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July 13, 2007 | Tate Linden
This Post is PG-13. Youngsters please go about your business elsewhere.

Frequent readers will know that I really do try not to slam peers in the industry over their work. I will occasionally discuss slip-ups (and we've pointed to a few from Landor), negative stakeholder reactions (Weber Marketing Group has been exceedingly helpful in bringing an inside look at a difficult project,) and bad decisions made by consumers. I did once tear apart a firm in New York for putting together a video that was so awful I couldn't help but watch the catastrophe multiple times to be sure I absorbed all of its horribleness.

After yesterday's post and numerous comments and emails on how strange Maryanna's business was, I was prompted to look into what else she has going.

Lo, she's a corporate namer.

...With an online portfolio containing "just a few of the many names created at Biz Naming Central."

This is the part of the story where things begin to go badly for Maryanna. Sadly it appears that it's the start of the story - and it pretty much stays on track from what we can see.

Maryanna has listed a slew of names - many of which are highly evocative. And most of which (again sadly) are fatally flawed. Also note that we couldn't find a single name on the list that was connected to a business we could locate online (not even a mention of the company in an online phonebook!) But maybe we didn't look hard enough.

It is obvious that Maryanna is a highly creative individual - we at Stokefire just happen to believe that creativity must be tempered by practical and experienced analysis, and we find that the latter is severely lacking. Here are a few (or more) examples:
  • "Accesstar" - Mortgage and Lending Services. Not too bad until you do a parse check and find out that that final "s" doing double duty ending "access" and beginning "star" now makes the name parse literally as "Access Tar." Might be good as an asphalt supplier, but the connotation that getting to your money might has anything to do with that sticky black substance rather ruins the name for us. It's a name that will horribly backfire the first time there's bad press.
  • "Buildonics" - Construction Planner and Developer. Okay, this one has two issues. The first is that the "bui" is an awkward grouping of letters. The eye expects to see "bul" and (two of the three people that read the name over my shoulder thought it was the latter.) The second - and more critical - issue is that the name doesn't make audible sense. Buildonics links (for us) to Ebonics (though we suppose any phonics would likely do.) We think that Maryanna was going for "We're fluent in building" but what it strangely evoked for the Stokefire staff was "We know how to mimic Bill Cosby." No, this wasn't a race thing. It's just that when you say "Buildonics" out loud it sounds just like "Bill-donics." As in Cosby. Is it just us?
  • "The Nutshell Cafe" - Organic Food Deli. This is another two-banger. First, the connotation that the organic food (already thought of as less flavorful than the bad stuff like Twinkies) might have the texture of nutshells... probably isn't going to win much business. Second - let's do a quick parse check. "Nutshell" parses into "Nuts Hell" - and again makes an easy insult when the service is a little slow. Is it so bad that we'd never use it? Nope. But we'd certainly make the ownership aware that the name could backfire.
  • "Head High Living" - Image consultant/coach. Lesson number one for an image consultant: Don't use a name that makes it sound like you're stoned. Unless that's what you are... and then we'd wonder why you didn't use "420 Living" since everyone we know who is into that can't help but giggle when they hear someone say that number.
  • "Clique Hire" - Recruiting Firm. Yeah, we get that "Clique" and "Click" are homonyms (for people who don't know how to pronounce "clique.") That's pretty cool. But there are two big problems. First, no one will know how to find the company when they hear the name unless you take the time to explain how to spell it. Second, the term "clique" brings to mind all sorts of negative qualities that one typically doesn't associate with good workers. I personally hear "clique hire" and the image of a gum-snapping, fur boot-wearing admin who can't answer the phone because she's drying her nails. Again, it's probably just me.
  • "Hyyrus" - Computer and Small Business Support. Hey look - it rhymes with "Hire Us!" Coolness. Oh, and it also rhymes with Virus. Regardless, it makes us wonder what the alternate spelling does for the company. It feels like creativity for creativity's sake, not because it has a real purpose. (We hire our computer guys because they get the job done, not because they try new ways of fixing things.)
  • "iiDon Security Associates" - Hi-rise Security Firm. We didn't know this line of work existed, but it does make sense. We have to wonder about a few things - such as how the name is supposed to be pronounced ("Two Don," "Aye Aye Don," "Edon"), what the two "i"s are supposed to mean, why they aren't capitalized, and whether or not they're supposed to evoke the twin towers (and why a hi-rise security firm would ever want to be linking their own success to such a tragedy.)
  • "Phlaire" - Unisex Hair Services Salon. Thankfully people don't need to know how to spell a barbershop to get their hair cut. However, I'd argue that any spelling of the word "flair" is going to be hard-pressed to pull in the average American male as a client of a "hair services salon."
  • Pebblethorn Landscape & Design - "High-end Soft & Hard Landscaping Company." Potential slogan - "Pebblethorn - For Quality You Feel In Your Sole" or perhaps "Another Yard By Pebblethorn - Shoes Strongly Advised"
But one name had us in tears for a good 15 minutes. Apparently there's a sound and recording company with some real... gusto... out there. Had it not been for this wonderful treasure of a name this whole blog post never would have happened. But it did.

