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A Psychoanalysis of Corporate Domain Names and Branding - Part I

This is the first part of a two-part series article.

A corporate name of any merged entity, at best, is really an outcry from the deep bottom of a corporation, all in search of attention and in pursuit of fame and glory. Whether you read a corporate brand name in a column, see it in a phone book, hear it on a radio, TV or come across it on the web, the name is always, a real show-off with a desperate mission to seek all the attention it can get.

Go to any big search engine and you will see one name after another screaming and yelling, each name wants to be on top of each other. Each wants to be as prominent and as loud as possible. Some have very high pitch and some with a flat boring humming noise…a humming noise, which sometimes, our subconscious mind can only hear. When you look at the word ‘Banana’, your sub-conscious mind does hear a soft enunciation of the word, this is sometimes a voice print left from the past encounters with the name, its sound or maybe the object itself, and if you ever slipped on a peel, then of course, other screaming thoughts may also conjure up. These types of branding experiences are often attached to most words used in our daily lingo.

So let’s talk about verbal branding or how a corporate names travel mouth-to-mouth, from one corner of the city to the whole nation, infesting the entire globe.

Really! Today this is achieved in one afternoon. A press release in the morning, a chat on CNN in the afternoon, e-commerce campaign for the rest of the day and voila! The name is the talk of the town from Rio to Paris and from New York to Shanghai. How long this name fame and glory will last all depends on how many customers will remember this name in the long run. With millions of names being registered each day as new corporate identities, new products, domain Names and other strange things, it is very noisy out there, almost like a deaf tone. While naming of this newly created new name-economy awaits its thunder, there are still some very serious problems for marketers

Personality Crisis

When a name is used in business it must be unique, powerful, proprietary, related to the business, excitable able to arouse curiosity and pleasing to the mind. Therefore, it is not wise to have a twisted spelling, hard to pronounce, or some wild name ideas that the subconscious mind simply refuses to accept. ‘RockCloud’, ‘PurpleRhino’, or ‘ONGA-BOINKA’ (meaning ‘Great Things’ in a dialect of the some Romantic language.) Do you really care? No, the mind simply shuts down and the name screams in panic while drowning.

A good name should simply pop up at the time of a purchase decision otherwise it is absolutely useless if it wanders through, out of the mental fog, a day after the purchase. This is how big sales are missed. Ouch. When a name is unique with a star quality alpha-structure the would brain recognizes it as such, ‘Sony’, ‘Panasonic’, ‘Telus’, ‘Celestica’, and it files it away very nicely, while recognizing it’s unique position among the other daily confusing mumbo jumbo. When a name is purely generic, like ‘Quantum’, ‘Allied’, ‘United’ or ‘General’, then the garbage kicks in verbal branding and it can quickly become a verbal diarrhea. ‘United Systems’, ‘United Payroll’, ‘United Services’ or ‘General Insurance’, ‘General Distribution’ or ‘General Production’ and so on. A common day usage term, such as a dictionary word, has the least recall. The busy brain doesn’t have the incentive to remember all this. The same applies to numbers; minds hate numbers, slashes, dashes, dingbats and symbols etc. Studies have shown again and again that only very unique, one of a kind, clear yet very powerful names, survive and become legends. A name must relate to its core activity. The rest simply fades away. Guaranteed.

In business a corporate name is normally a single word. Two words names are problematic and three words are even more complicated. Four words?—Why not kill the business first? Also, if there are hundreds of others using the same identical name, though in dozens of different types of businesses, that poor name is shouting in vain and that overly strained voice is simply being lost in the crowd.

Here is the acid test, enter a corporate or a product name in “quotes” on Google search engine and if it comes up with around hundred or more other companies using the same identical name, then surely this name is hurting and advertising campaign is only being wasted. If there are more than one thousand other companies using the same identical name, then it will explain the shortage of sales, the lack of traffic to sites etc. Remember only a good name makes a cash register ring.

This is the reason, why a corporate brand name is the single most important issue of corporate communications today. Equally, a domain name, the twin of a corporate name, still as to most CEOs, it is the most misunderstood term of corporate communications. Even now, domain name issues are often left to webmasters, ISPs and, sometimes to lawyers. It has yet to earn the respect as the single most important issue of e-Commerce and also to earn the respect as a real and a true passkey for global access for the web. Only 3.7% corporations around the world have exactly identical dotcom domain names, the rest have extra luggage and words and slashes added in the URL making it difficult to type and easily forgettable.

While Domain Naming is seriously under-priced, the current dogfights between registrars and the hopeless name branding by corporate identity firms and Ad Agencies, have only confused the corporations and brought embarrassing branding campaigns crashing down.

Many thousands of such projects failed during the last boom from ‘Kozmo’ to ‘Gazoontite’ and ‘Boo.com’ to ‘MarchFirst’. This last name, incidentally, had nothing to do with the month of the Julian calendar and the business did not start on March 1st, rather February 17.  Of course, ‘AprilFirst’ was taken by some other fool. But, somehow, most people just couldn’t hear the steps or see them march. Marching into a brick wall that is. This big bang branding failed and MarchFirst went into bankruptcy. When name is meant to play tricks on the gentle minds of the net-savvy customers, watch out for the revenge. It will be very costly.

By Naseem Javed, Expert: Global Naming Complexities, Corporate Nomenclature, Image & Branding

He is the founder of ABC Namebank, author of ‘Domination: The GTLD Name Game’, syndicated columnist, keynote speaker and specialist on global naming complexities.

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go2ao  –  Jan 23, 2004 3:26 AM

This column is idiotic! By the logic of the author, the brand name “Federal Express” (two words) is problematic. Similarly, generic everyday words like “air”, “book” and “car”  apparently are not memorable. So:- when someone is looking, for example, for a device with four wheels and a motor, that person will be unable to remember that such things are otherwise called “cars” because words like “car” or “cars” lack distinctiveness. Give me a break!

Ricardo Vaz Monteiro  –  May 17, 2007 12:20 PM

I totally agree with the article ! As a matter of fact, choose the name of our company (Nomer) with just 1 word, related to the category (nomer = nome + R (means machine…) and without any generic names, and with both gTLD and ccTLD (.br) available was the most difficult thing we ever made in our operation.

In spite of the fact that “Federal Express” is a big company I really dont think is a good name. “Fedex” is much better…

Best Regards,

Ricardo Vaz Monteiro
Registro de dominio

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