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The Name Game
By Jeff Butcher on July 26, 2012

Spirited conversation often leads to an explosion of ideas. Often, the conversation weaves its way down a road that is different than the original route installed in our mental navigation system.

Recently, I found myself doing research on selecting company names and product names. During my search, my goal was less about companies and products and more about the impact that quality naming has on products and services. I truly believe that some products and companies end up succeeding due to the emotions formed on the name alone. Oh sure, the companies and products have to be good enough for the names to gain lasting relevance, but I do wonder if an impactful name is the initial kick start that propels business inertia in the positive direction.

Strategically, identifying the feelings invoked by certain names has never been more important. 30 years ago - companies had a sea of names to choose from that were specific to their business. Today, there are groups that snap up names that they never plan to take to market for their own business. Instead, they make a profit center out of owning names that they can sell at a later date to companies that actually need specific names. Unique names, that conjure up intended emotions, are hard to come by. Selection is not necessarily limited, but discovering quality names requires superior creativity backed by solid science.

On my product and company naming journey, I ran across naming expert Nina Beckhardt the founder of The Naming GroupTM. I am always amazed what you find once your eyes are opened and you start looking. By looking I mean actually seeing and interpreting information with the conscious goal of reaching an informational destination that culminates in meaningful action. With wide open eyes, the mind receives and retains valuable data. Nina has identified scientific strategies to create great names. Her approach works – her customer base is the proof. Nina enjoys relationships with high profile automotive customers such as General Motors. Beckhardt and her staff have built a process driven approach to identify great names. They complete the challenge within a reasonable time frame – they sustain a proven program and adapt as needed. Adaptation trumps all when it comes to business. The Naming GroupTM and their process based approach produces results. Valuable results, just ask GM.

When you purchase a new car - your car of choice was on the road before, but your brain did not yet build a deep impression. Great names inspire memorable impressions. The car you hoped to buy someday passed by quietly before you owned one - often barely noticed. Once you purchase your dream car, you leave the showroom and from the comfortable seat in your newly purchased ride, your perspective is forever changed. Your brain guides your internal navigation system and stores a highly memorable experience. Much mental ground is created through the myriad emotions that are involved with a car purchase. A deep impression is ingrained and will be remembered. A new set of eyes sees what was invisible prior to installing a good memory. When it comes to names, our job is to set the landscape to form easy access for our customers to locate positive memories.

Sporting your designer sunglasses, you crawl in your new hot rod and experience the feel of the seats and the soft grip of the steering wheel for the first time. The new car smell takes you on a journey that goes beyond roads. Your mind suddenly sees what was a nearly invisible just seconds before. Prior to diving into your dream machine purchase, you knew about the car model, yet you didn’t feel it. The impression was yet to be burned in your mind. You reflected on mental pictures developed through the buying research process, but now that you own your new auto - that car is everywhere. You see all of them at every stoplight, parking lot and latte stand. The fit, feel and flavor of the chosen one burned feelings in your mind creating one of the deepest impressions possible. If only all marketing created such an emotional experience.

In reality, the exact same quantity of your car brand was on the road the day before you signed on the dotted line, but now that your favorite song is coming out of the dash of your personalized version, you identify and recognize – instantly. The visual is burned in your brain and instinctively, a deep memorable impression draws your eye to the vast population of identical cars that now litter the landscape – you see all of them. A blurry vision before is suddenly in perfect focus. You are amazed at how many of “your” car type is on road. With a mental impression burned in, it is nearly impossible for a similar car to pass by you without you noticing. The car that was invisible yesterday is now seen everywhere. Your model was there before you spent your money, but your brain did not yet build a quickly accessible memory. Your car is now everywhere because an experience created a very memorable impression and now you can “see and feel” all of the sibling cars where ever you go.

The identification and association created in the brain nearly forces your eyes to identify cars that mirror your recent purchase. The same holds true for baby names. Just name your newborn anything you want and suddenly what you thought was a unique name shows up on every magazine you see while reading National Enquirer headlines at the checkout line of your local grocery store.

With delight, you exit the hospital (in your new ride of course) and within minutes you hear the baby name you chose on your upgraded stereo system. You do more than hear the name – you feel it. The parental choice of a baby name is burned deep into brains even as small as mine.

When it comes to naming a company or product, your team would be quite lucky to mirror the impression burned into permanent memory associated with a car purchase or naming your first born. While naming a company is less emotional than a first car or a first baby name, the naming bar should be set high and you should strive to discover a name that forms a deep and emotional experience for your customers. Hopefully, the emotions are positive and compelling. Ideally, the chosen name evokes the “need” for your customers to act.

When choosing a company name, would you pick a name that is bluntly descriptive like Best Buy? The Best Buy name just throws it out there and little is left to the imagination - this name type would have less emotional feel and would be obviously a "buy products from us" type of program. Or, would you pick a more creative name that created a quality perception and prompted customers to “feel” why they should purchase from you? Creativity may ask the mind to fill in a few blanks, but the result would paint a picture and inspire more emotion. A name like “Apple” may not relate to phones, but does draw upon visions of Newton and of a good idea at a subliminal level. Heavy right?