The name?

"Spunkwave."

Rather than explain to you why this name is so striking to us, I will instead just list what we found in Google when we looked for the company. (I've edited the findings for our most delicate readers. If you search Google you'll likely see the beautiful/horrible truth.)
  • From "Surf Messages" - "if you stay in the south of my pants you can get access to my d*** real quick and surf my spunkwave. oh and bring some f****n weed..."
  • From "NG BBS - weirdest fetish you've heard of?" - "Watch out for the spunk wave Chun-Li! O no she's drowning!"
  • From "SENT IN THONG PICS!" - "The people on the beach wouldn't have a clue... until I c***, then they would have to run for cover cos of my tidal spunk-wave."
  • From a thread on a bulletin board entitled "I have the sperm capacity of an oil tanker" - "watch out for a tidal spunk wave..."
  • And most incomprehenibly and poetically of all - from a site called "white teen sex orgy" - "She His young hard teen archives threw many her was head other back and name let When out moan a long, deep upon moan as embraced the tidal spunk wave floor..."
We await Spunkwave's first release with, well, to be honest... a bit of anxiety.

For some creativity comes easily. Sadly it often is the case in this world of specialization that creativity and hard analytical skills aren't paired in the same person. Perhaps this is the case here.

And bringing this back to something a bit more related to what we do at Stokefire - we know that there are different skills required to name well. It's why we break our name generation process into multiple parts. We've found that the skills required to pull names out of thin air are different than those required to iterate on a single promising idea to find the best option. A mix of pure creatives and analytical types is required to discover, develop, analyze, adjust, and release a great name. Having all of one type results in greatly reduced chances for a strong identity.

That said, we did think there were a few interesting or promising names on Maryanna's list. She's certainly got creativity. But her apparent approach puts the responsibility for knowing whether or not the creative name is a good one on the shoulders of the client. We at Stokefire feel strongly that our clients shouldn't have to know what makes a good name - that's what our expertise is for. We're not cheap - and part of what you're paying for is our ability to prevent you from (and this is going to sound really bad, but we don't mean it that way) releasing your own "Spunkwave."

The names on Maryanna's list appear quite similar to the stuff that shows up during our creative sessions. Perhaps that's what the list actualy is - since there's no mention that the names are in use (only that they were created.) And for a creative list it ain't bad. But creative lists aren't what a client needs.

Clients need guidance.

What good is a big bunch of creative names if the client has no tools with which to measure how appropriate they are for their particular goals? Sure, it's better than a kick in the face (though that kick will often be less expensive) but what does it actually get you?

More on name lists versus brand development and on the creative process... to come.
5 Comments
Dr. Florence Webb July 14, 2007 9:58 AM

It should be a clue that none of the "names" this lady professes to have developed appear to be attached to any actual businesses or products.
This is the kind of thing that gives real namers a bad name (so to speak) - why wouldn't a decent marketing professional assume he/she can do as good a job at naming a product as a namer would, when this kind of "naming" is so visible on the Web?
It sure makes it clear that those of us with strong naming processes get out there and tell our potential clients what they would be getting from us - not just a spewing of unexamined verbosity but thoughtfully composed, but fully researched name candidates based on the expressed needs and expectations of the specific client.

Tate Linden July 14, 2007 12:21 PM

Agreed, Florence.
The analytical process doesn't guarantee a great name (since greatness is also dependent on the creativity of the namer) but it certainly raises the odds that the name won't stink.
As you know we're rewriting our own website to show a few of the names we've developed. Here's to hoping we don't end up on someone else's blog as a negative example ourselves.
(And I wonder if my vocal opposition to poor naming practices will make it impossible for me to get the Naming Association founded. Am I too opinionated?)

Michael July 14, 2007 1:18 PM

Hi Tate,
Opinionated? Yes. Too opinionated, no. Thanks for taking this person to task, I almost wet myself when I saw spunkwave. Don't give up on the naming association thing. I'm still waiting for the first annual meeting in Aruba.
Your pal,
Michael

Tate Linden July 15, 2007 8:34 AM

Here's to hoping it isn't just you and me in Aruba in '08.
Though if it is, the first round of drinks are on me.

Nancy Friedman July 16, 2007 11:32 AM

Aruba? Did somebody say Aruba?