Thursday, September 2, 2010

ChalkTalk: What’s in a name? Ask Big Ass Fans

August 29th’s Wall Street Journal carried this interesting article about business names: “What's in a Name? Potential Pitfalls.” . Even if your business is beyond the start-up phase, the possibility of changing the name of your business is always there. Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded as KFC. Phillip Morris changed its name to Altria. Amway North America changed its name into 3 names: Alticor, the parent company, Quixtar, the direct selling company, and Access Business Group, the manufacturing company. Now the Quixtar name has been retired and Amway is back again. So, reviewing ins-and-outs of business naming periodically is a worthwhile exercise.

The one point I’d like to emphasize in this article is “Be Specific.” Whenever I write about or talk about marketing, I usually bring up the key elements of killer ideas, products, or services. One of those key elements is a cost effective way to communicate the value. In my opinion, a specific and memorable name is one of the easiest ways to communicate your value to the marketplace. That’s why I never understood the reason behind the fruity names (Apple, BlackBerry) or the arbitrary names (Lucent, Qwest). I’m not sure how many years Research in Motion delayed the capturing of mindshare by calling their smart phone “BlackBerry” instead of, oh, the Mobile Brain, or something like that. The point is that names can be extraordinarily effective at communicating value, and the impact of a well designed name that actually communicates value should not be taken lightly.

One of the best examples I like to bring up is the company Big Ass Fans. What product do you think Big Ass Fans sells? What would you think is a unique feature of the product that Big Ass Fans sells? Take a moment to consider the simple elegance of that name: you know what they make (fans), and – by virtue of the descriptor they use – you can figure out that they are probably bigger than most fans on the market. Let’s take it one step further – do you feel that you will have problems remembering that name? They also wrap it all up with an effective logo – a jackass.

So, with their name, they have:
  1. Communicated what they build,
  2. Communicated their unique value, and
  3. Provided a means for you to easily remember their name.
What’s my take away from this article? Be specific when creating a name. Yeah, I know there’s a fad out there to come up with cool, unrelated names, but how about focusing instead on effectively communicating what it is that you do?

What are your thoughts?

Grow Strong!

Coach Grev