In my early years in advertising I worked for a company with a typical name for agencies of the day. Take the owners last names, put them on the door and presto! You’ve got an ad agency. The odd thing was, this is the same method accountants and lawyers use to name their firms. Consequently, when I would tell people where I worked they would often ask if I was a CPA or lawyer. Full disclosure, I used to wear a suit and tie everyday, and I’m sure that added to the confusion.
So when I started my own shop the last thing I wanted to do was put my name on the door. I wanted to stand out from the crowd. I wanted to be the boy named Sue. Something different, something unique. ADwërks was born.
But it wasn’t long until a new agency popped up in town who decided on the name AdMark. Hmmm… out of 6 letters, 4 are the same. To make matters worse, the owner’s name was Jim. Confusion happened fairly quickly and we wound up in litigation defending our name. Needless to say, we won and ADwërks lives on.
Now I find myself pondering the problem of how to make an organization stand out from the crowd when they share parts of their name with more than a quarter of their competitors. Imagine your company is called Smith Jones Chocolates and when you list your competitors they include Smith Candies, Frank Jones Confections, Nancy Jones Chocolatier and more…different enough to avoid litigation, but similar enough to confuse customers.
In this case, most of the players have long histories and their markets didn’t overlap until long after the name was well seated and the companies had already grown to substantial size in their micro-markets. That’s not the case with the next example.
As frozen yogurt swings back into vogue the two big new players are CherryBerry and PinkBerry. I don’t know which came first, but it looks like one is trying to play on the goodwill of the other. Or vice versa. God help them if the next player in the field has “berry” in their name.
Puzzling isn’t it? How can you stand out in the crowd when the names are so similar. For your customers it must be a little like “Where’s Waldo” only in this case everyone is wearing a red and white striped hat and shirt.
My advice, when naming a product or business, make sure yours is unique, like that infamous boy named Sue. And like his father, fight to defend that name. What do you think?
- Jim Mathis