What’s in a name?

Andre wrote an interesting article on naming products yesterday. This is where I step in and argue the opposite: names don’t matter.

I was talking with Chris one morning and we stumbled into an interesting discussion. What do you think of when you hear of some famous company names for the first time?

  • Burger King and McDonalds – If you heard these two for the first time which would make you think ‘delicious’ and which would make you think tools or something?
  • Maceys and Forbes – Would you know the difference between a clothing store and a business magazine? Using a last name tells me nothing about a company. Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club are awesome extensions of Sam Walton’s name.
  • General Motors, Ford, Toyota – Hmm, I’d think General Motors is probably something to do with motors. Cars though? Perhaps. Ford and Toyota? No way.
  • Safeway – First aid? Airbag manufacturer?
  • Flickr – Something to do with light. A camera flash.
  • meebo – Something about myself but I’d never think instant messaging.
  • Pandora – Something bad, cluttered, uncontrollable. Wow, isn’t it all about the opposite?
  • Google - I know everyone in elementary school was fascinated by the word ‘googolplex’ I’m sure I’d think of “a lot” and maybe math. Search, though? Never.
  • OK Dork- Uh….

It’s amazing how many companies actually use family names. Check out the Fortune 100 list: Wells Fargo, Sears, McKesson, Morgan Stanley, Time Warner, Walgreens, Lockheed Martin, Lowes, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Merrill Lynch, Walt Disney, etc.

So, when you’re spending hours coming up with a name for your new company, product, service or feature maybe it’s not worth your time. If it’s good the name will follow…

Feel free to prove me wrong…

Note: Article cross-posted at OKDork.com.