Brand Consultant & Coach, Published Business Writer, Brand Author & Speaker, Harpist, Composer, Mom & Wife, Spiritual Student, Educator ... and that's just on Monday. A blog about brand leadership, innovation and anything else I want to write about.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Holy Grail of Naming

It struck me today as I was reading a Fast Company blog about Washington Mutual bank's attempt to strong arm the country into calling it WaMu, that companies can be entirely too predictable and rigid about what they want in a name.

WaMu in and of itself is a terrible combination of vowel sounds that doesn't roll off the tongue and feels even more ridiculous to say. I love Ruth Sherman's account of her teen boys yelling out "WAAAAMUUUU!" as they passed a branch in the Golden State.

But... as ridiculous as the name sounds .... the name was guided by the Five Holy Grail Points of Naming:

1. It's ultra short ... the shorter the better. Why? I still don't know. Some people are just convinced a name has to be a few letters and no more.

2. It doesn't confine the company to a geographical region (a.k.a. the regional brand)...especially as the banks migrate to other parts of the country - like say - Arizona.

3. It retains the brand equity and recognition to a greater degree than starting from scratch with a brand new name.

4. It's poised to intrude into modern lexicon and therefore pop notoreity - like the brand idol of idols: Fedex.

5. It's a trademark that can be owned and defended in a court of law. Let's face it, what good is a trademarked name when it's weak as hell to defend against other wanna-be names?

Now here's the reality of the Five Holy Grail Points of Naming...

If a company is forcing a fit, the strategy can sincerely backfire on a brand. If the forced brand was a person you met at a dinner party, you'd probably walk away muttering "What a fake dork (**or insert expletive**)" and not give the person a second thought let alone the time of day. Now translate that over to how someone regards a brand...potential customer turned off. Even in the world of naming, authentic wins every time.
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