Arment Dietrich

A Rose By Any Other Name…Might Not Be As Marketable

By: Arment Dietrich | September 16, 2010 | 

Guest post by Dana Hughens, CEO of Clairemont Communications.

While Juliet surely meant well when she said to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” she might not have been very concerned about how marketable the flower was.

In a few weeks, I’ll experience my annual ritual of kicking off Fall Furniture market by walking into the showroom and checking out my client’s toenails as I greet her. Yes, her toenails.

My client and I share a love. A love of OPI Nail Lacquer. Take a fashionable color, add a fun, catchy name such as Kiss on the Chic, Gliterzland from the Swiss Collection or the best-selling I’m Not Really a Waitress Red, and it goes from a hue we might select once at the nail salon to a bottle we’ll buy to use again and again.

If you’ve ever started a company, you had to name it. If you lead a company or are in marketing, public relations or advertising, you’ve likely been asked to help name a product or campaign. It might not be nail polish, but chances are you want your target audience to respond the way OPI fans do. How do you do that?

Too bad it isn’t as simple as comedian Mitch Hedberg portrayed it to be. “I want to get a job as someone who names kitchen appliances. Toaster, refrigerator, blender…all you do is say what it does and add ‘er.’ Hey, what does that do? It keeps shit fresh. Well that’s a fresher…I’m going on break.”

Start with some inspiration. “From Altoids to Zima” by Evan Morris tells the story behind 125 well-known brands. Morris writes that once upon a time, naming a product was as simple as taking the manufacturer’s name and adding a product description, such as Smith’s Pure and Effective Cough Syrup. Nowadays, as Morris notes, companies often create new words for brands. Google started as “googol,” a word that the nine-year-old nephew of a mathematician made up to mean a “very, very large number, 10 raised to the hundredth power.”

I’m betting there was a pretty darn good chance that the URL was available and the name wasn’t trademarked. Imagine the additional steps the founders of Google would need to take now. Is available? Should there be one Twitter feed or separate feeds? Is @googleanalytics too long for re-tweets? These are all serious considerations for today’s namers.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of having a story behind the name. Eric Morgenstern of Morningstar Communications gave me this sage advice as I faced my most challenging naming exercise – deciding what to call my own firm. Think about your values, what you represent, your story, and what you want to accomplish, he told me. It was a moment of clarity that led me to start my own agency, with a desire to deliver monumental client results. Clarity + monumental = Clairemont Communications.

Just as Google is a revised version of the made-up word of a kid, and it takes some adding and subtracting of letters for clarity and monumental to make Clairemont, it is important to give yourself some creative freedom in the naming process.

Dana Hughens is the CEO of Clairemont Communications, a full-service agency dedicated to finding the right blend of traditional communications and social media for its clients. In honor of being featured on Spin Sucks (and her native state), Dana is wearing Grape Lakes out of OPI’s Chicago Collection on her toes.

  • I’m a Cajun Shrimp or Grand Canyon Sunset gal myself. I’ve always thought it would be a great job to name lipstick or nail color.

    Been tasked with naming things — newsletters, events (my dog!) and it is a tough assignment – you need to really find the name that not only best describes but is something you can live with forever.

    • Oh my goodness Abbie, I have always said that my dream job would be to name liptsicks and nail polish! Too funny. I want to see Cajun Shrimp.

      • Well, crap. The two of you and Mr. D will have lots to discuss. He’s always wanted to name crayons.

        • Oooooo…I say we get the big box and rename each crayon as a creative exercise. That’s my kind of fun!

  • Naming something, such as a product, business or even the family dog is not an easy task. I think it shows true creativity and imagination to come up with something that truly captures what you are trying to say. Well done Dana

  • Naming is extremely important, and when done well can help you to own the most important space. . . one in the consumer’s mind. Well said Dana!

    • Thanks Kristy and Molly! And Kristy, don’t you hate it when you name an event and find out a well-known retailer is using the same term?? 🙂 (Our use of it is better!)

  • Dana, I love how you incorporated Mitch’s quote as part of the naming process and I also love the story about how you came to Clairemont Communications. Quite brilliant! Too bad you won’t have it for long…you are joining my team, RIGHT?!?

    • When you land the OPI account, call me.

      Yes, that’s right. I name stuff. That makes me a namer. I’m going on break. (Thank you and RIP Mitch Hedberg.)

  • David

    I stopped trying to name things after being shot down when our baby was on the way. Here were my offerings — Girl name: Simile Star, Boy name: Geisel Cave. The girl name is “like a star”, but mom-to-be said that it sounded like a “dancer” and the boy name was just too weird. Geisel is Dr. Suess’ real name and Cave was supposed to sound tough. Oh well, Joe Bob, Jr. it is!

    I’d like to name newly discovered dinosaurs . Great article Mrs. HUG-hens!

    • Thank goodness the mom-to-be had some sense about her. Then again, Simile Star could have paid her way through college, I suppose. And that’s Ms. Hughelps to you, mister.

  • Slee Arnold

    From Charged Up Cherry and You’re a Pisa Work to time for the winter OPI Red, I agree that naming is a tough job – just think how hard it is to pick out only ONE color! You nailed it (no pun intended!) with creativity while thinking of the consumer!!!!

  • Shawn Lingle

    This is sooo timely Dana — I’m about to embark on another naming exercise myself! I’m wearing Arose at Dawn Broke by Noon, by the way. I ONLY wear OPI.

  • I’m an OPI Miami Beet girl, myself. (Says the native Miamian…)

    And, not only would I love a job naming nail polish, but sushi roll combos and designer shoes, too.

    Dana, I’ve always loved how you named Clairemont…

    Excellent reminder about naming names, sister.

  • Marian

    Loved the story and thanks for sharing the nuggets of advice. This post is so timely as I have been struggling lately trying to figure out a name for my own business. I’m going to use the tips you shared. 🙂

    • Good luck, Marian! If you have a friend who is also in the same business, ask her for feedback on your top choices. Ask her what she would say about your name if the two of you were competing for a client.

  • Hi Dana!
    I must have been hiding under a cyber rock to only be discovering this great post now. In my previous chapter of Life, I was in involved in naming buildings in downtown Seattle. Looking into history for help is always a nice way to honor the past and tell the story of a brand.

    And I’ll never forget the moment I arrived at my business name with my forehead leaning against the glass of the passenger-side car window in a state of pure panic about leaving my very good job to do something crazy like start a business.

    • Well hello Lisa of Big Leap Creative! I think you have one of the very best agency names ever! It is certainly something that anyone who has ever started a business can understand. I’m here to tell you, it is one biggo crazy leap. (And then another and another and another.)

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