There are many tasks and considerations when opening a new business, but one of the most important decisions is the name. Where to start?
First, think about how the name sounds and what the name means. Ikki Sushi and Yumei Sushi are almost side-by-side in Toronto ... which restaurant would you choose?
A name should inspire confidence in the product or service. It should also appeal to the designated target market.
Holt Renfrew clients are not likely attracted to Granny Perkins' Skin Cream, but the same product with a fancy moniker like Peau de Perle would likely sell.
The name of the company, product or service contributes greatly to the brand and ties into the target market.
The name should also be memorable, which means it should be simple and not spelled in unexpected ways unless it is meaningful to the target market.
In some industries, sole proprietorships assume the name of the owner. A fashion designer, for instance, gives his/her name to the label. Canadian designers David Dixon and Sunni Choi use their names as their brands. It is the same for art galleries.
When Amrita Chandra decided to open an art gallery in Roncesvalles Village, a trendy neighbourhood in Toronto, her MBA in marketing and 15 years of working in the field were assets right from the beginning when she needed a name.
She explains, "Most contemporary art galleries are named after the owner or director. Amrita Chandra Gallery is a mouthful to say, remember, and spell properly if somebody wants to look me up.
" 'Tinku' is my childhood name. It's easy to say, is spelled like it sounds, and is still my name so it carries my identity.”
It is also beneficial that the name is short and unusual.
Chandra says reaction to the name has been all positive. "Tinku is a conversation starter. The name piques people's curiosity so they ask me what it means or where it came from, and that leads easily to discussions about art."
Her lawyer conducted a name search to be sure Tinku was available and not previously trademarked in Canada, while Chandra checked to see if the domain name was open.
She registered TinkuGallery.com and is in the process of having a website developed. She says that an available domain name was critical to her decision.
"If Tinku web names were all taken, I couldn't have given that name to the gallery. People have to be able to easily find me online."
Hint: For preliminary, do-it-yourself searches, check out the government of Canada Canadian Trademark Database site at: http://strategis.ic.gc.ca It is also worthwhile to ensure that a domain name is available.
Check a website designed for this such as: http://www.cadns.ca/ cgi-bin/WHOIS.pl And register the .ca and .com versions if they are both available.
There are two important lessons to learn from Chandra's example. One is to choose a simple name, when possible, and the other is to research thoroughly. This applies no matter the size of the company, but if it is a large multinational, the process although similar is much more lengthy.
In 1927 when Rentokil started life as a pest-control company, its name was entirely suitable, but much later when it diversified into other industries, such as tropical-plant services, office cleaning and courier services, the name no longer fit and actually became a problem.
A potential client thinking of using the tropical plant division was put off because of the connection to pest control - businesses did not want the Rentokil truck parked in front, even if the company was just there to prune the plants. Two years ago, things began to change.
Michelle Rodwell, international brand and marketing director, was responsible for rebranding the office-services division of Rentokil, which includes interior landscaping and airscaping services (in Canada and the U.S.), plus art rental and interior decor services in other countries. This involved creating a new name for the division - not an easy task.
The first challenge was to find a common name that worked in 40 languages. Although the company is only in 14 countries at present, there are possibilities for expansion so parameters were set for a bigger footprint than was immediately required. The name had to be memorable, but not plant specific. And it had to be available.
Rodwell worked on the project with FST Marketing, a U.K. company. It was FST that came up with Ambius, a contrived name derived from ambiance. It took almost four months of research before they could move ahead with it, a period that seemed endless to Rodwell, although she concedes now that it was "... time very well spent. This is not something you can rush."
The company had to be absolutely sure that Ambius had no problematic meanings in other languages, and that it would be positively received. Says Rodwell: "Taking the time to find the right name is key."
They also had to check the availability of the domain name. They found it open everywhere except Australia and the Netherlands, where they had to register alternates.
After introducing Ambius in 14 countries over two years, Rodwell says that reaction has been positive both inside the company and out.
The bottom line? "We've seen increased sales as a result.”
And isn't that what rebranding is all about?
Some companies have learned the hard way the result of scrimping on research before launching names for products that ended up inappropriate. Everyone remembers GM's Chevy Nova. When it was introduced to Brazil, they found out that "no va" means "no go.”
A similar mistake was made when Ford launched the Pinto. Nobody wanted a car whose name meant "tiny male genitals."
Not all mistakes have such a major impact.
When Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in Quebec as "Gros Jos" which means (in slang) "a woman with big breasts," the name problem did not have a noticeable effect on sales.
But it is best not to take chances.
Do the research rather than make a boob-boo.
(Brenda McMillan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)