My name is in every car

Akio was brave: he faced the facts and apologized for the cuts in the budget devoted to quality of the vehicles manufactured, which cost Americans the life of almost 40 people . The executive is aware that his own family name and, therefore, the reputation of the Toyota brand, may have been damaged and risk falling into a serious reputational crisis. Now, the Japanese company must focus all their efforts on recovering drivers’ trust in order to leave the crisis behind and be able to be proud again of being one the safest and most reliable car companies in the world. And that is already what they are doing, the first research studies point out that trust is being recovered after the fright.

The name is a brand’s main working capital, the first input a consumer receives, so precautions taken are never enough when it comes to choosing it. A good name means reputation, therefore seeking it and choosing it become a real challenge, since they may make the difference between a product or a company’s success and failure. This issue then requires full attention: it is our business card and it evokes a number of associations and perceptions which, from the name, need to be guided.


The name must fit in tone, form or meaning.

The first requirement for a name is for it to fit with the type of product it is offering. It must be well adapted to the attributes, perceptions or personality of the brand it is leading, avoiding misunderstandings that may confuse and mislead the consumer. One just needs to look at shelves in a supermarket to see cases in which this first requirement has not been taken into account. We can find products such as the tinned and ready-cooked food called BAJAMAR (in Sp. low tide), which have nothing to do with products from the sea, the antiacid medicine MAALOX (in Sp. Malo means bad) by Sanofi Aventis, or the cold meats MORTE (in Sp. similar to muerte, meaning death), with a quite sinister name (for example, think of the response on the phone “death, good morning”). We may also find names that provoke immediate laughter , such as the asparagus COJONUDOS (in Sp. goddamn good).


Easiness, flow and memorability

The second requirement for a name is for it to be distinctive, easy to remember, pronounce and write. VUELING, IPHONE, WII, KIT KAT or TUENTI, to mention a few, fully meet this requirement. They are original, they are catchy and they stay engraved in the consumers’ mind. On the other hand, we find brands that are difficult to memorize or pronounce in the Spanish market, such as MITSUBISHI, BREATHE RIGHT or SCHWARZKOPF, something that may lead to avoidable situations in its launch, as for example a consumer choosing a different product just out of fear of mispronouncing the name. And what to say about spelling! Due to its complexity, it may confuse the consumer when trying to identify the product. It is true that a brand as for example SCHWEPPES has managed to find a place in the Spanish market , but it has been done by focusing all its communicative and economic efforts in teaching us the correct pronunciation of the name, which affected the efficiency of its investments.


Extensibility and cultural acceptance

When a product that has been established for years is exported to other countries or areas of influence, keeping the name may be a tremendous error. Because it is not people we are talking about. Footballer Kaká didn’t change his name when he arrived in Spain, no matter how bad it sounded to us (in Sp. caca means poo, thank God the accent is on the other syllable), but in the world of brands it can be adapted and, in some cases, it should be done. What we mean is that a product’s name needs to be culturally adjusted to the different markets and rigorous linguistic filtering needs to be carried out in order to avoid problems. When that is not done, we find cases like ALLI, a weight-reducing product by GSK lab. It is spelled just like the adverb that means there, only without the accent. Then, the dot on top of the “I” in the logo is a straight line, very similar to an accent, which makes us think even more that the real name of the product is Allí (there), a not very relevant small detail that, however, does not help. When it comes to asking for the product, use and verbal context do matter. Imagine the following conversation between a chemist and a customer, it may verge on the absurd:

– What can I get for you?
– There
– Where?
– No no, There!

In this case, it may have been necessary to adjust it or choose a more “neutral” name for our market ,while keeping the design. Other examples that show the absolute carelessness of some companies regarding naming in our country are YMEA (in Sp. and pee, a product for the menopause!), kitchens TEKA GAS (in Sp. sounds like te cagas!, meaning no shit!), shoe cleaning products COLLONIL (reminds of cojones, meaning bollocks), sportive swimwear SPEEDO (in Sp. read as es pedo, meaning, it’s a fart), or the prestigious brand of clothes and accessories XOXO (in English kisses and hugs, in Spanish, read as chocho, meaning pussy). The car market is sometimes unfortunate in this aspect, and we may find names as curious as FIAT MAREA (in Sp. Fiat makes you sick), VOLKSWAGEN JETTA (in Sp. Cheeky Volkswagen), NISSAN MOCO (in Sp. Nissan Snot), MAZDA LAPUTA (in Sp. Mazda The Whore) or MITSUBISHI PAJERO (in Sp. Mitsubishi Wanker, in this case they became aware of the sexual connotations and changed the name for MONTERO). Considering all this, the importance of good and relevant linguistic filtering is clear.


Viability and legal protection
The third element is verification of legal availability. In order to present this last element to be taken into account, we will travel back to 1975. In that year, Amancio Ortega could not register ZORBA as a textile brand for it was not legally available and, after playing with the letters, he got to ZARA. This name, which has brought him enormous success, happens to be the name of a Turkish town. The Spanish company takes now to court any trader from that town wishing to register a name containing the word ZARA, even when the business is not related to clothes. The curious aspect of this case is that decades before Amancio registered Zara as a textile brand, it had already existed in Spain since 1921, as a liquorice brand.

In that moment nobody made a great fuss about it, but it is clear that we cannot risk having legal problems because of a name. We get to see, through our clients, lawsuits and changes caused by not having previously checked legal availability with their agents. Keep in mind that, according to the Spanish Office of Patents and Brands (OEPM), the average amount of yearly applications to register a brand is above 40,000, that is, more than a hundred per day. It becomes therefore necessary to be original, and create unique and distinctive names that nobody has even been able to think of. This is how we will avoid any sort of legal problem.

We cannot leave naming to chance, venture it or wait for some divine inspiration that will lead us to the most adequate name. The most advisable option is to put it in the hands of specialized professionals who follow a proven, complete, rigorous and precise methodology, who understand and know about verbal language and its culture, and have legal support for each of the points mentioned above, in order to guarantee success. Let us not play with our names: our company’s reputation is at stake, and that means everything. Otherwise, ask Akio Toyoda.

Francesc Arquimbau
Manager of Nombra (Coleman CBX)

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