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Your Name is What?

November 20, 2013

Frozen YogurtNaming a restaurant might just be the most important thing you’ll ever name with the exception of your children. It’s what tells the public who you are, what you offer, and/or how they should feel. Intentionally or not, the name conveys whether the restaurant is casual or stuffy, perfect for dates or a place to bring the entire family. Without an expressive name, you’ll have to get everything else spot-on to inform your potential guests of what they will experience when or if they visit. Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about…

My wife and I just moved back to West Michigan after almost five years of being in the Dallas area and a lot has changed since we’ve been gone. There are a bunch of new coffee shops, burger joints, food trucks, and the list goes on. Recently, I came across a really cool frozen yogurt place called Bloop. It’s really clean, well-lit, and the décor screams fun, fruity, and youthful, but I just can’t get over the name. One thing I learned years ago from Marty Neumeier, the author of The Brand Gap, is that a brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what everyone else says it is. It’s the overall emotion and perception one has when thinking of who you are and every point of contact is important — especially the name.

If a brand’s name helps set the tone for what’s to come, what does the name “Bloop” communicate? With frozen yogurt being dairy, “Bloop” tells me that I might have the bubble guts afterwards. If you hadn’t visited and I were to say, “Let’s go get frozen yogurt at Bloop,” would you really want to meet me there? I shared this thought with a principal of a leading advertising agency in the area and she agreed. It’s not a good name.

The name “Bloop” is probably doing more against the brand than it is doing for it. Fortunately, they’re new enough and have very little signage that a name change wouldn’t hurt business as much as if a larger, more well-known restaurant changed its name. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that choosing a name is easy. If so, they probably would have gotten it right the first time. “Bloop” just doesn’t tell me what I think they hoped it would tell me. There’s nothing wrong with creative names like Bloop or Yogolution, and descriptive names like Nate’s Froyo isn’t necessarily right or wrong either.

A while back, I read an article on Highsnobiety about the do’s and don’ts of naming a brand in which David Fischer, the founder and publisher, said, “Unlike most people I actually believe that the brand name is not as important, as long as the product is good.” I find myself having to agree with David, but let me add, “as long as the product is good and different from its competition.” After being in Texas and visiting my fair share of froyo shops, I have come to believe that they all offer the same product and to be honest, they all seem to offer the same experience as well. Now in Bloop’s favor, there are not a lot of self-service frozen yogurt places in West Michigan as compared to North Texas and Bloop is in a pretty good location between a large high school and a movie theater, so the owners have greater freedom to call their restaurant almost whatever they want. Please notice that I said “almost”.

People in the area know it’s a good place to get frozen yogurt and the location is convenient. They will however have a problem if a more polished competitor opens in an equally convenient location with a more compelling name. After all, people do eat with their eyes and thoughts before eating with their mouths. I used Yogolution as an example earlier because it too is a great example of how a bad name can affect business. Yogolution was a real frozen yogurt restaurant in Allen, Texas. They too were near a movie theater and close to a family-filled neighborhood, but unfortunately for them, so many people thought it was a yoga studio. They are now out of business.

I’m not trying to pick on Bloop, or Yogolution for that matter, but this was a great opportunity to show how important a name is, what thoughts and emotions a name can evoke, and how other factors can be just as important in either helping or hurting your brand. If you are thinking of naming or re-naming your restaurant and need more information, please read 10 Most Common Naming Mistakes by Interbrand and 4 Business-Naming Tips for Branding Success on Entrepreneur.com. They are great articles to help get the process going… and they’re free!

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