O what a
By Naseem Javed
Special to the
Published November 30,
Let’s take a look at the letter ‘O,’ the
circular, 15th letter of the alphabet and the name of a magazine owned by
the first lady of television, Oprah Winfrey.
Ronald Brockmeyer, the
publisher since 1988 of a German erotica publication titled O Magazine,
aggressively challenged the name of Winfrey’s O, The Oprah Magazine. Both
are commonly known as O – but it’s safe to assume that his stands for
something very different than hers. Brockmeyer filed suit in August
against publisher Hearst Corp., Winfrey’s company Harpo Print LLC and
several unidentified individuals and corporations.
"O is my
trademark. I built it up and protected it for years,” Brockmeyer said.
“The defendants knew about my rights but went ahead anyway and they
refused to stop when I asked them to.”
So, what does
all of this have to do with the Web?
face it, when it comes to naming a company, a product or a Web site, O is
just a hole, a zero, zilch, nil, a no-nothing. On its own, O has very
little weight or much to offer – unless Placido Domingo is singing that
romantic vowel in the midst of an opera.
But in commerce, O is
little more than a bridge that builds goofy names for low-tech products
such as the Roll-O-Matic or Bun-O-Matic.
Whoever advised Oprah to
go with a one-letter name for her magazine was oh so wrong. Naming
anything in the corporate world is one of the most important issues of
business today. Given the global economy that’s emerging, names require
far more sophisticated thinking and planning. They even require careful
consideration of different cultures.
Watch out for focus groups and
handholding brainstorming sessions where simplicity wins over strategy. A
letter on its own cannot be a major brand. Think about it. In English,
there are only 26 letters to go around. That isn’t stopping Compaq from
going for “Q,” Zeller’s from angling for dibs on “Z,” Microsoft’s
fascination with ‘X,’ and Kmart, well, that’s obvious. But it
If people got more creative, their businesses would be more
effective, and I’m sure that would be OK with Mr.
Nasseem Javed, an authority on corporate
nomenclature, is chief executive officer of ABC Namebank International and
author of ‘Naming for Power.’
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