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Banking and Commerce

Why Financial Institutions Must Face The New Realities Of This New Name-Economy
Naseem Javed

'As the sixties were for burning flags and bras, perhaps now is the time to burn most of the old marketing and branding books'.

Only yesterday, the image of a bank was of a Roman arch, huge columns, and people working behind bars.
Today, the banks and financial institutions are in your pockets, humming in palm-pilots, PDAs, laptops, quietly completing complex transactions, 24/7. Banks which all over the world discovered globalization and e-commerce way before these words came into our daily lingo, are not only caught in a highly competitive marketplace but also are stuck with a lot of old-fashioned names and ancient iconography.

As the tidal wave of this net-savvy culture becomes a global phenomena, the marketers of these financial services are faced with critical issues of branding and naming. In the past, monolithically designed corner bank buildings displayed their hard assets. Overly dramatic, long and monopolistic names engraved on the buildings provided the assurance to the early settlers.
E.g., The First Chartered Bank of the First Dominion, or The Amalgamated of the De-Amalgamated Union Bank of Western Commerce, etc.
Perhaps the society needed such consolations from a handful of such name identities. Today, while feeding pigeons in the Central Park you do your banking online with INGs or the MBANXs alike. Now, there is a thick forest of strange names out there, and thousands of online identities are clashing with each other, causing confusion among names and services.

How Cyber-Branding created this new Name-Economy Today, it's all about business names and their high visibility on global e-commerce, instant accessibility on the net, quick search-ability on the web, distinct memorability of names by overly strained populace, easy typability by tired fingers, and pleasant vocalization of such names and brand experiences by the customers all over the world.

This new name-economy is now the new driver of commerce and it is the only boost to the global engine of cyber-branding. At this second, business names are skating at bullet speed on this flat new earth, without borders, passports or time zones. No delays, no barriers, no major costs, just access. The name identity of a business will be the only measure on how a name works in a micro-multi-national-formation in a maze of countries and cultures.

Under the new rules, a name works like a KEY, being the only thing that can unlock the doors to this net-kingdom. The competitive fog is so thick, that without this key, a name identity is simply doomed.
The old-fashioned gigantic logos, splashing colors and stripes have nothing to do with this access. This is all about the structure of name and its impact and not about its type fonts or shape of logos. As the sixties were for burning flags and bras, perhaps now is the time to burn most of the old marketing and branding books. Good names have direct impact on corporate persona and positively influence customers, shareholders, media and public opinion at large.

Smile Bank logo
It's time to explore the power of names, new laws of marketing and how to play on this new one flat earth.
It is a false rumor that all good names have been taken. Corporations believed that all the star-quality names were taken, and had no choice but to accept a silly, weird name. Nonsense. The same big ad-agencies, which delivered world-class logos and commercials somehow seriously, failed in naming. A false myth was created to cover the lack of skills, and serious naming was farmed out to skateboarding freelancers for a "buck-a-name" service. $500 got you 500 names. Where else would names like "Oinga or Boinga" com
e from? What ever happened to strange names like PurpleFrog or PinkRhino?

Banking executives all over the world are faced with new challenges, because E-commerce visibility demands powerful URLs and DotComs. Dotnets, dotinfos, dotbizes are all easily forgotten and marketing suffers. Now, DotCom has become the only gold standard. Today, naming of a banking product is not a simple creative exercise, rather a serious discipline where Rules of Naming and Laws of Corporate Nomenclatures must be applied.

There is a big difference between a general branding exercise and a specialized naming expertise.
You can have a star quality and globally effective name with an identical within 48 hours. It is the easiest thing to do under the laws.
Banks of North America and most money institutions around the world have mainly three types of names.
1 Long geographic names; that seriously hurt national and international marketing. These same long names get initialized cause massive confusion with strange companies worldwide and are almost impossible to find on the Net.
2 Words on a string; names of things combined either accidentally due to M&A or other strange reasons, sometimes making no connections at all.
3 Initials; this come about because the customers refuse to call out the long names.

Diagnostically, solutions are simple and here are three steps:
First, determine whether your names are Healthy, Injured or on a Life Support. It makes no difference, whether these names are of products, services, division or the main corporate names.
To a customer a name is a name, no matter how it is offered. Healthy names are easy, unique and one of a kind with global protection and a dotcom Like CitiBank, SunTrust, etc. Injured names are long confusing or initialized, like UCBH, CIBC, BB&T or RBCFG.

While, Life Support names are tangled into serious trademark or obvious name confusion problems. Simple dictionary words also cause a lot of confusion. There are too many Firsts, Uniteds, or Nationals in just about every country and there are too many compass directions, East, West, North, and South and so on.

Online or completely virtual banks are also struggling for respectable and trustworthy naming identities and most important short and sweet URLs. The market is swamped with promotions, players like Everbank, Pc-banker, ING-direct, Earthstar, Giant-bank, and thousands others all chasing clicks and hits with a better URL, around the globe.

Second, quick analysis and the forward steps, after this proper check up, is to get a mandate to formally audit and analyze the name so management can take a specific direction to modify them.
These names can be for cards, special accounts or for various products or services. Most financial organizations have dozens of different names and many hundreds of domain names clashing each other all over the continents. It's always better to have few strong and protected names as champions than hundreds of injured players.

Fast treatments and more forward steps, it is very easy, to reevaluate, reposition and rebuild a Name-Identity of any product or a service, provided it is done using the Laws of Naming.
Third, you may already be over funded. Great names will give you great results, with much less dollars. Weaker names will cost you ten times while bleeding your budgets and exhausting major resources in the process. Names on life support will constantly need oxygen. There's no point in spending millions on weak names and risk losing the race.
You may already be over funded. Just fix the KEY problem and open the gates.
Banking is not the only industry facing this impact of names it's all over the globe and reaching the farthest corners. The old ideas of building brands using expansive billboards and banners are all now replaced by fluid web pages, which are being changed as you read along. URLs and domain names are now controlling access to the entire corporations.
In conclusion, there are major naming issues that executives must tackle in order to cope with the new challenges of this new name-economy.

© Naseem Javed July 29th 2003, author of Naming for Power, founded ABC Namebank, 25 years ago, speaker on global circuit and expert on corporate image & name identities.
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