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Clumsy naming

March 18, 2012

[This post is taken wholesale from my other blog. Once I wrote it, I asked myself for reprint rights and was granted permission to reproduce it here. ]

This week Sara Lee announced it had renamed its international coffee and tea company. According to their own press release they worked with IDEO and spent a reasonable six months looking for names for this company that sells coffee and tea in Europe. Thousands of candidates were pared down (also typical), tossing out anything that didn’t work for the brand’s strategy, audience, or creative goals.

After strategic analysis and creative editing, 50 or so names were then forced through myriad hurdles, most stumbling at one of the legal, marketing, or graphic roadblocks to a final name.

The result is D.E. Master Blenders 1753.

Clunk.

When naming a major international company, the naming strategy needs to ensure there are no linguistic or cultural problems with a name, that the trademark is clear in all countries where the company will operate or sell products, that at least one viable URL exists. The creative endeavors must make sure there’s euphony in the name. And memorability. An encapsulation of the brand’s personality that does a substantial portion of the brand’s marketing work each time someone reads, says, hears, or writes the name.

In Europe Sara Lee sold coffee under the name Douwe Egberts. The heritage of this is highlighted in the name D.E. Master Blenders 1753. Since I’m not aquainted with the Douwe Egberts brand, I don’t know how beloved it is, so I’ll say this gently: terrible name, Mr. Egberts.

So how does its successor, D.E. Master Blenders 1753, function as a name? Does it do it’s job?

Let’s start with the most obvious: it has to mean something to the people who buy or drink Sara Lee’s beverages. Does DE Master Blenders 1753 have audience relevance? Sure, for people used to Douwe Egberts, it does. Does it offer competitive differentiation? Well, no other coffee has such a technical, lengthy, or precise name.

Is it memorable? Sort of. Once you learn the story you can piece out the name from memory. And you won’t confuse it for any other brand, so it’s assuredly differentiated. Is the name sustainable? Yes. 1753 and DE are both the seeds of the brand, and that won’t change. And any beverage can be blended masterfully, so coffee and tea can make room for unforeseen products rather easily.

Is the designation of Master Blender credible? Maybe. I haven’t had their coffee. I’m willing to bet that a multinational corporation has a few coffee experts blending their beans, so I’ll stipulate their master blender status.

Is the name euphonic? No. Resonant? Nope. Evocative? Uh-uh. Exciting, compelling, moving, persuasive? Nope. Does it make you just a little giddy at the possibilities of engaging with this coffee? Not me.

Candidate for Periodic Table of Lengthy and Technical and Mundane Names?

Indeed.

This new corporation sounds as though it’s a coffee and tea company peripheral to the quasar pulse of the star known as SDSSp J153259.96-003944.1.

Look, naming for a huge multinational corporation is a rough gig. And the need to not ruffle feathers or step on toes leads most companies to choose a safe, expected, obvious choice.

I guess that’s good, since it leaves all the creative names for the rest of us.

Enjoy your cuppa and tell me what you think of the name DE Master Blenders 1753.

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