What’s a name or a brand? The right name can make your company or product a hero or can be a laughing stock. Even worse – the wrong name can lead to a failure or litigation and ultimately cost you lots of money and reputation. Some brand experts believe that the best names are abstract, a blank slate upon which you create an image. Other brand consultants strongly believe that names should be informative so that customers know instantly what your product is. There are those who believe that made-up words are more memorable than names that use real words and others who think the opposite – that such names are absolutely forgettable.

The truth is that any name can be effective as long as it’s backed up by a solid brand promise and a well-integrated marketing strategy. Yes, there are many companies that spend millions of dollars and thousands of internal meetings to finally make a gut decision on their brand name. Some are even doing consumer research or testing with focus groups to see how the names are being perceived.

Furthermore, there are lawyers involved, ready to do endless trademark searches. Hiring a trademark attorney or at least a trademark search firm ensures that your brand name doesn’t infringe on another business’s trademark. If the trademark is used globally, there is obviously more complexity involved and it will take a decent amount of time to overcome all hurdles. Traditionally, you should keep in mind that professional naming firms devote anywhere from six weeks to six months to the naming process.

I came across 4 examples which illustrate the complexity and challenges of global branding and naming.

HP with ProCurve

A good friend of mine, who is Romanian, was working with HP Romania on a campaign to promote the HP ProCurve. The HP Marketing Team (all ladies) were amused when they got a box of T-Shirts, which they were required to wear, in order to promote HP’s latest product ‘ProCurve’. The amusement came from the fact that HP Corporate was not aware that in Romania the term „Pro Curve“ means something like ‘Pro-Hookers’. Well, the ladies were still following the corporate rules but have been reported to be a bit shy wearing those T-Shirts to promote a stellar product from HP Innovation Lab.

SAP TechEd rename d-code

SAP decided to rename its legendary and worldwide very successful SAP TechEd Conference recently. D-Code is the new name and the intention is to get closer to the App Building Crowd. Let me share an insight with you – if you google d-code, the first thing you get, is a toilet image from a company Duravit.

D-codeI have to admit the toilets look modern and in my view reflect the digital age. Sleek and useful like an SAP’s App built on HANA Technology. I am sure SAP was aware of this but decided to take the high road and just move ahead as they did in the 3rd example. I truly believe it does not damage their image although some people might make fun and try to relate the SW with the solutions offered by this fine toilet producer.

SAP Named R/3 after a Condom

In the late 80’s and early 90’s SAP pushed globally the flagship software product R/3 after simply following R/1 and R/2 solutions. Germans love consistency – take a look at the car industry with BMW and Mercedes. However, there was a little problem. R/3 was a very well known condom brand in Germany. I guess the Management, who were already in their 40s’, probably forgot about these handy tools known by the teenagers at that time.

Some people made fun but it was quickly forgotten and globally it was anyway not relevant as these condoms were only available in Germany. It was not an issue and did definitely no damage to the brand. The same thing I believe is true for the toilet and the new TechEd called d-code.

SAP = South African Police

When SAP registered its name in Germany in 1972 probably nobody ever thought of going global and offering software to South Africans. I remember it was a big challenge and initially the company needed a new name for its local subsidiary in order to do business in South Africa. Eventually all this has been worked out with heavy charging lawyers and SAP’s strong commitment to this grand nation.