[Cache – #5]
What makes a great brand name? First and foremost, it takes great effort and rigorous process. Next, intrinsic to the name must be, principally, two interdependent things: meaning and memorability.
Why bother putting in the time and effort that’s required to develop a great name? I can say it no better than Alberto-Culver Chairman Carol L. Bernick, whose words refer to products but apply perfectly to any naming project:
“In the process of branded product development, the selection of a name can be the most creative and the most critical aspect of the process. If your brand name is distinctive and memorable, it can and will make the difference in winning at the shelf. It can and will make a major contribution to the longevity of the overall concept. It can and will make your advertising dollars work harder, and it will create more attention and provide more value to your consumer.”
So there. Here are the five brand names that, in our humble opinion, did it best in 2010. Have a read – and at the end of the blog, *place your vote.*
One might wonder what makes TakeTims, the simple name of Tim Hortons’ new catering service, so great. The answer is that in the process of name development, it is this very simplicity that is so difficult to arrive at. Typically, the client has many goals for their new brand name. In the case of TakeTims, one can easily imagine that voices around the table suggested the name overtly express any number of attributes – including speed, convenience, price, value, flavour and product selection.
And so it takes a great deal of commitment – and courage, which is necessary in every naming project – to narrow down your goals to a shortlist of things that the name can crisply convey. With TakeTims, it is evident that the shortlist was narrowed down to just two things:
- This is Tim Hortons’ catering service.
- You should use it.
Thus the first marvellous achievement of this name is that it expresses only two pertinent things, yet creates in us plenty of interest in taking action. The further marvellous achievement is expressing this information in just two words, a scant two syllables combined.
iPad is so obviously the perfect name to we consumers, it is easy to say in retrospect that it was the only conceivable name choice for Apple’s new tablet device. But in the rumour mill that preceded iPad’s springtime launch, this outcome was hardly preordained. The New York Times, for example, was referring to the tablet as the iSlate, as was the Huffington Post; The Economist published the odds being offered by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, who had iSlate as the best bet (at 4/5).
Yet iPad it was (Paddy had it at 7/4). The name was a smart choice for a number of reasons. Perhaps most important, by using the same approach as its other game-changing products – the iPod and iPhone – iPad made all three of these names more memorable. iPad thus increased the value of this product portfolio through a “network effect” – the phenomenon describing the additional value created for all users of a network when a new user is added. For example, a Facebook account wouldn’t be worth much if you were the only person who had one, but the value to you increases with each additional account-holder. In a similar fashion, the value of the iPod and iPhone names is increased when iPad comes along to extend the portfolio.
Concerns that iPad would become a joke related to a feminine product, and therefore would be doomed, were ridiculous from the start. Three million units were sold in the first 80 days, millions more have been sold since, and the product has 95% market share.
This name, for Microsoft’s new controller-free video game, is lovable for the way it conveys so much meaning with just five letters. At the most obvious level, Kinect derives from connect. This is an association that took vision and boldness on Microsoft’s part, because this product is in fact a completely new kind of video game, one that can be played simply by moving one’s body – without holding or otherwise using any kind of physical device. In other words, you are not connected to the game at all, at least in the conventional sense.
Instead, the Kinect console scans your body with what is essentially an electric eye, and then your movements (say, the way you throw punches in Kinect’s boxing game) are interpreted through whatever character is your avatar in the game. So this is “connecting” with a gaming experience in an entirely new way, via kinetics – defined as “the branch of mechanics…concerned with the study of bodies in motion.”
Like the great majority of highly memorable names, Kinect is short. And like many of the world’s most successful brand names (think Coca-Cola, Google, Disney, Toyota, Kraft and BMW) it begins with a powerful, plosive letter (those letters commonly being b, d, g, k, p and t), plosive defined roughly as a sound for which air flow from the lungs is interrupted by a complete closure in the mouth.
Finally, the Kin piece of the name adds a further level of meaning by hinting at the way people often play games like Wii and Kinect with family and friends – and thus at the fun you’ll have, and the adoration you’ll receive, upon connecting/Kinecting with loved ones.
Bebarang is the brainchild of University of Michigan student Allen Kim, who describes the venture as “the Netflix of baby clothes.” His inspiration: “Last year, my aunt, who had a baby, was complaining about how expensive baby clothes were. And I love Netflix. I thought there had to be a way to combine these two things.”
Netflix is the service that mails movies to you for rental. And then when you’re done with them, you return them. Like a boomerang, get it? Except this is a baby clothes boomerang, or Bebarang, for babies outgrowing their clothes every few weeks or months.
It’s true that I do quibble with the spelling of this name (wouldn’t Babarang, Baberang or Beberang be better?), but Bebarang is still very, very smart for the instant understanding it creates in anyone aware of the French word for baby, which is pretty much everyone.
As with TakeTims, this is a name so smart, it looks like creating it would have been easy. Wrong. There are hundreds of other directions Kim could have gone in. The boomerang concept would not be top of mind at all, at least to non-Australians. Indeed, Bebarang shares the hallmark of so many great names: it makes the difficult challenge of conveying a brand’s essence look effortless.
#1. Double Down
KFC’s Double Down “sandwich,” launched in October 2010, has no bread. It is simply two chicken breasts, one on each side of two bacon slices, cheese and sauce, and comes either deep fried (leading to a 540-calorie sandwich with 32 grams of fat and 1,380 milligrams of salt) or grilled (resulting in 460 calories, 23 grams of fat and 1,430 milligrams of salt.).
Consumer interest in the launch of Double Down was so intense that the media, after covering the launch itself, began to file stories that sought to understand our fascination with the product. Double Down’s brilliant name was undoubtedly a critical success factor in creating this fascination. As was pointed out, Double Down’s calorie count, stratospheric though it was, was in fact lower than Wendy’s Baconator at 610 calories. And it’s a total wimp compared to Burger King’s Triple Whopper with Cheese, which has an absurd 1,250 calories and 84 grams of fat. So: what exactly was it about the Double Down name that vaulted this product over competitive sandwiches that are even worse for you?
In short, befitting a product that is nonetheless fatty is a name clogged with memorability and meaning.
At two words and three syllables, Double Down capitalizes on the fact that short names are inherently more memorable; the alliteration of the Ds is a further assist. At the most intuitive level, Double calls to our attention the two chicken breasts of this sandwich (related, the fact that they act as the bread is definitely a key success factor). More deeply, the Ds create lumbering plosive sounds (“duh” for Double and “dow” for Down) which evoke in our minds a heaviness and slowness commensurate with something truly huge.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the name is that double down is a Blackjack term, referring to the option you have to double your bet when you have the best opportunity of beating the dealer. Anyone who has doubled-down at the card table will tell you that despite the improved odds, he is simultaneously jazzed and sweating because he is about to lose, or win, big. In other words, he is gambling big. Double Down thus encourages a fun and “go-for-it” attitude when taking this sandwich – and your very health – in your hands.
One million Double Downs were sold in just one month in Canada, from its launch in October to its pre-planned removal from the menu in November. That makes Double Down “the most successful menu item” in KFC Canada history. To what degree was the product’s name a factor? Just ask yourself: how many of these “sandwiches” would have been sold if KFC called it the Double Chicken Sandwich?