NewsSportsEntertainmentBusinessHomesJobsCarsSubscribeArchives
chicagotribune.com
November 30, 2001

Mostly Cloudy
48°

Chicago Tribune Holiday Fund
WeatherTrafficMapsFull searchSite map
 Weather, traffic, maps
  
Classified
Special sections
News / Home
Business
TechnologyYou are here
Columnists
Jim Coates
David Greising
Barbara Rose
Christine Tatum
Views
Profiles
Product reviews
Final Debug
News roundup
Sports
Leisure
Travel
Registration
Customer service

Special reports
2001 School Report Card

All special reports



Top technology stories

Archipelago deal may spur change

3 U.S. airlines log off Boeing's online venture

AT&T bumps cable bid cutoff to Monday

Good vibrations a signal of prayers

Extension for Comdisco



Views
O what a branding mistake


E-mail this story
Printer-friendly format
Search archives

Photo
Naseem Javed
Naseem Javed

Can Oprah get away with it?
What do you think of Naseem Javed's assertion that one-letter names aren't good enough? Is he underestimating Oprah's branding power?
Read more comments or post your own

Stories
Dot-com or go home
August 13, 2001


What's in a name? Plenty
July 9, 2001


By Naseem Javed
Special to the Tribune
Published November 30, 2001

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.”

O, boy.

So, what does all of this have to do with the Web?

Think branding.

Let’s 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 should.

If people got more creative, their businesses would be more effective, and I’m sure that would be OK with Mr. Brockmeyer.

Nasseem Javed, an authority on corporate nomenclature, is chief executive officer of ABC Namebank International and author of ‘Naming for Power.’

Copyright © 2001, Chicago Tribune


Advertiser
New 3M Wall Display. FREE Vitrual Demo Now!
How to advertise

Classified feature
Cars
Not driving your dream car? Our cars classifieds can help.
Home | Copyright and terms of service | Privacy policy | Subscribe | Customer service | Archives | Advertise
Tribune
Powered by Genuity