July 18, 2006
Brand Naming: Students Know Technology Not Branding
Every year the National Youth Leadership Forum on Technology collects some 1200 high school students in San Jose for an intensive series of site visits, seminars, workshops, labs, and presentations by representatives from major technology companies and universities.
And every year the students are divided into teams to work on Future Solutions projects to solve real-world dilemmas “through the creative use of existing or future technology.” Yesterday, judges from the likes of Microsoft, Google, and HP convened to award prizes in categories such as “Best Business Solution,” “Greatest Global Impact,” and “Best Expansion of Existing Technology,” with one overall winner out of the eleven category winners.
All of the projects were good, but some had better names than others. “Sewergy” and “LugEx” show a better grasp of the importance of branding in today's marketplace than “Implementation of Nanosensors in Regards to Insulin Control.”
The two top contenders for overall winner were both renewable energy solutions. Runner-up TerMight used termites and yard waste to create high-grade ethanol to fuel cars, while the winning project harvested wind power by putting turbines on floating frames tethered to oil derricks.
The name of this project? S.O.R.E.
That stands for Solutions of Renewable Energy, and with the gull-like logo the students drew, it was clear they wanted people to think of the homophone for their acronym: “soar.”
Unfortunately, if the judges are anything to go by, that wasn’t what came to mind. There were numerous “don’t get sore if we don’t vote for your project” remarks from the judges on other teams when it came time to choose the overall winner. If S.O.R.E. had been a real company, its name would have been a serious liability.
They would have done better just to call the project “Soar,” making up a new acronym if they felt they had to. (Acronyms are not the best choice for names, but are pretty common for non-profit and research institutions: think of SETI, or of NYLF for that matter.)
Fortunately for Team S.O.R.E., the project’s name was not one of the criteria the judges used to determine the best project.
These students understood the technology of what they submitted, but like many companies, they overlooked the importance of an appropriate brand name.
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