Sorry Shakespeare: names matter – for roses & chicken sandwiches (2)

Part 2 of the Chicken Sandwich series on product names

Yesterday, there  in “how to name a chicken sandwich“, Beg to Differ talked about the first steps in the process of naming the new Big Fresh chicken sandwich from KFC in Canada. Today, we tackle another big question we often get asked: why worry about names at all? After all, didn’t Shakespeare say “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”? Sorry Shakespeare, we beg to differ.

Bard - Colonel
The Immortal Bard and the Late Great Chicken-Slinger. Which one was the better brander?

Badly named roses stink

Apologies to the Immortal Bard. I’m a long-time drama geek, so to be fair, it’s not Shakespeare himself speaking; Juliet is moping about her little Capulet /  Montague conundrum. And as you know it all ends pretty badly for Juliet, so Shakespeare himself shows us that names really do matter – and can actually kill you if you ignore their power.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

My response: lady, if the name stinks, no one will ever get close enough to find out!

It doesn’t matter if you have the best “rose” or product in the world, customers can’t learn to love you if they can’t find, understand, or remember you – all of which are the functions of a good name.

Even worse, if the rose is called “Thornflower”, “Smell-Bloom”, or “Red Floral Plant Number 2349293”, it actually won’t smell as good to customers! Your name is almost always the first thing your customer will learn about you. Great brand names “set the table” for customer perceptions of your product.

“Setting the table” for KFC

Which brings me back to my KFC Big Fresh chicken sandwich. We could have just called it “Chicken Sandwich” and been done with it. And indeed for another restaurant, such a descriptive name would be exactly the right name to help customers figure out where the product fits in the “menu” (the brand architecture).

But because the new sandwich had to stand out as a star in a line-up of other products, we needed a name that balanced a bit of descriptiveness with the right amount of character – or, to use terms the Bard used: to capture the attention of the “groundlings” (hold the focus of the audience) but “do not saw the air too muchwith your hand thus, but use all gently” (that is, don’t overact and upstage your other products).

A good name should do (at least) two things

The art of naming is to get inside the mind of a customer. Your name needs to start the conversation on the right foot to show them how your product will do two things:

1) Meet their needs & satisfy their expectations

Your name (and all other brand elements) has to show that you are part of the product universe they know and understand. Customers are always looking for safety first, and names that are too far beyond the realm of the expected are going to miss the mark. That’s not to say you can’t be innovative, creative, or stretch the bounds of their understanding. So “Apple” as a name for a company can work. But remember, even Apple used to be called “Apple Computers” until the connection became effortless.

2) Excite them at the same time

Comfortable doesn’t sell without some excitement as well. The trick is to meet their expectations and then take them somewhere new. Show them aspects of your products that are new / different / interesting / worth talking about to colleagues, friends, or bosses.

That’s a lot to ask of a name. And you may be wondering how all of this applies to the KFC Big Fresh. Well, we’ll explain all that tomorrow. In the meantime, here are a few more…

Thoughts for branders:

  • Is your company a Juliet (and possibly heading for a tragic end), or are you aware of the critical importance of getting names right?
  • Are you stuck with marketing a badly named rose?
  • Can you change the name, or re-arrange your product architecture?
  • If not, are you at least aware of the limitations that your current names impose on you, and are you trying to help customers understand more clearly?

The Chicken Sandwich Series

  1. Sorry Shakespeare: names matter – in roses and chicken sandwiches (this post)
  2. The right kind of name: a chicken sandwich story (coming soon)
  3. The tasting: what I learned as a customer (coming soon)