Company Naming Shouldn’t Lead to Confusion.

How often has a name mislead you?

It happens to me quite often. Perhaps it’s because I take things quite literally. Or it could be the name just isn’t relevant to the product. Here are two quite different examples:

The fast-food chain Popeye’s offers Cajun-influenced food – dirty rice and such. Yet the first image that comes to mind for me is Popeye the Sailor Man, and “logically”, seafood.

I don’t know if younger people are even aware of Popeye from the comic strips and animated cartoons of years gone by. There are a couple of food associations for Popeye apart from the obvious seafood image: spinach, the source of Popeye’s strength; burgers eaten voraciously by his sidekick, Wimpy, and even olive oil, an alternate spelling of his girl friend’s name, Olive Oyl. But nowhere in the Popeye mythology is Cajun/Creole/Louisiana cuisine apparent.

So why was the Popeye name adopted? I have no idea, I would not have named the chain with what I feel was an irrelevant, even inappropriate, name.

In another context is the adaptation of the name Dove for chocolate treats. Even though they aren’t in the same product categories, the soap of that name can’t help but “rub off” on the chocolate bars and candies.

Eating soap brings to mind getting my mouth washed out with it after my mother heard me swear as a youngster. Both the soap and the candy are appealing in their own rights, and they’re both aiming at discerning, quality-oriented markets. I also think both are female-oriented. So perhaps only a literal-minded critic like me would think twice before adopting a name that’s been well-branded even in an entirely different product category. But I would certainly think twice or thrice before making such a recommendation.

My point with these examples is that, though they may be successful in their respective markets, I think less confusing, more unique names might have made them stronger still.

I’d like to hear what you think. I’d also wish you to share other examples of names that confuse you in one way or another. Because we learn from mistakes – but they needn’t always be our own mistakes.