What’s in a name?

Instantly controversial, Monday was debated by critics, employees, stakeholders, shareholders around the world, yet within months was bought out by IBM, and dissolved under their brand.

While PwC’s decision to rename was part of a strategic brand plan, to what extent would things have been different with a different name? Just how important is the brand name?

PwC and Deloitte Consulting, which recently abandoned its rebranding to Braxton, employed brand and naming specialists to advise and manage their corporate renaming process.

Traditionally new names were the responsibility of inhouse directors or marketing departments. However, as the importance placed on brand equity increases and with the saturation of trademark registers, naming specialists are more in demand.

The perfect name is rarely plucked from thin air. Coming up with an idea is just the first step in a lengthy process that involves extensive legal checks, market research and linguistic analysis.

Originally companies used family names or descriptive terms, such as International Business Machines, more commonly known as IBM, as trademarks but as registers became increasingly cluttered more imaginative names such as Microsoft and Xerox emerged.

Many corporate names such as Virgin, Apple and Orange have no direct association with the products or services they are describing – but they work as they are considerably different from their competitors.

It has been generally accepted that a good name should: differentiate itself from competitor brands; identify what the product or service is; position the company in line with the overall brand strategy and finally, be protected legally to ensure that it will remain unique.

However, there is no one formula which can be applied to a type of situation – the right name will be the product of a carefully prepared strategic brief, creativity and extensive company, competitor, linguistic and cultural research.

A typical naming process can take up to two years and enlisting the help of experts at the earliest possible stage means translation and pronunciation problems in overseas markets are avoided and the possibility of costly legal challenges is eliminated.

Vital considerations when choosing a name are forward-thinking, patience, global reach, experience, investment research and legal protection. Naming specialists have the time and the resources to come up with the perfect name, leaving the client free to concentrate on other aspects of the launch.

A good name is an incredibly valuable asset and one that is worth investing in.

The process should begin with the production of a brief outlining the client’s requirements. For corporate naming the internal perspective is essential and the views of stakeholders and staff are researched.

Geographic coverage is discussed and example name structures are tested out to ensure it has been properly understood and interpreted.

The next stage involves pooling a variety of human and technological resources on an international scale for a truly global name creation process.

We have offices and associates throughout the world who we can call on to verify names in particular markets or carry out linguistic checks.

Brainstorming groups are held, questionnaires are completed and creative sessions are staged to capture the feeling of the product, service or brand. Computer software packages and creative databases help enrich the process and thousands of names are formulated in a constant cycle of creation and analysis.

The client’s decision makers provide continual feedback to assist the creative team in developing the perfect name. A shortlist of potential names undergoes legal and linguistic checks and a handful are then selected and put forward. The shortlisted names are all registered as trademarks and consumer market research is carried out in each country before a final name is chosen.

Deloitte Consulting was able to save time and effort on the legal process for its chosen name ‘Braxton’ as it already held the trademark through an acqusition made previously.

Naming has evolved into a complex creative process and stringent legal checks are a necessity in today’s global markets. The importance of a good name should never be undervalued.

  • Paul Norman is director of Nomen UK, a Paris-based branding agency SEVEN GOLDEN RULES FOR BRAND CREATION Forward-thinking: Future market potential should be assessed to avoid problems like pronunciation difficulties. Patience: A new name can take up to two years to develop and protect. Global: Cultural differences should be taken into account and the creation of a truly global name should involve input from as many languages as possible. Experience: International experience is vital. A parochial approach is unwise. Investment: Many companies under-invest in name development, especially on a legal level. The name is a vital representation of the brand. Research: Make legal checks. Mistakes cane be embarrassing and expensive. Legal protection – The chosen name should be registered as a trademark in as many countries as possible.

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