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A Psychoanalysis of Corporate Domain Names and Branding - Part II

The second part of a two-part series article. To read the first part, click here.

Naming for today’s global e-commerce is very fragmented and every corporation is trying to cope with little or no guidance at all. When a name fails to deliver a clear and distinct message no amount of bizarre branding ideas will ever save it. Now to check on the health of a name here are some key reasons and if not corrected, a name will endlessly shout and eventually die.

HIT OR MISS: This is when a name sometimes hits the target or misses it entirely. Potential customers end up going to the competition in error, because the name looks like and sounds like dozens of others. Or it is so restricted in its access by having twisted spelling, making it impossible to find it on the web, directories or search engines. So why create mass confusion, and let mail come with new and different spellings of the same name every day. E.g. enonymous.com by starting the name with an ‘e’ rather than an ‘a’, they guaranteed their anonymity and died. geotele. dead, is it geotel? The ‘e’ may have cost them their survival; 2way.com, too many ways to spell the name; fastv. fas-tv? or fast-v? csonet.com, twisted spellings!

DIFFERENT STROKES: When a name means one thing to one group and an entirely different to others customers. This can seriously blur the image of a corporation and a great deal of advertising is wasted in harnessing the marketplace. E.g. McSleep, dead, is this supposed to be confused with McDonald’s, or not? ThinkTankWorldwide. dead, what the hell is this? Headstrong, an e-commerce company or headache pills, but why? Concrete, once again an e-commerce company with cement? Too much confusion; B2E, what the hell is B2E? We are still trying to figure out BtoB and BtoC!

EVOLUTION CRISIS: When a good old name doesn’t tell the customer anything at all of its evolution, new ventures, and new ideas. E.g. Accipiter, figure it out! Mesomorphosis, dead, no wonder; CIT and what is this? Efdex. dead, it’s neither Purolator nor FedEx; Zixit, what for?; Revenio, no, its not revenue just an expense; Peek-a-Boo-Icu. dead, are they a religious organization or a bunch of perverts?; eBreviate, twisted spelling; i2, too many ways to spell and no clear message.

EDUCATING THE UNIVERSE: When you start advertising and telling people how to spell your name, remember it, it’s cute meaning and some strange origin, say it differently because it has a different pronunciation etc. Rather than promoting business you are educating the population on how they should behave when it comes to using your name. This method never works. BEEMO or BMO or Bank of Montreal, what? Gekko v/s Gyko; Atto v/s Auto; Xerox v/s The Digital Document Company; Clarity v/s Clarica. e.g. Equipp. dead, extra ‘p’ puts too much burden; BellZinc.com, is it telephone or a metal company? eWanted.com, by whom and why? eOnline is this advanced thinking, or what?

GLOBAL CRISIS: When there are serious translation difficulties, or the name is obscene in foreign countries. e.g. PhocusWright what an intelligent way of spelling and showing off their focus; ClickMango.dead, don’t say this in Thailand; Justp. dead, are you sure, only pee?

OWNERSHIP CRISIS: If you don’t own a trademark or you don’t own a solid dotcom domain name and sometimes neither, this is the most ridiculous situation to be in. All your money is being wasted to promote your competition. e.g. LivingStyle, HealthyChoice, etc.

APOLOGIES: Executives are embarrassed presenting business cards and to have to explain the name confusion, and competition starts making fun of the names. .e.g. Ebolavirus.com how contagious; wetnose.com dead, no thanks, I don’t need your business card!; wwwrrr.com dead, aren’t you glad they’re gone?

To avoid jumping from the pan into the fire, follow the three golden rules: Do not copy other famous or trendy names. Don’t get too wild and too creative but always register for the Global Markets. If you need help, seek a professional, with many years of solid experience, with dozens of successful global naming projects. Ad agencies and branding firms, rely on casual freelance naming, the most dangerous thing, where by some creative-type, skate-boarding person, without any full-time commitment, spins out 1000 names for $1000, the current going rate at most agencies. Here one ends up with a name to hang corporation’s destiny, the large ad budget simply prolongs the agony. Shouting as loud as a name can, the poorly structured name, randomly selected, eventually dies and no amount of branding tricks can save it.

Global Identity can only be achieved by following The Laws & Rules of Naming. Understanding of strategic perspective on global naming which fits e-commerce and domain registration rules, Laws of corporate nomenclatures, alpha-structures, alpha-dynamics, marketing issues, global translation and languages, modeling and hierarchy of naming, overall understanding of naming trends and a world-class experience. General Ad Agency experiences and Big B-Schools do not have the necessary curriculum to fully tackle complex global naming projects. Wonder why? Open any few years old magazine and it will unfold like a cemetery of dead names. Here is the proof.

Branding comes in all shapes and sizes; vertical, horizontal, internal, external, holistic to spiritual, but when it comes to naming it is entirely a very different issue. Naming is something like magic and branding is something like witchcraft. If you have a magical name then with some witchcraft you really capture the attention and mesmerize the audience. If not, then you are left with some odd-shod tricks and no sizzle. Naming is strictly a black and white strategic exercise and most are confused with design and packaging or other general branding issues as naming.

There are brilliant branding minds and there are great ad agencies but for some strange reason most have missed great new business opportunities which only true naming discipline could have provided. To most it was a simple creative beer commercial type of a process. How wrong. Pooling 5000 names over five months to come up with some “oniga boinga” type name is not the answer. This is a wake up call for the branding masters to embrace naming as a great business development opportunity and to properly re-learn the craft of naming and to re-apply the true laws of corporate nomenclature and totally re-invent.

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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vivaviv  –  Jan 15, 2004 1:13 PM

What good lessons to learn.  Personally, I’ve agonized over the name I chose for my business: Vivaviv,inc. knowing that I may have too many “v"s, may have trouble pronouncing it, etc.  I went with it anyway, reviewing other names such as Nike, Wet Seal, The Limited, and more well known brand names that by themselves don’t mean a thing.  The sign on top of the door says “vivaviv boutique” to help people realize what it is.

CD White  –  May 26, 2006 6:34 PM

Well, yes and no. I applaud the premises of the article and wish, wish, wish the branding/naming agencies for whom I work as a freelancer would read every word!

However, you must admit there are some cutesy and exotic names that have stuck, simply by virtue of the attendant marketing and quality of the product, and have gone on to become global bywords.

Meanwhile, about the freelancers you so carelessly trashed: No, I don’t skateboard, and my freelance naming projects are only done after considerable research of the company (even though the agencies may not give me much direction, I always dig out everything I can find online and off - especially company philosophy…and all the other things you mentioned).  I have a strong committment to providing each client the very best work my talent can produce in the context of their milieu.

I believe strongly that the name that faces the world has got to communicate what’s behind it.  However, not every business and merchant agrees. I can’t tell you how many times my directives have included instructions to come up with a name that contains less than five letters, is hip and cool but appeals to upwardly mobile people (or those who think they are) as well as traditionalists, communicates a sense of what the company is about from top to bottom, is easy to say, doesn’t look or sound like anything else out there, ties in with urban street lingo as well as people living in farm communities…and oh well, let’s see YOU knock out even 50 of those names, let alone 1000, in less than five letters each.

There are some excellent freelancers out there, so please consider that next time you write an article about naming.

Finally, wordplay can be great fun; but, as you pointed out, shouldn’t be so much fun that the product or service is obscured. I learned long ago that art and talent must often be sacrificed for the sake of the of the message.

But then, I have to perform according to the paramaters of the person giving me the work. Remember that.

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