A name is much more than a label. A name is a melody, a vibration. A name invokes an image, a feeling, an impression. A name can be a powerful influence, and in fact, a name can mean the difference between success and failure. Henry Ford never realized that the name of the car that almost brought Ford Motor Company to the brink of bankruptcy, spelled disaster: Ford Edsel. The name "Edsel" might have been suitable for a cleaning product, it was a terrible name for a car. No matter how well designed and competitively priced this car may have been, with the name Edsel, this product was doomed.
Today we are much more aware of this phenomenon. It was not a fluke that a highly successful commercial advertising a new kind of hamburger compared anyone unwilling to try this product to a nerd named Herb. People in the advertising business know very well the impression the name Herb makes. After all, who wants to be Herb? Have you ever read a book where the macho hero is named Herb? Or Eugene?
Of course not. Writers tend to be very good at naming their characters. Heroes are named John, Alex, Bill, Steve, Wayne ... strong names, names that call up images of tough guys, not nerds. Do you think John Wayne would have become the legend he is today if his name had been Herb Wayne? Or Eugene Wayne? Let alone stuck with his real birthname, Marion Morrison?
There is something mysterious and subtle about names
Look at the names of things. What better name for a pretzel than "pretzel?" Your gut feeling that the name "pretzel" is exquisitely suitable to the pastry has nothing to do with the fact that you have known a pretzel to be a pretzel since childhood. It is the sound, the melody and what it does to your tongue when you speak the name "pretzel" that makes it so fitting. It just curls. Or how about "wool" for wool and "cotton" for cotton? And look at words such as love and hate. The word love reaches out to you, wants to embrace you, draw you into itself. The word is warm and protective. The word hate, on the other hand, is hard and sharp ... it bites.
None of this is coincidence. Language has evolved in perfect synchronicity with the people who speak it. Names are initially applied to things with the help of intuition and a mental and emotional relationship with the object. From there, they evolve: spellings change, pronunciations change -- a fine-tuning takes place over hundreds, even thousands of years of evolution.
Today, if you need a name for a product or a business entity, you have neither the time nor the resources to let the name evolve until it fits -- it has to be right from day one. Think of the power of a name as similar to a color or a shape. The people responsible for the design of a new product will devote large amounts of time and money to get the shape and the color just right. Everybody understands that the wrong color can mean failure in the marketing of a good product, and the right color can mean success even for a mediocre product.
In order to be successful, you have to make the right impression, and the name is the first impression one gets. A Texas-based energy business named "Entergy" with their choice of company name severely frustrates its own business potential. This name is simply terrible. It is awkward and infantile -- sometimes a slight adjustment can make a big difference. A struggling mall named Mall of the Mainland is a bad choice. Change it to Mainland Mall, and business will improve.