Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Picking a name

Truth be told, I've never enjoyed working on naming projects for clients. It's incredibly interesting and a bit of fun, but the results are so unmeasurable and intangible. And the actual selection tends to be very subjective. Yes, going through a proper process helps, but it's almost always a tough go.

Picking my own company's name was not so bad. Actually, it was kind of fun. Perhaps in part because I will win or lose business not because of my company's name, but due to my personal relationships and capabilities. But also because I'm giving identity to something I'm trying to bring to life.

When I went down to the small business office the other day I had to register three names in order of preference. The first word in the names had to be unique and distinctive or, at least, unique when tied to the second word. The second word has to be descriptive of my business. I actually found this more challenging, as "advertising" isn't what I do. Nor is "communications". They're both too limiting. I went with "Marketing", in part because it's broad enough to encompass a lot of things. But I still don't like it for some reason, so I'll probably try to use it as little as possible.

I'll come to my first choice of names in a bit. My second naming option was Angry Salmon Marketing. Why? No reason whatsoever other than that it came to me the other day and I really liked it. It's distinctive, memorable, and pretty west coast. A friend challenged me with the question: "Don't you worry that it brings to mind mutant fish and laser beams? Is that what you want associated with your brand?" Of course the answer to that question is a definitive Yes! I can think of nothing cooler than mutants and laser beams to be associated with my brand. And you can picture the wicked logo.

My third choice of name, which I was sure it wouldn't come to because one of my first two would certainly be available, was Haford Industries. This was a name that my friend Jeff Ford and I used on all of our joint projects in the "special" class we took in high-school. (i.e. Short bus.) Haford = Ha(wes) + Ford. On one project we developed the Haford Transportation system, then demonstrated it on the school field using rockets, a styrofoam aircraft and fishing line. Needless to say, it went horribly wrong, causing danger to all who observed. I recall we got an A.

And, of course, my first choice of name was Blue Ant. What on earth does Blue Ant mean, I hear you cry? Well, it's actually a literary reference to an ad agency featured in two of William Gibson's most recent books, Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. Both fabulous reads. I was particularly enamoured of the description that Mr. Gibson gave to Blue Ant in the first book:

“Relatively tiny in terms of permanent staff, globally distributed, more post-geographic than multinational, the agency has from the beginning billed itself as a high-speed, low-drag life-form in an advertising ecology of lumbering herbivores. Or perhaps as some non-carbon-based life-form, entirely sprung from the smooth and ironic brow of its founder.”

Now, I do unfortunately have a smooth brow, but I'm not sure if it would be called ironic. I'll have to ask Colleen.

That description of the name gives me something to aspire to. So, while for most the name will remain essentially fun and meaningless yet memorable, for me it is a goal. A pretty sweet combination and something that I'll have to keep in mind the next time I take on a naming project for a client.

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