Tag Archives: naming a product

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 – 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 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

Naming tip: number 67 in a series

I’m not one to follow fads.

But I’ve noticed a trend that I think is beneficial for anyone naming a brand, particularly for business names.

Watch what the web-based businesses are doing. I think they’re doing things right.

The first thing is a very basic admonition: don’t use more than two words in your name. Three-word names turn into alphabet soup because people will shorten those multi-syllabic mouthfuls by using the name’s initials, losing any identification and humanity the original name might have possessed.

Next; attempt to use single or two-syllable words instead of three or more syllables.

Then let the new name infer rather than describe. Inevitably when a name describes a product or service it becomes very serious and doesn’t reflect the personality of the brand. This the web businesses do particularly well.

Now for some examples, many of which have become household names in a matter of months. I’ll leave out the most well-known (Google and Yahoo) even though I believe those two are particularly responsible for the trend toward short and active names.

  • YouTube
  • Technorati
  • Propeller
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • SpicyPage
  • Twitter
  • FeedBlitz
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • BlogPulse
  • Spurl
  • Simpy
  • NewsVine
  • Kaboodle
  • IceRocket
  • Furl
  • Dosh Dosh
  • Bark
  • NetScape
  • Camtasia
  • BlogLines
  • FaceBook
  • MySpace
  • SlideShare

Well that’s enough.

Now I know that many of these companies opted for a short name because they wanted a name that people could remember when they typed a domain name to access the web site. And there certainly wanted an unusual name that was available as a domain name. This is valid.

But the end result are short, unique and memorable names. These are the types of brand names that will also be effective in off-line environments as well.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tip: Number 66 in a series

Alphabet soup, no. A well thought out acronym, possibly.

Generally, I’m not opposed to acronyms. If we stick with the most stringent definition, “A word formed from the initial letters of a name” (NASA, RAM); or a more lenient definition, “A word formed by combining initial letters or parts of a series of words” (WAC for Women’s Army Corps), RADAR for radio detecting and ranging), I believe a name like that might be viable.

This is especially true when a name like Federal Express that’s developed recognition and a loyal following is shortened to FedEx out of familiarity, and retains a link to the original. It’s not so true when the original words have no recognition. Then the acronym was no relationship or connotation to the consumer.

Now a string of three initials that DO NOT form a word (where each letter must be pronounced – IBM, CIA) is not an acronym. These types of names should be avoided altogether. They just don’t have any personality, and until they are firmly established, over time and at great expense, no relevance. IBM had the money and the exposure to turn International Business Machines into IBM without losing the company’s heritage and panache.

But how can you embrace CRW? In addition, these name types are not memorable. They are just three random letters to most people.

There is a subset of initial-grown names that can work. Over time certain phrases have been shortened to initials and over time those initials become familiar shorthand for the original phrases. Examples: RPM, VIP, MVP. If a set of initials that carry an attribute that’s appropriate (and not already snared by a competitor), I’d say jump on it. It’s a rare occurrence when product and available initials align.

I have compiled a list of such initials-with-meaning “ initial sets. If you’d like one, just email me at martin@signaturestrategies.com, or leave your request in the comment box below.

Martin Jelsema