Naming and Your Bottom Line: Naming in a Recession

By Mark Skoultchi

October 7, 2008

Perhaps the question isn’t whether you can afford to hire a naming professional – but whether you can afford not to.

The threat of recession looms close (some say we’ve already made the plunge), and companies are studying the bottom line to see what’s working in the marketing department and what’s not. In times like these, the temptation to take a do-it-yourself approach to naming new products may be strong. Resist it. Now it’s more important than ever to have an evocative and unique brand name that lets your company or product break away from the cacophony of the marketplace. And it usually takes a professional naming specialist to get you there.

Is it possible to calculate the return on investment for hiring a naming expert to help create a great product name or company name? Using the traditional quantitative approach to ROI, probably not. But if we apply more qualitative reasoning to the equation, it’s clear that great brand names can return well past their initial expense. The internal naming contest may seem like a low-cost option, but in this new ROI calculation, the DIY approach has the potential for a much higher investment and not much of a return.

Unlike your internal naming contest, a professional naming specialist will help you:

Avoid disasters
For starters, hiring a naming specialist to do strategic naming can pay off in ensuring what the name won’t be. A naming company would never allow Reebok to adopt a name like Incubus (“a male demon believed to have intercourse with sleeping women”) or Umbro to launch Zyklon (“a poison gas used by the Nazis at Auschwitz”). In both cases, all mention of the brand had to be removed and the product renamed while fielding terrible publicity.

Similarly, working with a professional naming firm can help avoid other unquantifiable snags. Like choosing a name that’s already in use by a competitor. Or a name that’s awkward to pronounce in a key foreign market. A naming specialist with a solid understanding of trademark law and global linguistics screens name candidates to prevent these kinds of costly blunders.

Stand out in the crowd
Unique new product naming cuts through the clutter that consumers experience during the purchase process. A distinctive brand like “Wii” creates a huge buzz before it even launches. And the best part? The most effective names fulfill this role without massive advertising budgets behind them. So even when economic conditions force a reduction in expenditures, a unique company name or product name will boost a brand’s visibility, and lead to increased revenue.

Build long-term brand equity
The better the name, the better the return in long-term brand equity and customer loyalty. Trademarked brand names are among the most valuable assets of companies like Coca-Cola and Nike. Sure, ROI on professional naming services is hard to tabulate: the investment happens in a matter of weeks or months, while the return will grow over the life of the product. (And even though a consumer decision is often made in a moment, it can take years-even decades-to build to that moment.) Yet any calculation of goodwill on the balance sheet will give you perspective on the sizeable value of professional brand naming. Of course a great name isn’t going to save a bad product (and a bad name probably won’t sink a really great product). But if a product can live up to its great name, you’re certain of a positive return on your investment in expert professional naming help.

So the next time someone in your company suggests an internal naming contest for your hot new product, ask yourself: “Can we really afford to do it that way? Maybe we should consult a professional…”

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