Home Innovation Insights

J. Michael Luzier
February 21, 2013

What's in a Name? More Than You Think!

As the father of four kids, I have some experience with names and the highly personal and subjective process of selecting them. In our case, my wife and I started by making a short list of names for both boys and girls. We spent hours in discussion weighing factors such as nicknames, people with similar names we both liked and disliked, and family traditions. While we could identify the factors that caused us to like or dislike a particular name, we had no way (or desire!) to quantify them in any way. Instead, within a day or so of each of their births, one of the names on our list seemed to "fit" better than the others. Our process was admittedly subjective and opaque, but it seemed to work.

Our kids are now teenagers and we couldn’t imagine knowing them by any other names. Of course, I suspect we would feel the same had we picked any other name on our lists. I also suspect that our perception that each of their names fit them was as much a product of the urgency to put a name on the birth certificate so we could leave the hospital as anything else. Fortunately, despite all the hand wringing over names, I don’t believe children’s names are deterministic of anything intrinsically important such as health, intelligence, or moral bearing. I wouldn’t love them any less by a different name. And in the end, it really only mattered if we liked the name – other opinions really weren’t that important to us.

I had a very different experience when it came to evaluating the name of this company. With a decade of experience trying to explain the difference between our company and our parent company, I knew there was confusion among prospective clients between NAHB, a non-profit, member-based trade association, and the NAHB Research Center, an independent third-party testing, certification, and consulting company. I knew that this confusion was limiting our ability to communicate effectively who we are, what we do, and why we should be hired. Based on our experience as a market researcher, I knew that the name of a product or business can play a huge role creating peoples’ perception of the company, its products and services, or desire to interact with that company, so I knew that if we were to consider a name change, we had to get it right and account for the opinions and perceptions of a wide range of people ranging from our clients, to our board of directors, to our stockholder (NAHB).

Fortunately, branding, messaging, and communication strategies are such critical components of marketing that few businesses leave it to chance (or the subjective process my wife and I used to name our kids!). There is a voluminous body of objective research detailing how this can be done in a systematic, objective, and transparent way that can be measured in meaningful terms.

So that’s what we decided to do and hired three expert consultants to help us through it.

Merrick Towle Communications, a marketing communications consultant, helped us examine how well we communicated our value proposition to all our client segments and helped us develop clear and concise messaging at the service level. Interactive Strategies, a web consulting firm, revamped our corporate website from the ground up. Using the messaging we developed with Merrick Towle, Interactive Strategies delivered us a completely new web presence and clean and modern platform for telling our story. NameStormers, a brand consulting firm, helped us test and measure potential names of our company and measured them against our existing name among our key client segments. NameStormers also tested various logos Merrick Towle had developed for us to see whether one was better than others in the eyes of our clients. It truly was a remarkable team, and it was interesting for me as a consultant to be in the client chair for a change.

The research our consultants conducted showed that both our clients and housing consumers alike greatly preferred one new name above all others and one mark above the rest — you can see how the whole picture of who we are came together as embodied on this website. Unlike the decision-making process my wife and I employed, which was guided by our guts, preferences, and biases, this decision-making process was driven by a rigorous research process, data, and analysis conducted by independent experts. We practiced what we preach, and I think we hit the mark. Surf our site and let me know what you think!

I'd also love to hear what issues your company is confronting and discuss how Home Innovation Research Labs might be able to help you navigate your challenging decision-making processes.

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