June '15

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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112 || P R I N T W E A R J U N E 2 0 1 5 Dan Danbom is a former speech writer and communication manager whose freelance work has been published world- wide. His book reviews for a number of publications have motivated thousands to give up reading. Nonetheless, he continues to write and is also a principal at Danbom & Sons Books, an online bookstore headquartered in Denver. LAST LAUGH B Y D A N D A N B O M D eciding what to name a business is risky business. Come up with the right name and people will buy your iPhone by the zillions. Come up with the wrong name and you'll find yourself the butt of the joke in some guy's column. I experienced this truth when I had High-Definition Plumbing install a new faucet. The owner must have reasoned that because high-definition televisions are superior to the low-definition ones, the public would relate this to plumbing. But if there's one thing I don't want to see in high definition, it's what goes through my plumbing. Or take furniture store Oak Express. It's probably a fine com- pany, but the name mystifies me. Did its market research con- clude that people like oak furniture but think it takes years to acquire? Maybe people like to get their dining room set at a drive-through window. Business names used to be solid and straightforward with names like Acme Welding, Bob's Meat Hut, and Capitol City Wig and Tile. But those days are long gone. Today's businesses face the nearly im- possible task of finding a good name. And it shows. More than a half a million startups open every month. That means all the good names are taken and most of the bad ones, too. Companies now fa- vor names that mean nothing but may connote something. To my ears, these names fall into a few general categories. Some of them, for example, sound vaguely medical: "I'm sorry, Bob, but the X-rays show an Icagen buildup on your Gen- itope. If it gets near your Syrrx, we'll have to put you on Digex so that it doesn't interfere with your ability to have Sanmina. Sadly, the procedure is a lengthy one, often lasting for Xfinity." Others sound exotic and vaguely Spanish: "Chiquita! Avaya con Didra y Sandoz Vitria su Verado. Viva Celes- tica! Ariba!" Think Latin is a dead language? "Sequenom Novartis Novirio Spherion Mondo Media." Did you know that some businesses pay someone to come up with this stuff? They do. I once worked for a company that hired an ad agency to create a name for a subsidiary. The agency's sug- gestion? E-Prime. It sounded like a French headache medicine or a feature of a home mortgage. With all due respect to business-naming professionals, listening to them explain why a name is just right is like taking a long bath in hogwash. The search for a new name begins with long meetings to discuss the company's vision, mis- sion, strategy, culture, and retainer. From there, the naming group in- vents a name that instantly conveys what the company is about in three or fewer syllables. After weeks of assiduous guess- work, they convene a high-level meeting with the company CEO and assorted minions to offer a lengthy rationale, which invariably strikes the uninformed as a random grafting of letters. They tell you with a straight face that Xoyak conveys quality and innovation or the Heez- ion evokes all that the market thinks important when making buying de- cisions on zippers. They show you a logo, too, and go into a lengthy dis- course about how its shade of green and its bold, asymmetrical design puts outerwear in people's minds. It's considered impolite at this point for you to say, "Are you in- sane?" Also, almost none of us has ever had any formal education dissecting the pluses and minuses of consonant-vowel marriage. And so we end up with silly names. But in all fairness, someone named Dan Danbom doesn't have much room to complain. Zipper Evocation

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