Introducing a simple Google search into your creative process can save your company from a PR nightmare. Most business owners know that a certain amount of due diligence is an integral part of naming their company, but when it comes to naming product lines or individual products, service offerings, sales events, or even spaces within their facility, they’re a little laxer. This isn’t necessarily a good thing.
For example, take the phrase Strange Fruit. It sounds ideal for a line of dehydrated exotic fruit snacks – but a little research would quickly reveal the phrase is an iconic civil-rights era anthem that references people of color being lynched. That product never got off the ground, but inexplicably, a PR firm chose the same name in 2012. The public backlash was immediate and the firm changed their name, stating that they’d not understood the relevance of the name when they chose it. Last year, a Massachusetts restaurant experienced extremely negative responses after naming a cocktail Strange Fruit.
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This type of problem is completely avoidable. An easy first step it to Google potential names before committing to them and introducing them to the public. Reading two sentences on Wikipedia doesn’t take very long. It’s also a good idea to test idea names with a panel of trusted advisors and your bounce partner. For best results, you want these advisors to be culturally diverse; language is a very nuanced phenomenon and words can be experienced by one group of people in a way that would never even occur to another group.
What happens if you fall in love with a name that has negative associations to a culture that you don’t belong to, that isn’t well-represented in your community or customer base? Get ready for some heartbreak. We’re all connected, with people who will be very offended and vocal about the name being only one social media post away from a worldwide conversation with your business in the middle of it. You have to decide if this is something you want to deal with: for most business owners, avoiding time consuming problems is a good idea, and they choose to do so whenever possible.
Googling potential names before you use them can also increase your awareness of how other businesses, both in and out of your industry, are using those names. Pay particular attention to uses that are local to you: avoiding confusion is in everyone’s best interest. Investing half an hour into looking into a name before you start to use it is a smart idea for everyone.