Magazine article Communication World

Naming for Global Power

Magazine article Communication World

Naming for Global Power

Article excerpt

So, you have super products, super technologies, an excellent team of people within your super corporation, but do you have a super name? Let's hope you do. Few corporations have unique global names - the large majority have either highly diluted or confusingly similar ones.

Come the millennium, only the very best corporate names will dominate the global marketplace. Weak, confusingly similar, or nearly identical names will not survive the power of electronic commerce. The duplication factor alone will bury most names in complex global listings. How will customers or shareholders find them? Today, a globally protected, unique and memorable corporate name is the single most important issue of corporate communication.

The Duplication Factor

Those who are deep in the alpha-numeric soup of electronic commerce can really appreciate the problem. Fishing for information on the 'Net is not as easy as it sounds. The chart on page 34 indicates the number of hits on the Internet for some of the root prefixes and suffixes used in all kinds of business and product names in commerce today.

Naming corporations in the upcoming virtual society will be very fluid. Zillions of wireless images and messages race against each other on fluid screens. This frantic process could well gobble up today's names like a giant bowl of cereal, every single minute, while a small number of elite global corporate names will dominate the entire world.

Origin of the Problem

Creating names by using a highly creative focus group session can only cause long-term problems. Today, in the age of specialization, naming requires a special treatment; therefore one cannot expect successful results from a long list of casually created names. Even large and powerful ad agencies and graphics shops with extensive experience in design and marketing may seriously lack the necessary experience in creating names.

The concept of putting together a long, creative list of names is also deadly because agencies hire too many freelancers, sometimes for a buck a name or a thousand names for a thousand dollars. These long lists of names from various freelancers are shifted from project to project, causing immense duplication and leading to chaos. Weeks of frustration and tens of thousands of dollars are spent on legal searching. Too often, the result of this name hunt is either a new, completely unpronounceable or a highly confusing name. Finally, in the desperate hour, some unlikely candidate name gets selected and the frustration and confusion carries on. Remember, just as a good name can ring cash registers, a poor name is the fastest way to oblivion.

Effect of Electronic Commerce

The electronic world has made it possible for us to live, almost simultaneously, around the globe in more than 200 countries and using more than 2,000 languages and dialects. No longer can a new technology, product, service or corporation call itself something simple, casual, folksy, funny or even silly, and hope to be understood and respected around the planet.

The instant globalization of a name brings new challenges. As recently as 10 years ago, at the dawn of corporate globalization, the Coca-Cola Company had to change its name in China when it was discovered that its phonetic equivalent, "KeKou Kela," meant "Bite the wax tadpole." To overcome this problem, the name was recomposed in a Chinese equivalent that now reads "make man mouth happy." Consideration of international languages in global business presents a growing obstacle in the launch of corporate product and service names. "Nay" is "yes" to Greeks. The American "yeah" means "no" to Japanese. To the British, phoning long distance is a "trunk" call, a "sister" is a nurse and "cereal" is cooked porridge and not cold flakes out of a box. A simple laugh, "ha, ha, ha," means "mother" in Japanese, while "Ohio" is good morning. In Russia, "look" means "opinion" and "socks" is "juice. …

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