Updated: May 29
Operation Golden Flow, Alinea and Brexit are examples of great names.
The name is the first port of call in the neurological cascade comprising a brand – be it a project, company or movement.
Ray Kroc famously hailed the McDonalds name as the most important asset on his balance sheet.
Names need to be backed by value, be that in the form of efficiency, utility or prestige. FedEx, Starbucks, Rolex are great names, but they wouldn’t be if the organisations behind them were flaccid.
Great names are above all appropriate. Goldman Sachs is a great name, partly because of its power and history. The name would sound ridiculous if it belonged to a mom and pop loan company.
The brands mentioned above are powerful in good measure because of their names, as well as the way they conduct themselves. These are memorable names – visually, phonetically, evocatively – and importantly, they are contextually relevant or even potent.
Operation Golden Flow
The unofficial name of a drug-testing programme administered to US soldiers at the end of the Vietnam War.
The problem: A significant number of US soldiers, traumatised during and after the harrowing events of a dog-fight war, and with an abundant supply of good quality heroin, are drug addicts.
The solution: Nixon, worried about thousands of young men returning to the US with a heroin addiction, instigates Operation Golden Flow: piss into a cup, and if you’re passing urine and urine only, you’re allowed on the plane home. If not, you have to stay in Asia until you're clean.
Why is Operation Golden Flow such a great name for this project:
1. It's visual, therefore visceral, therefore memorable.
2. It accurately summarises the literal activity of the project (although this doesn't always have to be a condition for great names).
3. It's humorous.
Although this is not a rule, these attributes combine to make a great name (once we understand what the project is about). A name is a bit like a logo. It might not mean anything to anyone at first, until what it represents has been processed.
But once the understanding is there, everything clicks into place and we have a solid foundation for a brand. Now we have fertile ground for a positive reinforcement cycle and the potential to gain momentum and traction. Great names feed off the productivity of brands and brands feed off the compelling nature of the name.
The name Operation Golden Flow goes the extra yard. There is a macro level: the flow of youth returning to the US once clean is… a golden one. A name that goes beyond the limitations of describing the mechanics of a brand and that can hint at a bigger picture can carry more weight.
Packed with the kinds of culinary experiments and aesthetics you'd expect from a laboratory-esque three-star Michelin restaurant, the story of Alinea on NetFlix’s ‘Chef’s Table’ is worth watching.
Co-founder and chef, Grant Achatz, is obsessed with the new. Every three months, the entire menu changes. They recently underwent a complete redesign and renovation of the interior building's interior.
Nothing stays the same.
Everything revolves around innovation and the principle of ignoring boundaries. Why use a plate, for example, when you can put food directly on the tablecloth?
Why not have a portion of the menu barbequed in front of customers, on the table, while they go through the other courses (oblivious as to what’s going on until the secret is revealed)? Why not serve floating food?!
And so to the meaning of the word Alinea: a linea in latin is “off the line” and is commonly associated with the silent P that creates a new paragraph in a passage of text.
As Grant Achatz explains, the word alinea simply means: a new train of thought.
The whole philosophy of the restaurant condensed into a single word.
Star – bucks
Fed – Ex
Face – book
Net – Flix
Brex – it
There’s something about a two-syllable name that makes an impact.
It’s the classic “one two” or “jab straight”.
Brexit is phonetically punchy with its harsh “Br”, “x” and “t” consonant combos. Its very sound cracks the protecting surface of the incumbent.
Brexit is a bark. It breaks things. It's a break from the perceived old, the perceived bad, boring, mundane.
The root word “Exit” in itself is highly evocative. An action word denoting “let’s get out of here”, it leaves lame "Remain" in its wake.
Remain by comparison is a terrible name. During a time of social unrest, Remain is the last thing you would want to call anything. “Let’s keep things how they are shall we?”
Politicians and billionaires who understand that emotion is key to winning votes, rather than research or expert opinion or even facts, must have known they were on to a winner with Brexit as their chief meme.
This is a name designed to clitter-clatter through the snarling teeth of the hungry and disenfranchised as well as the tax-evading elite who seem to revel in the idea of a weakened European super power and who conveniently label themselves as populists in their own post-narrative.