|by Dr. William L. Haig
CEO Powerlogos Design
Co-author, The Power of Logos: How to Create
Effective Company Logos,
NY: Wiley, 1997 (fifth printing.)
Company Names and Slogans
The Take Away
Company names and slogans, like company logos, are part of that first impression. We move on, or stop and listen. Ideally, the logo will influence your message – a sale maybe. All company identification must work together as a credible system to be effective.
First impressions are most often lasting impressions. This
is partly true because many times a first impression is
the only opportunity one has to make an impression.
If we blow this stage, chances are we will not get another
chance. It is often the same with companies.
It becomes imperative to make certain that the first impression
is a good one. In the case of a business, creating a good
impression begins with a name. Or, in many instances, the
representation of that name which is the logo.
Al Reis and Jack Trout in there marketing classic Positioning:
The Battle for Your Mind, McGraw-Hill, 1981, remind us that
a name is the first point of contact between the message
and the mind. (See my article The
Source, The Message and The Receiver for more on
this.) Company names communicate verbally the same as company
logos communicate visually. Instilling credibility starts
A credibility-based name is descriptive of the company business. By describing the business, the name says what the company does. In so doing, it says that it is an expert in this business. Consider well-known names such as Toys R Us, Mail Boxes Etc. TheBus, Burger King and Zippy’s Fast Foods. These are great examples of descriptive, credible names.
In contrast, names like Cebit, Retrospex, Plasser American
Corporation, Hadlex and Hebasco do not describe the company
business, thus negating an opportunity to express their
expertise in their respective fields. These names are also
difficult to implant in the consumer mind. As such, they
require huge marketing investments which really do not make
sense in establishing what could otherwise be a simple descriptive
and credible name.
So, company names can achieve the first requirement of being credible: communicate the company expertise. The other requirement is to communicate believability or trustworthiness. This can also be done with a little creativeness.
Names like Compaq (for a compact computer) are descriptive
and say “high tech” with the clever use of the
“q” at the end. Names like Zippy’s suggest
“fast”, “casual”, and “inexpensive.”
Contrast Zippy’s to Le Nouveau Riche Gourmand restaurant,
which connotes “formal” and “better check
your wallet before you come.” However, both are good
examples of believable names true to the company.
Some names outlive their life and are ready for a change.
In the research phase of Federal Express’s identity
system, logo design firm Landor Associates found that the
word “federal” was no longer serving the company
well. When the name was developed in 1973, “federal”
gave the company immediate equity with the US. But by the
90s, the word was often associated with “bureaucracy”
and “slowness.” Wrong imagery. Further, on an
international level, many people found it hard to pronounce.
And, in many parts of Latin America, “federal”
was linked with “federales.”
The shorter version of Federal Express – FedEx –
not only was already a popular way many referred to the
name, but its fewer letters worked better in various design
applications, such as on airplanes and trucks. Along with
the tag line, “The World on Time”, clearly expresses
the company key credibility traits, this shortened version
became the new public name.
The author has a similar story in changing Hawaiian Telephone to Hawaiian Tel. Alas, this company is now Verizon which is a terrible name considering the credibility point of this article!
Slogans like “The World on Time”, “Intel
Inside” and “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”
make a statement relative to the product or company selling
point that we can understand. These are credible, believable
slogans. Contrast these with BMWs “The Ultimate Driving
Machine” (hello, how about Rolls Royce or those other
$250,000 cars?), or Hitachi’s “Inspire the Next”
(next what?), or Avaya’s “A Higher Plane of
Communication” (is this an airline? Or a telephone
company? What does a higher plane really mean?).
Company names and slogans can work for you. “Just do it!”
© William L. Haig, Ph.D. or Bill Haig, Ph.D. 2006
This is an original work of the author. All rights reserved. Copyright registration will be applied for. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, and recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author.