The following is a guest post from Grant Polachek of squadhelp.com.
A lot of entrepreneurs starting a business often believe that they’d learn from their mistakes. But that’s not always the case when it comes to branding. We’ve seen companies make mistakes that appeared simple but were very damaging to their brand’s image.
And that’s because, in our era of morally and socially conscious customers, some mistakes are impossible to recover from.
Brands like Syfy fell out of favor with the Polish audience because their name was the same as a slang word for venereal diseases. And speaking of deadly diseases, one of the sorriest branding mistakes happened with Adys Diet Candy.
Developed in the 1940s, the brand quickly dominated the appetite-suppressant industry. And while Ayds did well for over two decades, when the menace of AIDS—the disease—became a public issue, the company’s brand took a fatal hit, and it never recovered.
But it doesn’t end there because recently, Corona Beer suffered the same fate. Just the thought of seeing a bottle of Corona beer during the lockdowns gave countless customers a cringey feeling.
When naming a company, its founder must pay attention to getting a name that does not attract severe branding issues.
The Dangers of Failing at Naming
Since its inception, social media has been a game-changer for businesses. It didn’t just help companies grow by maxing out their marketability; it also gave customers a direct means of sending feedback to brands.
And since branding is all about how your target audience perceives your business, choosing an embarrassing brand name could damage your brand and also attract repercussions like:
- Emergency Rebrands like Facebook rebranding to Meta amidst claims of gross misconduct.
- Legal suits like Iceland (the country) suing Iceland (the company)
- Boycotts like we saw with The UCLA and Walmart boycott
- Scandals and Damaged Reputation
- Weak performance in the markets
- Loss of key partners and investors
- Difficulty in hiring talents
The reality of branding is that it’s very easy for branding mistakes to define and characterize your entire business. And so, every entrepreneur must do their best to avoid every one of these terrible mistakes listed below when finding the best name.
Four Things to Avoid When Naming Your Business
- Words That Have Negative Connotations
People all across the world are deliberately picking firms that share their values on matters like politics, social issues, and the environment. In today’s market, a business owner should only select a brand name that conveys a good and positive message, especially when dealing with delicate topics like food and politics.
When it comes to personal matters, customers have their strong opinions. And if your company decides to take on these topics head-on—even if not with your brand’s name—you’ll simply wind up alienating your audience since those who aren’t in favor of a certain cause will be less likely to buy your items.
Towing the same path as ‘Hitler’s Kitchen,’ ‘K.K.K.,’ and Urban Decay’s ‘Druggie’ will only be pushing your company in the wrong direction. Provocative names like these could cause a quick negative reaction, making your company a target for enraged Twitter users. Eskimo Pie was rebranded to Edy’s pie because the name had racist undertones.
Negative political connotations are not the only things you should seek to avoid. When building your brand, avoid giving your brand or product names like ‘Wanadoo,’ or ‘Spank Me Santa.’ Also, avoid names like ‘Dumass Taco’ and ‘Analtech’ since they conjure up embarrassing images in your customers’ minds.
And while you’re at it, remember that customers have a hard time distinguishing between the actions of a company and that of its founder or CEO. So it’s best to stay away from ethically or politically sensitive issues or to manage them with the utmost caution; otherwise, your company might meet the same fate as MyPillow, Harry’s Razor, and Gillette.
- Avoiding Brand Names That Aren’t Easy to Say
We always advise entrepreneurs against settling with extremely complex names when looking for the ideal business name. Complex brand names will only lose your audience’s interest because no one wants to waste mental energy attempting to recall your company’s name correctly.
Simple, uncomplicated, and easy to identify brand names appeal to people since they are easy to remember and find on the internet.
You risk losing clients to competitors with simpler, more unique, and fascinating brand names if your company’s name is too complicated.
It may surprise you to learn that after three days, more than 80% of customers forget a brand’s name. That makes it all too clear that the easiest method to make your business name more memorable is to use a short and catchy name.
