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Jun 13, 2005
Blog Post

MarketingSherpa Reader Feedback: Fast-track Name Choices or Lose Out

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

Here's a useful reader letter I just got in response to the "How to Name Your Brand" article we ran last month:

"Dear Anne,

A recent excellent article on naming in MarketingSherpa pointed out the folly of using abbreviations, as well as outlining a complete process for a company name change. While we heartily endorse the comments on abbreviations, the process described for a name change was unfortunately very biased to large or slow moving companies.

Do you really have 18 months for such an initiative? And, even if you do, does your company realize the time value of names?

Every day, hundreds of new businesses start, and hundreds of new products are launched and they all need a name. Every week, the US Patent and Trademark office processes a few thousand trademark requests as everyone tries to protect the intellectual property rights in their names. And our language is not growing nearly that fast, so the fight for good, clean and unique monikers intensifies every year.

We have seen a number of clients recently lose a favorite prospective company or product name to direct competitors. Your competitors only have to apply for a trademark, or properly use a name as common law trademark, one day sooner than you, for it to be their property and not yours.

Admittedly this situation is more common in fields where a number of competitors are suddenly all running in a new technology or fashion or theme direction, but it can happen to any company at any time. Businessweek magazine wrote about two direct competitors showing up at the same sportsmen’s show where both were launching new canoes called Cascadia.

In fact, certain roots, themes, and ideas come into popularity and affect naming, just like fashion trends. When brown colors came into fashion a few years back, we suddenly had a rash of Sienna and similar names, for example.

Here, instead, is a proposed timeline for naming or renaming your business or product line that anyone can follow if their management team is properly engaged:

Week 1: Refresh Brand Values & Image Characteristics Week 2: Master Name List Generation Weeks 3-5: Sort/Search/Select Names Week 6: Final Legal Checks/ Final Name Selection Week 7: Secure and Register Name/ Explore visual concepts Week 7: Logo Design Week 8: Management Review Weeks 9-11: Business Image Design(s) Weeks 12-14: Finish new Web look/Print initial items/Rollout

Too aggressive for you? What do you gain from dragging it out?

I understand if your lawyers have to go check every country of the world (this usually only applies if you are a Fortune 50 company). I understand if your executives are scared to make a decision so they pay someone to do market research about a name in many parts of the world.

But in the end, the management team makes the decision based on their personality, their personal likes and dislikes, their perceptions and desired marketing images. So you have to get the final names to them quickly, claim a name, and start using it to describe your new brand promise. Which means registering it and getting it out in the marketplace before anyone else does.

The 90-day plan outlined above lets you get on with chasing your customers instead of wasting time with incessant internal debates. If nothing else, calculate the cost of all the executive man-hours in meetings as naming and identity projects drag out for no discernible reasons."

Athol Foden, President Brighter Naming

Useful links related to this letter

#1. Has this naming advice wetted your appetite for more real-life stories of how companies name themselves and new products? Check out our free giveaway for the book 'Wordcraft' by Alex Frankel, which the Wall Street Journal reviewed as "Hilarious and revealing." http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=93070279812 (Contest ends June 26)

#2. Brighter Naming: http://www.brighternaming.com

#3. The MarketingSherpa article Athol was writing in reaction to: How to Name (or Rename) Your Company -- 3 Steps & Mistakes to Avoid: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2993 (Open access)

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