Gaining information starts with knowing what questions to ask. Answers are out there. For the naming question, Nina Beckhardt has condensed 4 (or more) years of college class work into a concise two page “answer” to help you identify names and understand the terminology behind each name type. Of course, to take full advantage of benefits of her company you will need to reach in your piggy bank and pour some pennies her way. The benefit of reading her concise naming article (white paper) is that you can go into a fee based brainstorming project with great information in hand. By reading her free naming synopsis online, you will be well tooled to utilize her services if you felt the need. Or, you can go it alone as Nina and her team gives you valuable online resources that hand you their secrets in 2 pages. Secrets are grand, yet the creator of said secrets can go deeper and utilize experience to tap into the desired emotion that your company or product name needs. 

The Naming GroupTM happily gives away much naming advice on their website as they know that educating their customers is the conduit that connects relationships for mutual gain. The fear of giving away information is superseded by the confidence in their process. Nina leads a sea of naming doctors and her proven team can tell you in advance what emotions/impressions a name will create and why. Her experts can translate what is given away on their website and provide an accurate diagnosis helping you to achieve repeatable results. I am amazed how much she has on her website – absolutely recommended reading if you need to name a company or product.

Products and companies are benefited by a name that associates the company/product with the benefits that bring more customers. During a naming exercise in my head, I visualize shapes and allow them to form. I get out my mental hammer and blast away at the process until the fuzzy shapes become identifiable. Dialog provokes thought. Thought leads to action. Action leads to progression. Progression leads to great names. Great names create new and needed business. I pound away at the name and hope for a result – experts know the results, in advance, and replace mental hammers with the experience and past knowledge for a creative feather light touch.

A short time ago, I owned a golf company named Innovex Golf – a good name! Innovex Golf was my baby that I reluctantly sold. From a product line perspective, Innovex would compare to TaylorMade or Callaway. The product mix was very high quality and Innovex manufactured a complete line of high end clubs and golf balls. Sales were certainly a miniscule fraction of the large national brands, but the product quality was equal and often better due to the handmade personal approach. Great products and service were assured for all Innovex customers. On the other side of the coin, I must admit that the branding power of TaylorMade and Callaway were leaps and bounds above what an upstart such as Innovex could create – Innovex can get there, but those big names have a giant advantage – they have already climbed the marketing hill and the view is so nice from up there.

Starting from scratch and powering past proven brands is a mighty challenge.  Still, quality and great names created victories within the golf company I formerly owned. Out pacing the top brands in the sport and winning the Golf Digest 2011 Ball Hot List Award was truly a proud day. A tiny company displacing huge brands and their large R&D budgets produced a huge win with very limited resources. The win was big and very rewarding. Sometimes personal achievement outweighs financial gains – at least that is what I tell myself!

Part of the Golf Digest Ball Hot List victory was based on the name of a top quality ball. Leading up to the award, I chose the name E-Motion for a great quality price point ball. I really liked that name as the goal of conjuring up emotion was about as obvious as you can get. Stretching out the name and placing an emphasis on motion fell in very nicely with golf, ball speed and distance.

When I designed the Golf Digest Award winning Innovex V-MOTION ball, my naming goal was to carry forward with a family of golf balls evolving the mid quality ball in an effort to place a higher end ball in the brightest light. Of course, the high end V-MOTION ball would be of the highest quality – I spared no expense to create a golf ball that could win on the PGA Tour. Together, The EMOTION and VMOTION golf balls would benefit and product family synergy was created.

The V-Motion name selection of the 2011 Golf Digest Award winning ball gained the ball attention and was a factor in the big win. The concept was to carry on the “motion” concept that is an easily associable identifier for golfers. Embedding the thought of “motion” in the heads of golfers helped to make the golf balls “feel” faster and longer. Happy “emotion” was planted into the marketplace. Of course, the V-MOTION is very high quality. A great name must be supported by product that makes customers want to buy them again. A name opens the door, product quality creates desire, and a memorable name association provides a positive experience creating repeat sales.

E-MOTION led to V-MOTION, which led to accolades and success. Superior product was supported by memorable names. The V-MOTION is truly a Pro Tour quality ball, but I wonder if the name and racing marketing helped to propel a quality ball into a position where it was granted consideration by the golf gods at Golf Digest? I wonder what the new owners of Innovex Golf will name the next evolution in the V-MOTION golf ball family?

I find Ms. Beckhardt’s “free” information to be invaluable. In fact, I almost want to keep it an in-house secret as my competition will benefit from this valuable resource. The Naming GroupTM has a complete library of naming “white papers” on their web site all available online. For today, this link provided by The Naming GroupTM supports the concepts discussed within this piece Suggestive-Names.  Look about their site and you will find plenty of thought provoking information to instantly help you create a great name - Thanks Nina!

In all decisions, taking in the best available information, proving the concepts and taking action is the way to go. Whim and gut often create snap decisions that do not take into consideration the variables accompanied by specific goals. Science fills in the blanks and experts such as Nina Beckhardt can help to create a company or product name that adds to the bottom line. I highly recommend taking the five minutes to visit The Naming GroupTM website – their automotive background fits nicely with the Performance Racing Industry crowd. Absorb their easily accessible and free online information, but like your favorite fishing hole – don’t tell anyone!

Go Forward – Move Ahead

Jeff Butcher

 

About the Author
Jeff Butcher's picture
Jeff Butcher is a veteran of the racing industry based in the Pacific Northwest.
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