Category Archives: Name Creation

A Bad Product Name: BelVita

A new commercial caught my eye and ear last evening. It was for a breakfast bar named Belvita.

I was doing a crossword puzzle at the time so my concentration was split. (That’s what happens so often with most people, and that’s why most advertising is not very effective.)

The thing I first thought I heard – ie, the audio – was “Velveeta”, a mainstay brand from Kraft Foods. But when I looked up, there was a breakfast bar/cookie being pitched. It wasn’t until the end that I saw the package and the name, “BelVita”.

These names sound alike
These names sound alike

I wonder why anyone marketing an energizing breakfast bar to would adopt a name so linguistically close  to the name of a bland American cheese?

I always do an auditory test of names I recommend to clients, as well as attempt to recommend only name candidates that will steer clear of possible linguistic and legal entanglements. Might Kraft take issue? Probably not because  Mondelez International, owns both Nabisco (Belvita’s parent) and Kraft. But if  I were the “brand police” at Mondelez,

I’d sure raise a stink.

But just as bad as the confusion the name might cause is that the name is linguistically “limp”. “Bel” is first and foremost a feminine syllable. And though “Vita” leads to “vital” or “vitamin”, it certainly takes a back seat in this name. Wouldn’t it be more powerful to lead off with “Vita”?

Anyway, it’s a name I wouldn’t have recommended. How about you?

Here’s a video about naming that could be helpful. Enjoy!


Naming Tip 74 – Name for the Long Haul

An early icon of technological retailing is changing its name.

Radio Shack changing its nameRadio Shack will become known now as “The Shack”.

The old name was just too restrictive. True be told, it was always too restrictive, even when they were mostly selling do-it-yourself electronic kits.

I don’t know what transpired to make Radio Shack management decide it was time to change after all these years. They were certainly tenacious for decades.

So here’s the tip: look at name candidates with at least one eye on the brand’s future. Can you imagine a scenario when the candidate you’re considering just might not be appropriate and more?

Now “The Shack” eliminates the restriction. But if I were The Shack, I’d have considered going all the way. Why hang on to part of an inappropriate name? Do I, in the 21st Century, want my company associated with a shack?

They had an opportunity to break away from the “rinky-dink” and forge a new, modern image.

But I can see their reluctance as well. They felt they had equity in Radio Shack, and that some of that good-will and personality could be saved with a transitive name instead of a clean break. But how long will management – and the public – want to be associated with a shack?

I’ll bet they’ll want to make another change within five years.

A little fortitude builds better brands than hedging can.

Naming Tip – Number 73 in a Series

Comprehensive lists of all sorts of “stuff” can be the source for brand name candidates. They may or may not be directly related to the product brand, but that doesn’t keep some list members from being appropriate name candidates.

For instance, I ran into this list quite by accident: Birds of North American Species List at the website of the publisher of Smithsonian Field Guide to Birds of North America, Scott & Nix. I followed a link from an e-mail from Chuck Green of IdeaBook – an always-looked-forward-to monthly combination of great design-oriented links and promotional offers from Chuck’ Design Store – to the Scott & Nix list of 50 favored type faces. Next to that article was a link that peaked my curiosity, and sure enough, there was a very long list of bird names.

You can access this particular list by clicking Bird Names.

Keep you eyes open for other comprehensive lists that might yield name candidates. If you know of one or two, or as you discover them, please come back here and post their location in the comments section of this blog. Who knows, we may establish a database of name candidates here that could be of value to all brand name developers.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tip: Number 72 in a series

If your brand is a local/regional business, use the telephone book as a check for originality.

Look up your preferred name candidate in the alphabetical listings. If there are three or more business names beginning with the same first word, you should try the next candidate.

Too often people like to name with a local flavor with the mistaken idea that the residents will be more comfortable with a home-town enterprise. This thought hardly ever persuades a customer to choose a service provider.

More important is a name that’s unique and memorable. It needn’t be “cute” or localized.

If multiple companies share a name there’s a good chance confusion will keep customers guessing, and possibly moving on to a competitor.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tip: Number 71 in a series

Last couple of brand naming tips had to do with linguistics. This one does, too.

Other linguistic-based naming approaches can prove to be very effective in naming brands.

I’m thinking of three in particular: rhyming, alliteration and onomatopoeia.

When rhyming for a name, it’s best to concentrate on one-syllable words like Rare Care or Whim Jim. But I’ve also created multiple-syllable rhyming names that are effective – Compliance Alliance comes to mind.

Alliteration pairs words that begin with the same one, two or three letters. I’m fond of alliteration and named my company Signature Strategies. I’ve also created Cognitive Connections, Marketing Matters and Learning Link.

Onomatopoeia means that a word sounds like what the word refers to. For instance: buzz sounds like a buzz, crack sounds like a crack, zip sounds like zip.

These techniques make names easier to remember, and therefore, easier to become “viral” in the word-of-mouth campaigns that effectively increase brand awareness.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tip: number 70 in a series

Pronunciation and spelling of a new brand name may be important, particularly if the brand is to rely on word of mouth for recommendations and/or web-promotion.

I’d do two things in evaluating candidates.

First, I’d telephone six to ten friends and use a name candidate in your conversation. Then ask them to repeat the name, then ask them to spell it for you.

Second, I’d approach people and hand them a sheet of paper with a short paragraph of copy which includes a candidate. Then ask them to read the paragraph back to you to see if the spelling fits the pronunciation.

If you get poor pronunciation and/or mispellings, well, it’s time to go back to the master list for additional candidates.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tip: Number 69 in a series

The other aspect of auditory name evaluation (I briefly covered linguistics in Naming Tip 68) concerns the proximity of brand name candidates to other names and words that might cause confusion or embarrassment.

We’ve all listened to a radio commercial and not heard the brand name clearly pronounced. Or perhaps the name reminds us of another, sometimes negative, idea.

I suggest recording the name candidates, perhaps only the last five or six finalists, in the context of a radio commercial. You will get to hear the names in a “live” setting. I’d play them back at least an hour after you’ve recorded them to “cleanse the palette” so to speak before passing judgment.

In addition, if the brand name may be used in other countries, be sure to check it in languages used in those countries. Both formal and common language useage should be checked through a translation service.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tip: number 68 in a series

When evaluating brand name candidates, pay attention to the sound of them.

There are two aspects to this admonition. I’ll tackle linguistics in this post and the other aspect in next week’s naming tip.

We know certain letters and letter combinations can add power (the “plosives” like j, k, p, t), or at the other end of the scale, they may add lyricism (m, n, ph, sh). This is a fuzzy area and there’s controversy about the importance placed on linguistics in naming. Yet, the study of linguistics has established some guidelines, such as:

  • The letters a, b, m, s and t are reported to evoke positive emotions.
  • Negative feelings are more likely associated with f, q, x and z.
  • Sounds associated with speed are f, s, v and z.
  • The vowels a, o and u are more masculine, while e and i are more feminine.

Naturally, each name candidate will be made up of a combination of letters, so these linguistic observations may or may not apply, or may apply partially, depending upon those combinations.

Just couple these ideas with common sense.

Martin Jelsema