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Book Reviewed by Harold Levy
William Shakespeare said: 'What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.'
Shakespeare had it wrong. Dead wrong. Read Naming For Power - Creating Successful Names for the Business World, by Naseem Javed, and you will find out why.
Javed is a name guru. For about 15 years he has been helping corporations create names that sell. His philosophy, in a nutshell, is:
"Names are like weapons: Marketing weapons, which have one main function: To come to the mind of a buyer at the time of a purchasing decision. Otherwise, why bother naming at all? You can simply use a number: Company 829 selling Product Number 311 plus."
And like weapons, names are fully capable of shooting their owners in the foot- especially in the global economy.
Javed tells how CM belatedly-discovered that its 'Nova' was simply not moving well in Spanish-speaking markets. "Maybe if they had hired more Hispanics in their marketing division, they would have known that 'No-Va' means 'no go' to any four-year-old child in Spain. Mexico- or New York City and Los Angeles, for that matter."
He also gets great pleasure out of telling us that the much-loved 'Body by Fisher' of CM fame ended up being translated overseas as 'Corpse of Fisher,' and that Ford renamed its 'Meteor' model 'Caliente' for South America, without taking the trouble of asking anyone living on that continent whether the term had any dangerous connotation there. Sure enough, 'Caliente' turned out to be slang for "hooker' for tens of millions of potential buyers in South America. "An interesting evening, perhaps," observes Javed, "but not the kind of car you wish to buy for your wife, husband, son or daughter."
So how does one avoid all of these pitfalls and
end up with a power name.
To be fair, the pages are loaded with good advice for avoiding problems and selecting high-powered names, for those who do not have access to professional assistance. He sets out a four-phase process for name management that encompasses name development, suitability of the name to positioning in the marketplace, availability, and protection from marauders.
The pages are also loaded with helpful examples, including some of special interest for Canadians. My favourite is his account of a press conference where he was asked about the wisdom of naming the new domed stadium, then being built in Toronto, after a prominent politician. Javed reminded the reporters of the dumping of a number of Canadian political leaders by the public, soon after they had been held in great respect and popularity. "Imagine if a stadium had been named after them." he warned.
Javed was also interviewed extensively on how Canadian brand names might fare with the friendly neighbour to the south. He opined that far too many Canadian corporations carried geographic names such as 'Canadian.' 'Northern.' and 'Arctic.-' which suggested limitations. "Indeed, names with 'north,' 'northern.' 'Arctic.' and even the impressive-sounding 'Canada' could alienate American consumers, suggesting coldness and frigidity." unless the products arc related to a wintry theme.
Naming for Power is a good, easy read. It's short and entertaining, and should help both those seeking to put power into names and those who may be required to write about this interesting process.
—Harold Levy writes on 'The Courts and the Law' for the Toronto Star.
Published in Sources, Summer 1994