Does a company's name really matter?
Does a company’s name really matter?
No. It doesn’t. At least not nearly as much as you’d think.
Let’s try the following experiment. We need five letters.
--The first consonant in your name
--The first vowel in the city you grew up in
--The first consonant in the name of your favorite “High School Musical” character
--The first vowel of your favorite sports team
--The first consonant in your favorite TV show
Unless your Xavier from Utica who likes Chad, the Bulls and Canada’s Got Talent, you should have a somewhat reasonably sounding name. For me, I got “Kitel” (Akiva, Chicago, Troy (duh), Steelers, LOST) which we’ll pronounce kih-TELL.
Now, we have to be perfectly intellectually honest for a second. Let’s say we take that name and replace the name “Facebook” with it. You still have the liking and the sharing, the photos and the videos, but instead of it all being on a website called Facebook, it’s on Kitel. Would it be less popular? What if we gave it a name like Pepsi or Target? Could we honestly say that we think this revolutionary product wouldn’t be nearly, if not exactly, the same?
The point is pretty straightforward: most names of companies really don’t matter. Granted, there are some names that are great and help the product, while there are others that are stupid and harmful. Yet, for the most part, if the rest of the company’s marketing mix (product, place, price and promotion) is good, then its name doesn’t really matter.
Before we analyze some examples, we have to make a key distinction: When we mention a company’s name, we mean literally only the name and not also the brand image. For example, if we were to talk about “Nike,” we’re just talking about those four letters and what they look like, sound like and the meaning behind them (i.e. the Greek goddess of victory). What we’re not talking about is what Nike’s brand stands for (i.e. “Just do it” and pushing past personal obstacles) or Nike’s social or political image (i.e. Nike’s Kaepernick ad).
As mentioned above, there are three classes of company names: Ones that help, ones that hurt and ones that really make no difference at all. Let’s start with the good ones. Dreamworks vs. Pixar. Which name do you like better? Look at Pixar first. I guess it sounds cool; it has an “x” in it, after all. And the “pix” part of it is somewhat relevant to pictures and animation. But compare Pixar to Dreamworks. The latter has all these positive associations with things like creativity, imagination and building these magical worlds that our lovely reminiscent of our childhood. Of course, this all comes back to show that names are not so important, as Pixar as a company is a legend in the animation business.
In a similar example, compare Burger King to McDonald’s. The former, while perhaps a bit pretentious, is obviously a better name for a fast-food store. Yet, McDonald’s is still historically more popular and successful.
Another good name is BuzzFeed. “Buzz” if exciting and synonymous with virality and super-interesting content and news that everyone wants to get, and “feed” is like your source of information. So, essentially, every time you see the name you’re reminded that this is a place where you can get all of your interesting news and content. Other good names are Under Armour (associating itself with things like strength and power) and Intel (with the obvious theme of intelligence and sophistication).
On the other end of the spectrum are there the bad names. Now, these names are either stupid or provide negative or contrary associations. One of the most stupid names is WhatsApp. Think about it: It’s a combination of the common message “what’s up” and the fact that it’s an app. It’s really just an awful pun. Moving onto the sports world, let’s look at the New Orleans Pelicans. Does that name inspire themes of dominance, power and confidence? Of course, not all sports teams have great names, but I’d much rather play for a team called the Bulls or the Warriors than the Pelicans.
Lastly, we have the neutral names. The ones that aren’t bad but aren’t good either. For these names, you can interchange almost all of them without the success of the company changing significantly. Disney, Uber, Verizon, General and Ford Motors, Dell, 7 UP, Sprite, Procter and Gamble, Tylenol and so many others.
Of course, when you’re making a company, you should definitely take time to think of a good name. As mentioned above, creating a clever or relevant name could garner more success and popularity whereas a stupid name could do just the opposite. However, in order to create the next big thing, you won’t need some legendary name. Even a simple “Kitel” or “Xucuc” should be fine.