As someone who, for a felted wool ball I tried to commercialise, came up with one name ‘Sheep Balls’, I’m only too well aware of the dangers of a poor brand name.
A recent edition of The Economist has Johnson, a book reviewer, giving the once-over of Alexandra Watkins “infectious little book”.
Watkins, the founder of a branding agency called Eat My Words, has (appropriately in her game) written a book called, “Hello, My Name is Awesome…How to Create Brand Names that Stick”.
She’s created an acronym, SCRATCH, to the mistakes that make customers go “what?”
These what not to do’s come under:
S – Spelling-challenged
C – Copycat
R – Restricted
A – Annoying
T – Tame
C – Curse of knowledge
H – Hard to pronounce
Most of these are, once you read them, relatively obvious.
The point Watkins (and Johnson) makes about unusual spellings is that it requires a customer to remember something different.
People avoid extra effort every chance they can; while a name that is hard to remember or spell is harder to Google – and that alone in today’s digital environment can be disastrous.
The recommendation is not to get too worked up whether your brand can cross borders.
As Watkins points out, unless your brand is truly going to be found in every corner of the globe (really, straightaway Mr/Ms Entrepreneur?) you’re unlikely to offend speakers of a language you’ve never heard of.
Pronounceability in a variety of languages is probably more important. A mostly consonant-vowel syllable structure makes Zalando, Lomoda, Lazada, Jumia, Dafiti and their like easy to say in a lot of languages.
(Some letters, c, q, j and x, have very different sounds even in closely related European languages Watkins says, and “are best to avoid if you aim for global domination”.
The rest of the Eat My Words website, for a San Francisco based business, is full of insightful observations too. In particular, check out their examples of names you will and won’t get from them.