This fall I’ve been conducting a simple one-question survey that illustrates an important lesson in naming companies or products. Here’s the question:
What does LP mean to you?
If you’re like the majority of people surveyed in person, you think that LP stands for Long Play – as in the big black 33 RPM records that were the music delivery system of choice before cassette tapes, compact discs and now MP3 files.
Maybe You Think Like a Lawyer
If Long Play is too obvious for you, maybe you think like a lawyer and read LP as shorthand for Limited Partnership. Or maybe you’re in the petroleum industry and see LP as Liquid Propane. Or perhaps you are medically minded and to you LP means Lung Puncture.
All of these responses are valid and understandable, but none is anywhere close to the meaning that a U.S. lumber company wants you to associate with the letters LP.
Renaming an NFL Stadium
The lumber company wants to claim a prominent place on the North American stage, so it entered the high stakes game of professional sports venue title rights. Back in the summer the company doled out a tidy $30 million to the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League to rename their stadium LP Field for the next decade.
Apparently the lumber executives figure that if sportscasters say “LP Field” a few thousand times over the next 10 years, the company will become famous.
Doing the Wrong Thing in the Customer’s Mind
But as the survey illustrates, the lumber barons are sadly mistaken. They are doing the wrong thing in the customer’s mind.
If the Name Is Not Unique, Fame Will Not Follow
They are not creating interest in a lumber company. They are only reminding people of the meaning they already attach to the letters LP – and it’s not Louisiana-Pacific, the original long form name of the lumber company.
A Waste of $30 Million
At the end of the contract, the company will have little to show for its investment other than a $30 million void in its bank account. LP will still only mean Long Play to a huge portion of the North American populace.
What the Lumber Company Should Have Done
Assuming that attaining North American prominence is a good marketing goal for the company, it should have signed, not a 10 year contract for $30 million, but a 9 year deal for $27 million.
The Company Needs a Unique Name
The extra dollars could have financed a renaming project and an enormous awareness campaign. The first step – create a powerful new name unique to the lumber company.
By coming up with a memorable new title, the company would realize the full potential of its stadium naming contract. After a few years of exposure, the company under its new title would become far better known than it is as LP.
With $3 million to publicize the new name, the company could have done a lot. They could have bought T-shirts and ball caps for all their employees plus 70,000 fans at a Titans game.
They could have poured money into advertising or into goodwill projects that would generate warm feelings and major amounts of positive media exposure. The company could have expanded its support of Habitat for Humanity, bought an entire section of season tickets for underprivileged kids to see NFL games or sponsored community football leagues.
This alternate strategy would have given LP a name that would turn into a high value asset, unique to the lumber company. With the North America-wide exposure of its NFL stadium, the marketing boost would have been huge. Instead the company is stuck with a name that will always be plagued with confusion, being mistaken as an old fashioned iPod.
What About Your Company?
What does your company name do in the mind of customers? If it sends a non-message or the wrong message, contact Identicor for help. And pay close attention to the December issue of Brandscapes. It will tell the story of how the world’s largest retailer uses effective product naming to create buying demand.