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Corporate Names and Googlization

Naseem JavedAlthough it may be too late in the game for Google to change its name, other startups certainly can learn from the search company’s name struggles. Here are seven pitfalls to avoid when considering a new name.

By NASEEM JAVED

Ever heard, “Did you google today?” or, “Go try googling, and you will find it?” Watch out for this sort of lingo. To most people it may sound like free advertising for Google , but in reality it could be a nightmare for the corporation. When a company’s name brand lends itself to “verbing” – such as xeroxing, fedexing or rollerblading – a code-red alert strikes the boardroom. Legal SWAT teams swing into action to protect their successful global brand, and an aggressive policing of corporate name usage kicks in.

Of course, everyday use of a corporate name is somewhat of a happy problem, because it likely means the company has acquired significant profits, recognition and success. However, legal teams’ powers are limited. If a company name becomes a verb or a popular dictionary word, it enters the public domain and the company loses its intellectual property rights – witness Kleenex, Fridge and Hoover, to name just a few. Then there are only a few things the company can do.

For example, lawyers can issue fancy memos designed to force people and media to always refer to a brand name as a registered trademark of the company. They also can ask advertising and branding agencies to avoid making creative uses and plays on the corporate name when it is used in commercials or general promotional copies of ads. However, this is a long and a painful process.

Dodging the Problem

Fortunately, studies have shown that certain alpha-structures do not easily lend themselves to verbing. Despite their fame and popularity in daily language, these types of names survive over time and remain powerful corporate brands while enjoying a proprietary status. Some examples are Yahoo, Apple, Netscape, Telus, Microsoft, Sony, Rolex and Nintendo. Have you ever heard, “I Rolexed and realized I was late?” or, “Leave me alone, I’m Appling”? How about, “I just Nintendozed off,” or, “I was depressed and very Microsoftish”?

As a result, finding great brand names has become a very scientific process and is no longer a creative exercise. Under the proper Laws of Naming, all issues are explored in advance so that a brand name will be engineered for durability. The days of accidental naming are over.

Google has a big battle ahead of it, and the fights will take place on two fronts. Firstly, the company still has the best search engine to date and as a result acquired too much global attention too quickly. Secondly, as a borrowed word from the mathematical section of the English dictionary, the word “google” does have an alpha-structure that easily lends itself to cute verbalization. Right now, Sir Isaac Newton is simply googlified.

Change Now or Later

Although it may be too late in the game for Google to change its name, other startups certainly can learn from the search company’s name struggles. Here are seven pitfalls to avoid when considering a new name.

One: The name is similar or identical to thousands of others.

When a corporate name is heavily diluted and shared by hundreds or thousands of others in all kinds of businesses, it simply gets lost in the crowd. Also, when a name is a borrowed word from a dictionary, making it a part of everyday lingo, it never achieves any distinction. Despite extraordinary spending on advertising and promotion, it may simply die from exhaustion. Open any old business magazine, and it will unfold like a cemetery of dead corporate names.

Two: The name is too old to convey today’s dynamics.

Sometimes a name crawls out of history, reflecting the great human toil of the founding fathers, but is somehow not suitable for present-day, technology-savvy culture.

Three: The spelling of the name requires a relatively high IQ.

A large majority of corporate names are spelled creatively to fit a logo or avoid a serious trademark problem. In such situations, both common sense and the science of corporate nomenclature are abused. Twisted spelling ensures obscurity. The human mind continually rejects the corruption of a familiar word and refuses to remember specific alpha structures. After all, if a name can be spelled in four different ways, the company will only end up with 25 percent of Web site hits and profits.

Four: Money must be spent to explain the origin of the name.

If a name does not simply relate to the business and requires constant explanation of its obscure, yet cute, origin, it becomes standard practice for advertising agencies to educate the universe about this dysfunctionality. The poor consumer simply suffers. Corporations and ad agencies thrive on receiving awards for their creative advertising gimmicks, while customers simply shut off.

Five: The corporation does not own a trademark on its name or have an identical dot-com domain.

When a corporation does not legally own a corporate name, what’s the point of the exercise? Why bother at all? Today, a large majority of corporate names are not trademarkable globally, and most do not have an identical dot-com domain.

