My full name is Patrick Michael Langton. My mum calls me Patrick Michael - mostly when I've done something wrong - but all my mates just call me Pat. I guess you could call it my brand.
A name - especially if it’s somehow different or unusual - will change the way you perceive something, and can make it easier to recall. My business partner Stephen Yolland has been called “Yolly" by everyone in the industry for thirty years. I’m not sure anyone remembers his real name anymore.
Nike is a great example of a brand with an unusual name. Now, I've heard the brand pronounced two completely different ways: Nike like Bike and Ni-key, as if there was a ‘y’ on the end. (For the record, it's the latter.) And some might say this is confusing for the consumer, but it actually makes the brand more interesting.
A little-known fact is that Nike was originally called Blue Ribbon Sports. (Which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?). They were the US distributors of the Japanese company Onitsuka Tiger.
In 1971 they decided to manufacture their own brand and needed a new name. While searching for that name, a few interesting ideas were floated, including; Dimensions Six (hmmm), Peregrine (yeah, nah) and Bengal (not bad, but not quite good either).
Nike was actually a last minute decision as they had a 9 am deadline and had to go into production and Nike was the best they had. Nike was actually the Greek goddess of victory, that some may already know.
Sometimes the beauty of a deadline can force a decision. And it’s worth remembering that a name in itself doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It’s what you do with it that matters.
Needless to say, Nike went on to become one of the most iconic brands in history, with some of the best advertising in its market, produced consistently, turning it into one of the most iconic brand marks in history.
The same goes for Adidas. Again I've heard it pronounced two completely different ways - in fact, you're probably saying them both in your head right now. Both companies are two of the biggest in the world, and their names help.
Branding and advertising are all about standing out and it should start with your brand name. It's one of the reasons why the 'dot com bubble' burst so badly back in the early 1990s: it wasn't books.com that survived, it was Amazon.
That’s why the recent name change of JWT to Wunderman Thompson is just dumb. JWT is one of the strongest brands in advertising history, and one of the best known. A brand like JWT needs to be kept alive and making a new Frankenstein name while discarding a trusted brand franchise is just not the answer. Wunderman is a great agency with a proud tradition, and they do great work, but they don’t have 122 years of branding behind them. I just don’t get it. Same goes to VMLY&R, both WPP group agencies. Somewhere there’s a strategic rationale running to hundreds of pages about why it’s a smart idea. Commonsense says it isn’t.
A name can shape your life, Marilyn Monroe just has a better ring to it than Norma-Jean Mortenson. So when starting a new business think hard about the name: done right - and promoted right - you may just have a huge impact on that industry.
Written by Pat Langton - Creative Director