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Ahead Of The Curve
Finding New Names for Companies, Products Is Craft, BusinessAired February 22, 2001 - 5:52 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DEBORAH MARCHINI, CNN ANCHOR: The business of coming up with new names for American companies and products has never been more competitive and has never stretched further to come up with words that aren't already taken or trademarked.
As Peter Viles reports, there's a lot more to a name than you might think.
PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When DaimlerChrysler starts selling this vehicle in the United States, it will set some sort of record for size and weight and for having one of the strangest names in auto history. Daimler calls it the Unimog, which translates from German as Universal Engine-Driven Apparatus -- which would make for a certain assignment for a naming expert like Dave Placek.
DAVE PLACEK, PRESIDENT, LEXINGTON BRANDING: And I think, for something that large, you'd want something -- probably a smaller word that is flexible and fast, to compensate for the size and probably the sluggishness of the vehicle.
VILES: Placek is a corporate wordsmith. His past hits include Pentium, for Intel; PowerBook, for Apple; and car names such as Outback and Forester, for Subaru.
The problem now in the naming business is that so many words are taken. By one estimate, 98 percent of the words in a typical dictionary have been registered as dot-com domains or trademarks. The result is a glut of fabricated names, such as the Lucent offspring of Avaya and Agere systems, Verizon, Cingular, Agilent, Telegent (ph), and Xsensure (ph).
PLACEK: I realize it's a very difficult thing to do, being in this business. When most of them are fabricated, it is difficult for a consumer to begin the conversation with that company, to really even remember the name.
VILES (on camera): Now DaimlerChrysler says it's going to stick with that name Unimog for that big truck it's bringing to the United States. Certainly not a catchy name, but it does have a history -- in Germany, there's some farmers who have been fans of the Unimog for 50 years now. Peter Viles, CNN Financial News, New York.
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