What's in a name?

NY TImes namingEntertaining piece in the NY Times about the “weird science” of naming new products.

As you probably know there are agencies – and divisions within larger agencies – that specialize in this. The people in these jobs come from a variety of backgrounds; the man featured in the article studied linguistics but there are also poets, musicians, rappers, comics – you name it. Anyone can do it as long as they have a gift for words.

Some of the highlights:

  • In 1955, Ford used the poet Marianne Moore to name what eventually became the Edsel – that was kind of a disaster. One of her suggested names for the Edsel: The Mongoose Civique.
  • These specialists understand thoroughly how various sounds unconsciously convey both emotions and physical properties (e.g. fip sounds "faster" than fop).
  • Product naming in the pharma industry is especially complex. The Food & Drug Administration has published a 33-page manual about it.
  • This might be a whole lot of nonsense. All else being equal, you would rather have a good brand name than a bad one, but there are plenty of brands with seemingly awful names – iPad, Yelp, Gap – that have been quite successful.