01 Oct

What’s in a name?

The joy of owning a car was brought to me in all its glory, yesterday, when my tyre popped just as I joined a huge roundabout that connects to the M25 (why does this never happen on a quiet side road with a convenient lay-by available?).

In light of this I set off, earlier today, to look for a replacement tyre (two in fact, as I realised another of mine was quite worn). I got all of one mile down the road when I saw – in bold Comic Sans – ‘Just Tyres’ emblazoned over the top of a shop. This is all I was looking for: just tyres. Nothing else.
It was the first place I pulled into, to get a quote, and I go back there tomorrow to get my car sorted.

The name of this business is perfect. It’s no-frills (I don’t want a tyre garage to be fancy) and tells me exactly what they do.

Naming a business seems such a simple step – it’s only a few words after all – but is probably one of the hardest (and most important) things to get right.

There’s a growing series of veterinary surgeries in London and Herts, called Village Vets. This is a great name. It rolls off the tongue, with its alliteration (and is only three syllables long), and sounds trustworthy – almost homely: the type of place you’d want to take your beloved pet.

There’s plenty of other examples. Innocent is a great name for a smoothie company who claim to use ‘nothing but fruit’ (glossing over the fact they’re now 90% owned by Coca-Cola).
Likewise, Graze is a fantastic name for a company who produce healthy snack boxes from which you’ll, well.. graze. To my mind it brings up images of contented cattle idly munching on meadow grass and any other prose-ridden guff I care to dip into.

Look at Nike: if you want to be known as making sporting goods for winners, what else would you name yourself after other than the Greek ‘Winged Goddess of Victory’?

And so to me (N.B I am not comparing myself directly with Nike): how did I come up with That Writing Chap?
About five years ago I was working in an agency, as a junior copywriter, when the creative director started talking about getting a more senior freelancer in, to help with a big pitch (leaving a sizeable dent in my ego at the time).
I could see him searching for the name of a freelancer they’d used before: ‘we’ll get in… what his name?…. that writing chap….’
Straight away I thought ‘that’s it – that’s what I’d want to be known as’. Even if someone is referring to the generic, they’d be referring to me by default (in the same way people say ‘Hoover’ for vacuum cleaner … or maybe they say ‘a Dyson’ now?), and That Writing Chap spells out exactly what I do: I’m a chap who writes.

So, there you have it – it might seem like a simple task, but naming a business/product is probably the hardest thing to do and get right… which makes you wonder about the new shop that’s just opened up near me: Tony’s Dream Cakes …. oh dear…


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