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How to Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins of Naming

Ashley Madison, the adulterous hacked website, has finally changed its name. Hoping that a new moniker will make some of its 37 million former members forget that their contact info and unusual predilections were released on the dark web, it announced that its new name is … (wait for it) Ruby! Yes, one full year since the leak and this is the best brand name it could create?

7 Deadly Sins of Naming (WARNING: THIS IS A LONG BLOG)

I get it; naming is hard, but this name fails on many fronts fueling my fire to arm you with the sins to avoid in the naming world.

  1. Announcing the Name Without the Domain – Quick, how do you find Ruby? goes to Kay Jewelers. is still available, so how do you find them????

  2. Holding a naming contest – Inevitably, when it’s time to create a new brand or company name, someone comes up with the brilliant idea to hold a naming contest. Actually, it’s not so brilliant. If the contest is either among employees or occurs at a trade booth, the time actually spent on the project is disproportionate to its value. Isn’t a new name worth more than five minutes of thought while uncomfortably standing on a trade show floor?

Even worse, contestants usually don’t understand naming rules or linguistics. They rarely know your naming preferences, the competitive landscape, trademark law, domain availability, or constructional linguistics to ensure that your name is appropriate and available. You then feel compelled to use the name and award a prize, even though you know that there is no winner in this game.

  1. Listening to GoDaddy – One of the ways entrepreneurs get into trouble is by following GoDaddy’s alternate name suggestions when your original dot com is unavailable. RESIST! These suggestions are based upon what is available for them to sell to you, not what you need. Also see last week’s blog about the lack of a relationship between domain availability and trademark availability.)

  1. Relying Upon Your Thesaurus – It’s easy to fall victim in naming to just look up synonyms. If, for example, you’re trying to name a new leadership company, you’re not surprised to see every variation of that domain taken. So, you then start looking at the thesaurus. Your competitors have been there too and this well quickly runs dry.

  2. Naming for the Moment – Your goal in naming is to create a brand that will survive the long term: a name that will survive today and prosper tomorrow. Is Awesomeness TV going to sound relevant in 3 years? Will LOL even make sense 20 years from now?

  3. Forgetting the International Audience – The Internet has truly made naming a worldwide event. All names today must work in numerous languages, or at least in the most common ones. Then there’s the classic story, circulated around the globe, of how Chevrolet introduced the car, Nova, into Spanish speaking countries where nova translates into “no go.” Recently, however, statistics have emerged showing astonishingly strong sales in Latin America, lending credence to the theory that the story might just be an urban legend.

Nissan didn’t learn from Chevy’s misstep. It designed a spectacular electric concept car that’s winning raves. And its name is…Pivo. But wait a minute! “Pivo” means beer in most Slavic languages. What a concept indeed! Have a beer and keep on truckin’! Toyota also missed the boat with MR2. In French, it translates as if reading the words “mer” plus “deux”—meaning “sh*t.” Oops!

I also chuckle when I remember how Israel mistakenly translated the sentence “Jerusalem: there’s no place like it” from Hebrew to English. The tagline then morphed into “Jerusalem: There is no such city.”

Some foreign language mistakes continue to be made over and over again. Esteé Lauder introduced Country Mist, Rolls Royce introduced the Silver Mist, and Clairol introduced the Mist Stick. The only problem was that the word “mist” in German roughly translates into horse manure! How alluring!

  1. Squishing Two Brand Names Together– Afraid of losing brand name recognition in the wake of a merger? Just combine all of the names together. You’ll join the tongue-twisting ranks of Dean Witter Morgan Stanley, ExxonMobil, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, DaimlerChrysler, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bristol-Myer Squibb, AOL Time Warner and SmithKline Beecham. Name merging is the compromise solution chosen when neither party will agree to a new company moniker. With yesterday’s decision for AMC to buy UCI Cinemas, will it end up as AMCUCI? Now that’s just alphabet soup!

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