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Sylvester Chauke Opinion: What's in a name?

So there I was on SA374 back to Johustleburg after a really inspiring weekend at the majestic and truly breathtaking Zeitzmocaa in Cape Town. The charming air hostess walked towards my seat and said… “Excuse me, sir! What exactly do you do?” I was lost for a bit but then I was quite keen to understand where exactly she was going?

Then she proceeded to say… “As I was going through the passenger list, I saw your name and it was so familiar. I couldn’t quite point where I know the name from, so I thought to ask because the name sounds like someone I should know” I was sweet-talked! Sylvester Chauke conjured certain images I guess and this was a good example that there is strength in a name.

This got me thinking… Most often the first piece of information we have about a person is their name. It’s the first thing we learn about someone and then create a vibe or judgements about those people expediently. So the first piece of information is especially important. It can lean you in a positive or a negative direction. And those first impressions can set the stage for future interactions.

Example… Bell Pottinger, Nelson Mandela, Pieter Dirk Uys, Lucas Radebe, Adolf Hitler, Basetsana Kumalo, Donald Trump, Madonna.

It is vital in brand building to think of names that conjure certain images to the consumer. Often in my line of work, I meet new brands with names that miss the mark, that could be better. This is because many times, we do not place enough time and effort in the naming of the product like we do to the product itself.

Yes, there are brands that got it right – Apple for an example says… we think different! There are names that immediately evoke meaning and trust: Google, VISA, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Amazon.com, Disney, Starbucks, FedEx, Red Bull, LinkedIn, Shell, Nando’s, DNA Brand Architects (winks). A brilliant name sets the stage for any brand. That’s why naming your brand is so important.

The brand naming process isn’t something one leaves to a council or a few sessions over drinks with your agency. Naming your brand — whether it’s your company, products, or services is a decision that can shape the future and trajectory of your brand. Granted, a lot of the mentioned names (excl. DNA Brand Architects) have been in operation for many decades and have spent billions on advertising to build their brand equity.

So if you are reading this and are thinking of a brand name… pause… think long and hard and remember, this is an important step! The importance of naming our brands, our projects, our businesses cannot be underestimated. Let it not be a quick tittle but rather may it be filled with depth and may the name manifest into the kind of brand that consumers want to connect with. On the African continent particularly, we have such colour and energy that we can afford to be a lot more fun.

Oh, I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining a positive sentiment around the brand because as we have seen lately and as has history taught us, there are some misfortunes that happens with our names too. Try this test Bell Pottinger, Adolf Hitler, Robert Mugabe, Donald Trump – don’t get me started. What’s in a name huh? A lot!

Sylvester Chauke is an award-winning entrepreneur and cascader of the Stand Against Bland movement in marketing amongst other fun things. He is founder and Chief Architect of DNA Brand Architects, sits on the Advisory council for WEF Global Shapers and is a Board Member of the South African State Theatre.


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