Six: The name is embarrassing in certain countries.

Globalization is a fact of life. A name must work like a marketing weapon not only in its own country, but also around the globe. There should be no need to hide under the desk because the name is embarrassing or profane in a foreign language. However, a large majority of names today do not work efficiently on the international scene; in fact, they cause ongoing stress when it comes to gaining worldwide recognition.

Seven: The name is too long, difficult, confusing, complicated or boring.

When a name is too long, it often gets initialized. This unwanted process changes the entire meaning of the name and can result in it being listed in strange categories. Meanwhile, when a name is too difficult, confusing or boring, it becomes a different animal to different people. Strange name combinations, often due to M&A, end up telling more than one story and cause confusion in the marketplace. Odd terminologies or alphanumeric structures in a name, such as using upper- or lower-case letters in nontraditional places or including dashes, slashes and other dingbat characters, will only ensure the name’s self-destruction.

  • Naseem Javed is a world-renowned authority on corporate nomenclature, and author of two major books. He has offices in New York and Toronto. He can be reached by e-mail.

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Posted in the category: Insight

The Masquerade Ball during the Typing Revolution

Naseem JavedIt’s New Year’s Eve. The music and dancing has completely stopped. In silence strange things appear, fancy dressed harlequins and charlatans running around taking cover in confusion; the population at large is already at the gates, screaming slogans, demanding Honesty and Integrity while the Typing Revolution charges on with thunder…. klika-ta-klick, klika-ta-klick,. . What happened? How did we arrive here?

by Naseem Javed

First, let’s go to the dance party:

Corporations, dressed up like Charlatans and Harlequins, have done enough dancing; shareholders are no longer fooled by fancy images, fake identities with silly names, making fun of their investments. Everyone demands honesty from every aspect of the business empire. It’s all about trustworthiness.

In January 2003, ABC Namebank International completed a global survey. A list of 5000 major international corporations was compiled and each corporate name was analyzed for its marketing power, image, ownership and trustworthiness in four categories.

Suitability: how truly a name describes itself and the nature of it’s business.

When names are totally irrelevant to the business, they often mislead or confuse shareholders and consumers alike. This large group of corporate names is an interesting mixture of mumbo-jumbo, strange name identities, projecting weird, non-related, connotations, confusing and conflicting with the actual business itself. These types of names often appear to be intentionally deceptive about the size, quality or marketing reach of the corporation. Dressed up like Harlequins or sometimes as Charlatans with fancy logos, spinning circles, bright color schemes with shooting stars they only create fear and doubt among already burned investors. 83% names failed this acid test of name suitability.

Personality: how a name stands out among other competitors with honesty.

When names are borderline silly, nonsensical, overly creative, too trendy, projecting a short life expectancy, they scare everyone. This group of accidental names only makes fun of shareholders’ money. Business can sometimes be all fun but corporate image making is a very serious business. 47% failed.

Registrability: how the corporation globally owns a name with its identical DotCom.

When names are tangled in trademark litigation worldwide they only become a liability and an expensive burden to the corporation, bleeding marketing and advertising dollars. Companies in this group each have hundreds or, at times, thousands of similar and identical names in the global marketplace. E-commerce, with all its vengeance, only crushes these names on search engines. Customers and shareholders can hardly find the right company at the right time. 85% failed

Respectability: how a name matches its real image with actual goals and results.

When image is credible and matches the projected goals, shareholders feel comfortable and consumers trust the corporation. This small group of shining stars have one of a kind, unique, powerful, global name identity and image. The name clearly identifies with their goals and what they do. This creates respectability and clearly provides them with ongoing trustworthiness. 93% failed

The research classified the corporate name identity of the global multi-nationals in the following four categories:

Deceptive Corporate images appearing to intentionally confuse shareholders. Names projecting false marketing goals or financial capabilities. “Global Monopoly Inc”; “MarchFirst Inc.”; “e-Corporation”; “Global Crossing”; “WorldCom”, “MCom”.

