The first thing every naming company has to fight is “but that doesn’t sound professional” or “we can’t do that.”
So, when someone was coming up with the name for a gaming company- and landed on “Super Evil Megacorp” it was pure brilliance, but I’m sure their mothers all scowled.
What better way to talk to gamers, who think they are out there battling evil at every turn (Grand Theft Auto excluded).
So when Tim Cook announced the next guest to the stage at the 2014 Apple Keynote and said “And we had to pick a developer with the coolest name you’ve ever seen: Super Evil Megacorp. That alone is the reason to bring them on to stage.” how much more free advertising can you ask for?
Who wears a scarf in CA in Sept?
Apparently that wasn’t enough for the public relations brain trust at Super Evil- they went one more step and sent out their developer with a scarf hanging around his neck (remember, this is California in September where the temperature never goes under 60). Do a search- and “Scarf steals show” is an actual buzz topic on the intertubes.
Sometimes, taking your company name so seriously ends up making you just another commodity out there. How many “A1, Prime, Best, Quality, AAA, Expert” whatever’s are out there? Looking to the master of language mangling, Yoda- “there is no say, only do.” Don’t say your company is “Numbah 1” just work hard to be number 1.
While the ad agency world used to be dominated by the names of the founders- or their initials as they either died off- or took on too many partners - how we ended up with TBWA/Chiat Day among others, agencies now pride themselves on being cute, funny, odd. This list of 40 top strange agency names goes from some really neat names like “Captains of Industry” and “For Office Use Only” to the really odd “Wexley School for Girls” and “High Heels and Bananas” to “G and M Plumbing” which isn’t a plumber.
Of course, sometimes being cute doesn’t help with a search engine- how many times will “For Office Use Only” show up on a search? (We run into that problem too- people are always talking about “The Next Wave” of… but, when we named ourselves there was no Internet).
Effective brand names work well when people want to say your name- what fun would it be to say “Super Nice Megacorp” when answering the phone?
They also work when they are good conversations starters. “Hi, I’m David calling from Super Evil Megacorp”- how can you not take that call?
iChat and Apple Messages are the same program, but the new name is unsearchable.
My last name is Esrati. For all the years of having it misspelled, mispronounced and having to answer questions about it’s origin, it became an amazing asset with the advent of the search engine. If you search for me, you’ll get one of three people, me, or my parents.
Apple had an application called “iChat” for years. With the advent of System 10.8 it went from being iChat to becoming the innocuous sounding “Messages” and that’s when Google suddenly became useless. iChat was a very specific program that ran on the mac, while “Messages” are what every email program sends- as well as every other chat program- and, how many times have you searched for “Error message….XYZ” All of a sudden, access to useful, pertinent information about a very specific program became impossible to find via search.
The branding geniuses at Apple apparently don’t use Google.
This isn’t the first time that Apple has made things difficult by not thinking about naming conventions. The Apple Macintosh has had an issue since the 2nd version came out. The original mac only had 128mb of RAM, version 2 has 512mb of RAM, but there wasn’t any indication that this Mac was different unless you got into the tiny print on a label on the back of the machine- and knew Apples product code or some such. The market had to distinguish between these two products- and version 2 became known as The Apple Fat Mac 512″ Hardly the marketers dream name.
Car makers generally try to avoid this problem by identifying products by model year and trim levels. Computer makers seem to be horrified by attaching a date to a computer, and at some point, Apple started naming models with nomenclature like “mid-2010” as if that’s more helpful than simply calling it by a model number- version 2.1 which Apple finally began doing, but only if you could boot the mac and check in “About this Mac.”
Branding and choice of names, be it in the company name (Apple had a long running lawsuit with Apple Corps, the Beatles label, over the name costing Apple hundreds of millions of dollars.).
When looking for a name of a product or your company, there is a lot more to it than making it easy to remember or spell or search. Make sure you think before you name, since it can become a very expensive and difficult proposition to fix later, or as in the iChat/Messages example- make your valued product worth considerably less to it’s users as frustration trumps productivity.
When it comes to branding, naming your company after your location isn’t a great idea. We watched a hair salon move four times from it’s original eponymous address 23 Second Street and the local grocery chain, Dorothy Lane Market doesn’t have a single location on Dorothy Lane.
Of course, that’s just in the name, but what about your audience? A local company makes tarps and tents. They’ve been doing it since 1948, and only see two markets, farmers and local tent rental. The only advertising they do is in a farm equipment guide. Are they self-limiting their brand and their sales? Of course. Every roll-off construction dumpster needs a tarp to cover the debris as they haul it to the dump, yet, despite making the same product to cover grain trucks, the demolition and waste hauling markets are ignored.
Sometimes companies get confused about what they really sell. Department stores used to be a convenience, in that all the things you need for your household are in one place. That was great until malls came around and did the same thing, only the specialty shops within the mall often offered more focused service, and a better branding experience. The reason for a department stores existence stopped once every single department was duplicated in the mall- at least to younger shoppers. Sears was the sole exception, having built strong brands in Craftsman, Die Hard and Kenmore, while the rest depended on other peoples brands to carry them.
