An innocent railway station sign takes me back twenty-five years in a heartbeat.
At Eberswalder Strasse U-bahn station in Berlin I experienced a strange and overwhelming intersection of memory and commentary. It came without warning - an unstoppable rush - I was whizzed back in a mental time machine to 1988 and a flat in Streatham, South London. My teleport was this simple U2 sign from one of Berlin’s ten underground lines.
Often a famous brand name is originally an arbitrary choice rather than a rational consideration. It is often the best of a bunch rather than a stellar choice. U2 were originally called ‘Feedback’ followed by ‘The Hype’ and then in 1978 they settled on the name U2 from a selection of six names presented by a musician friend. The band chose the name because of its ambiguity and the fact that it was the name they disliked the least! As if by prophetic design U2 were subject to a strange synchronicity. Thirteen years later U2 recorded their seminal album ‘Achtung Baby’ at the Hansa studio a stone’s throw from Potsdamer Platz on the U2 U-bahn. A name is not just about the past, a name has the potential to warp the future too. Names attract fate.
When searching for a new brand name, asking a group of people to like something they have no attachment to is a step too far. Asking which name they dislike the least is often a better criteria. In the beginning a name is meaningless. Only after a considerable period of time and positive associations does the name become household. Value grows with familiarity. And with that familiarity, trust. Ultimately a name is a navigational aid for our memories and a tiller for the future. The brand becomes a fellow passenger on our journey. Punctuating the context.
I love names but sometimes find naming a challenge. Once a name is established it is as if it has never been away – it is part of our mental furniture. Coming up with a new brand name is often a thankless task and fraught with anxiety and subjectivity. A name when initiated has no substance, or at best borrowed associations and values. Names are like wine, they mature with age and are representative of positive or negative emotions that only accrue with time.
In the beginning names are empty, only over time do they become full – of meaning and memories.