How not to name your company!

Auchan Supermarket

A few days ago, I was walking around in Gurgaon when I noticed the poster above. Take a closer look – do you see anything peculiar about it?

Notice the bright red patch below the name of the hypermarket, telling you how to pronounce the name? Well, that is what the choice of a bad name can do to you!

As I was thinking about it, here are some thoughts that came to my mind about how not to name your company:

  1. If it’s not a name that you can easily pronounce, you are not going to tell your friends about it and it instantly kills any free publicity that you could get. Who wants to look stupid in front of friends by pronouncing a name incorrectly – you would rather not talk about it.
  2. The name should have a reflection in the local dialect and should easily blend in. There are names that blend naturally across all countries / cultures ( think Google, Coke, Pepsi, Facebook, Tata, Reliance etc ) and there are ones that do not blend in so easily ( think Isuzu, Auchan, Kyocera etc ).What matters here is not the existence of the “exact” word in the local dialect, but the existence of “similar” sounds in the local dialect as you speak. That is what explains why brands like Mitsubishi, Honda, Yamaha, Yahoo, Google are successful in India whereas brands like Isuzu are not.
  3. Try to make a sentence with your company name and say it out loud. If you don’t feel the zing, perhaps others won’t either.
  4. Tell a couple of friends about the name you intend to choose. Call them the next day and ask them if they remember the name. If they do, you’ve got it! If they don’t, well, you know what to do.
  5. And last but not the least, there is another step these days that makes it harder to narrow down a good name. You’ve got to have a domain name ( .com, .org, .net and any other local extensions ), a twitter handle, a facebook page and a pinterest page available for the name you choose.

If you have more ideas / thoughts / experiences, would love to hear and expand the list. Please leave your ideas in the comments box below.

5 thoughts on “How not to name your company!”

  1. I think to be fair to them – its a French company, and its difficult to come up with names that would be just right across all markets they wish to serve. Consider Louis Vuitton – no doubt the brand itself is huge, but I hear a lot of Indians mispronounce it because French is not our natural language.
     
    I think the smart thing for ‘Auchan’ would have been to let each market come up with their own versions of how they say the name. Telling people how to say their name is just silly (especially putting it on billboards!)I agree with you that some names just sound wrong – like Skoda Laura for example. But in this case, I think the French would have just had to put up with an Indianized name of their brand. Similar to what IKEA did – different markets say the name differently and that’s fine. Irrespective of how everyone says it, the brand identity is very clear.

  2. @saumyachandra Thanks for your response – you have some very valid points there.
     
    Another point in favor of ‘Auchan’, in addition to what you have already mentioned is that they are not an online company and perhaps never thought they would expand globally when they started. The intent of the post was not to criticize the name ‘Auchan’ but to think about why some names are more successful globally and others are not.
     
    Agree with your point about ‘Louis Vitton’. However, such brands are only successful in luxury markets and blatantly create an aura of being non-desi to appeal to their target segment. A general person may not be able to pronounce their name but the audience that they appeal to is certainly able to and to some extent feels exclusive because of it.
     
    What you suggest is a very smart strategy – finding a localized name to connect with the larger brand. Coke did this really well when they launched in China.

  3. Name certainly matters and can definitely make or break a brand. Simplicity to remember & pronounce is the first hurdle. Second to me is to be able to resonate with what the product aims to achieve. From one of my professor’s blog I can recollect a very interesting case in point: Nokia Asha. Asha, a very common hindi term, is easy to pronounce but very few youngsters would be interested in buying an Asha phone. Reason to me is that the term Asha, meaning hope, connotes ‘compliance’, ‘old age’, ‘being simple’, ‘conformity’ etc. which we can not associate easily with a product like Mobile Phones.

  4. @ShaktiChittara Well said Shakti. It is very important for the name to be able to create a mental image of your product in the mind of the target segment, and that mental image should resonate with the actual product.
     
    As we speak, Nokia Asha has figured out its niche and has sold over 10 Mn phones in the last couple of months. And it’s not the youngsters ( who have their first job and disposable income ) who are buying it. It’s either students, whose parents are buying a phone for them ( and don’t want it to be an expensive gadget ) or feature phone users who are loyal to Nokia and are upgrading from their entry level phones to the next level. The product, in fact has done a great job of exceeding expectations for both these segments.

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