Friday, July 28, 2006
What Would You Name It?
One of the largest, if not the largest, cereal makers in the world has just introduced a new crunchy nut granola bar. In a decision which may go down in the annals of marketing as the most generic, least imaginative name EVER, they decided to call this crunchy nut granola bar the Crunchy Nut bar.
If this launch is typical of most new product launches, that means ten to twenty million dollars have been spent to develop, research and get packages out on the shelves. And those are 1980's numbers. So who knows how much they really plan to spend.
Do you think they could spare a buck two eighty for a BETTER NAME?
I think the ad agency that did the launch commercial currently running may feel the same way. The spot I saw is like watching a SNL spoof of the kind of careful, let's not make a mistake thinking found in the brains of most marketing and research people when it comes to developing names. It's almost like the agency felt the need to explain why the name is so generic and boring -- because someone in research came up with it.
The commercial features a bunch of people in lab coats sitting around wondering what to call this sweet and salty new product. While all the labcoat peeps are pondering this deep question, one of them in the back of the room suddenly says "I've got it!! We can call them Crunchy Nut bars!!" Whispers of "genius" buzz throughout the group. And the nerd in the white labcoat smiles shyly, overcome by his own brilliance.
I'd like to hope there was a huge battle between the agency creatives and the marketing people over what the name should be. And the agency lost because it's not their money being spent. When in doubt, play the money card.
Do you think a candy called Tootsie Rolls would get past those guys? Or Snickers, Milky Way, and Twizzlers? Maybe Raisinets might make it -- it has the main ingredient in the name -- a favorite naming device of MBA's. They also like to add ET or ETTE to anything.
Speaking of which, they would spend months arguing whether it should it be RAISINETS or RAISINETTES. There would be one on one focus groups to determine whether the name spelled with two "T's" was too French. Respondents would be asked probing questions like, "Do you think that spelling the name RAISINETTES sounds French?" Since the answer is YES, the research report would come back showing that respondents consider the name French. Then there would be more research to determine of being French was good or bad.
Years ago, a famous and sometimes unintentionally funny English dog trainer named Barbara Woodhouse wanted to put her name on a chicken based dog food. She was the lady who would have owners say "WALKIES!!" to their dogs if they wanted them to heel.
When it was time for dinner, she'd call her own dog by holding up the bowl and saying "DIN-DINS!!" -- in her distinctive high pitched voice. Since her dogfood was targeted to women with small dogs, I thought the name DIN-DINS would resonate with them, especially with a group that tends to talk to their dogs like they're very special weshul, puppy wuppies. The client, on the other hand, wanted to be serious and call the product Woodhouse Dinners.
DIN-DINS was more fun. Certainly more memorable. With great appeal to the target. I could see women whose dogs were their surrogate children picking up on Mrs. Woodhouse's distinctive way of calling her own pups -- "Poopsie Woopsie, it's time for DIN-DINS!"
To determine a winner, we did RESEARCH. A respondent was shown two cans, one with each name. Then the moderator asked each one this ridiculous question, "Which name seems more serious?" Oh please.
I left the observation room in flames after two of these interviews. I told the client there was no reason for me to stay with the deck stacked against me like that.
Anyone - you, for instance -- knows that the first rule of inventing new products is to come up with an ownable, trademarketable NAME for whatever the hell it is you're trying to sell. In fact, that's half the fun.
I was in the very room, a small empty office we were using to paper the walls with ideas, when Dennis Yeider, an art director, came up with two of the best names in dog treats -- Snausages and Pupperonis.
[NOTE: The first rule of advertising is to FIRMLY AFFIX THE BLAME. The next rule is: If you were in the same room when a great name was invented or, at least KNEW someone who was near the room on the same day. you can take credit, too.
For instance, the number of people who now take credit on their resumes for coming up with the Sears DieHard battery grows exponentially by the year. It was another art director by the way.]
Our group's assignment was to invent a name for two snack sausages for dogs. Pupperonis was clever. Snausages was brilliant. So was the creative Dennis came up with. I bet you still remember it.
Did I mention there was no research to fuck things up? That was twenty years ago when clients weren't so afraid. When they still knew the value of giving a new product a distinctive name. One that doesn't sound like a generic descriptor for the whole category.
What if the Volkswagon Beetle had been called the Volkswagon small car that gets good gas mileage? Where would we be without The Bug?
I think you get the idea.