Manfred Gotta

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The name is the message

The man behind the names

Evonik and Smart, Vectra and Panamera – these iconic product and brand names were all developed by Manfred Gotta deep in the Black Forest. Many have gone on to experience global success. Although he was not involved with LAPP’s brand names, he is certainly the right person to talk to about the art of finding the right name.

Manfred Gotta – you are the man behind Panamera, Megaperls and Congstar to name a few. Just how do you come up with names like these?

To create the right name, you have to know and, if possible, love the product. This is the starting point for the process. We develop names internally and externally, and then hold focus groups with ‘normal people’ to test them. We then have to perform language testing, brand and online research, and of course domain checks. The names that survive are then visualised as if they already existed. That’s when we make a decision. The most important thing is that the name represents the soul of the product or company.

 

What makes a good brand name? The way it sounds, the way it’s written, its timelessness?

A name must be unique, striking, and protectable. It must be internationally suitable and must ignore fleeting trends. Who would have thought, for example, that Twingo is over 20 years old?

 

You have also rechristened companies like Evonik or Targobank that were already brands. When does this kind of rebranding make sense?

Changing a company name is justified if there are good reasons for doing so and the change can be explained. If an energy company originally had the word coal in its name, but no longer has anything to do with coal, then a name change is necessary. Parts of Citibank were taken over by another company and were therefore no longer allowed to use the name, so the name change was essential – and, with Targobank, successful. Both rationales are understandable.

 

You say that renaming a brand is much more difficult than creating a name for a new product. Why is this?

Renaming is difficult because it is often linked to changes in brand positioning. If the new positioning is authentic, it represents a huge opportunity. But these aspects are often not visible and must be communicated through a new name. This requires a great deal of sensitivity, understanding and communication.

Is it easier to come up with a name for a sports car than a complex service?

In a way, creating a name for a new sports car is easier because it is tangible. That makes it much easier to ponder different names from both an emotional and rational perspective. The process is much more difficult for a complex service, because the name alone cannot express this complexity. This is especially true of international names.

 

We are changing everything to LAPP. In your expert opinion, is this the right thing to do?

I think the decision to concentrate on the name LAPP is correct. Emphasising the family name is extremely important in my opinion, because you can link it to the actual people. They are people who stand for everything that they do and produce.

 

A brand image consists of a logo, corporate design, images, tone and many other factors. What role does the name play here?

The name lets you communicate the brand, which makes it the company’s most valuable asset. If Procter & Gamble purchase Oral-B, they do so because the products under that brand have an excellent reputation. Consumers don’t care where the toothpaste and brushes are produced. They trust in the quality of the product. And that is what counts. The same is true of company names: the name is the message.

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About Manfred Gotta

The S stands for Swatch, the M for Mercedes and Art for the genius behind the idea. SMART is one of the many names dreamt up by Manfred Gotta, entrepreneur and copywriter who describes his specialisation as ‘developing brand names’. With Gotta Brands, his institute for developing creative brand names for new products, services and companies, he works for clients all over the world.