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Naming is nine billion times harder

Posted in Branding, Guest Bloggers, Mixed Bag of Nuts

Aaron Keller, Managing Principal, Capsule

We do a lot of naming. When we started our firm over 15 years ago I was opposed to doing any naming at all; it has the distinct properties of being one of the hardest creative things you can do for a client and the least respected, hence least valued. Yet our friends at Byerly’s, one of our largest clients in the early Capsule years, said with a smart argument, “you can’t build the firm you’re building without doing naming.” Since that day we named our first international brand, a chair for Herman Miller called Setu – the Hindi name for bridge.

Now, we do a lot of naming and are always seeking more knowledge on how to make the process better. We’ve purchased and devoured almost every book with any reference to naming. Anything on naming is interesting to us, mainly because it is the most challenging creative effort to get a team of people to agree upon.

So when we see an article in The Economist titled, “Nine Billion company names” our interest is immediate and focused. And, we’re fans of The Economist because it is one of a short list of content distributors still putting out good meaty subject matter.

While the sentiment is right, the article has two huge flaws. One: the writer references Copyright law instead of Trademark law, which if you do any naming at all you know the difference. Two: the writer references Tesla as a name referencing a “unit for measuring the density of a magnetic flux” when in fact the Tesla name is a nod to a famous physicist, philosopher and engineer named Nikola Tesla. Two flaws in the article, yet we really, really wanted to like it. The broad points are important and right, but factual errors are troubling. Fact checking is an important piece in the world of journalism and we’d expect the highest standard at The Economist.

With those points aside, the important piece here is the challenge of naming and putting the right resources to such challenges. We would see this getting realigned each time we talk to clients who’ve been scared by naming.

Have you felt the pain of naming? Do you have scars to show for it? We’d love too hear stories of how challenging naming is if you’re willing to share.