In this age of myriad financial products, voluminous financial services marketing communications and fierce competition, naming a new venture, product or service can be one of the single most important financial marketing decisions that an organization makes.
A name, the initial impression made on the prospect’s mind, is the first step in the brand marketing process. With marginal differences in financial services offerings, a better name can mean a significant difference in acceptance and, hence, in the success of financial services sales and marketing initiatives. Conversely, when a name is bad, it can turn away prospects before they learn anything about the product or service. Now, with increased importance being placed on finding the right name, financial marketing practitioners are using varying approaches. We will explore a few.
A current product branding fad is to develop contrived names. For instance, Verizon combines the Latin word veritas, meaning truth, with horizon, while Lucent means “marked by clarity.” Other contrived names such as Accenture and Agilent remind us that another essential criterion for any good name should be pronounceability. None of these names give any clue to the businesses they represent or the benefits the companies offer. And, truthfully, most of us don’t know or care about the esoteric origins of names. Brand identity depends on recognition and association, not the cleverness of an esoteric name.
It is obvious that the creators of contrived names are betting that a substantial (and expensive) brand marketing campaign will generate the familiarity needed for success. Every contrived name starts life as an empty vessel waiting to be filled with positive perceptions. We believe, however, that a mean-nothing name is a luxury that only a genuinely unique new product or service can afford.
Some firms use initials as their name, hoping to emulate some of the richest and most famous corporations. What these upstarts quickly learn, however, is that while the successful use of initials can validate an established brand identity, they are seldom a strong foundation for establishing a new brand marketing campaign. Think of how this works in our everyday lives. When the headline reads “W Declares War,” there is no ambiguity. Companies spend years on brand marketing and advertising to help create visibility and shape perceptions before recasting themselves with their monograms of marketplace success. Just think of GE, PPG or IBM.
Near our office is Joe’s Wine & Liquor Store. While it would be difficult to think of a more pedestrian moniker, customers know what they can buy there and who to speak with if they have a problem. While the larger AAA Liquors further down the road probably appeals to Joe as the size of store that he aspires to own, its name offers little appeal for customers. Still further along thoroughfare is a brightly-lit, inviting store with attractive displays called THIRD BASE—Last Stop Before Home! Now that’s a name that gets attention from passers-by and the name’s very suggestion undoubtedly contributes to revenues.
The latter illustrates an important principle for building successful brand identity and product sales campaigns. A brand name that is appropriately non-traditional for its industry, product or service category will stand out in the marketplace and reduce the cost of marketing, sales and promotion. Distinctive names can contribute to the success of marketing promotion and brand identity initiatives because they are more apt to be remembered. Further, a distinctive name creates the perception of a distinctive product or service, while an ordinary name implies that you’re just another competitor. For successful brand marketing, it’s important to be distinctive—and sound it!
Naming a new product presents a variety of traps to be avoided. Many firms add the corporate name or an umbrella name from a successful sister offering to gain quicker market acceptance. Our experience suggests that borrowing whole or half names almost always creates unnecessary baggage. New products and services are handicapped from inception if they don’t have the benefit of a name that helps them to create a differentiated brand identity and also alters prospects’ perceptions of competitive products. A new product or service deserves its own name—one that will enhance its advertising, public relations and other marketing communications efforts.
Politicians are very canny about leveraging the power of a good name. Legislators routinely give their bills names such as “Fair Trade Act” or the “Clean Air Bill” to minimize opposition. Special interest groups like “Right to Life” or “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” use their names to rally support. If you don’t create a name that works for your organization or its products or services, you might have to emulate AFLAC and invest millions by putting an educated duck on TV to build brand identity.
The naming process provides an excellent opportunity to put the power of marketing to work for your products and services. For financial services marketing practitioners, naming can be the important first step in the development of financial marketing communications and sales initiatives that build sustainable brand identity and competitive advantage. The right name serves as the springboard for the implementation of effective financial promotion, advertising and branding strategies. The better the name, the more potential it offers for effective, lower-cost financial services marketing solutions that can help achieve marketplace success.