What’s In a Name? Holy Crap! Almost Everything
By Shlomo Maital
In teaching innovation, and in guiding my students’ wet/dry simulations of launching new startups, I always stress the crucial importance of names – what you call your new product or service. A strong catchy name can mean the difference between success and failure. Shakespeare’s rhetorical, “what’s in a name? A rose is a rose by any other name” is just wrong. Rainbow rose (see my blog, April 9, 2012), for instance, is far better than “multi-colored rose”.
John Grossman confirms this view in his New York Times article (April 25), “Risqué, funny …and flying off shelves”. He tells a wonderful story about Corin and Brian Mullins, whose debut product was a non-allergenic high-fiber breakfast cereal. They called it Hapi Food. Really bad name. But an ecstatic client called up to praise the product’s effectiveness. “Holy crap!” the client said, on the phone.
The Mullins laughed…and cooked up a new batch. Brian had worked in marketing communications. He knew he needed a new name for his product.
Why not call it Holy Crap?
Sales grew to $5.5 m. in the first four years, partly because of the name.
More and more products are choosing sassy, risqué, even pornographic names. You can buy wines called Sassy Bitch and Fat Bastard. You can buy a Kickass Cupcake. You can have breakfast at an LA restaurant called Eggslut. According to Eli Altman, author of “Don’t Call It That”, “it’s significantly more risky to have a boring name than to have a risqué one”.
Carey Smith began making industrial fans. He called his firm HVLS Fan Co., for High Volume Low Speed. Dull. His clients began asking about his oversize Big Ass fans. Eventually he changed the name of the company to Big Ass Fans. But the City Council in Lexington KY., a bible belt city, thought about forcing Smith to remove its name from the side of its building. The resulting PR was worth a fortune. True, Big Ass Fans got blocked by anti-spam…but lately, anti-spam is based more on reputation-filters and less on offensive words.
So – innovator! Choose a memorable, cheeky name! You may have a fantastic product. But how will people know about it? To get your product talked about, a risqué name can help. Like, the name of a Tampa Fla. Shop called Master Bait & Tackle. Get it? Or the Toronto construction company, newly named Mammoth Erection, which came with a picture of a woolly mammoth. The phones rang off the hook.