Wednesday, August 10, 2005

What's in a Name?

A brand name, be it a product name or company name, should connote in your audience’s mind your key positioning or messages. And, at a minimum it should not work counter to identifying your business. Sounds simple, right?

In branding circles we know that this often takes a great deal of time, money and effort. The starting point, naturally, is selecting the name. Some companies make up a word, like Kodak, which is completely free of meaning and then work on connecting it to their business. Others create descriptive names, like IBM – International Business Machine – which clearly identifies their business.

So, what were the guys who named Green Tree thinking? Green Tree, according to their tagline sells fine meats. What do green trees have to do with fine meats? I don’t know either, which is why it stuck in my mind.

I came across this company the other day completely by accident, but it really got me thinking. I’m sure there is some reason the owners decided to call their wholesale meat company Green Tree. Perhaps it is organic meat – doubtful since organic food companies tend to trumpet that distinction and these guys didn’t. Maybe their plant is on Green Tree Road? But how does that help sell meat?

I think that in today's business climate everyone is on such a kick to differentiate themselves that they are trying to take the easy way out. "I'll be different to the marketplace if I come up with a spiffy name." The problem is that they are coming up with counter-productive names. I think that this happens to the smaller guys, like Green Tree, as much as to the big boys, like Accenture. Instead, I like Seth Godin's point of view: Let's make our products and the stories that describe them more relevant.