Naming Contests and You: A Cautionary Tale

By Ben Weis
January 26, 2015
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Filed under Naming

Before you start that naming contest, take a deep breath. Choosing a name is a bit like choosing a spouse: you aren’t locked in forever, but it’s better for all concerned if you are. It’s a hell of a lot better to get it right the first time than it is to change midway. That’s not to say that it’s easy to get it right.

Back when I was in 7th grade, our class voted on the team name for the new middle school being built down the road. Presented with a handful of choices, we chose Trailblazers. Why? Enough of us knew that “blazing” was slang for smoking pot. We thought it was hilarious. A passing novelty for us became a permanent moniker for the school.

The administration didn't get the joke.
The administration didn’t get the joke.

Naming contests can be great. NASA hosts them constantly. A competition to name craters on Mars ended just last week. Zoos let kids name animals. For both, opening up the naming process is a way to engage the public and drum up popular interest.

Company naming contests are a different ballgame.

These take a few forms. The most insane approach came courtesy of Kraft in 2009: put the product on shelves, slap a “Name Me” label on it, and see what happens. The results of this particular brand of crowdsourced naming speak for themselves.

Tastes like victory!

Kraft isn’t the only major brand to open up naming to the roving masses. Mountain Dew tried it a couple of years ago.

Also a strong case for better child labor laws.
Also a strong case for better child labor laws.

In 2012, Kraft needed another name, this time, for a new division of the company. Not quite content with their old approach, they changed it. This time, only their 126,000 employees could submit names. An unnamed London branding team was hired to pick top contenders. The winner? Mondelez (pronounced mon-de-leez).

What were they thinking?

  1. We’ll save money!
  2. The employees will feel valued!
  3. No one knows Kraft like we do!

What we’re thinking:

  1. You will save money. Then you’ll lose it on the marketing campaign that explains your name to the masses.
  2. One employee will feel valued: the one whose name wins. Everyone else will think the company should’ve taken theirs.
  3. True, no one knows your company like you do. But the whole idea is to get other people involved. Better to keep it simple—something that’s really tough to do when you’re close to the problem.

Odds are, you don’t work for NASA. You don’t work at a zoo. The name you’re thinking about putting in the hands of accountants and engineers will be with you for as long as your company is around. It’ll feature in conversations and on your webpage.

If you’re ready to trust the professionals, get in touch. Need proof? Check out a naming case study. They speak for themselves.