Choosing a Brand Name: What Not to Do

Jim Bierfeldt

Jim Bierfeldt is the founder and chief strategist at Logistics Marketing Advisors, a marketing firm that helps logistics businesses define and communicate their value, and then translate that value into revenue.

When choosing a brand name for your logistics service, it may be more useful to understand what NOT to do. A recent trip a New York City gave me some good examples.

I was in Brooklyn for a meeting and needed to travel across the East River to Lower Manhattan. My Brooklyn-based colleague cautioned against GPS and directed me to follow signs for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel just a block away.  As a native New Yorker, I am familiar with this tunnel and kept a close eye out for signs.

choosing a brand name is an important step in the branding processBut nothing.

I circled the block and, on my second pass, spotted signs for the “Hugh L. Carey Tunnel. The name had been changed a few years back in honor of a nondescript former Governor of New York.

The question is, why?

The tunnel had a fine name. A logical and literally accurate name since one end of the tunnel is in Brooklyn and the other end is near Battery Park in Manhattan. The new name serves only to confuse the heck out of people. And I’m sure millions was spent on signage and campaigns to educate commuters that an iconic name they all knew was changing to a bland name they’d struggle to remember without help.

After my meeting in Manhattan, I headed north toward my Connecticut home. On the way I passed signs for the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.

I have nothing against Robert F. Kennedy – he was  a great American – but no New Yorker, except the very youngest, would ever refer to this bridge as anything but the Triborough Bridge. Since 1936, until a recent renaming, the name TRIBOROUGH clearly communicated the bridge’s unique feature of connecting 3 New York City boroughs – The Bronx, Manhattan and Queens.

The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Triborough Bridge are good names because they literally describe the purpose of the roadway. The names were changed because we have too many bureaucrats with too much time on their hands.

Choosing a Brand Name for a Logistics Service

So how do these same brand naming mistakes play out in the logistics space?

Some years back, I got a preview of a naming exercise done by a marketing agency for a large international logistics company. It involved naming the different levels of service available for international freight moves. I don’t remember every detail, but there was an “X” in front of the service name, as in “X-Urgent” and “X-Rapid” and “X-Pedite.”

When I asked someone to define the “X-Urgent” service, they said, “Oh, that’s our 2-day delivery service.”

See the problem?

Sometimes, logistics businesses try to get too cute with names. The best names begin the market positioning process and trigger the right associations in the prospect’s mind. For example:

  • DieHard batteries (car battery with a lifetime guarantee)
  • Chapstick (lip balm for chapped lips)
  • The original Sony "Walkman" (portable music)
  • Mike’s Hard Lemonade (Lemonade with a kick)
  • Bubble Wrap (lightweight package filler with air bubbles)

These are great names, and some are quite literal (hard lemonade, bubble wrap). Names don’t need to be cute or “creative” to be effective.

When choosing a brand name, think first about the value the product delivers and its essential point of difference. “We want the name to communicate….”  Then enlist folks inside and outside the company to develop name options to clearly, simply – and sometimes literally – communicate that thought.

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Logistics companies often make the same mistake as the six-year-old soccer player. They want to be part of every play. But in an increasingly competitive market, a “we’ll do anything for anybody” message won’t cut it.

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