22 Oct 2012
By Angelica Moreno
Names are tricky, tricky things – not just for parents who want to avoid giving their children names that will cause other kids to tease them – but also true for brands and small businesses.
Recently, my Facebook and Twitter feeds exploded over an article that appeared on S.T.F.U Parents sourced from Fab.com. The heated topic dealt with a small business called, wait for it, Flowers In the Attic. Now before I reveal what type of business they are, what does that name bring to mind?
For everyone that posted the article or commented on it in my news feed, the name immediately brought flashbacks of the V.C. Andrews novel of the same name. Yes, that book you remember from junior high or the movie – a staple of many pre-teen slumber parties. If you aren’t familiar with it, the story deals with such unforgettable and shocking topics as incest, child abuse, and child abandonment and an eventual filicide via arsenic and donuts. Hard to believe anyone would want to link his or her business to this name. And yet, this is the name of a children’s clothing and accessories store described by Fab.com as “Timeless styles for modern kids.” While the name isn’t forgettable, it also isn’t palatable and I can honestly say as a marketer, I would never consider buying items for a child at a store with this name. Based on the reactions on Facebook and Twitter, my reaction was common.
Marketers have always struggled with finding the “right” name. The launch of the Chevy Nova is a classic example that comes up in every marketing class. In the 60’s, the story goes, Chevy launched a car named the Chevy Nova. It was a name they felt captured all the excitement of space exploration at the time. It seemed like an excellent idea but when Chevy decided to launch the Nova in Mexico, they ran into a major issue: Nova pronounced as “No va” translates as “doesn’t go” in Spanish. Oops!
In the case of Chevy, this was a mistake by the marketing team and their agency partners. How could it have been avoided? Quite simply: market research. There are various qualitative and quantitative methods used to evaluate names. Qualitative methods include focus groups and open answer questionnaires. Quantitative research can include online, closed-ended surveys. With the amount of funds car companies spend on advertising (just think about how many commercials you see for cars), there really was no excuse for the type of mistake Chevy made.
For a small business with a limited budget, there are still ways to avoid making this type of mistake. Ask your friends and family, Facebook friends, your Twitter feed and other social platforms for input on a name or product idea is a great way to garner insight. Another is to casually bring this up in conversation with strangers just to see how they react. The key is to ask the question without placing bias into the equation. An example would be a simple Facebook poll with different name options or just asking, do you like this name for a children’s clothing store? Answer: yes or no. Something this simple would provide the feedback needed to determine if a name is at least appropriate. Even just Googling a name or phrase and noticing what comes up would be enough to reveal the type of association people have.
The key to naming isn’t to find something you love; it’s finding a name your customers love.
Angelica Moreno is a marketing professional who has managed the well-known household brands Becel, Hellmann’s and Sensodyne.