New York Times

By Laurel Sutton

March 23, 2004

“”Names are perhaps the single-most important issue of corporate communication today,” said Naseem Javed, founder of a corporate naming company called ABC Namebank International. ”With millions and millions of product names clashing in cyberspace, a name is no longer something people can sit around a kitchen and come up with.” A company can no longer say, ”We make machines for business and we are international, so we will be INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES.”

”GENERAL MOTORS worked for an industrial giant in the 20’s, but it doesn’t work today,” Javed said. ”The loose change is gone — all those zodiac signs and constellations, GENESIS and PEGASUS, they’re all gone. Apples, oranges, pineapples. Look at the newspaper business — you have thousands of papers, and they’re all COURIER or JOURNAL or DISPATCH or POST. These people have a hell of a problem going into cyberspace.” ” Get Out of My Namespace, by James Gleik, NY Times, March 21, 2004 (After it goes to the archive login as “catchword7” password “catchword”)

Not sure I agree. There is an awful lot of value in descriptive names – that is, names which say what they are, like General Motors, or Cable & Wireless, or even Entrepreneur Magazine. In the brand-clutter of everyday life, we often recommend that our clients “de-brand” whenever possible, and just say what the thing is. Consumers appreciate the direct approach.

And is the name really the most important issue in corporate communication? A good name will always help, and a bad name might hurt, but the name is not going to make or break a company. A good name will not save a doomed idea (pets.com), and a bad name will not break a great idea.

I do agree, however, that it’s really hard for people to name their own companies these days. Hey, it can be hard for us to find names that are available, and we do this for a living! One of the reasons that companies like Catchword and Namebank are in business is that we take away the pain of finding an appropriate and available name. When you’ve spent 40 CEO-hours trying to find the right name and you’re cross-eyed from typing names into WHOIS, it’s time to call in the experts.

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