Between Miracle and me, I don’t know how many entries we’ve written about product and company naming, hence pt.68. Chalk it up as one of my affectations. This entry is about Misty who does have the book but was getting inordinate influence from well meaning friends. Just because someone likes you, has your best interests at heart and is a good friend, doesn’t mean their advice is any good. Between the advice she’s getting and the brand she’s managed to create, she is having some difficulty separating the concept of a company name, naming a product line and branding. She produces an infant wear product we’ll call “Picky Bum” (the real name is cuter).
Her friends were lobbying that she name her company “Sew Picky”. If you’ve read my book, you know why a name like that is a death knell (pg. 16-17); there’s no better way to instantly destroy your credibility with anyone who sees or hears it. She knows this and needed some back up. Still, I think there’s a disconnect based on this comment she made to me:
I totally agree with you that Sew Picky was terrible, but while I love PickyBum for the products, no grown woman or man wants to wear a shirt with a “pickybum” label, do they? I like “Picky” as the business name but justpicky.com as the domain name, since all the picky.extensions are taken.
Let’s review. There’s a difference between your company name and your product line(s). While I realize you may be a tiny company (one person) you need more than one name. I realize that seems like overkill, needing two names representing one person but that’s the wrong view. While you imbue the company with your values and standards, it is not you. It is a separate entity. Just as you are not your company, your product line(s) are not your company either. Your company (separate from you) imbues your product with its influence.
Now, you can name them as you please, but you have to think ahead. In this case, Misty mentions “no grown woman or man wants to wear a shirt with a “pickybum” label” which means she has an eye towards growth, branching into new product lines. As such, these product lines should not share the same name. In other words, secondary product lines are not the child lines of your first line. Think of these as sibling lines. Maybe George Foreman can get away with naming all of his kids “George” but few have the penache to execute that successfully. Besides, he’s not selling his children and doesn’t need to worry about creating an independent image for each of them in the marketplace. In other words:
Your company is the parent of your product line(s).
- Product line 1 (infant product)
- Product line 2 (women’s shirts)
- Product line 3 (men’s shirts)
As such, each sibling brand (infant product, women’s shirts, men’s shirts) needs it’s own name. Each needs to have it’s own identity (brand). While they may have all come from you, just like your individual children, they will live their own lives. The reason is that down the road, you may become acquired or some of your product lines may die, just like people. It is entirely possible that someone may be interested in only buying one or just some of your product lines or brands but not the company. Likewise, they’ll only want a product line with it’s own identity. The family analogy is if your daughter is being courted, her beau is not interested in acquiring her pesky younger siblings in the deal or you for that matter.
One final word on the parent (company) name. This can be something very blase and tepid. Personally, I love names like XYZ Mfg. with no hint of the child brand names they may hold. It tells me the company is professional, serious and pragmatic with little ego involved. You want consumers to identify with the name of the given product line that appeals to them, not the parent company. The name of the parent company should appeal to your peers and colleagues, not consumers. The names of parent companies that own the most successful brands are virtually unknown to consumers. A great example is Kellwood. Kellwood owns Baby Phat, Calvin Klein, Hanna Anderson, Nautica, Prophecy, Sag Harbor, XOXO etc, and some of each of those respective lines have product lines that have varying product line names similarly distinct from their parent line. In such case, Kellwood would be the grandparent of each parent line in the stable. In summary, thinking ahead means adopting name practices of Kellwood not George Foreman.