Many corporations have failed to recognize the importance of having an easy-to-understand business name. Brands that gave their businesses strong brandable names like Amazon, Apple, and Target saw a lot of success.
Instagram’s rebranding from ‘Burbn,’ which is admittedly more complicated than Instagram, was the spark that lit the brand up.
Getting names that roll off the tongue is critical if you want your brand name to leave a sweet taste with your customers.
Even today, most customers scattered around the world find it hard to correctly pronounce the names of several popular brands. And when they do hear the real pronunciation of the name, there’s always a brief moment of confusion.
Brands like Nutella, pronounced ‘New-tell-ah,’ Givenchy, pronounced ‘Zhee-von-she,’ Tag Heuer, pronounced ‘Tag-haw-yer,’ and Fjallraven pronounced ‘Fee-yal-rah-vin,’ have always been tough nuts for customers to crack.
Using a simple and appealing name creates a friendly atmosphere for your organization, which even the most complex name cannot do.
The purpose of naming your company should be to come up with a name that people can relate to right away. And the easiest approach to achieve that aim is to choose a name that is simple to pronounce.
- Brand Names With Unpleasant Foreign Connotations
Everyone knows that ads have a swift and widespread effect on customers from all over the world who can immediately locate your brand on the internet. And these customers will not lose time abandoning your product if the name of your company means something offensive in their language.
That’s why every entrepreneur in a quest for a powerful brand name must conduct in-depth research to ensure that their name of choice isn’t offensive to customers in other countries.
Unfortunately, some businesses have made this error, and their company names have ended up with twisted meanings after getting translated. Mazda’s vehicle, ‘Laputa,’ which translates to ‘The Whore,’ in Spanish, and the Iranian detergent ‘Barf’ are both great examples of product names that mean two different things in different languages.
Spanish-speaking people were quick to condemn products and services such as the Laputa and Nokia’s blockbuster phone, Lumia, which also happened to be a slang word for ‘prostitute’ in Spanish.
So always ensure you think globally when considering how people would understand and interact with the name of your company.
- Choosing a Name for Your Business Based on Emotions
We all know that creating something, whether it’s an idea, product, or service, evokes some kind of emotional investment.
And, just as every parent takes particular care to give their children a lovely name, you must take the time to come up with a compelling name that will provide your company the best chance of market success.
But don’t get easily sidetracked by letting emotions cloud your decision. Picking a name you want rather than what your consumers need is a recipe for disaster. Choosing a name based on your love connection with the name rather than research might stifle your brand’s growth.
Backrub seemed fitting to Larry Page and Sergey Brin as their brand’s name, but when you examine how poorly the word fits with their search engine company, it’s evident that Google was the superior name choice.
And the same way Sergey and Larry received the idea for the name ‘Google’ from a client who misspelled it, you shouldn’t be afraid to test your brand name on a small sample of your core demographic and see how they react. If they love the name, go ahead and use it. But if they don’t like it, return to your research and find one that resonates with them.
Testing your name with an audience will provide you with harmless feedback that you can analyze and work on to ensure your name meets the expectations of the wider audience. This would allow you to quickly choose a name that appeals to clients without suffering the blowbacks that comes from picking a cringey or embarrassing brand name.
Always Put Your Customers First
Bad brand names are usually the consequence of entrepreneurs failing to prioritize their company’s and client’s demands.
These entrepreneurs end up with the most unlikely of names that don’t accurately represent their company, upset clients, and are unsuitable for the market. As a consequence, every business owner must create a distinct brand identity that people will want to associate with.
Grant Polachek is the head of branding for Squadhelp.com, 3X Inc 5000 startup and disruptive naming agency. Squadhelp has reviewed more than 1 million names and curated a collection of the best available names on the web today. We are also the world’s leading crowdsource naming platform, supporting clients such as Nestle, Dell, Nuskin, and AutoNation.