With a naming agency, a naming copywriter and a naming consultant springing up on every corner of the web, many have asked: what should we look for when it comes to our own pride-and-joy-to-be?
For strategic and creative support with your service, product or company naming, seek out someone who understands that a name isn’t just a way to establish an identity, but to further the sale. It’s this fundamental business disconnect you hear me ranting about, well, pretty much constantly. And it’s not that creativity and innovation aren’t huge parts of both the marketing and naming equation. They most certainly are, and that happens to be a firm specialty of my own. It’s that those creative solutions need to comply with strategic mandates.
“Strategy?” people ask. “Don’t you creative types just sit around tossing out ideas until something good pops?” Um, no. While that’s certainly a part of the process, let’s call it the “Mad Men” part of the process, it leaves way too much out. Like defining the task at hand, putting some concrete objectives into place, approaching the matter as if it were any other important business development initiative. ‘Cause it is.
Now, of course, anybody can claim to be strategic. It’s another one of those giant abstractions that get us nowhere, like “service.” But here’s the thing: in reviewing anybody’s creative work, it’s not the work itself you should let distract you. It’s their narrative about the work to which you should prick up your ears. If it’s a problem-solving narrative, one where key choices, tough choices, were identified and rationally decided upon… that’s the juice. That’s how you’re going to find out the level of thinking involved. That’s how you’re going to determine whether or not you’re sitting in front of the real deal or somebody who just follows the manual or prescribes the same formula regardless of what ails ya.
Recently, I was called in for “an emergency consult” by a business owner who couldn’t fathom why the company naming agency (one of the better ones, at that) he had hired failed after two rounds. As it turned out, most of the time they had spent with him revolved around name types (metaphor, alliteration, allusion, etc. — more on company name types in a future blog post) and his own personal style and taste preferences. This is where creative assignments of all types, not the least of which is naming, go wrong: if loose lips sink ships, then loose briefs sink businesses.
After reviewing their submissions, I told him: I can tell just by looking at these that real, earnest work was done here. I saw that they had explored many paths, and were paying (almost too much) attention to his stated likes. But, ultimately, an unhappy client is an unsuccessful job. For the failure to identify a strategy for the name, which often times requires more brand discovery, I blame both of them. But the lion’s share of the blame goes to the company naming agency. Did I want to take a stab, he asked. What do you think? Do you think I agreed to throw yet more darts at a board for which the bulls-eye will remain undefined? Pass-a-dena! Beyond happy to help those who truly want to “up” the level of their game and their understanding of a proven process. But when people keep their creative assignments at the level of a guessing game, it always makes me wonder if there isn’t some kind of control/power grip thing going on. Pass, not a fit for me. Off principle.
It’s up to us, as copywriters, designers and the brand ambassadors of branding itself, to educate our clients, to serve their ultimate best interests by steering them through the creative sides of business. When we accept an “I’ll know it when I see it” mindset, we do more than simply devalue our work and derail the process. We actually reinforce marketplace perceptions that the creative arts are just one giant crap shoot. But authentic design has always been about problem-solving. True, it may not be the exact science our business counterparts may want it to be. Yes, there’s wiggle room and room for the wonderfully unexpected to emerge. But a crap shoot? At this level of the game, with proven discipline mastery and plenty of experience? Hardly. That’s Little League. Let’s leave that to the overseas workers, the crowd, the recent grads and those who just completed their “How to be a copywriter” e-book courses.
You need a company naming agency or brand consultant who doesn’t just work to reflect your company through its name, but to elevate its presence within the target’s mind, taking both a highly analytical and creative approach to the process. You’ve gotta put the time in. You’ve gotta find somebody who will challenge every existing premise you may have about your company and its prospects in order to get both of you ahead further and faster.
Since prior naming generations may be protected by confidentiality clauses, ask: a) to hear more about your potential partner’s brand naming philosophy and process, and b) whether the brand name consultant or copywriter can easily convey how branding, positioning, and your ongoing marketing outreach all relate to this core element of your company’s identity.