, those names must be on a professional, accurate level. Mehadrin, Haolam, Eden foods — these names go over well. The trick is finding the word that appeals to the heimishe part of us and at the same time, to the sophistication we’ve come to expect.

“Mishpacha is a great name for a family magazine,” says Mr. Saftlas. “My understanding is that it is around the table on Shabbos, for the entire family. ArtScroll is a name that was newly combined from two words for the company, in a very brilliant way. Today it is a household word. Those are good names.”

While Smiles Orthodontist, Do-All Travel, and Bagels N’Greens are just the names of your service providers, they give you more than a convenient reference word. They talk about convictions, what the proprietors hope to provide you, and how they run the business. A rose may be a rose by any other moniker, but you might just choose a business by its name.

How to Name Your Business

Get Professional Advice. Use a dentist for your teeth and a marketer for your name. But choose a marketing firm with a name you like.

  1. Research. Don’t rely on gut feeling to guide you. What works with your target audience? Which names plays into your location, stands out from competitors, and gives you your best angle?
  2. Brainstorm. Jot down any idea that talks about the qualities of your company. Where do you see yourself in the future and how will your clients perceive you? At this stage, anything goes.
  3. Be descriptive. Put the name to work introducing you. What benefits are you touting? Easy-Off tells us what it does. Swatch gives a hint. U-Haul works by its word. So should your name.
  4. Be positive. Spotless Cleaners is better than Mess Free. Remind people of the advantage of using your service, instead of their own disadvantage.
  5. Don’t date yourself. The name that is so going today might become stale bread by next year. Choose a name your son will like when you retire.
  6. Use easy words. Ensure that your word is easily spelled and pronounced. Avoid words that will slip out of people’s minds when they want to find you. Don’t use a word that can be misunderstood.
  7. Don’t make it a mouthful. Keep your name to a maximum of three words. If it takes you more than that to explain what you are doing, choose different wording.
  8. Keep it simple. All, Tide, and Wisk detergents are easy. Ditto to Bic pens, Glad Bags, and Domino Sugar.
  9. Check if the name is available. This is a must, a vital first step to ensure you get to keep the name you love. Look up trademark and website availability.
  10. Don’t Borrow your neighbor’s name. If a business in your region already goes by a similar name, give it up to him. You want to stand out.
  11. Step Back. Let the name rest for a week until you can come back to it with a fresh mind. Show the name to family and friends who can roll it on their tongue and give you honest feedback.
  12. Choose the finalist. Nobody will live, breathe, and sleep your name more than you. You must be able to embrace it, love it, and carry it proudly on your business card.
The Story Behind the Name

How were these brand names chosen?

Ivory soap. James N. Gamble came up with a pure white soap. His brother in law Harley Proctor named it for the ivory palaces described in Tehillim, 45:9. (Myrrh, aloes, and cassia are all your garments; more than ivory palaces, those that are Mine will cause you to rejoice.) When the soap was mistakenly combined with air and started to float, this super clean soap really became famous.

Microsoft. This is a compound of two shortened words, Microcomputer Software. Coined by Bill Gates, this word describes what the company was devoted to.

Kodak. This name is a made-up word by the company’s owner, who believed that words starting with the letter K are strong and incisive. He and his mother played around with an anagram set to come up with a name that would be short, easily pronounced, and not similar to anyone else

GAP. Donald Fischer was forty years old when he realized the new generation dressed more cheaply. Jeans were no longer only for working outdoor men. He started selling jeans and called his store GAP for the generation gap he encountered.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 363)

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