Saturday, March 16, 2013

WHAT'S IN A NAME


Just a few months ago, when we were trying to close in on a name for our new office, it was my partner who brought this up. She said that there were these “professionals” who helped you do it. Apparently they called themselves the “Naming consultants”, and helped you christen your venture. I was a little dazed at the concept initially, and it only got worse when she told me that they charged between $20,000 to $90,000 for a company or brand name. And with some crazy MNCs there are times they even charged above $500,000!!! Shocking! Like, Really? Isn’t it lame enough to open a shop and say, “we sell names”, much less, charge a criminally lofty compensation for each of it? At the time, I had no idea as to how big and ominously sprawling was this upcoming enterprise. But when I gradually caught up with the progress, the whole idea only fell further and further down into the ludicrous. That these clowns were not involved in any sorts of marketing services except give you a name for all that money was a little difficult to stomach. Was I overreacting? Of course I was, with a beam of new light flashing on my face, blinding me. Call it rigid human reflex to anything new (or alien). But is the blinding new light inevitable? Or required at all? I’d say I still can’t see the point!

So this is how it goes. Customarily, once you realize the need to “buy” a name for your venture, you are expected to approach one of these “professionals” who are basically ad men who cover a wide spectrum of your headache including “Name-Creation, Name-Critique, Name-Audit, Name-Trade marking, Name-Booking, Name-Seeding” and even the supernatural “Name-Numerology”, more than half of which you never even knew came with just a “name”. The spooky list naturally sounded to me like it was merely made to look tedious in order to devise excuses to wolf up all that dough, similar to all those self-help books which split your “confidence levels” into some “forty three and half basic tiers” and made it look like it’s a big deal. But ridiculing somebody else’s process is not what we do. However, they deliberate on your brand and conditions and lay in front of you a few options, “only the high contenders”. You either choose one of the names, pay and then move on, or you could take it to the next level depending on your budget, because the fee of the naming “experts” changes here. More the number of sitting, more you are asked to pay. Buy the end of it all, they sell you a word or a few words- a $500,000 something “term” to call yourself with which is supposed to be “memorable, likeable, trademarkable and campaignable”. Of these “trademarkable” I understand. But “memorable” to whom? And “likable” and “campaignable”? You gotta be kidding me! The hopelessness of the whole idea was making the worst out of the cynic in me.

I could not help but gawk at how fiendishly overpowering Human dependence was growing out to be, which these lamest of lame entrepreneurs were targeting at milking.  How difficult is it to come up with a name to call your own company, forgetting the “strategic” process to arrive at it. Even if you had to rake a little noise with some in-house brainstorming, it wouldn’t cost you a damn house! Whoever wants it to be perfect? (A saint’s name for a whore is not going to dissuade anybody who is in for it!) Because it’s after all just a name! And unlike “they” say, it doesn’t say it all!

Does ‘Orbit’ sound like a fitting name for a chewing gum? How about ‘K-Pax’ for a movie? Or ‘1984’ for a book, and ‘Death Cab For Cutie’ for a rock band? How innovative do you think the name ‘The Richards Group’ is for an ad agency? And does ‘Banana Republic’ suggest anything related to fashion? Does ‘MVRDV’ or ‘BIG’ sound like an apt name for an architecture office? Or ‘FOX’ for a broadcasting company? If you do, or do not, they are all hugely successful with their respective destination crowd. But then, you might not approve of a company’s name even if they were successful the world over. That’s how it works with names. What one likes, the other doesn’t. So that’s all the importance you need to attribute onto one.


From what I understand, there is nothing exclusively right or wrong about names. They are just personal choices. Making it unique and appropriate is all that you have to even consider, so that one could distinguish yours from the rest. And since what sounds musical to one might abuse another’s ears, there cannot be rules that these “naming specialists” could even pitch you with. Names, as mundane as dull acronyms, could be made a part of household vocabulary if it provide dependable service or make commendable products. As to what initial impact it makes on a stranger is immaterial in the longer run. (“First impressions” are nauseatingly overrated) The success of an enterprise can anyway not be based on its opening sales. It is true that an interesting name can garner initial curiosity. But that “good” name will definitely not keep afloat a bad product for long even with an effective ad campaign. However, like I said, the “good” and the “interesting” also fluctuate from head to head. So then what’s the point of all that burnt money? It surely is worth more than an “oops!” from somebody who wrongly judged your book by its cover.

I read somewhere on the internet, one of these naming jokers (with an outlandish office name) saying how we were falling short of words for internet domains with the population boom and everything. Holy Crap! It’s not like each one of us from the line of world population step forward and pick a word! They could have come up with a better excuse, now that they are smart enough to invent words and all! Even scarcity of domain names cannot be an excuse for that expensive a step.

Come up with a name of your own (everybody surely has that amount of creativity in them), then check the availability of internet domains and then, all that you need to do is to run it through the government’s trade mark database. Bang! There you have a name! It did not seem all that difficult to me. And if (and only if) selling that name is inevitable for the growth of your office, buy yourself the assistance of an ad agency. (All that hefty money could be used for actual marketing.) They can make even a “bad” name sound sexy. ‘Cause they are good with that kind of stuff as that’s what they do for a living. They could even help you out with a “campaignable” logo for your brand. Even the punch-line is their area. If you don’t need any of these and it’s just a “name”, it doesn’t have to be anybody else’s business. Wake your imagination. It’s not difficult!

Relying overtly on these lame naming cut-throats, with one of the most ridiculous job profiles on green earth, would only convince them to expand their territories slowly into babies, dogs and even newly discovered stars, and by the end of it all they’d be sitting and naming everything in the world, with names that come out of a single dye.

You cannot help but pat on the back of the first man who came up with this idea. With so little to do, a scheme is in full form already! Except that it actually sounds like a menace! A menace to human creativity and the element of diversity! Cull it before it’s out of the cage!


4 comments:

  1. I wonder who came up with the name for their company. Anyhoo, that's capitalism for you.

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  2. There are many such job profiles that seem lame. Take for example shopping consultants. I honestly dont understand their job either. I don't need a "consultant" to guide me to shop :p But again we have landed ourselves in a situation that even if we can do these kinda things ourselves, we doubt our capability coz people have started terming themselves as professionals in it n we psychologically feel that a suggestion from them is more suited for us rather than what we think for ourselves.

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  3. Well said Jithesh. If you cant find a name for your business, how can you run it!

    I don't believe that we need to spend too much on a name and a tag line. Yes its true that a good name and a tagline creates that first impression. But especially for a startup, money is important and they cant spend too much on marketing as well. As far as names are considered its just that we need to think more, there are hundreds of names still available, its just that we have to think a bit harder.

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  4. This is absurd paying such a big money for names. A Brand is not made by a catchy name. It seems the Con people will thrive as long as there are gullible people around.

    ReplyDelete

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