Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Business Basics 3. What is in a name?

Large corporations put a lot of time and effort into branding - much of which seems to be a waste of time to those of us Luddites who still think that Snickers should be called Marathon bars. The change of name can sometimes seem bizarre, when as part of a restructuring a well known brand or company name is thrown away - as seemed to happen when the Virgin Megastores were briefly taken over and run as Zaavi. Whatever value there was in a music retail store in the days of instant downloads, surely a lot of it resided in the Virgin brand which has been around for 40 years.

So there is worth to company names. As part of a current project we are researching into suppliers to major sporting events. As part of the process we have to look a huge range of companies, and a few things very quickly come to mind. The first is that you can very tell many of the one man bands - they are called things like John Smith and Associates (there is at least one in the UK, and I am sure it is a very fine business). Nothing wrong with the name, but it can lead customers to think that you are small and not as capable as you might be.

Secondly, companies that have quite specific names describing what they do, often keep the name after they have expanded away from their original priority. That makes it difficult for new customers to recognise them. An example we came across was an agricultural business that now makes temporary buildings for many different applications - but the Agricultural in their name possibly puts people off.

Third thing is that having a common name can make it very difficult to distinguish you from similar sounding companies. Your Company Ltd. may be practically indistinguishable from Yourcompany, and Your Company International, and Your Company Trading etc. Often companies are stuck in the bind of having built up a reputation over years, but now being indistinguishable from lots of others with similar names. Likewise companys named after places are hard to find on Google.

Finally if you have made your company stand out by having an unusual spelling, or using X instead of ex- or something similar - you had better hope that your advertising is strong enough for your individual spelling to stick in the mind - otherwise people won't find it.

The easier it is for people to find your business the better. Tradition or a fancy name should not stick in the way of easy recognition on the internet.
Do we follow these rules? Well, we do have difficulties with people not knowing how to spell PAWA if they hear it rather than see it. Something we will think about as we grow.