The name is the most important marketing tool and one of the most powerful communication weapons. There are names that become powerful allies, quickly leading us to success, and others that create an insurmountable barrier between us and the public, causing fortunes in promotion to be wasted.
Naming is a specialist discipline of Marketing and Communication that deals with the choice and design of names to identify products, services and companies. It is a subject for specialists, the result of a series of creative/communicative/analytical techniques and processes skilfully intertwined.
I will speak about it with Maurizio Sangineto, one of the most accredited Naming Specialists at international level, creator of hundreds of successful names for companies, organisations, products, services and initiatives, author of the first book dedicated to Naming: NOMINA E DOMINA.
A multidisciplinary artist, composer, organiser and multi-instrumentalist, he has developed a special creative naming technique based on an initial musical/creative and then cultural/scientific approach where, in a merry-go-round of evocative sounds, semantics, etymology and science, the name originates.
GA: In your book Nomina e Domina, you argue the importance of the name to dominate the product’s target market. Why is the name really so important? What are the concrete advantages of choosing the right name?
MS: The name is the first and most immediate communication tool that mankind has ever had at its disposal. It is able to differentiate us from one another and give us a precise identity, sometimes unique, in the panorama of others that exist.
It is also the first business card that puts us freely in contact with others. Whether it is our own name, a company name, a product or a service, it costs no one anything to read or say it.
Having said that, it is logical to assume its importance in semantic terms. If the name we have chosen evokes something related to who we are, what we do and possibly, how we do it, then it is a name that silently “works” for us.
Choosing one that meets these requirements basically means having a free advertising campaign forever at no cost. Quite an advantage, isn’t it?
GA: What are the secrets you can share with us to help us name our products and services correctly?
MS: It took me forty years of experience to codify a real method, but the choice of a name is one of those things that works in close connection with human instinct and it is not uncommon to find winning names chosen by people who did not have a specific background like mine.
The infallible method, however, to understand if the name is right is to ask yourself this simple question:
-Does the name I have chosen to represent me “speak about me and what I do” or am I the one who has to “speak about it to explain its meaning to others”?
Faced with this discriminating factor, you will see most of the names on the market drop like skittles.
GA: How much should the product name and the promise it contains be aligned with an ethic of effectiveness, considering that a lot of marketing research is geared more towards luring than promising something that is then kept?
MS: This question touches a very delicate key. Names are very powerful tools and they must be used first and foremost with behavioural consistency according to profound ethical principles. For example, I don’t agree to create names for companies or products whose principles I don’t share. The market is full of misleading names that make people’s subconscious think that they are doing a certain thing, but they are not. Just think of slenderizing or slimming cosmetics… It is as if, rubbing a cream on your legs for three days is enough to then go to the beach with a model’s body…
GA: Apart from the name, are there any other elements you need to take into account when launching a successful product?
MS: The name is the DNA of what it represents, but following this metaphor, then there is the individual with his or her outward form. I am referring to the logo, which is often able to help the understanding of a certain name through certain graphics.
The logo is the ‘dress’ of the name. If we think for example, of one of the most famous brands in the world, AMAZON, we cannot fail to notice that the arrow underneath the word, reminiscent of a smiley face, joins the letter “A” with “Z”. A silent way of explaining that on AMAZON there is EVERYTHING, from A to Z.
GA: How much do the visuals, apart from the name and logo, determine the success of a product, a service or a business initiative?
MS: What other element, apart from the name and the logo, is essential to give a successful identity to a business initiative?
We are in the age of the Internet and names are nothing if they are not accompanied on their journey to the public by an appropriate domain name, i.e., the sequence of letters we type after the classic “www.”.
And here things get even more complex. Several identical or similar names can co-exist in the world of trademarks, provided they are in different product categories. See for example the striking case of “FERRARI”, which represents both the famous car company and the best-selling Italian wine in the world. In the world of domains, which are unique, only one of the two can have the powerful “www.ferrari.com” (in the specific case, the car company, while the other had to make do with a “watered-down” domain such as “www.ferraritrento.com”).
GA: If you had to give advice to a start-up entrepreneur, what advice would you give them?
MS: Start-ups are in the ideal situation to get things right in terms of naming and, as a cascade, all communication follows. The advice is simple: choose a name that speaks about you and not a name that you have to explain to others. Then it is absolutely necessary to associate the domain name as coherent as possible, preferably identical to the name without any additional elements such as hyphens, abbreviations and other words. The best advice is to choose a .com domain name and, if it is not free, try to buy it if it is on sale. If the .com domain is already being used by someone else, it is better to change the name.