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We Hate our Name, Discuss

I have some friends who changed the name of their child two weeks after she was born. They didn’t finally take a decision two weeks late.  They actually changed their mind after having settled on another name.

When I heard the story I thought it was pretty ridiculous. But then I considered the case of Peace Dividend Trust.

We chose the name in 2004. At that time PDT was merely a collection of vaguely formed ideas without a clear mandate, set of activities or direction. We knew that we wanted to help channel more money into post-conflict economies. We had a good sense of how that might happen, and some vague notions of how we could help.  The general sense was that we would help create a “peace dividend” for locals in places like Timor and Afghanistan. And we thought creating a trust fund would be the most sensible way to do this. Hence, Peace Dividend Trust.

Once the name was chosen, we moved on to other things, like the actual doing.

It wasn’t long, though, before we came back to the name. We decided it sucked. Why?

  • Easily misspelled
  • Difficult to pronounce
  • Impossible to translate
  • Does not communicate our mission or activities
  • Confuses people into thinking we are a “peace NGO”
  • “Peace Dividend” concept actually not widely understood, even in English
  • We never set up a trust
  • Very long domain and email addresses

I could  go on. But let’s just agree it’s a horrible name

Unfortunately (or fortunately) we’ve been too busy to do anything about it.  PDT grew by 50-150% every year for its first 6 years. Every day we were scrambling to focus on the mission critical tasks like staffing – deploying – funding, and not on important but less pressing problems like our terrible name. (Which is also why our website is so terrible).

But this is ending soon. We are getting rid of our terrible name and we’re going to be choosing a new one. With your help.  Stay tuned.

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6 Comments

  1. Brett says:

    Good for you — I always thought it was an odd name…

  2. Dave Algoso says:

    Scott, I started to write a comment, but then it turned into a whole post. If you’re looking for a new name, might I suggest “Sue”?

    http://findwhatworks.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/whats-in-a-name-johnny-cash-teaches-us-about-branding/

  3. Weh says:

    I’ve always found PDT to be a confusing name for your organisation considering what you do. I think coming up with the name that you want to represent your organisation should really express what you do. Then of course, you can get really funky on it and play with the words, shorten them etc. So the first step could be to think about what the organisation does in as few words as possible, and then see if any of these words fit into a new name. Some of these words might be worth consider including in the new name (in no order): innovations, post-conflict, solutions, market, employment, peace.

    My only other suggestion would be, instead of people internally deciding what the name should be, nominate a few ideas and then throw it open to people who know the organisation well (look into the database). Get a voting system happening, see what resonates best. Sometimes, if you’re too close to the organisation, it’s hard to get a sense of how the name of the organisation resonates on the outside.

    Good luck!

  4. Lee says:

    Er – buildingmarkets.org ?

  5. Zahin says:

    I think changing the name is a good idea,because it was hard to translate and relate the mission and mandate to the name.
    Chosing a name that most relate to what P D T does and can be easily translated and understood in other languages Will be the important factors to keep in mind.

  6. I think you should imagine that you are marketing your organisation to the Chinese, a pick a name that resonates with the Chinese language and people. For example, a recent NYT article (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/12/world/asia/picking-brand-names-in-china-is-a-business-itself.html?_r=1&ref=world) gave some very good examples of how global brands have translated their own names into Chinese:

    ‘…a genuine Chinese name can say things about a product that a mere collection of homonyms never could. Take Citibank, Hua qi yinhang, which literally means “star-spangled banner bank,” or Marriott, Wan hao, or “10,000 wealthy elites.” Or Pentium, Ben teng, which means “galloping.” Asked to introduce Marvel comics to China, the Labbrand consultants came up not long ago with “Man wei” — roughly phonetic, foreign-sounding and eminently suited to superheroes with the meaning “comic power.”’


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