COLUMN: Good names, bad names – you know we’ve had our share

The name The Beer Store earned top marks as a business brand from our editor, although he admits a fondness for its products does influence his opinion.

“The Lambton INN is out. The Lambton College Residence & Event Centre is in.”

So begins the optimistic news release from Lambton College in February announcing the facility had been renamed.

Because The Lambton Inn is both a student residence and a special event centre, college brass thought it wise to rebrand. A change of name, they reasoned, would “aid public perception” of the building’s multiple roles.

I say, good luck with that. It’s two months on and Sarnians are still calling it The Lambton Inn, and odds are they’ll be calling it The Lambton Inn two years from now.

I’ve never understood why organizations and businesses feel compelled to trade in familiar and perfectly good names for longer, clumsier models.

Generally, a good name is short. Good names are memorable and easy to spell, and it helps if they contain a visual element. Nor does it hurt if the name hints at what a business or organization actually does.

Take the Lambton Health Unit, for example. It’s a pretty good name, or at least it was. A number of years ago county bureaucrats put their thinking caps on and the Health Unit was renamed – deep breath – The County of Lambton Community Health Services Department.

The eight-word handle was such a mouthful of officialdom that people confused it with other health services, such as the North Lambton Community Health Centre. Phone calls got lost, referrals went astray. Worse yet, the community went right on calling it the Health Unit.

Common sense finally prevailed and last November the county tried again, this time renaming it Lambton Public Health, which isn’t a bad name either. Nevertheless, even employees still refer to it as “the Health Unit.”

The organization once called the Sarnia and District Association for the Mentally Retarded had to change its name. Unfortunately, the choice in 1989 of The Sarnia and District Association for Community Living created some confusion about its purpose and clientele, and took years to achieve full community recognition.

And then there’s my favourite name for a business, The Beer Store, which was once known as the Brewer’s Retail.

I confess that fondness for its products colour my feelings. But how can you beat The Beer Store for consumer honesty and branding directness? It’s everything a good name should be.