Every once in a while, Zinzin comes across a name that turns our heads. Usually, it’s because the name sounds, looks, or otherwise seems unusual or interesting — like marine algae Heterosigma Akashiwo, paint color Dead Salmon, or eyewear brand Warby Parker. This time it’s the slime mold Physarum Polycephalum, otherwise known as The Blob.
Archives for October 2022
The World Series is here! This namer is a big fan of Major League Baseball (MLB), and Zinzin always loves to explore worlds outside of its own to find naming inspiration. So, let’s look at the rich naming traditions in the world of baseball, where the use of nicknames, in particular, is as fun and fascinating as the sport itself. More specifically, let’s look at the team naming history and current (active roster) player nicknames of the two teams in the 2022 World Series: the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Your company or product name is the first and most elemental point of audience contact with your brand. In many respects, your name is the brand. It sets the tone. It’s the handshake, the introduction, the first impression (formed within a matter of seconds) for everything your brand is about.
Your name is the cornerstone of your entire brand identity to follow — logo, tagline, advertising, website, etc. That’s why it’s vital to get it right. And in our experience, evocative names pack the most powerful brand punch.
Imagine a software company that makes a sophisticated and complex product. Presumably, it has a marketing department and an engineering department. Now imagine the employees of each department giving each other specific advice on how to perform their jobs. Having trouble imagining that one? Yup, us too.
The employees in the marketing department would never dream of telling the engineers how to program the company’s software, and the engineers don’t meddle in the company’s marketing business.
However, when a company decides to name (or rename) itself, dynamics can change quickly. Seemingly everybody, from the CEO to the security guard’s second cousin, wants to weigh-in, haggle, argue, condemn, and second-guess the company naming process and proposed names.
You could say that naming is the shortest form of writing there is. Maybe that’s why I’ve always found inspiration in the process and advice of great authors.
Way back in 2012, I read a wonderful opinion piece in The New York Times called My Life’s Sentences by the author Jhumpa Lahiri. She wrote about the art and craft of writing sentences, and the role they play in her own writing. To this day, her opinion makes me think about our own naming process and continues to inspire creativity here at Zinzin. Lahiri begins,
Everyone has nostalgia now and then — that warm and fuzzy feeling of fondness often from a familiar aspect of our past. Maybe it’s inspired by a specific place, a song, or even a scent. But what about brands and brand names? Can they evoke nostalgic feelings? The answer is a resounding yes, judging by pop culture trends, cycles, loops, and pendulums. (The Nostalgia Pendulum — it’s a thing; more on that later.)
The business of nostalgia is big, and we here at Zinzin are curious about it. For instance, is “the nostalgia loop” (it’s a thing too) a 20, 30, or 40-year cycle? There seems to be arguments for each scenario, so imagine this blog post is an Oldsmobile station wagon … climb in “the way back,” and join me on a road trip to discover more about nostalgia and naming. (Cheesy? You bet. But if you’re feeling nostalgic all of the sudden, we’re probably in the same decade of life. And perhaps you also geeked out over the Netflix original series Stranger Things.)
Plato, you saucy philosopher, you really get us namers, don’t you? We don’t usually wax Socratic here at Zinzin, but it warms our creative hearts to know that way back in 375 BC a great thinker understood the connection between creative invention and great need. In his famous dialogue, The Republic, Plato wrote, “Our need will be the real creator” — a proverb more widely known today as “Necessity is the mother of invention”…or of invented brand names, as this case may be.
What’s an invented name?
An invented name falls under the category of brand names that includes purely made-up, morphemic mash-up, unknown foreign words, and abstract names with no inherent meaning. Some call them fabricated or newly coined. At their best, invented names can be poetic, rhythmic, and ripe for investing with the soul of a brand (think Google). On the other hand, bad invented names, often suffering from “morpheme addiction,” litter the cultural landscape, and should serve as a cautionary tale when going this route.
In savage economic times, a company’s bottom line is on the line. External factors beyond a company’s control affect its performance, including customer buying habits. However, one thing that is within a company’s control is branding. And we’ve noticed that more and more top brass realize how important it is to get branding right. Usually, it all starts with a great name.
So, in naming, how does a company stay competitive and connected with customers in an economic environment that seems so unreal?
The answer, it seems to many, is to “get real” — really real, as in using the word “real” in a company name to communicate authenticity, which leaves Zinzin reeling. As we see it, to be truly authentic, a brand name must demonstrate, not explain its realness.
Check out this very real naming trend we call the “Get Real” movement and why it’s really gotta go.