Amazon is what it is today, because Jeff Bezos specifically didn’t call it Amazon Books, but just Amazon. Don’t limit your brand by making it synonymous with your first product, and don’t think any company only has, or will have just one market, because limiting your vision will limit your ability to grow in the future.
JDRF is another string of initials- it’s not even an acronym, since the “Juvenile” part of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is no longer even medically relevant. The foundation recognized they needed to change- but instead of a total makeover to something relevant to Type 1 Diabetes- they went the 4 letter route into obscurity. Which is probably why they opted to go on The Pitch- hoping to help fix their awareness problem.
They should have paid attention to the March of Dimes- which originally was the “National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis”- to fight polio. Thankfully, an entertainer coined the phrase “March of Dimes” for their annual walk- a take on the “March of Time” newsreels- and the organization had a new name- since within 30 years, the foundation had whipped Polio- and they moved their mission to birth defects. Read more in this Forbes article.
Note- they didn’t become NFFIP- or some such.
But here we have JDRF asking for a rally cry to help end Type One Diabetes- or at least help people who have it live longer. They’ve been pretty successful, since now a majority of people with Type 1 are adults - since it no longer kills the juveniles off before they became adults.
Had the assignment been to do a rebrand - come up with a new way to communicate the mission, this episode would have probably been a lot more interesting. Of the two agencies, Bozell (not the famous Bozell & Jacobs of NY- but the new Bozell of Omaha) was the bigger agency with the can do attitude, with the exception of Scott, the whiner, head of social something or other. As always, the editors love to create characters out of the contrarians- not that he was entirely wrong, he was just not very participative. Muse on the other hand came out of the brief expecting to fail- or not connect- or not have chemistry which is too bad, because they obviously can do work at a much higher level than what we saw in the show.
Once again we see the more that’s presented, the better the chance at winning. But, this time, as we actually predicted for once, Bozell won and deserved it. Not the “Be the voice of one” was super strong- despite their extensive support materials, but compared to the work Muse presented which looked worse than the local community college design students work. It also failed to respond to the specification of a “rally cry”- people aren’t going to chant “One less prick, One less prick” and have people say- oh, yeah, it’s time to donate to JDRF.
Yes, we know this is TV and people say stupid things on camera, but Jo Muse handed this competition over to Bozell after the brief, convinced that his “multi-cultural” centric firm wouldn’t be able to connect with the client or the target. Had he spent some money on bringing in some free lance creative teams or worked on the campaign more himself- instead of hiring a presentation coach, he may have done better - oh, and not presented a board with bad stock photos and too much type.
We can’t hate on Muse though, they did take this opportunity to send a powerful message to the ad community watching this show or reading about it with their “white space” :30 that they paid to air in select markets- it was right on the money. The only time most advertisers find minorities worth an effort- is if they want their money, not to hire in the field. The spot was clean, simple and powerful- had “one less prick” been that good- they’d have won in a minute.
It was hard discussing this episode because it was so boring, so our video may not be as fun as the others, but we did enjoy having Tonya Lee Carrie Fancher in for the brief- she’s one of our resources when we need to put together street teams or do field marketing in the region.
After this episode, our team wasn’t that excited about episode 7, so we’ve been delayed on the predictions post, but we’ll try to get it up before the show tomorrow.
UPDATE: Here’s the full audio podcast of our review:
If there is one fundamental lesson to learn from Apple and Steve Jobs, it’s that a business that’s entirely focused on producing an amazing customer experience, will in the end, win. Google understood search quality must come first, Amazon understood that free shipping is more important than advertising and Zappo’s knows you can buy the same shoes from anywhere- but that the experience matters. Netflix understood- then forgot that they were the company for people who loved movies.
Reading the Steve Jobs biography, we came across this little gem explaining the idea behind the movie “Toy Story”- and it sums up the mindset all of us must take when designing our business for our customers- what do we have to do to make them unbelievably happy? Why do we do what we do? Why do toys exist?
The idea that John Lasseter pitched was called “Toy Story.” It sprang from a belief, which he and Jobs shared, that products have an essence to them, a purpose for which they were made. If the object were to have feelings, these would be based on its desire to fulfill its essence. The purpose of a glass, for example, is to hold water; if it had feelings, it would be happy when full and sad when empty. The essence of a computer screen is to interface with a human.” The essence of a unicycle is to be ridden in a circus. As for toys, their purpose is to be played with by kids, and thus their existential fear is of being discarded or upstaged by newer toys. So a buddy movie pairing an old favorite toy with a shiny new one would have an essential drama to it, especially when the action revolved around the toys’ being separated from their kid. The original treatment began, ‘Everyone has had the traumatic childhood experience of losing a toy. Our story takes the toy’s point of view as he loses and tries to regain the single thing most important to him: to be played with by children. This is the reason for the existence of all toys. It is the emotional foundation of their existence.
Walter Isaacson, “Steve Jobs” page 285-286
What is the foundation of your businesses existence? Why do you do what you do? Do you convey your reason for being in everything you do? Do you stay relevant? When that shiny new toy comes along, will you be forgotten? If you understand why you exist in the first place, there can be no confusion in your customers mind on why they came to you originally.
What is the single most important reason your business exists?
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