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Three Scientifically Proven Tests to Select a Name That Works

by Aaron Orendorff  |  
July 21, 2014

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," said Juliet in Shakespeare's iconic play.

Would it?

In the balcony scene, Juliet lamented the importance of names. After all, if Romeo's last name wasn't Montague, the play would have been shorter and happier.

So, names do matter. And maybe the rose by any other name would not smell as sweet.

That's the claim put forth by authors Al Ries and Jack Trout in their 1972 marketing classic book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. "Not only do you see what you want to see, you also smell what you want to smell. [This] is why the single most important decision in the marketing of perfume is the name you decide to put on the brand."

Now, let's be honest... To say that naming is the "single most important decision" in marketing—perfume or otherwise—borders on the ridiculous, doesn't it?

Maybe not.

The Market-Proven Power of the Wrong (and Right) Name

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Aaron Orendorff is a freelance copywriter "saving the world from bad content" over at iconiContent. By day, he teaches communication and philosophy full time at a local college in Oregon.

LinkedIn: Aaron Orendorff

Twitter: @iconiContent

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  • by BBL Mon Jul 21, 2014 via web

    That Trout and Ries' book still rings true is probably enough to earn it a spot in the literary business genre hall of fame. Perhaps it's the title that gives it its staying power. Practicing what they preached certainly worked for these guys.

  • by Jamie Hamilton Mon Jul 21, 2014 via web

    While there are some great points to this article which I will file away in my notes, I don't think that it necessarily pays off to have a no-nonsense, boring approach to naming a business. At some point, every business begins as a startup and has to build. I don't believe that 99% of businesses can't work with a creative name. If you have a truly great business idea, have done the right research, and are prepared to do what it takes to build a successful business, I think a creative and clever name can be a very helpful tool to help brand your business.

  • by Alden Mon Jul 21, 2014 via web

    Would love to see some examples listed in the 1, 2, 3 section. Specific examples about brands that follow a rule (or ones that don't follow the rule) might help make these tips more concrete.

    Oh, and I ordered that book from the link. Looks interesting.

  • by Aaron Orendorff Mon Jul 21, 2014 via web

    Glad to hear you ordered the book, Alden.

    And thanks for the feedback, Jamie.

    Maybe I can make this a twofer...

    Here are three of my favorite names/URLs that are easy to say, clearly identify what they do, and directly address a specific audience or need:

    Oh, and of course... MarketingProfs. ;)

  • by Jamie Hamilton Mon Jul 21, 2014 via web

    Thanks Aaron! I did pick up some good ideas. If my business ever takes off, I may have you to thank! ;)

  • by Steve Mon Jul 21, 2014 via web

    Your name testing points are well made, Aaron. Wish I could get a client to let go of her (new) existing business name and create another. The current name breaks all three rules!

    I would however add one important caveat to your observations. Context must also be taken into account. Meaning, a name will make sense/ring true when spoken or seen in relation to its surroundings.

    For example, one of your stated favourites is WeShootBottles. After pondering a little while, I could not figure out what they did. Put bottles on a fence and shoot them off with a BB gun? Is this some new wrinkle on paintball?

    When I went to the site it was obvious. But until the context of photography was introduced, the literal meaning still obscured the business function.

    The same is true of all abstract brand names. "I bought an apple today." Did I just buy a computer or a piece of fruit?

  • by Aaron Orendorff Wed Jul 23, 2014 via web

    Great note on context, Steve.

    I loved the line about "After pondering a little while, I could not figure out what they did. Put bottles on a fence and shoot them off with a BB gun?"

    The visuals help on that one. :)

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