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What is in a name?

 

Several times in the past 3 weeks I have advised clients to consider changing the business name of their start-up ventures. None of them did. There were a number of reasons I made this suggestion but for the most part, it boils down to marketing.

I don’t make suggestions like this lightly. I know that most people have chosen their business name long before they work out the details of how the business will operate. A few have even chosen the name before they knew what type of business they were going to run under it. And that highlights the problem. Business proponents tend to be highly attached to their name on some emotional level: A child’s or spouse’s name; family history; a particularly memorable or important time in one’s life; a word or phrase with sentimental appeal; a tribute of some sort; a hybrid of words to create a new, clever word; plus a name chosen for its similarity with a competitor’s name. And many, many, other variations.

The problem with most of these is that the emotional attachment that the new business’ owners have with the words or phrases, does NOT translate into an emotional attachment between the business and its target market! All it means is that in most cases, you’ll need to spend way more on marketing your brand than you otherwise would have needed to budget. Or, alternatively, you could opt to simply experience much slower business growth than anticipated.

Frankly, the best business names are ones where there is ALREADY a latent and undeveloped emotional connection that exists between the words/phrases and the intended customers.

Consider the example of Canadian Tire. This company began in 1922 and the name was chosen by the owners, John and Alfred Billes, because it ‘sounded big’! Nothing whatsoever to do with customer appeal, just an implied notion that the brothers intended to grow a large company. In other words, it played to THEIR own emotional appeal.

Fast forward to the 1970s. Canadian Tire spent millions upon millions of dollars rebranding itself as, ‘Canadian Tire…More Than Just Tires.’ A marketing campaign that lasted the better part of 2 decades. Why did it need to do this? Because ‘Canadian Tire’ had no emotional appeal, and therefore, no relevance to the intended target market and the company was losing millions of potential revenue as a result. Was this strategy successful? Largely. Was it inevitable? Not really. Since the original owners had an idea that they were going to grow a large company, they probably had an inkling of that the company would eventually become what it is today – a large department store. Choosing a more appropriate name could have made the journey much easier.

your neighbour,

Jim

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