OLGA KASHKAN: NAMING IS A POETRY
On the intricacies of naming, the process of name selection, evaluation of its effectiveness and understanding of what is ECO-naming - in an interview with creative director and co-founder of Fabula Branding Olga Kashkan by Marketing.by.
– What is the process of name selection?
In the vocabulary of Fabula Branding specialists, there is no word "selection" for naming. Selection involves choosing from existing options, and since we do not use name generators and other computer programs, this process is most closely related to words such as "creation" or "development."
There are many techniques for developing names and presentations to the clients, but we in our company apply a holistic approach. It's like with the human body. You can consider all the organs of the human body separately: the ear hurts - you put antibiotic drops to prevent ear infection, stuffy nose – vasoconstrictor drops to relieve symptoms, etc. A holistic approach, for example, the one used in Tibetan medicine, means that everything in the person is interconnected. The physical, emotional and psychic spheres affect one another, and a change in one of them forms a change in all others. The same thing in branding: the time passed when a passable name and a beautiful logo solved business problems and met market needs. Today, the branding is holistic. It's not a matter of inventing words or drawing pictures. Sometimes the revolt of a namer, separated from marketing, reminds me of a rebellion of a single drop that considers itself more important that the sea, but when it hits the sea, it can no longer resist. But it's much better not to resist, but to make yourself a part of the whole, raging and evolving, giving and defining your role. To swim in a stream is to direct everything, including the name, to the positioning that the brand took for itself, and to string beads on it, so that the brand necklace looks both appropriate and stylish, fits comfortably around the neck, but does not swing in the air. The name in this design plays a semantic role, and the name development in our company is formed with tenacious sacred attitude.
– How are ideas generated? What thing do you consider for name creation?
Starting to work on naming without analyzing the market situation is the same as running out of the house in the morning without having breakfast. To catch up missed breakfast with fast food is not in our rules. A competent analysis and a full-fledged briefing with the client and the approved concept of positioning are the obligatory “espresso cup” in the morning that invigorates and sets the working mood. But in our office, we all have sweet tooth and I clearly understand that not to offer a crispy croissant with this ascetic coffee, not to allow creative energy to rush beyond the brief and the first, often clumsy, literal associations are detrimental to the creative process. After all, naming is not only technology but also poetry. Brainstorming, of course, is not cancelled, but any of our namers have their own creative fields, and often the most powerful ideas and beautiful fantasy names appear a few days after individual work on the task during the process.
– What inspires you to come up with a name?
I’m inspired by life itself, by its diversity and multidimensionality. Personally, I perceive this world impressionistically - through shades and semitones, through long synonymous rows, a radiance of metaphors and sonorous sounds because all those things even make silence “ringing”, not to mention actual words. Of course, I, like many creative people, sometimes want to print out a brief for naming and go for inspiration somewhere in the Himalayas or in Bali: there, outside all distractions, it's so easy to be spiritual and creative. But it seems to me that it is much more important and impactful to catch inspiration in the scoop of a borsch boiling on the stove, in the crunch of the autumn leaves on the ground, in the most beautiful baby crib or during tea ceremony - it's real life, real moments. No matter the place - on the Kapilano suspension bridge in Vancouver or in the Berlin bomb shelter on Kurfürstendamm Street, at the fashion show in Minsk or in the village near my grandmother by Slutsk, I see the words everywhere. Some of them hang right in the air, take them and use without interfering with their perfect form. Some are like a designer: disassemble, gather, change places, look at instructions, but do not be afraid to go beyond its borders, create your own Feng shui, mold your rules, dare, but do it accurately, forcefully! Some of them, I cannot yet express phonetically, although the meaning is already born, and I carry them with love and understanding that time will come for them and there will be a project for them.
But when it comes to naming, it is important to talk not only what inspires, but also what is sobering. Where a cold shower for unbridled naming fantasies is a foundation for registered trademarks, at times cut offs are basis for excellent name variants for the product. And the wider the geography of product distribution, the more classes in which it is necessary to register a trademark, the fewer chances of obtaining a registration. The identical verbal names we do not even consider: the sword of Damocles for everyone namer, even a very talented, is a similarity to the degree of confusion. The fact is that even today there are no clear criteria for this similarity and often the subjective opinion of the expert may deprive the possibility of registration for a strong, in terms of marketing, name. Include absolute conditions of denial and you will receive a decline of poetry and the beginning of prose. But without this prose, without a legal basis, naming turns into a banal word-making, which has no future in terms of efficiency and protection in the market. The only way out is to offer options to the customer, which necessarily passed through the filter of protection. Otherwise, midnight will strike and your glamorous coach will turn into a pumpkin: a name is worthless, the one that cannot be registered.
– How do you understand which names are successful names and which are not? What defines its success?
The name can be judged by several criteria: euphemism, an absence of negative associations, lack of banality, ease of pronunciation and writing, integration into speech formulas, peculiarities of Cyrillic/Latin transliteration, etc. If you go deeper, you can count about 40 linguistic filters. Almost every day, I receive requests for expert evaluation of certain names. But to evaluate it outside the brand context is unprofessional. "Do you like the word?" And "Is it effective?" are two diametrically opposed requests. To understand the potential of a name, they are few linguistic filters. Emotionality, Conceptuality, and Protectability are the three ingredients that form the basis of my author's concept of ECO naming, which allows us to go beyond the scope of linguistics when evaluating the topic.
