The power of brand names
The brand’s name is often revealing of the brands intentions. This is obviously the case for brand names which, from the start, are specifically chosen to convey certain objective or subjective characteristics of the brand (Steelcase or Parnpen) But it is also true of other rand names which get chosen for sub;ec tive reasons rather than for any apparent objective or rational ones: they too have the capacity to mark the brands legitimate territory. Why did Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak choose Apple as their brand name? Surely, this name neither popped out of any creative research nor of any computer software for brand name creation. It is simply the name that seemed plainly obvious to the two creative geniuses In one word, the Apple brand nameconveyed the exact same valuer as those which had driven them to revolutionise computer science.
What must be explained is why they did not go for the leading name style of that period, ie International Computers, Micro Computers Corporation or even Iris. The majority of entrepreneurs would have chosen this type of name. In deciding to call it Apple, Jobs and Wozniak wanted to emphasise the unconventional nature of this new brand: in using the name of a fruit (and the visual symbol of a munched apple), was it taking itselfseriously? With this choice, the brand demonstrated its values: in refusing to idolise computer science, Apple was in fact preparing to completely overturn the traditional human/machine relationship. The machine had, indeed, to become something to enjoy rather than to revere or to fear. Clearly, the orand name had in itself all the necessary ingredients to produce a major breakthrough and establish a new norm (which all seems so obvious to us now) What worked lot Apple, however, did not work for Apricot. Apple reflected the founders values, which marerialised into user friendly computers. This is indeed a far uy from just choosing a similar name (Apricot) without prior verification that such values as Apple’s could indeed he conveyed by the brand.
The brand name is thus one of the most powerful soures of identity. When a brand questions its identity, the best answer is therefore to thoroughly examine its name and so try to understand the reasoning behind its creation In so doing, we can discover the brands intentions and programme As the Latin asaying goes : nomen est omen – a name is an omen Examining the brand name thus amounts to decoding this omen, ie the brand programme, it area legitimacy and knowhow as well as its scope of competence.
Many brands make every effort to, acquire qualities whih their hruul nam fails to reflect or simply excludes altogether. ‘Apple sounds fun, not serious.Other brands simply proceed by ignoring their name. The temptation of a brand to just forget about its name is caused by a rash intrepretation of the principle of brand autonomy. Experience mdcccl shows that brands beonie autonomous as they start to give words specific meanings other than those in the dictionary. Thus when hearing of ‘Birds Eye, no one thinks of a bird. The same is true of Nike. Mercedes is a Spanish Christian name, yet the brand has made it a symbol of Germany. This ability is not only characteristk of brands but also of proper nouns: we do not think of roofing when talking of Mrs Thatcher, Thus, strong brands force their own lexical definitions into the glossaries: they give words another meaning. There is no doubt that this process takes place, but the time it requires varies according to its complexity.
A name — like an identity — has to be managed. Certain names may have a don ble meaning. The purpose of communication then is to select one and drop the other. Thus, Shell naturally chose to emphasise the seashell meaning (as repre sented in its logo) rather than the bombsheIl one! Likewise, the international tern- porary employment agency, Ecco, has never chosen to exploit the potential link with economy suggested in its name. On the other hand, it does use its name as a natural means to reinforce its positiontng in the segment ofhigh quality service: its advertising cleverly plays upon the theme ofduplication — those stepping in horn Ecco will ofcourse perfectly duplicate and echo those stepping out of the company.
Generally speaking, it is best to follow the brand’s overall direction as well as its underlying identity, whenever possible. All Hugo Boss is entirely contained in that one short, yet international, name — Boss: it conveys aggressive success, professional achievement, conformity and city life. Rexona is a harsh name all over the world because of its abrupt R and its sharp X: thus it implicity promises efficiency.