Ghosts: Images originating from the early part of the last century, or prior, projecting futuristic image. Re-invented logos under antiquated names confuse the marketplace. “e-Steel”; “St. Peter’s Online Bank”; “Devine E-Commerce”. “e Eaton”
Ghosts: Images originating from the early part of the last century, or prior, projecting futuristic image. Re-invented logos under antiquated names confuse the marketplace. “e-Steel”; “St. Peter’s Online Bank”; “Devine E-Commerce”. “e Eaton”Alphabetti Soup: Names that simply drown in the soup, making it impossible to decipher the nature of its business, tricking the marketplace. “XPGHRT INC”; “FUGTI”; “AIGTNA”; “BOOBOO INC”; “3 INC”. “HIH”

Stars: One of a kind, unique, powerful, globally protected, with an identical DotCom. This group represents 7% of the 5000 tested. “SONY”; “TELUS”; “MICROSOFT”; “PLAYSTATION”; “FOUR SEASONS HOTEL”. Malpractice of “Corporate Identity” created this accidental naming.

Further compounded when voodoo accounting met voodoo branding. A silly name with a hundred million dollar rollout campaign became the standard. Package designers abandoned the noble profession of corporate naming to other big dollar maneuvers, becoming experts in corporate governance, IPOs, and other strange areas, in the name of branding. Voodoo that is.

Secondly, what about the Typing Revolution?

Right now, we are heavily engaged in a war of global e-commerce where everyone is forced to type absolutely correctly. Particularly a businessname. whitehouse.gov takes you to Lincoln’s bedroom, while dotcom will take you to Lolita’s. So, type in the morning, the afternoon, the evening, in cars, elevators, bedrooms, restrooms, boardrooms, dining tables, picnic tables and sometimes all day in the office too. The same fingers that did all the walking on the Yellow Pages have now learned tap dancing. klika-ta-klick, klika-ta-klick. . . Ole!

  • There were similar major revolutions during the entire last century. Namely,
  • “Print Society” – forced reading and literacy.
  • “Radio Society” – listening, dialogue and music.
  • “Telephone Society” – conversation, spiel, telemarketing.
  • “TV Society” – better sofas, centrality of the living room, visual knowledge.
  • “Computer Society” – organization and planning.
  • “Telecom Society” – globalization and surfing.
  • “Cyber-Society” – decentralization, intellectual-anarchy.
  • “Broadcast Society” Be prepared, it’s next, fueled by Anchoring and Broadcasting from everybasement in the globe. Make-up, lights, camera, action. Hello, CNN.

Today it’s all about searchability controlled by spelling and cognitive associations. Listings have gone through the roof: A two-inch directory of the past is now a two-mile thick book. Masses with their strained memorability are frustrated with typing twisted names with strange dashes and slashes while evolution of brain is simply stuck slightly ahead of Jurassic Park. The brain has no incentive to work hard.

Positioning of a name for maximum impact in global e-commerce is the new game. One hour on the Net takes you through enough artwork created during the entire last century by all the logo shops of the world combined. No one really cares about logos. Name is what everyone talks about, remembers, types, chats about, refers to, calls, praises or curses. Think of Yahoo. Can you recall their logos or colors? How about E-Trade, Amazon or Kazaa? There are hundreds of other businesses that you are already typing in daily, simply by name.

The Morning After The Party:

Forget the hangover, corporate image-makers and brand agencies have only hurt themselves by ignoring the correct methodologies required for proper naming. Agencies asking sub-contractors to hire free-lancers to do their brainstorming and focus groups are over. Exercises to pool 5000 names over five months for few millions to come up with a Phooffs are finished.

Extreme exercises with executives locked up in a boardroom, in the dark, each with a flashlight, making letter signs to form words while the other half tried to decipher, now lost along with their OINGA, BOINGA names.

If this is the end of logo design then what’s the future for Corporate Identity Services? Corporate image-makers have only hurt themselves by ignoring proper naming. Yet, this offers a great leadership opportunity for providing well-executed name identity, under the guidance of “Masters of Naming Architects”. After all, there never was a shortage of great names just lack of expertise and wisdom.

Next: Seven Remedies from The Brand New Laws of Corporate Image

  • Naseem Javed is founder of ABC Namebank International, a world-renowned authority on corporate nomenclature, and author of two major books, he can be contacted via email.

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Posted in the category: Strategy

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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