– Do you use focus groups to evaluate developed names?
I will say this: if you are ready to mass murder the most powerful names forming the presentation, you can turn to focus groups. Our consumer is mostly conservative, and if he is offered to "play with words", not backed up by the picture, the choice will fall, most likely, on something familiar to him. Bold options either scare or cause confusion, and this is logical. I have already mentioned that the name is a detail of the brand's wardrobe and to assess its potential, you need to consider the whole image. Let a man in his underwear on the stage and ask the audience to present the style and color of his imaginary suit - a process that will likely fail. And the king is still naked and will certainly be ridiculed by the crowd! As Henry Ford said: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
Discussing the name concept and deciding on the name for the brand are still better in a more relaxed atmosphere (I will exclude the issue of confidentiality, which is extremely important when it comes to all work). Usually, at the presentation, there are three to six people involved in the process of brand building (owners, directors, representatives of the marketing department, PR specialists, etc.). And even if the number of people reaches the 20s and, as sometimes happens with state enterprises, yet those are not bystanders, and under right circumstances, the dialogue can be productive.
–What are the dynamics of naming development culture for brands and companies in Belarus? Do you see a more serious approach?
They are more serious, but not because using wife’s name to label a beauty salon or a crown product after their own name are not popular today. The root cause of using the professionals for some customers is the pain of their own understanding of failing or sad experiences of colleagues. The plot of this psychological thriller is plain: "You turned me down twice." Unequivocally, without going through the necessary checks, naive manufacturer submits an application for the registration of one hundred and fifteenth "Hrumstishika" on Belarus and Russia markets, 30th ICGS class, proudly begins to supply its chips on the shelves of supermarkets, and in two years gets the conclusion stating "The registration denied ". The thing is that even if there are no brand-clone from the crowd of all kinds "Hrumstik", "Hrumsitik", "Hrustime", "Hruston", "Hrustyashik" all-seeing expert eye can distinguish clone-like, or similar sounding names, where it might be a point of confusion and a verdict for denied verbal designation. As you can see, the cost of failure is very high. Go through all the necessary checks, and if they are unsuccessful, change the name or change it slightly, is a trifle compared with the resources one will have to spend if the case goes to court. But, nevertheless, many do not think about it. In our company, we joke that naming is protectable and “takeable”. And even if the client convinced manager that the registration is not necessary, he/she will check everything himself, trying to get a discount for the service, while working conditions remain the same: either we develop Name, which can be registered, or refuse to work.
Fortunately, those in Belarus who are not willing to learn from their mistakes, often travel abroad and so consciously go to the help of brand professionals. He needs a full Zen and he is aware that the work for naming is not only to distinguish the veterinarian from vegetarian but also a whole full “channel” set of competencies. Not for nothing, since the name is the most expensive word in the world of brands, registered names in many markets can fetch tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
–Can naming be learned or is it simply given talent?
One of my finance acquaintance set on a journey to become a psychologist. He read a lot of books by Labkovsky, went through several two-day workshops on Gestalt psychology, received a certificate of NLP Practitioner and learned to solemnly pronounce formulaic phrases like "No one owes anything to you," "You want to talk about it?", "What about for you?”, "Love yourself for who you are"," Get out of the comfort zone" and others. When it came to genuine consultation, there was a huge disappointment. All this turned out to be not useful to work with cases when it comes to real people today.
Personally, I always see the name, made by technical people, although there are interesting exceptions. Books and articles with algorithms "to create an effective name" are skimmed by me through diagonally for 10 minutes and I never come back. Like music, in the naming, we deal with subtle sounds and rather a controversial concept as euphony, which cannot be measured with the help of specially designed programs. So, I do not believe in the transition from farmer to namer. And even when names are done by lawyers, as a rule, they are engaged in "selection" option, they are easily detectable. The naming needs meaningful and caring approach, and the process depends on many factors, which cannot be completed by any robot. To learn naming is to be like Nabokov or Baradulin rather than the "Waal" program and other similar computer programs. There isn’t a program out there capable of creating a name, which in addition to strict linguistics, will correctly use form in accordance with the cultural and social codes and have an ability for the name to “ring”.
I remember as a child, I wondered why the same word is filled with several different meanings, when to say it, how to say, in a whisper or sing it as a song, why some of the words I do not want to say out loud, and some can be happily repeated like a mantra all day long. I liked to “bake” from the warm sounds, unusual rhymes and euphonious combination, crack word to the core and spread them with the ingredients to better understand their essence. Now, with naming diplomas and experience in the development and registration of more than 200 names for brands, reading perhaps all the books in the world about the naming, conducting numerous seminars and giving more extensive interviews on the subject, I still have the same childish feeling about importance of a sense of rhythm and harmony in the word creation. To add to it, one needs "belief of harmony with algebra" to successfully pass all the checks for naming protectability, the desired customer area, and the actual type of name classifications. Generally, in my experience, highly professional journalists / writers / copywriters are not always able to convert into namer, precisely because of the legal restrictions imposed by ruthless agencies on creative work. The artist can be offended by anyone, and the lawyers were mentioned above. Conclusion: good namer today – it is as precious as gold.