If you’ve read “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink, you know that in a world of increasingly parity products, the intangibles are often what make the difference. Things like design and likeability and tone of voice. This got me thinking about the ways companies name themselves and their products. We’re all probably familiar with the story of how Nike needed something to put on the shoe boxes before they rolled off the printing press, and at the eleventh hour, Phil Knight made that fateful proclamation, “Go with the Nike thing I guess.” But what about the hundreds of thousands of companies whose names range from “Armor All” to “Zune?”
While there are plenty of businesses who’ve pocketed large sums of money by helping brands with these naming chores, it occurred to me that we could all learn a lot about the subject from boat owners. So, while I was recently on vacation in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, I took the liberty of snapping a few photos of watercrafts I passed while struggling to catch striped bass.
First, you have what I like to think of as the garden variety boat name. These names are typically rather lofty and rooted in boat terminology — nautical terms, constellations, weather patterns, tides and, um, birds. I imagine these names make their owners feel proud and important, but the truth is, most of them are infinitely forgettable. (In fact, “Infinitely” is probably on the back of a 32-foot yawl owned by an investment banker.) I equate these names to brands like “Coffee Bean” and “Blockbuster.” There’s nothing wrong with them, but they lack personality or soul.
For those of you didn’t know, Alcor is a star. Sailboat captains like to talk a lot about stars — typically while they’re following their $10,0 Lowrance radar.