Developing a brand name is no easy task. Whether you’re launching a new product, creating a new company, or rebranding for a new image, the most challenging aspect is the creative one. Coming up with a novel and compelling concept in a cluttered marketplace far exceeds a mere exercise in cleverness. And when you land on a name that feels distinctive, has storytelling potential, and could be a platform for a great brand experience, there’s always a good chance the mark is already registered in your category. But before falling in love with a name and before fighting for registration, there’s another, often-overlooked challenge: What does this new name sound like or mean in other languages? Even if you're only launching in the States, English isn't the only language your consumers will speak. And in the digital age, it’s pretty much guaranteed your new brand will be instantly global.
For example, maybe you coined a seemingly perfect name, like Senos, for a new piece of NFC sensing technology. It sounds advanced, feels believable, flows smoothly, and supports the mechanics of the device. Well, we’d advise not to move forward with it, as that word means “breasts” in Spanish. You could even be dealing strictly in English words and still be blissfully unaware of unfortunate meanings. Perhaps you’ve developed a fantastic line of perfumes with provocative fragrances and landed on an equally provocative name, like Afterglow. Well sense won’t be made with your German consumers, as After means “anus” in their native tongue.
As a firm specializing in brand naming, we at Lexicon are intimately familiar with these challenges, and we have processes in place for dealing with them. In fact, we have an entire department – GeoLinguistics – dedicated to screening names for language issues.
To ensure success for our clients – in the US and abroad – we’ve built out a robust network of 80-plus Ph.D. linguists around the world who help us to evaluate names at various stages throughout the naming process. These in-country native speakers have a nuanced understanding of culture and slang, as well as business and branding acumen, so that they can truly evaluate the strategic potential of a name in a certain market.
Their expertise has been invaluable to our efforts over the past 33 years, which is why we’re excited to unveil Lexicon’s latest development in the field: Profanity Check. This app, available for free from the iTunes App Store, is a semi-automated tool to help with screening out candidate names. At its core is a cross-linguistic profanity dictionary, developed in tandem with our linguists. It helps ensure that names you're considering for your new brand aren't swear words or vulgar terms in major world languages. It does this by using an advanced algorithm that catches both exact and near-matches, and checks against main dictionary entries as well as related forms (e.g., f#@! and f#@!ing).
Our matching algorithm even identifies terms that merely resemble offensive terms in our dictionary. Many of these near-matches may not be cause for concern, but our app lets you make this determination yourself. Of course, for full coverage we always recommend comprehensive linguistic checks, which should involve consulting native speakers who live in the target regions. But Profanity Check is a good first step to at least rule out any overtly offensive names.
Thanks to our deep investments in research and innovation, you could say naming just got easier… or, at least it just got easier to make sure your new name doesn't mean s#!@.
—Greg Alger and Michael Quinn
Download Lexicon's Profanity Check App here.