What’s in a name? Well, lots. Otherwise we wouldn’t spend ages agonising over what to call our children. Or, indeed, our companies. And it is agony. Because if you’re naming a new company (or, even more tricky, renaming an old one) then you want your name to sum up who you are, what you do, what your brand is like.
Which, in truth, is virtually impossible. So you have to make a choice: which aspect of your business is it most beneficial to capture in your name? Do you want to explain what you do (‘Phones4U’); or gets across your attitude? (‘Virgin’); or gives your customers something emotional to connect with? (‘London Pride’); Or just jump on a bandwagon, like every startp tht drps thr vwls s thy snd lk Flickr, nd Tumblr)…
Which might be why, after the stress and bother of naming their businesses, people often forget the nuts and bolts stuff: the naming systems of the products and services your customers will actually buy or use.
I was reminded how often this gets missed when I saw this First Great Western poster at Reading station the other day:
First Great Western have just spent a train-load of money on rebranding as ‘Great Western Railway’. (A good rebrand, which I’ve written about here, as it happens.) Presumably naming the trains themselves got overlooked?
Also, I realised that I’ve never actually thought about what the trains are called before. I just have a vague sense of there being ‘the big one’, the ‘local stopper one’, and the ‘one-that-pretends-it’s-a-big-one-but-behaves-more-like-a-local-
This poster also makes me weep. Because the names are all over the place.
The smallest train has been given a sexed-up name to make it sound sporty. Which is clearly nonsense, and also messes up its place in the set (like when coffee shops give the ‘small’ drink a big-sounding name like Enormaventi). Just think if you were standing on a platform and the announcer said ‘yourTurbo train is now arriving on
The ‘High-Speed Train’ has been given an almost comically straight descriptive name: It’s a train. And it goes at high speed. Can’t go far wrong there, surely? It’s only spoiled by the fact that nobody who works in railways ever calls them ‘
And the other one? Class 180?
I can hear
But the chances are, your company doesn’t have products or services that are as difficult to name as trains. So check them. Do they make sense? Do they form a coherent set, that helps your customers choose? Do they reflect your brand as well as your company name?
Oh, and don’t get me started on ‘Crossrail’.
I originally wrote this as a guest blog for the folks at ab... the ideas agency.