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Unpacking the Naming Complexity 

Distinguishing between complicated and complex naming processes sets the groundwork for effective naming strategies. While complicated processes might involve numerous steps, the complex nature of naming extends beyond linearity. This nuanced distinction plays a pivotal role in understanding the evolving dynamics of branding in today’s market.

Meeting the Challenges: Cultural Sensitivity and Market Dynamics

The challenges in naming are multifaceted, often entwined with cultural, linguistic, and market-specific intricacies. Names that succeed in one context might face hurdles in another due to varying sensitivities and evolving consumer preferences. Recognizing and navigating these challenges is paramount for a name’s success on a global scale.

Simplifying the Naming Conundrum

Simplification emerges as a strategic imperative in the realm of naming. Rather than succumbing to overwhelming complexity, focusing on specific, memorable aspects becomes a guiding principle. Streamlining the process by identifying core objectives aids in creating names that resonate with audiences across diverse landscapes.

“Complicated things may be many steps, but they tend to be linear and fairly static. There’s certain rules of physics that if you follow that the SpaceX rocket’s still going to take off because the rules of physics don’t really change. The process is complicated, but you’ve nailed it and you’re going to get that rocket off the launchpad. Unfortunately, things that are complex aren’t static. The rules change and they’re changing all the time. They also tend to be multidimensional.”

Striking a Balance: Controversy and Safety in Naming

The delicate balance between courting controversy and ensuring safety in naming is pivotal. While controversy can amplify attention and drive brand awareness, it needs to be carefully weighed against potential risks. Finding the equilibrium between grabbing attention and maintaining brand integrity becomes a fine art in the world of naming.

Invitation to Businesses: Personalized Naming Strategies

Businesses seeking to navigate the intricate landscape of naming are invited to access specialized expertise for tailored strategies. With an ever-evolving market, personalized approaches grounded in experience and market research can carve out unique brand identities.


Megan Dzialo (00:05): 

Well, happy Tuesday and happy holiday season. Welcome back to naming in an AI Age with theameStormers. So we’re halfway through December, holiday shopping. Festivities are full in swing. So Mike, I want to kick us off by asking an interesting question. What is the most complicated part of the holiday season for you? 

Mike Carr (00:28): 

Oh, wow. Well, I have a long list of things that I always want, unlike some folks my age that. So it’s always a question of what’s at the top of the list and what do you put down at the bottom and what do you buy yourself? And then wrap and put underneath the tree from Santa. Oh, I got a present. It’s one you gave yourself, you know, really want it. So probably shouldn’t share things like that, but 

Megan Dzialo (00:52): 

That was a surprising answer. Have you been a good boy though? Is Santa going to bring you what you want, Mike? 

Mike Carr (00:56): 

Of course, not a chance. In many ways I have not lived up to the expectations I should have lived up to. What about yourself? 

Megan Dzialo (01:04): 

Bummer. The most complicated thing for me. So I have four kids that’s just complicating in pretty much every way possible. I will say it also makes it four times the fun to have four kids in the holiday season. But living in Texas, this weather is really complicating in the holiday season. My five-year-old daughter woke up this morning and she has this beachy tank top on with Hawaiian flowers, with this grandma sweater over it with these tiny shorts and then these winter boots and it looked awful, but it reflected the complicated weather we have here, which is like blizzard in the morning and summertime in the afternoon. But that paired with trying to make all the holiday parties at school happen because Soandso needs a book for the book exchange and someone else needs sprinkles for their cookie decorating party, and then all the parties are at the same time. And so I need to clone myself for all four parties. So the complication never ends. But I’m going to transition this over into naming, of course, why we’re here is complex or is it complicated or are those the same thing or are they different? And why the heck does this matter? So Mike, kick us off. Why is it important to talk about naming being complex or complicated? 

Mike Carr (02:26): 

Well, most naming consultants are going to tell you it is very complicated. It’s very complex. It’s very hard how we all justify our fees. That’s why we get charged so much. But we’ve been doing this for decades. And so quite honestly, it is both, right? It is complicated and that is not a deal breaker for many of our clients. If it was just a complicated process, once you have the process down, they could probably nail it. The problem with naming much more so today than when we started this firm back in the eighties is it’s also very complex. And I think that’s why these DIY approaches that a lot of folks try. We’ll just do the employee naming contest. We can come up with a name ourselves and usually the results are disappointing and there are all kinds of problems towards the tail end while the name wasn’t legally available or the name didn’t fit our positioning, all these things come up that end up costing you a lot of time and a lot of frustration and in some cases a lot of money. 


