Zappos is Crappos

[Cache – #61]

We all have baggage.  And when you’re trying to name something, a lot of it comes out.  I once had a client who was dead set against a name because it reminded her of an old boss she didn’t like.  More common are objections based on fear that the name will be used as a weapon against you.  A customer angry at Zappos could call them Crappos, for example.  Second Cup can be morphed into Second Best.  Does this mean these companies shouldn’t have chosen those names?

Of course not.  Zappos and Second Cup are great names.  We only think of ways to distort them because we are too close to the process:  we have what Made to Stick authors Chip and Dan Heath call “the curse of knowledge.”  Because we are deliberately looking for ways that names can be misused, we have a difficult time accepting that to 99.9% of people, these distortions will never come to mind.

None of us walk through the grocery store thinking that Lays potato chips are a sexual reference, or think of a particular anatomic feature when we shop for a Volvo.  But now that I’ve put these names in that context, that’s probably where your mind is going (because concern about sexual references arises in every brainstorming process, bar none).

So:  is there a point at which a name should indeed be discarded because of its negative connotations?  Yes.  There is a restaurant called Fare, for example.  Fare of course means food, and on that dimension the name works, but it fails big time because the association with “fair” food is simply too obvious.  And I’ve just noticed this name for an HVAC company: Uponor.  I won’t tell you what the name sounds like to me – but I think it’s crossed the threshold.


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