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Great brand naming isn’t for the faint of heart. Think about the best names you have seen over the years. What makes them best? I’ve asked hundreds of clients what names they like best.  They’ve mentioned company or product names like Apple, Google, Diehard or RAZR. So do you think these names were safe choices when they were originally conceived?

  • Apple – Here are comments I heard back in the early 1980’s about Apple (and yes, I am unfortunately that OLD): “An unprofessional company name, a silly product name, way too cute … You’ve got to be kidding.”  I remember going into one CEO’s office and he had his Apple II computer on a cart hidden in his coat closet.  He would roll it out to run Visicalc, one of the first spreadsheet programs like Excel, but would then roll it back into his closest to hide it when customers came by.  Why?  Because back then, Apple was viewed as either a gaming machine or something you would see in grade school.  It certainly wasn’t what a CEO would be caught using.
  • Google – “That is what my 6 month old says when he is learning how to talk.”
  • Diehard – “No way do I want Die in the name for anything, especially a battery.  And I don’t like hard either, as in hard to install and hard to maintain. A really stupid name!”
  • RAZR – “Can’t say it, it looks misspelled and it has absolutely nothing to do with a cell phone. Also, for some of our key foreign markets, most names with r’s in them are almost unpronounceable and half the letters in this name are r’s.”

When we developed GADZOO for a pet web site recently, it was criticized as “too cute and misleading … it’s not a zoo web site, it’s mostly about dogs and cats…”  But since then the name has tended to stick in people’s heads, has proven easy to say and spell, and fits the fun and more playful positioning of the site.

So what’s the lesson: the best new names are often the ones that elicit some of the strongest initial negative comments. Don’t dismiss dangerous names too quickly.

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