By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding
As part of naming or renaming your brand, should you ever have a survey or contest in which the public can suggest names and vote on them?
Some might expect me to answer my own question with a categorical “no,” because members of the public are not naming experts, and things can go horribly wrong. After all, one of the problems with asking people for their opinion is that they’ll give it to you. As evidence of this phenomenon in action, look no further than Boaty McBoatface, described by the New York Times as having far and away the most votes in an online solicitation by a British government agency to name a $287-million polar research ship.
Diamond Resorts International is another organization to recently solicit online suggestions as they rename a recent acquisition, Club Intrawest. Diamond manages more than 350 vacation ownership resorts around the world; Club Intrawest is a timeshare vacation club with nine locations across North America. Judging from a webpage that was active until approximately 1pm today (the survey ended at 1159am), Diamond emailed its customers last month to ask for suggestions on a new name for Club Intrawest, and received more than 1,500 submissions.
Here is the shortlist of five names that Diamond derived from those suggestions, and presented for vote:
Which one is the best? I have no clue. You shouldn’t either. Not nearly enough information was provided to make such a decision. Hopefully, Diamond did some considerably deeper thinking than evidenced in the brief written explanations to each name that were provided on the webpage.
But I still voted. Twice, in fact. For two different names. And I did not even receive the original email, because I am not a Diamond or Club Intrawest customer. And so it seems that anyone in the world was able to access the voting page. I have no horse in this race, but you might surmise that Diamond’s competitors do. How many, if any, votes did they cast? Which should call to the attention of Diamond, which wisely is reserving the sole right to make the final decision, that their data may be suspect to say the least.
So here are some thoughts on why, and how, to run a survey in a way more likely to yield meaningful results.
Because you want to generate awareness and excitement around your new name and brand. Not because you expect to get a great name out of it.
I use the word “great” with caution because the true objective of any naming process should not be to produce a great name per se, but rather, to arrive at a name that does the crucial jobs that all great names do. It is against these jobs that you should frame up your naming contest/survey: if you are going to run one, make sure you give your audience some tools to make helpful suggestions. Here are the top five most important jobs:
TOP FIVE MOST IMPORTANT JOBS OF THE NAME
Great names are worthy of word-of-mouth. People like to say them and talk about them. Think Google and Kijiji.
2.Communicate the brand foundation.
What is the brand foundation – the core purpose, vision, mission, position, etc – of the former Club Intrawest? From what I saw before the survey webpage was taken down, none of this was articulated. The first rule of naming is that to name something, you have to know what it is. And in this case, we do not know what “it” is.
Of the names on the Diamond shortlist, only Embarc, because it is a coined name in which the “k” has been changed to a “c,” might be considered distinct. Any time your name is a real word (think of Xerox as a totally made-up one) distinctiveness is going to be more of a challenge.
Memorability is driven by factors including being short, easy to spell and say, and being meaningful. Again, think about Google. We are all biased because of our prodigious levels of exposure to this name, but how difficult was it to recall after hearing it for the first time? It veritably glued itself in the grey matter.
5.Leverage an existing naming system, or create a new one
What other names does Diamond have in its portfolio? Based on their survey webpage, we do not know. Yet we want to know, because we want to add value to Diamond’s entire portfolio of names, and create a network effect in which every name makes every other name more valuable. Think of the clever and funny names Ben & Jerry’s dreams up for its ice creams. Monikers like Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey and the Jimmy Fallon-themed The Tonight Dough perpetuate interest in their other flavours. Just imagine if they named their next ice cream Chocolate. Considered on its own, would that name inspire you to seek out the names of other flavours?
Obviously reserve the right to make the final decision and even ignore all suggestions, which naturally will be at your peril – but you’re the one who decided to ask for input. (So you might, just maybe, want to kill the contest idea and retain a professional)
And finally: know thy respondents. Tightly control the voting process. For example, you’ve got to be sure you know who’s casting votes, and how many times they are voting. If it’s your competitors, or people who don’t really feel a stake in your brand, you’re really messing with your objective of flattering and bonding with your actual and potential audience – an objective that, in the context of a naming contest, should be your greatest hope.