What's In A Name? - Black Enterprise

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Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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When Coca-Cola first began distributing its soda product in China, the company’s marketing staff poured over hundreds of Chinese characters that, although pronounced similarly to the English version of Coca-Cola, made entirely no sense. The company finally settled on ‘kokou kole,’ which means “happiness in the mouth.”

“Naming is a private as well as a practical issue,” says Terri Lonier, president of Working Solo Inc., a business advisory to new entrepreneurs. “It’s a private issue because people starting companies feel so emotionally attached to their business, and yet it is a practical issue because it has to serve the company and the company image very well.”

“Small businesses may not have dollars to execute what larger companies do,” says Lonier. “But they certainly can learn a lot by paying close attention to what larger companies have done successfully and not so successfully.” The East Coast telephone company Verizon evolved from Nynex and Bell Atlantic. In the beginning no one knew how to pronounce Verizon. To keep customers up to date on the new name, a lot of money was spent on stationery, trucks, uniforms, and advertising. “It’s mind-boggling to think about how that money could have been better spent,” says Lonier. Small businesses can avoid unnecessary expenses when they focus on finding a name that doesn’t need extensive advertising to communicate the company’s function.

The name should tell it all. Invented names, like Google and Yahoo, are in vogue. But while such names are intriguing, small businesses should avoid them because they do not immediately communicate what the business does. Also, without the big marketing dollars to buy name recognition, consumers can end up confused. “I go to a lot of expos and see names on the banner like ‘zoonk’ and ‘floogaloo.’ You have to stop and ask questions to find out what they are,” says Ramon Ray, owner of smallbiztechnology.com, a Website that offers information on how small businesses can use technology to grow (www.smallbiztechnology.com). “I can go up to the top of Times Square and yell out smallbiztechnology.com and anybody with common sense will have some inkling of what I am doing.”

Keep it simple. Avoid anything that’s confusing or hard to translate into words. “If your family name is complicated, don’t use it [as a company name],” advises Lonier, who also recommends a name that customers can easily recall when searching on the Web or in yellow pages. Lonier suggests creating several names to try out on friends and colleagues. “You may think one name is absolutely the best whereas someone else will come at it from an entirely different viewpoint.”

Choose a name that you can live and grow with. Keep in mind the larger branding and communications issues because naming styles come and go. Robert Beard, CEO of YourDictionary Inc., which provides brand-naming and translation services, explains that invented names are useful because hundreds of companies have gone through the entire dictionary registering domains. Beard suggests visiting the Department of Commerce to look up all of the names that

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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