Global branding industry should do more to honor the most creative and successful naming and verbal identity projects, says Gregg S. Lipman, CEO of the New York-based brand agency.
Each year naming experts at brand agencies across the globe spend countless hours working to develop verbal identities for a dizzying array of corporations, products and brands. And yet major industry awards programs continue to ignore the foundational role of naming in the brand-building process, said Gregg S. Lipman, CEO and Managing Partner of CBX, the New York-based brand agency and retail design consultancy.
“Nothing is as foundational to a brand as its name,” Lipman said. “So why don’t programs like Cannes Lions and CLIO honor creative agencies for their work on naming? On behalf of all of those who value the critical role of verbal identity in the branding process, we at CBX are calling for a change.”
Earlier this month, CBX took out a full-page advertisement inAdvertising Age in which Lipman urged major industry awards programs to begin honoring creative agencies for their hard work and creativity in the naming arena. Verbal identity, Lipman noted, is the most enduring aspect of any brand and is therefore every bit as worthy of recognition, if not more so, as a visually attractive logo or clever ad campaign. “Without verbal identity, there would be no identity at all,” Lipman wrote. “No big idea. No creative campaigns. No trophies in the lobby.”
Specialists in CBX’s Naming and Verbal Identity group have created hundreds of names from scratch for a raft of corporate, service and product brands. Recent examples include everything from corporate to consumer: Big Heart Pet Brands (the world’s largest standalone pet food and snacks company); Brew York City (Duane Reade’sgrowler bar brand); Nice (a Walgreens private label brand); and Topaz (an Irish fuel brand), to mention just a few. “When they ‘nail it’ and come up with the perfect name for a brand, naming experts at firms like CBX get plenty of recognition from clients, but to date there has been no way for them to receive formal recognition from their peers,” Lipman said. “This could be easily remedied, which is why we are taking the unusual step of publicly calling for the addition of awards categories for naming and verbal identity.”
Lipman pointed to the importance of naming in other creative arenas—from Hollywood, to the music industry, to book publishing.
“There’s a reason Ernest Hemingway agonized over the title of The Sun Also Rises; a far cry from its original title Fiesta. This was the quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, and so the title had to be perfect,” Lipman said. “What would have happened if ‘The Beatles’ had stuck with ‘The Quarrymen?’ After Prince changed his name to a visual symbol, he had to go back to ‘Prince’ because no one knew what to call him anymore. Simply put, naming matters—and this is every bit as true in the world of branding as it is in other realms.”
The wrong name is like an unstable foundation, whereas a strong verbal identity serves as a solid platform for great brand-building campaigns for years, decades or even centuries to come, Lipman added. “Campaigns last only as long as the media buy, and even logos and fonts evolve and change with time,” he said. “Names endure. And you have one shot to get it right. They are often multigenerational. Your great-grandfather probably wore Levi’s.”