And so well, we’ll go out and ask customers. While the problem is customers aren’t thinking about the next product, the next thing you guys are coming up with or the next company or the next whatever, they’re sort of grounded in the past. And so Jobs at Apple was famous for doing this. He did things that anticipating what that customer would want, that little eye shuffle that fit in his jeans pocket and was super small and had a thousand songs on it blew people away. But trying to get someone to think about that in advance and get suggestions from customers in advance about just the product concept much less what you would call it, is tough. So naming’s complicated and we’ve been trying to do things and nail this process and if it was simple, it would’ve been nailed years ago and none of us would still be in business. 

Megan Dzialo (04:23): 

So then what’s the difference between naming being complex and naming being complicated? Are those not the same things or is there a difference? 

Mike Carr (04:32): 

Yeah, there’s been a lot of discussion, I think off and on about what’s complex and what’s complicated. One of the articles that I’ve liked is actually back from May of 2019. So it was a few years old and it was in Fast Company. It was written by David Benjamin and David Kalo. And it talks about how a complicated process might involve lots of steps, but it’s linear. So once you’ve figured out what those steps are and you’ve solved the problem at the end, then you should be able to do the same thing over and over again and you should be able to use that same solution over and over again. And so an example of that, you can’t see my logo, so I don’t know if anyone can see you, if those of you that are watching this on YouTube, I have the Texas Longhorn on my shirt. 


We now know that Texas is going to destroy the University of Washington dogs in the Sugar Bowl before they go and beat probably Alabama in the national championship. But that’s still to be decided. But anyway, in football, if you learn how to block, if you learn how to tackle properly, that same process is going to work over and over again for most players with some exceptions. So fairly linear. It’s fairly static, and you can sort of think about, hey, the same thing’s going to work. And then from a standpoint that’s very seductive. Once we’ve nailed it, once we’ve figured out all these steps, then it’s going to just follow that sequence. You could do the creative, you do the testing, you do the trademark stuff, and you’ve got it. And that’s not always what happens. 

Megan Dzialo (06:13): 

Okay, so then tell us why doesn’t this idea of the same process working every time, why doesn’t it work over and over again for naming? 

Mike Carr (06:22): 

And that’s where it gets to be complex. So complicated things tend to be maybe many steps, but they tend to be linear and they tend to be fairly static. There’s certain rules of physics that if you follow that the SpaceX rocket’s still going to take off because the rules of physics don’t really change. Process is complicated, but you’ve nailed it and you’re going to get that rocket off the launchpad. Unfortunately, things that are complex aren’t static. The rules change and they’re changing all the time. They also tend to be multidimensional. And so I think back when I was a teenager watching tv, there were basically three major networks, A, B, C, C, B, S, and NBC. And that was pretty much it. You might have a PBS, you might have a couple other channels. And so from an advertising standpoint to be an effective advertiser, it was pretty darn easy. 


You put ads up on one of the shows, you look at the Nielsen ratings for the show, how many viewers there are, and you can tell pretty quickly, Hey, that ad’s delivering the eyeballs that we need to generate the sales. And then of course, you can tie the sales that follow with the ads today it’s so different. And you think about just recently what Taylor Swift did with this Aeros tour, she sort of changed the whole ballgame. Who could think that a musician could have a concert and make so much more money by making a movie of the concert and then all the endorsements and all the fashion trends that sort of follow what she’s wearing. So you have this juxtaposition almost that now you have these very well-known personalities or personal brands that really are taking center stage. And a lot of folks that are younger, and even I don’t appreciate this, but I think there’s even less tolerance, Megan, for probably your age as a millennial or younger gen Zers, if you’re watching a show or if you’re wanting to be entertained, you don’t have much appetite for an ad to interrupt you. 


Back in the day, we didn’t have a choice. We had to sit through the ads because we had no choice. Today you can just click a button and you’re watching a different channel, or you can use a DVR or Tibo and you can blow through the ads. So the whole world of marketing and advertising is not just complicated, but really is complex because things are constantly changing depending upon the age you’re targeting, depending upon what it is you’re selling, how you even reach those folks. It’s all about inbound versus outbound marketing. And not to get too much into the weeds, but traditional outbound marketing was sort of that advertising that, pushing the message out and interrupting and trying to convince people this is something you really want. The inbound idea, which I think is why things are more complex today, is trying to create content of interest, trying to provide value and pull people into an ad or a marketing campaign or promotion so that they feel really good that you’re meeting their needs. And so they want to come to your site, they want to buy your products as opposed to you sort of pushing that out to ’em. And that’s one of the things I think that makes this thing so complex. 

