What are the pros and cons of using a 'meaningless' brand name?
Yell chief executive Mike Pocock has admitted that hibu, the company’s new name, is a meaningless word. What do you think are the benefits and disadvantages of using a “meaningless” brand name
‘There are many arguments against “hibu” as a piece of rebranding, but being meaningless isn’t one of them. A meaningless word can be a useful blank canvas. The best example is Kodak, made up because the founder liked the letter “K”. The trouble is, it’s hard to invent something completely meaningless. It’s already been suggested that “hibu” has unfortunate associations with genitalia in Japanese. That aside, even made-up words carry subliminal meanings. You could argue “hibu” contains traces of “Hi!” and “Boo!” – both friendly exclamations that suggest a brand personality. Meaning creeps in, even when you don’t invite it.’
Nick Asbury, copywriter, Asbury & Asbury
‘I guess there are practical benefits in being able to register a meaningless name and URL without too much trouble. I’ve never been a great fan of these names though. I would find it hard to justify my fee if I was paid for coming up with random, illogical names. My feeling is there ought to be a “story” behind the name, even if it is not obvious, which supports what the organisation is about.’
David Kimpton, creative director, Kimpton Creative
‘The great thing about a meaningless word is that it provides a blank canvas, an empty vessel that you can then imbue with whatever meaning you choose to reflect your brand. Take Haagen-Dazs for example, a made up name that now triggers a whole world of associations that are specific to that brand and represent the founder’s vision. The drawback is that meaning can take time to establish. Names inspired by where the brand comes from, what it does or who created it carry associations that provide a foundation from which to build a story more quickly. Meaningless or meaningful, a name will only ever be as strong as the brand behind it.
Daniela Nunzi-Mihranian, creative director, JKR
‘Abstract, meaningless new names are always going to be difficult for a business that feels partly owned by the nation. Remember Consignia anyone? You have 15 minutes of fame at launch to tell your story - justifying and explaining your name wastes this time. When we launched Yodel, we ensured the name communicated the proposition from day one - Your delivery, your call. An abstract meaningless name may be easier to create and register, but who’s interested in a meaningless brand?’
Jonathan Hubbard, creative director, The Clearing