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We’ve been talking a lot lately about brand names. The question is, what difference does a name make in the future of a brand? Not an easy question to answer, but a good question to consider.

At one end of the spectrum, there are genius names, names that are unique in sound and meaning. Lean Cuisine springs to mind. A brand name that trips off the tongue, while telegraphing what the product is about. It’s good tasting food (cuisine—somehow everything tastes better, when said in French), and it’s low calorie (lean). Plus, it rhymes. This is a rock star of package goods product names.

At the other end of the spectrum are names that kill the product. I suspect Edsel was a flop, precisely because the name screamed “boxy clunker.” With a name like that, the car was not going to be a success, no matter how cool it was. And then there’s the classic story of the Chevy Nova in Spanish-speaking countries. “No va” is Spanish for “doesn’t go.” Definite killer name. Then there’s Osama’s Restaurant in the Durham, NC area.

In between, there is a whole universe of names that probably have some sort of impact on how the product is perceived, but not so much that you would measure it as either a strength or weakness. The real drivers for most brands are expressions, positioning, competitive set, awareness, loyalty, cash flow, margins, promotional strategy…boots-on-the-ground, blocking-and-tackling marketing stuff.

Of course the big thing is authenticity. Does your brand, in aggregate, invite the consumer to expect the things you are actually in the business of delivering? Do you walk the talk?

Who would have thought that Fuddruckers would have been a successful burger place?

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