Would A Rose By Any Other Name Still Be Findable In Google? – 5 Lessons learned from marketing our 64 year old jewelry company

Mid section view of businessman with nametagAfter my recent post, Cog asked that I take the time to apply the same conversation on naming your brand to my family’s jewelry business, Honora.  Now, considering the fact that it is a 64-year-old company and I am only 30, clearly I was not involved in the decision making.  My last post also focused on the difference between naming your brand after yourself or after your niche.  This really does not relate to us as we are the third kind of company name, one that does not clearly denote a person or a category.   From what I’ve been told, my grandfather wanted a blank canvas to build a brand upon, one that was bigger than any one person or limited to a particular niche.  Not wanting to disappoint the powers that be at PRBC, I hope these lessons learned from marketing Honora, a name selected in 1946, over the past few years will suffice.

  1. Don’t use a first or a last name! – Unless you are a designer or looking to build your brand around yourself, you want to use caution when using names in your company name.  While not the most popular name on the planet, Honora is still being chosen by parents everywhere for their daughters.  In fact, the company was named after the wife of my grandfather’s business partner at the time.  It was a touching gesture back in the forties, but it has proven to be a bit challenging over the years, leading to some rather interesting results when we monitor our brand and causing unwanted competition in search results (although I am sure they are all lovely people). 
  2. Is this close to or part of a common word? – Google Instant is going to give me a drinking problem…  While there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to Google’s new approach to search, there are big concerns.  As if working for a company where the first 5 letters spell Honor wasn’t fun enough, we now no longer show up in Instant’s organic search for a term that we used to own due to the word Honorarium.  It is enough to make you (read: me) want to crack open the emergency bottle of scotch that you (may or may not) keep in your desk.
  3. Can you pronounce what you are reading? I’ve mentioned the company name three times so far and unless you are already familiar with us, I am betting that you have been reading it Honor-A rather than the correct pronunciation of Hun-Ora.  The association with the word HONOR has its upsides, but proper articulation is not one of them.  This has been a challenge for our business over the years and groan-inducing when even one of our long standing partners steps on our name.  Thankfully the use of online videos and our shows on QVC have gone a long way toward helping our customer hear the correct enunciation.  This is a challenge other brands have faced as well.  In fact, one of the most popular companies in ecommerce, Zappos, was smart enough to add an extra P to keep customers from calling it ZAY-Pos.
  4. When you hear it, can you spell it? – This pronunciation issue runs both ways, as oftentimes spelling what you are hearing can be just as difficult (especially when you are as bad a speller as I am).  While many impressions take place online, on TV or on paper, there are often interactions that can be missed if someone cannot quickly spell your name.  Sadly, Hunora.com was unavailable to buy as a redirect, but I am willing to bet that we have sent them some accidental traffic from time to time (you’re welcome!).  Sure, the average consumer will tweak their spelling or do a quick search online in order to find you, but the last thing you want to do is make it difficult for someone to find you.
  5. Know what it means! – While this is not a particular challenge we face, you also want to make sure you know the etymology (if any) of your brand as well as any similar words in foreign languages.  Knowing the roots of our name and its associations with the word Honorable certainly helped us as we determined the core values for our company.  Although they turned out to be untrue, the rumors of the Chevy Nova under-performing in Latin America as “No Va” translates to “Does not go” is a humorous example of how a name may be problematic.

Don’t get me wrong, I would not trade our name for anything in the world and hope that anyone looking to name a new company finds my venting helpful.  However, if we were first naming our company today, I would certainly take the time to vocalize all of these potential pitfalls.

So, how about you?  Are you saddled with a challenging name or did you craft the perfect corporate identity when you selected the name for your business?

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