February 26, 2006

Naming names

Guy Kawasaki has a recent post in which he gives advice about choosing names. Here are his recommendations (see his post for the contents of the bullets):

* Begin with letters early in the alphabet.
* Avoid names starting with X and Z.
* Embody verb potential.
* Sound different.
* Embody logic.
* Avoid the trendy. 

It's not that I disagree, but I don't think his recommendations speak to the heart of the matter. To me, these are subordinate factors. The secret of a good name, like all good inventions, lies in squaring a circle - solving two (or more) problems simultaneously, where the obvious solution to each contradicts the other. Here are the two problems:

1. Sound unique - The name must sound like your product an no other.

2. Sound ordinary - It should roll off the tongue. Weird names all sound alike.

Put another way:

1. Be googlable - When people google your name, the first answer should be your product.

2. Sound like what you're selling - All the good names are taken.

Of course, there's no getting around the fact that good names are a matter of taste (and linguistic background!). But I think that "Domicel" succeeds in these requirements. Formally, it comes from the words "domain" and "domicile", but I wouldn't have gone with it if I didn't think it met my requirements.

PS: Here's a funny article (via this comment). Excerpt:

"We did mood boards," Redhill says. "We did random visual associations, attached to sequential words. And so, when they said, 'We want to be strong‚' we would show them a picture of an ocean wave breaking. And we'd ask: 'Do you want to be strong like a force of nature?' Then we'd show them a picture of a metal chain link fence. And we'd ask, 'Do you want to be strong like a chain? Strong but breakable?'" The final slide was a close-up of a human face. "We said, 'Perhaps you want to be strong like human nature -- indomitable and immutable.' And they said, 'Yes, that's us. That's exactly how we imagine people feeling about our brand.'"

After four months of this sort of intensive brand therapy, the group settled upon the only name capable of conveying such protean emotions -- "Agilent." They took the name into focus groups, where, to their great delight, it was received with admiration, approval and total open-mouthed attention. "I've never seen anything like it," says Amy Becker, who works alongside Redhill in Landor's verbal branding and naming group. "This was a pretty rarefied crowd. We're not talking about the mass-consumer, chips-eating sort of person. This was a very particular sort of business-to-business decision maker. A hard group to impress. And they were just delighted." The name was also a hit among the NewCo rank and file. "It's funny, because 'Agilent' isn't even a real word," muses Redhill. "So it's pretty hard to get positive and negative impressions with any real basis in experience. But I'm pleased to say that when we unveiled the name last month at an all-company meeting, a thousand employees stood up and gave the name a standing ovation. And we thought, 'We have a good thing here.'"

I think "Agilent" is a lousy name. I find it hard to pronounce. I keep wanting to metathesize it to "Aligent". But the company's still there, so I guess it's working well enough. In the end, if the company succeeds, so will the name.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at February 26, 2006 12:26 PM | TrackBacks
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