Megan Dzialo (09:30): 

Let’s talk more tangibly about how this, and more specifically about how this applies to naming 

Mike Carr (09:37): 

And the challenge here is, and I think for folks listening to this, this is going to resonate. What you are naming changes the answer to so many of these basic questions. So for instance, what makes a great name? Well, that depends on a lot of things. It’s not the same answer for every product type or company type. And it’s not even the same answer for the same products from different companies based upon budget, it’s based upon competitive situation and lots of other things. So for instance, if you’re naming a brand new brand, something that’s not out there at all, then what makes for a great name? The answer to that question might be really simple. One word memorability. If the name cuts through the clutter and if it’s really easy to remember, then you can get them to take the next step. You get them to click through the website and get them to try the product and get them to do whatever. 


So for a brand new name that’s not out there, brand new category, brand new product, brand new company, the answer to that question is, is it sticky? Is it memorable? Can they recall it? All that kind of stuff, which you have to have before you can start building brand and preference. Okay, let’s take a totally different name. Let’s say you’ve got a brand out there and let’s say you want to come out with a new variety, a new flavor, a new type of suntan that offers greater suntan lotion, offers greater UV protection. Well then you don’t want to name that’s necessarily memorable at all. You want to name that describes what it does, how it’s different. And so you think about, well, memorability just gets in the way of the major brand, the primary brand, but a more descriptive or suggestive name that really clearly telegraphs what the flavor is or why this line extension or this new variation is better or why it might work for you on one occasion but not some other. 


So those are just two examples of why what it is your naming. And then the other thing of course is how much money do you have to spend? We’ve had clients come to us and say, well, we want to name Apple, or we want to name Google, or we want to name Nike or we want to name Tesla. And the answer is, okay, how many tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars do you have? Not how many thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars you have. It’s millions. And how many months or years do you have to build the brand? It’s not days and it’s not weeks usually because names like that that are very distinctive and that trademark attorneys love because you tend to be able to register them easier. You tend to be able to protect them. 


They afford you stronger legal rights just by the fact that they’re arbitrary and they’re so different. The problem though is they don’t bring much to the table. If you had never heard of Nike before, you wouldn’t know whether it was a line of cooking pots and pans or a shoe or something else. So it’s this idea that if you have a lot of money to spend, which even our Fortune a hundred clients these days don’t, then you go with a name like that. But for everybody else, you need a name that is more suggestive, that leans more into your value prop that communicates something about either what it is or resonates emotionally and has that connection so you can remember it. So how you answer that question, what makes for a great name? Depends on what it is, what style of name it is, how much money you have to spend, what timeline do you have, and a variety of other factors. And so that’s part of what makes this stuff so complex. 

Megan Dzialo (13:21): 

Well, and I think what’s a great name for one brand or one company is not going to be a great brand name for the same company, even in the same industry. And so it’s not just what’s a great name for a cider, it all has to do with your naming strategy and what your goals are. And so speaking of even cider, can we talk a little bit about some of the specific projects that you’ve worked on or that we’ve worked on? 

Mike Carr (13:45): 

And I think this goes to how this complexity is even more of an issue today than it was even a few years ago. So we’ve talked about this before on other podcasts, and it’s a name that most people are familiar with. So Boston Beer wanted to introduce a new hard cider, a cider with alcohol to appeal to gals that didn’t want the high calories that a lot of the beers had or the high alcohol. And so Angry Orchard was the name that we gave, they ended up going with. And angry today would be a really tough word to have in the name, right, because I think there’s a lot more sensitivity to other meanings that a word could bring to the table. And just political correctness today, especially as we head into 2024 in the election, is going to sort of be in everybody’s top of mind. 


So that name worked really well because angry related to the alcohol content, it related to those ugly looking apples that you would never see in a grocery store, but they actually make for the best cider. So angry had a great story behind it, but it’s the kind of name that in today’s complex world, it probably wouldn’t fly. And even years before we developed Angry Orchard, we came up with the name for Nestle for an ice cream bar that they were bringing up from South America that had done very well in Chile, and it was a very long Popsicle. And so we gave them a name. It’s a kooy. And so you can still go to a convenience store and find it’s a koozie and Walmarts and whatnot. Well, again, today thinking about that name, it worked very well. It was long and it expanded the whole wrapper and it was fun. 


But today, that kind of a name right out of the chute, well to Doy Big, a lot of concern about body shaming and obesity in this country and proper nutrition that might’ve been a harder sell to Nestle, given the conservative nature of that organization. So names that work at a particular point in time often either become out of vogue or a little bit too risky. I mean, the whole Native American awareness and the fact that the Washington Redskins changed their name and so many of the folks have done this. So that adds another layer of complexity, I think, to this whole game. And then you have linguistic issues. And this didn’t used to be nearly as big a deal because most folks that we worked with, their primary market was the US and maybe they did a little bit outside the US but us was it? 


