“The FunCooker”: Naming Goes Primetime

By Mark Skoultchi

March 18, 2009

For those of you who missed it last week, there was a hilarious naming skit on 30 Rock. (You can watch it on Hulu.com here – the naming bit starts about seven and a half minutes in, just after the first commercial break).

First, I know I speak for all naming consultants when I say that it is about time the naming industry registered on the pop-culture radar screen. Too long have we endured obscurity–dare I say anonymity–while our ad exec brethren grace both the silver screen (“How To Get Ahead In Advertising,” “What Women Want,” et al.) and the flat screen (“Mad Men,” “Trust Me,” et al.). And while this isn’t quite a show dedicated to the naming industry, it certainly features the travails of our profession quite nicely. Well done, NBC.

So here’s the deal: Alec Baldwin’s character Jack has created an innovative new product, a “pocket microwave”. Of course, the first name he wanted (the “bite nuker”) was rejected by his legal team. So what does he do? Does he immediately call Catchword, his trusted and hugely successful naming company? Sadly, no. Instead, he brings in all the creative people he knows in the company and tries to do it internally. Jack Jack Jack. How many times have we talked about this? As any seasoned naming consultant will know already, legal rejects all the other internally-generated candidates too. (Sound familiar?)

Now normally, legal folks reject names because of trademark issues. But Jack works for GE, and his legal team is rejecting names because of linguistic problems. Of course, had he engaged Catchword, he would have been able to avoid these legal/language problems–we have a test for linguistic performance. But no. He thought he could do it on his own. Why do you people insist on trying to create product names on your own? We’re here to help!

Finally, one person in the group comes up with a name that isn’t offensive in some other language: The FunCooker! All is saved, cheers abound. But wait … could it be? Has the term FunCooker already been tarnished? Alas, the source of the name is revealed as a famous actor’s pet name for his rear end, which has just been plastered all over the tv screen, with the all-too-clear reference to his “funcooker”.

Well boys, back to the drawing board. Ready for some professional naming help yet?

 

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