I’ll get to the regularly scheduled links in a bit, but I wanted to lead off with some recommendations from my 2019 media diet (a term I’ve borrowed from Jason Kottke, whose blog always makes for tasty consumption).
A couple of years ago I published a post about naming objectives: what a name should or must communicate. Naming objectives are a key element of your written naming brief, and one of the foundations on which names are developed.
There’s another important foundation: naming criteria.* If objectives are about meaning, criteria are about everything else that goes into a name: spelling, sound, legal requirements, web addresses.
I didn’t expect to spot a domain trend when I attendedMad Props, “a night of live storytelling to help us all understand the state propositions on the 2018 California ballot,” held Monday at a funky club near San Francisco’s Civic Center. Honestly, I just wanted to become a better-informed voter. But the trend was too obvious to ignore.
When I checked in I picked up a voter guide published by BytheBay.cool (“Our mission is to transform residents into citizens”); inside was a printed link for voters outside San Francisco, Ballot.fyi (“We're tired of the constant news about Trump. Luckily, California gives us 11* semi-ridiculous ballot initiatives to vote on and make fun of. We'll break them down for you, explain what different sides are saying and why your vote actually matters”).
Should you spend $1.5 million on a domain? Almost certainly not. As A Hundred Monkeys puts it: “While your emotions should guide you in naming dogs, kids, and boats, they need to take a back seat while you mull over dropping seven figures on a domain.”
What if you lose the right to your company name … and the name is your own? When it happened to fashion designer Kate Spade, she changed not only the brand name but her own. (The Fashion Law, via Catchword)
The strange case – as in legal case – of the Hasbro toy hamster named Harris Faulkner and the Fox News anchor named Harris Faulkner: “either a really weird coincidence or some very niche cross-marketing on Hasbro’s part.” (Consumerist)
Earlier this week I spoke via Clarity, an expert-advice service, with a CEO who was considering changing his company’s decade-old name. He told me he didn’t have the budget for professional naming services, so he and his business partner, both tech guys, had attempted to come up with a new name themselves. After 12 (!) months of brainstorming, they finally had a couple of candidates. One name, the CEO told me, was a great description of their product. The other name described what their customers wanted. They’d already bought a bunch of domains – some for more than $1,000 – related to both names.
I kept silent, but I heaved a private sigh. Within five minutes, my caller had mentioned the two troublesome D-words of naming: describe and domain. One of those words can doom a branding project; the other is almost always a distraction.
I’d hoped to hear a different D-word, the one that matters: distinctiveness. But my caller admitted he hadn’t known it was a factor in brand development.
That CEO is far from the only client I’ve worked with who has focused, misguidedly, on descriptive names and “available” domains and neglected (or been unaware of) distinctiveness. It’s such a common oversight that I wanted to take some time to talk about it.