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Thursday 8 November 2007

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Successfully creating the name of a brand or product is extremely difficult. Many factors have to be included, and it is even worse if it is to be sold across the world. A few years ago I read that the American car firm Buik had named its new car the LaCrosse. Unfortunately, this car was manufactured and sold in Canada, where there is a large French speaking population. LaCrosse is a word in Quebecois slang for “masturbate”. After much embarrassment, the Canadian name was changed to Allure. This is similar to a mistake made by Mitsubishi, who called their four wheel drive the “Pajero”. In Spanish, this means “wanker”. It was re-named Montero for the Spanish and American markets.

Ten years ago, Google was a development project called “Back rub”. In a recent Designing Instructions interview, Larry Page said “We spent a lot of time on the name because we figured that it would be important for people to be able to remember it”. Names like Holden, Crazy Johns, Telstra and ANZ are all successful names because they are easy to remember and part of our everyday life. It seems you cannot go one day without seeing a Crazy Johns advert on the television or a Holden driving down the road. Easy to remember and easy to promote do not always go hand in hand, it is the way marketers re-enforce our messages that create the sub-conscious inlet of information.

Back to Google, did you know that it was going to be called “googol”? This is mathematics’ term for 10 to the 100th power! Unfortunately when they tried to buy the domain name they found that (thanks to a spelling error) Google.com was for sale, whereas googol was not. However, that didn’t matter because they knew they had their name right there! Now, it seems natural to say “Let’s Google it” when we are confused or looking for something on the Internet.

As communicators, we know that re-enforcing your messages isn’t always as easy as 1, 2, 3, but sometimes it can be as easy and fun as taking off your spell-checker or even typing the wrong word… Try it sometime and see what whacky ideas you come up with! Remember, the quirkier the better.

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