I spend a fair amount of my free time indulging in a favorite hobby–endlessly remodeling, renovating and repairing my home. The feeling of nail penetrating wood is a sublime joy. For me, this is not merely a pleasurable distraction but also serves as a rejuvenating respite away from my job creating new brand names for my clients. Yet it is not always easy to escape my job. On a recent trip to the lumber yard I pass truck after truck bearing the brands UPS, FedEx, DHL, Golden State Overnight, G.O.D., TQI, Panther, XPO, and wonder about their names.
This creative distraction sometimes puts me at risk. Last Saturday I am deep inside a home improvement project with hammer and saw wondering about the gestations of Arrow, Fastenal and Zeroyoyo, among others. That’s right, wielding heavy, sharp and dangerous tools I am lost in thought about the power, or lack thereof, of various tool brands.
Creating a name for a logistic product is not complicated but it is hard. It requires time, patience, an open mind and not a little resiliency. But given its overwhelming strategic impact on the success of the offering, it is an effort well worth undertaking. Here’s how:
- Allow Enough Time. Creating, evaluating, prescreening and gaining approval for a name can take three or more months. The creative process takes time to simmer, stew and percolate. Evaluations and approvals will go back and forth necessitating patience and fortitude. The IP folks will ask questions and invariably reject your favorite ideas. Resilience is called for. None of this is insurmountable and it is well worth it, but expectations need to be managed.
- Make or Buy. Professional naming consultants don’t have a monopoly on creativity but they do have one on focus. Naming is fun but hard and will be but one part of your work day. For a professional, developing your service’s name is their only job. Furthermore, they provide the experience, independence and professional perspective that can facilitate the approval process.
- Creative Development. It is a common misperception that ideas spring forth from the ether while contemplating the stars. Ideas, like fire, require fuel. Naming fuel includes surfer dictionaries, Sanskrit rhyming dictionaries and glossaries of American sports metaphors to name a few. Of course, the ideas are only as good as the strategic roadmap that informs and inspires them so it goes without saying that a crisp insightful creative brief is paramount.
- Evaluation and Feedback. Rejecting ideas is easy. Approving them requires courage. Evaluating any creative output, be it fine wine or names, involves a degree of subjectivity, but establishing a set of criteria beforehand can calm capricious winds. Because the name sounds like the name of the boss’s mother-in-law is not a reason to reject it. A good start for evaluative criteria would include semantics and linguistics, rational and emotional cues, and descriptive and suggestive sounds and words.
- IP Clearance. Creating names may be fun, but having the lawyers say no is not. The United States Patent and Trademark Office receives 5,000 submissions per week and rejects thousands every year for reasons that are not always consistent submission to submission. Back-up name candidates and rhetorical suasion are good tools to have on hand.
Worth the Effort
If at this point you are wondering if it is worth it, you’re not alone. But the arguments for brand naming some or all of your shipping, supply chain and other logistic services are compelling.
A name can be your best advertisement. It gives your service or feature a handle, it provides competitive separation, it can position it and/or communicate its value proposition and, maybe most important of all, it can generate awareness, interest and action simply by existing.
A name makes your service a little more real, a little more recognizable, a little more special. It gives it a personality, which, at the end of the day, encourages people to want to know about it. And that’s a vital step along the purchase path.
Imagine two sales scenarios where your rep is introducing a new service to their customer. In the first, Sally says to Bob, “Let me tell you about our new cold chain service.” Bob responds with a yawn. In the second, Sally says to Bob, “Let me tell you about Cool-Runnings, our new cold chain service.” Now, even before Sally starts explaining what Cool-Runnings is, Bob is intrigued because now there is a story to hear. There is a hint of mystery, an inherent drama, an air of expectation that Bob, being human and now all ears, simply cannot wait to hear what’s coming next.
Finally, like all effective communication efforts, brand names leverage an essential human truth – we like to name stuff. From our kids to our conference rooms to our boats, we are hardwired to label stuff. It is essential to communication; names are simple ways to communicate complex ideas.
If you have new product, a new feature, a legacy offering in need of a boost, consider giving it a brand name. Lightening may not strike you the way it did the owners of Sharky McHammer-Head brand of mallets, but you’ll never know until you try.
Mike Pile is a branding expert, author, and word enthusiast who writes, blogs and speaks about harnessing the power of words to drive customer engagement. With over 25 years’ experience in advertising, marketing communications and brand development, he helps clients create new brand names and compelling verbal identities for their companies, products and features. Pile is president and creative director of Uppercase Branding, a verbal identity firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area.