Chris Kyme: Postcard from Hong Kong

Chris Kyme_April2016.jpgChris Kyme continues his "Postcards from..." series and this time he asks what's in a name?

If you're a copywriter, chances are that at some point in your agency life you have been dumped with the responsibility to 'come up with a name'. This can be a relatively straightforward task of submitting a few suggestions, to a long drawn out process which can start to drive you nuts (assuming you're not that already).

It depends on the client and project. Is it a new product name? A feature or ingredient? Some of the worst experiences can be with property names, where the brief is "Give us a list of 100, and we'll shortlist that to 90 to submit to our CEO." It can be a total nightmare whereby you unearth every possibility. From names that mean what it does, the two words combined approach: Easyfil, Ultrashine or Eversoexpensive. Sort of thing. To more evocative names, designed to conjur up and inspire a mood or lifestyle. 'The Amalfi'. 'Santorini.'
One thing is for sure, sometimes the mind-numbing agony of the process can be completely unnecessary. Because end of the day, history has shown that anything goes and can work. Providing that said product/brand/property is supported by and delivered with a good strategy.

If you were launching a drink powder for the Asian markets today, would you call it Horlicks? If you were tasked with coming up with a catchy, easy to pronounce moniker for a sports brand, would Adidas come to mind?

There are many successful global brand names that, if subjected to the excruciating selection process that we go through sometimes would fall flat at the first hurdle.

Le Billionnaire.jpgI think you can call anything anything, and it can work. With exceptions of course. Obviously 'Shit cereal' would not go down well. Or 'Rusty spark plugs'. But on the whole, there is no right or wrong. And I see evidence of this every day in Hong Kong. Just look at the unpronounceable fashion brands which do alright in this part of the world.

Among the most bizarre are property names, which these days are bordering on the ridiculous. It used to be enough just to call it somewhere that sounds rich, famous and international and evoke images of far off glamorous places (which is ironic to me because when I lived in Finchley, London, Hong Kong seemed far off and glamorous). Names like The Bel Air, Trafalgar Court, South Bay Palace, Grosvenor Place. Etc. Or those which sound European...French or Italian: Montebello, La Hacienda, the Parisian.

But these are some of the recent names which are currently in circulation and I kid you not: Park YOHO Genova, L'Wanchai (as if down and dirty good old Wanchai has suddenly gone all Riviera), Harbour Glory, Ava 61, Vibe Centro, Seanorama, 2Gether, The Met.Bliss, The Lime.

I mean really -what were they on in that brainstorming? Can you imagine telling someone you live at The Lime? "You fruity bugger you." Or at The Met.Bliss??? Admittedly, some of these might have much better Chinese names in Hong Kong, but even so. This is meant to be Asia's World City not Asia's Absurd City.

Rasonic.jpgThen you have the me-too brand or retail names, which are obviously trying to sound everso like proven existing businesses or brands. Like the furniture store which calls itself 'Giormani'. Wonder where the inspiration for that one came from? Or the electronics brand/shops called 'Rasonic' which also went to the trouble to use the same typeface and colour as the famous brand it is alluding to.

Restaurants too, can be called anything. The quirkier and more off the wall the better. The Hungry Elephant, Running Chicken Live, Yardbird, 22 Ships...creativity rules when it comes to naming eating establishments, and if the grub is good...you can call it Bernard's Blasphemy ... and people will come.

I think it is hard to make a decision on what name to go with, be it a brand or business. So I do symphathise. (Although that's no excuse for some of the absurd property names). You have to live with it. You want it to create an impression. You want it to carry meaning. So you try really hard. Given the tendency for agency start-ups to have creative-sounding 'Hey, aren't we wacky?' names, we consciously avoided calling our agency Bouncing Blancmange or Doodlebunnies.  We wanted to sound more businesslike.

Besides. Le Billionnaire and 2Gether were already taken.

Chris Kyme is chief executive officer at Kymechow, Hong Kong.

VIEW CHRIS KYME'S JUNE 2017 POSTCARD
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VIEW CHRIS KYME'S APRIL 2016 POSTCARD 

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