Juliet Capulet was onto something when she wondered aloud, “What’s in a name?” We say: plenty. Sure, the thirteen-year-old was lamenting that her surname kept her from being with her beloved Romeo, but the right name is without a doubt one of the most important – or at least public -- elements of building a successful brand.
Recently, we’ve been thinking a lot about monikers, not only as a strategic branding tool but also because one of our own team members is awaiting the arrival of a baby boy. And as it turns out, choosing a baby’s name is pretty analogous to the process of christening a new company.
In an interview in July’s edition of Los Angeles Magazine, “baby name coach” and CEO of babynames.com Jennifer Moss posits some nuggets of wisdom that are applicable to our own branding endeavors. For instance, Ms. Moss recommends not naming your baby after someone in the household, so the child can establish his or her “own identity.”
We concur. No start-up wants to be regarded as a second rate, Junior-version of a corporate precursor. An appropriate example is Ted, the budget offshoot of United Airlines, which sold teddy bears bearing its name and logo -- and is now defunct. We’re not saying it was just the name, but saddling a grown-up business with a cutesy moniker and stuffed animals certainly didn’t help the airline’s cause.
Furthermore, Ms. Moss suggests, “Make sure the name isn’t embarrassing,” and that “there are no outrageous, obvious nicknames associated with it.” Right on, we say. Take, for instance, the BlackBerry. Despite the name’s wholesome connotations, the device is so addictive that the unaffectionate nickname, CrackBerry, hit widespread circulation almost at the same time the product hit the shelves.
Yet there are points of departure between baby-naming and brand-naming tactics. Ms. Moss advises against unique spelling, stating “If you use a creative spelling for a common name, your kid is going to be spelling it for people forever.” This may be an inconvenience for a kid, but sometimes that divergence from the norm becomes a brand’s signature.
Take Google, for example. The term for which the search engine leviathan is named is correctly spelled “googol,” for the numerical value of 1 followed by a hundred zeroes. Sure, they spelled it wrong, but the company’s etymological deviation has stuck, sort of like Krazy Glue.
So what illustrious name will be bestowed upon our newest mini-member? In a nod to his parents’ Irish and Peruvian heritage, he is to be known as Finnian Francisco. Alliterative, fluid, unique, and worldly: an adeptly chosen brand baby name, if we do say so ourselves.