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Brand Naming Survival Guide: Beware The Literalist.

Brand Naming Survival Guide: Beware The Literalist.

In every naming project, potential names are subject to scrutiny. They should be judged on how well they map to positioning, memorability, stopping power, emotional impact, connections to the collective consciousness, distinction from competitors — the sum of which answers the most important naming question, “Is this name interesting?“.

The literalist will critique names based solely on dictionary definitions, reliably in the form of an objection. Their claim will be that a word’s negative meaning or association(correlation) means that the value of the word as a name will also be negative(causation). The evidence they cite in their efforts to kill a name is irrefutable fact, yet completely irrelevant and counterproductive. A negative definition does not a negative name make — there is no causation from correlation.

Here are some of the known tactics a literalist will use to kill great name:

Slack

lululemon

Virgin

Hotwire

Yahoo!

Oracle

LoveSac

If you encounter a literalist, keep your distance, maintain eye contact, and take the threat seriously. Do not run in any direction. Don’t bend over, crouch down or go fetal. Wave your arms in an alpha manner. Throw any toxic item you can find — Keurig pods, inspirational posters, focus group data, etc. If attacked, fight back. If this doesn’t work, your last chance for survival is to enlighten the literalist:

These literal objections are not reasons to abandon a name, rather they have demonstrably positive effects on a target audience. Consumers don’t process names literally, they process them emotionally. Getting your committee to acknowledge this difference and to interact as the public does with names, rather than the way the dictionary does, is essential:

Slack

Hotwire

Virgin

Oracle

The ‘common wisdom’ that naming in large groups will discourage a literalist attack is nothing more than urban legend. In fact, the larger the committee, the more likely an attack will be.

Further reading: Outwitting Squirrels

Brand Naming Survival Guide: Beware The Literalist.

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