Friday, 20 February 2009

What do names say?

Following on from the previous post about positioning, I like the Obama Car Wash in Oxford's Cowley Road.  "Can we make the alloy wheels shine and get that difficult muck out of the door sills?  Yes we can."  Makes me wonder about competing car washes, though.  What would you expect from the Sarkozy Car Wash; the Brown Car Wash; even the Berlusconi Car Wash?  Perhaps not.  Sarah Palin used to own a car wash.

Main theme here, though, is positioning and naming around money.  There seems general agreement that one of the causes of the economic crisis is greed - specifically the pursuit of money for its own sake.  The idea that we'd let the desire for (easy) money grip us as a society is an idea that people now entertain as possible, even if they don't fully agree.  There are eloquent posts from consumer and business perspectives, arguing that there's got to be more than getting and spending money.  

Just to be clear, I love what you can do with money - whether that's securing a home and a level of comfort for my family; accessing the arts, sport, holidays, food and drink; or giving it away to effect change where it's needed.  I understand that without money life can be much more difficult.  But I'm also aware of the pull of money - that it can hold you and grip you, whether you have plenty or little.  

So it's from these perspectives I react to the Motley Fool's new web site for consumer finance -  It's there "to help you build a relationship with your money". 
 But I don't want a love relationship with my money.  I'm intrigued that the lovemoney blog talks about ensuring that its name had to fit with company values - (not spelt out, but not previously about "loving money", I think).  And what are we to make of the the little heart in the logo?  Seems to me the obvious implication is that this is a site about loving money - albeit with a logo that brings a light touch to it.

I don't get why you would choose this name.  "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and some by longing for it have ... pierced themselves with many griefs".  That (from the Bible) seems more obvious that it's been in ages, and in our post-Christian culture is a quotation that still resonates.

I exchanged e-mails with Saul Devine - MD at The Fool.  Much credit to him for a thoughtful and generous engagement (in line with how I think of The Fool).  The gist of his response was that the literal meaning of the name is not the intent of the service, and that the brand messages inherent in the site are contrary to the more negative associations of the name.  He stresses that the service is about responsibly handling money - and I've always found it to be that.

But surely that just means the name is wrong?  In naming a business or a service would you not work hard to avoid names that point your customers in the wrong direction?  Would you not avoid names with associations that your site had then to overcome?  Yes, I get the potential for ironic naming; yes, I understand the potential for whimsy, for ambiguity, for attracting attention.  But this still seems a very strange choice to me.

Just to be clear I normally like the Fool's content a lot.  I find it helpful - and reckon it lives up to the 'wise fool' stance pretty well.  But I'm likely to visit a site called less frequently - because I just don't want to love money.  

The point of this - not to beat up on The Fool - but that names matter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to agree. A name really does matter.

Although some would say that it doesn't as long as the proposition is right, a name is the first point of communication which will be judged from the outset.

The proposition messages come much later.