Well, today because of the internet and everything else, a lot of folks really do want to be able to go overseas, whether it’s the eu, whether it’s the Asia Pac region. But anyway, there are opportunities now that are a bigger deal. And so words that work really well. So we did work on an air freshener years ago for a client, and one of the words that we considered that was mist, MIST. And when you think about an air freshener, that’s sort of how it works, right? It is light and it’s airy, and it creates this beautiful smelling mist that sort of wafts through the air and makes the room feel really great. Well, you can’t really use that in certain parts of the world. Like in Germany, mist is associated with manure. So the last thing you want is a name, an air freshener after manure. I can’t think of a worse association. And so all these things have sort of been in the naming lore for decades, but they’re now sort of in the forefront because of the internet, because there is a greater sensitivity to any possible off-color meaning or political sensitivity. And so that’s the challenge that everyone’s wrestling with today. 

Megan Dzialo (17:50): 

And one of the things that I think about, yes, I agree. Naming is complicated and it is complex, but one of the things that we like to do is make it less complicated. It may be complex, but we can make it less complicated. And I think some of our clients come to us making it more complicated than it is mainly because they’re wanting the name to do so many things, and we’ve talked about this before, but we want it to telegraph what it does. And we also want it to sound aspirational. We want it to appeal to the left and the right side of the brain, and we want it to be short, but we also want it to be really engaging, and that’s making naming more complicated than it needs to be. And going back to it’s a K dozi, the main goal for it’s a K dozi was to be memorable, to stick out to be this zany name that kids would say, that sounds cool. It doesn’t say anything about the flavor. It doesn’t say anything about even what it looks like, but the main goal was for it to stand out. And so I think sometimes just trying to get that one goal in mind can simplify naming and take it from really complex to more simple. But anything that you want to leave us off with Mike? 

Mike Carr (18:55): 

Yeah, I think that’s a great example. And I think your observations, Megan, are spot on in terms of the pendulum swings to the far right or the far left, and then it tends to start swinging back. And we’ve been doing this for decades, so we’ve seen this happen over and over again. And one of the things that we think hasn’t changed, and so one of the things that maybe makes naming a little bit simpler is you don’t want to go with a name that’s super safe and you don’t want to go with a name that’s super controversial. You want to go with a name that’s a little controversial, a name that raises a few eyebrows, a name that may be a very small percentage of your potential customers or members really don’t like, but by the fact that they don’t like it. Everyone else finds out about it because it’s newsworthy. 


It spreads like organic ether through the social media and universe. And so all of a sudden people want to talk about a name because the spotlight’s been put on it because it has got a little bit of controversy, but not too much. And that’s usually a great place to land because then what budget you have to spend on brand building, you really get a lot of leverage from because people have heard about it. The awareness goes up just organically because people do want to talk about the name. And then when you get in there with some brand building dollars, you can start building preference and drive traffic to your website or to the order desk or whatever it might be. I don’t think there’s as much tolerance for that today as there was maybe a few years ago. But we do think the pendulum’s going to swing back and we can always help clients. I think just based upon the fact that we’ve been doing this for 35, almost 40 years now in almost every industry, we can provide the guidance in terms of here’s what’s worked in the past, here’s why it won’t necessarily work today. Here’s what we think is a great strategy today. And then back that up with marketing research and some other things that we think make the decision maybe not super simple, but hopefully a lot more obvious than it would’ve been otherwise. 

Megan Dzialo (21:14): 

Well, we love talking to you about your complicated naming project, and so we would really encourage you to reach out to us. You can do it through our website. You can email us. You can email me, Megan, at name, We’d love to schedule a conversation with you and come up with a specific brand strategy for you. Figure out how we can make naming more simpler for you. We may not be able to figure out your holiday season complications, but we can definitely talk naming so, and we’ll also see you next week on naming it an IH. 

Mike Carr (21:46): 

So Megan, what’s the one thing you want to get for Christmas? The one gift you want to be underneath that tree for yourself. 

Megan Dzialo (21:53): 

Car detailing. I want some car detailing detail. My minivan, my mom van. 

Mike Carr (22:00): 

Alright, that sounds, we’ll. Write a note to Santa to make sure that you get your car detailing done around Christmas time. 

Megan Dzialo (22:08): 

I’m going to be a good girl. It’s going to happen. 

Mike Carr (22:10): 

All right, thanks everybody. 


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