corporate speaker and author Jeff Havens. He lives in Madison and helps people succeed at leadership, communication, professional development and more by telling them exactly what not to do. Enjoy!
So New Zealand has gone ahead and outright banned certain names for babies, which they obviously felt forced to do after receiving birth certificates with names like “Lucifer,” “Midnight Chardonnay,” and “Number 16 Bus Shelter” on them. (I’m assuming that last one was named in honor of where the little tyke first came into being; for the full article, read here). Those of you who have seen my Uncrapify Your Life! show know that I often make fun of terrible baby names. My longtime favorite has been Ladasha, spelled “La-a” because sometimes you just need to say the dash. But I think Number 16 Bus Shelter might be the new winner.
Anyway, it occurred to me that we could all improve our marketing efforts by taking inspiration from some of these people. So here are a few tips to help you ruin what might otherwise have been a wonderful product:
Pick a Long, Exhausting Name Nobody Wants to Say! One of the names in the article above (totally not making this up, although I wish I were), was “Lula Does the Hula from Hawaii.” That poor girl’s mother and father are unquestionably the worst parents of the year, and of last year too. But you can take inspiration from that tongue-twister of an appellation and do the same with your products or companies. My current favorite? Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo KK, which was Sony’s original name. Just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it? “Hey, did you see the latest Tokyo Tsushin Kyoto…wait, the latest Tokyo Sous Chef Kogyo…wait, nevermind.”
Call Things Exactly What They Are! Some of the folks cited in the article above just named their kids “3rd” or “5th”, presumably because that was their birth order and they didn’t feel like trying harder. And you should do the same. Someday I expect to see an automobile called “The 2015 Nissan Car!” or a grocery store item called “Food!” I think the closest we’ve come to that so far is sour cream, which is delicious but whose marketers made absolutely no attempt to make it sound delicious. “It’s cream, and it’s sour – eat it.”
Pick a Name That’s Offensive in Some Places! Some of the names on that list are names I can’t reprint here. And while some words are perfectly innocuous in one language, they are hilarious inappropriate in another. Don’t believe me? Then go find out what Pinto means in Brazil, or what LaCrosse means on the streets of Quebec. I would tell you if I could, but this is a family article.
Hope that’s helpful to all of the marketers and PR pros out there. And in return for helping you, I would like you to please help me. If you ever run into anyone who named their kids anything on the list I’ve just shared with you, please, please, please encourage them to just have pets instead. I can handle stupid pet names. But the first time I run across someone who named their son “Mr. Wiggles,” I’m probably going to get arrested for assault.
Question: What’s the worst name for a product you can think of? Or what’s one product your company offers whose name could be improved?
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