Thursday, May 10, 2012

Names that didn't make the cut.

Quantum physics tells us that life is a dance of possibilities choreographed by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Till the point of definition, everything is just a haze of waves floating around amorphously in multiple universes following their own logical script. The moment a decision is made, the waves collapse into our three dimensional reality and we get to experience the fruit of the choice we’ve made.

Naming choices follow the same quantum pattern. Yup, every name is the author of its own reality. Had Ian Fleming picked ‘Peregrine Carruthers’ over James Bond, ‘I am Carruthers…Peregrine Caruthers,’ would not have shaken or stirred the box office as the name reeks of a spectacled banker than a likeable spy.

Example-2: When confronted with a gum-drop shaped, candy-coloured translucent desktop computer - the god of design - Steve Jobs, almost opted for ‘MacMan’ as the moniker. Luckily for Apple, they had the sensible Ken Segal who tabled ‘iMac’ for consideration. Thanks to his dogged persistence, we have the iPod, iPhone and iPad today. Else, we’d have been stuck with the very Walkman-like PodMan, PhoneMan and PadMan. With such clunky names, who knows Apple would have turned DudMan!

Starbucks is another great case study to explore the ‘what ifs’ of naming. The founders, it is said, had short listed ‘Pequod’ (the whale ship in the book Moby-Dick) as their first preference. A quip from a co-founder that ‘no one is going to drink a cup of pee-quod!’ kind of harpooned the prospects of poor Pequod. That split second of candidness proved a blessing for the coffee major as the team ended up fishing a more memorable name from Herman Melville’s tome.

The history of brands is littered with many similar instances of sagacious rejection of almost-there names. ‘Blackberry’ would have been called ‘Strawberry’ if not for the intervention of a hard-nosed marketing head, who was seeking, a little alliteration. ‘Jaguar’ could have been ‘SS’, ‘Sunbeam’ or any other animal if not for the wise call of automobile magnate William Lyons. Likewise Google would have been ‘Backrub’ and Twitter would have been ‘Twitch’. Moral of the story: If you choose almost-there, you’ll only be almost-famous.