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Dry Fruits Of Ethiopia?

By: Naseem Javed

Naseem Javed is recognized as a world authority on Corporate Image and Global Cyber-Branding. Author of Naming for Power, he introduced The Laws of Corporate Naming in the 80s and also founded ABC Namebank, a consultancy established in New York and Toronto a quarter century ago.  www.azna.com   nj@njabc.com.

Think, not too long ago, the chopped head of Sir Thomas Moore, one of my favorite Saints, was hanging at the city gates of London. Despite his vision of Utopia, a brilliant discovery of that dark period plus his great thoughts that provided some continued hope for the later centuries; his head still went to the block.

This brings me to Fruitopia, a sweet, not so punchy drink in a not so punchy bottle. Invented by the worlds most famous and most valuable brand of the world? Yes, Coca-Cola. It already owns the sexiest bottle with a global superpower brand Coke. Do you really need secret brand evaluation formulas to constantly re-evaluate a multi-billion dollar price tag for Coke again and again. Based on our top-secret brand evaluation formula, it’s now set at a Trillion dollars. There you go, now this sets a brand new evaluation price record. Coke’s branding history is the best.

According to Cox news, “Coke is phasing out Fruitopia after 10 years of unsuccessful attempts to build this brand” Launched with a budget of $30 million and thereafter followed by a very long and a very hard advertising push but still got the boot, says Cox.

No need for heads to roll.

Selling sugared water is a great art, perfected by Coke. While naming of products is still the single most important issue of almost any marketing effort and even though it is greatly acknowledged as such by most corporations, yet the correct process of naming is not practiced. Join the words, scream the focus groupies and behold the emergence of Fruits and Utopia…into Fruitopia. Every one, gets convinced it’s now Eureka time. This happens each time when branding agencies give birth to strange names. (my next story).

Some ten years ago, when asked by reporters, I seriously questioned the logic of this strange and a weird word-combo, as to most kids it sounded more like the dry fruits of Ethiopia, a barren place, a hell to live in, starving kids and the sandy deserts. This is how daily TV did project the day-to-day realities of this poor third world famine strucken country. Furthermore, most schooling systems in the US or around the world do not prepare the youth for the writings of Saint Thomas Moore or explain his vision of ultimate living and how after 500 years we have not yet discovered this intellectually branded almost a Lala-Land picnic place called Utopia. Search parties are still out.

Consumers are very fickle and they have an entirely different read when it comes to naming, often in a sharp contrast to most big research findings and massive focus groups thinking. Is it the revenge of the whirling prima donnas of branding at major Ad agencies where most have yet to discover the proper Laws of Naming or what? It is amazing that how the same brilliant graphic design shops have hurt themselves by not playing Naming game by the rules. There are great opportunities missed everyday by not having a powerhouse naming procedures in place. Relying on some casual freelance ad hock name suggestion approach the disasters are a common


Two Naming Principals commonly applied at the world’s top branding agencies.

First: Names are not important at all, all you need is big money to advertise and customer will accept it. Forget the Naming Laws, spending will take care of it. Wrong. There is no longer surplus money available to buy every billboard and every TV spot in the country. Bottom less budgets are only some Utopian dreams on the agencies mind. In reality money has completely disappeared and it’s so tight for corporations that now it has become a collector’s item. Nicely framed.

Second: Creative and trendy names will win, catchy, funny, almost silly and stupid names will catch the eye, become a fad, mix with hip culture and create the branding experience. Let freelancers come up with some wacko names for a dollar each. Time to hip-hop. Wrong, again. Hit and run naming has already left a very bad taste among companies. In recent past alone, hundreds of big and very expensive new Names resulted in total failures all over the world. This clearly points to the importance of correct naming methodologies and the urgent need to fix the lost credibility of big agencies when it comes to naming.

Furthermore, customers never liked to be taken for granted and they often refuse to buy a twisted message coming from a strange name. No amount of promotion can change it, hence the failures. Contrary to the myths, customers are not the sheep they are the wolves dressed up like sheep. So, marketers while you seek the cuddly canines you should be equally beware of the serious risk of oinga-boinga type of names.

There are possibly many more reasons why Fruitopia is being pulled but at the outset the name alone was an obvious oddity. Naming is a very black & white exercise and should not be confused with graphic or general branding exercises. There is no naming unless the Laws of Naming are correctly applied under the guidance of a ‘Masters of Naming’.experts. Conventional pooling of very large lists and to eliminate one name at a time is an old model and it will only leave the worst name in the end. To reflect here, just the creative use of letter T as in Fruitopia, is a tough one; it has worked for AT&T, Toyota and Minolta but for tutty-fruity names like Intuit, Intuity, Genuity, Aquity, Accuty, Acuty, Netuity, Protivti, Protivity it is still a tough challenge. Odd names like, Fat Bastard gourmet food or Goats to Roam wines, are sure success stories for a while but proper global naming is more serious than this approach. Where did MarchFirst, McSleep or WetNose go?

Naming is a properly defined science and not a wildly creative branding exercise and for this belief I have always offered my head on the block too. Sainthood anyone?

© copyright Naseem Javed, 2003

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