lealea's blogblog

because it's nice to say it twice

18 Comments // Filed in Branding / Business

Spelling Your Brand Name Properly

Can you spell every recognizable brand properly? Does it matter? Spelling properly can improve literacy, and groups like the Spelling Society (yes, it exists) and the rising profile of spelling bees means people are starting to take more notice about how words are spelled, hence the etymology (history) of the word bringing greater understanding of language.

They call me, “Mr. Tibbs.”

I started pondering the importance of spelling with brand recognition because of my own company name: Lealea Design. That is the proper way it is spelled. However, I’ve seen it in many other incarnations: LeaLea Design, Lea Lea Design, Lealea Designs, etc. I understand the confusion because the name is based off my real first name, despite the fact that “lealea” is an actual word with a double-meaning (happiness or pleasure in Hawaiian — and no, to clarify, I am not Hawaiian). Also, my logo has the words in uppercase, which means whoever types the name gets confused as to how it would look in a mixed case situation.

Meanwhile, my CMS of choice, ExpressionEngine is often incorrectly written as two separate words: Expression Engine. In fact, they even had a small forum post addressing the proper spelling and clarification, rightly advocating consistency in brand executions. People were confused, defended their right to misspell based on SEO, and wondered if EE was being a little too uptight. However, there’s a reason why brand manager or evangelists exist: even when it’s clearly written out what rules the brand must follow, many many people find a way to fudge it up.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Is that a bad thing? For the brand owners, it does hurt us in a way. Web wise, it lessens the our SEO web juice when people inconsistently try to search for different terms. It divides the search results. In another, it will convey the wrong idea to a new audience. Visually, it is also inconsistent. And lastly, it’s just a weeee bit annoying. :) But, as someone who has spent correcting pronunciations of her name (it sounds like that princess, not the other way) her entire life, and trying to convince people my last name is not Alcatraz, the little errors just start to roll off your shoulder and you just take it as something you just have to get used to correcting.

Or… should I get used to it? In my personal life, my sisters actually pronounce my name “Lee-yah.” Mostly, because everyone around me during childhood and growing up called my name improperly and I was too lazy/annoyed/tired of correcting. I finally took a harder stance during high school (new leaf and all that), and from then on, anyone who knew me PHS (Post High School) pronounced it “Lay-ah.”

However, I live a life where important people still call me by two names. And I’m okay with it. My sisters call me “Lee-yah” while my husband calls me “Lay-ah.” Is this the way we need to also address the reality of brand spelling and recognition? That, as long as people still identify you and still understand who you are, that it doesn’t matter as much if Coca-Cola needs that hyphen in between, or if it helps SEO, fine, let’s spell EE as “Expression Engine?”

At the end of the day, as long as you’re still recognized, and you yourself are consistent (EllisLab has always properly spelled their own product name), then even if others mistake it, as long as they know you exist in some form, is it okay? In my opinion, yes. However, I think it is always right to correct others when you do have the chance, and not stress if others still don’t follow suit.

Brand Nazi or Brand Savant?

What is your stance on naming? Are you more strict or are you more lenient? If strict, how do you enforce your naming? If loose, where do you let it go?

18 blabs to Spelling Your Brand Name Properly

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From a personal standpoint… most people spell my name “Kristin”, “Kristen”, “Christine”… Sometimes it’s just easier to let someone spell it wrong, I get tired of correcting.

I never thought about an alternate spelling for my SEO though… you raise an interesting thought… when I search on the wrong spelling of my name, no hits. Hmm.

It’s funny how often people misspell names for companies. I work in-house at a very corporate asset management company called BlackRock. The name, as you can see right there, is spelled as one word and the “r” in rock is capitalized. That is the brand standard for the company and god help you if you spell it wrong. :)

Personally, I don’t see a problem with promoting and maintaining your brand standards. Your name is your name and people should learn how to spell it if they want to reference you. Just know that if it’s unusual people are probably going to misspell it no matter what you do and polite correction is the best remedy you can offer.

I figured it was too late to comment on this the first time around, but since it showed up in my feed reader again I thought I’d chime in.

I’m pretty lax when it comes to brand name spelling/pronunciation enforcement unless it causes brand confusion. Take your domain for instance. If anyone mentions LeaLea, whether they pronounce it as lay-yah or lee-yah, if they say it twice, they’re talking about you.

I chose Jasongraphix when I was first establishing my personal brand because the pronunciation/spelling of my last name is confusing for most people. Graphix isn’t an obvious spelling either, but it’s memorable, fairly short, and the domain was available. Sometimes that’s all it boils down to.

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Feb 26
08:32 PM

Jason, it’s never too late to comment. :) This makes me wonder how important it is to keep entries dated to encourage people to comment.

I pretty much agree with you. I think as long as you’re recognized, that’s half the battle.

While people tend to spell, and pronounce, my website name (disassociated.com) correctly, a lot of people use an uppercase D when referring to it, when the name has always used lowercase type.

It’s obviously a very minor issue and it’s not as if I bail up people for doing it “wrong” though. Being recognised, as you say, is more important.

Spelling has been important – especially when I have one of those names that can be spelled dozens of different ways (Darryl, Daryl, Darrell, Darl, Darril, etc.)- and now it often helps me remember someones name and also builds a connection with them when I ask how to spell it. Just a simple “Is that Kristine with a K or a C” will often make them go “oh, here’s someone who actually cares” and helps build rapport.
As far as company names go, it’s important to because my current employer has two conjoined words, each with a capital, and no space. It makes a difference in the search engines when you tell someone to search for you, but…we hope that it will help promote brand awareness and uniqueness.

Picture of Lea

Name Lea

Date Mar 22
06:56 PM

Darryl, that’s interesting how you point out that understanding spelling builds rapport! As someone whose name is often misspelled, it’s natural for me to always clarify. I remember my friend Jakob delighting in the fact that I understood and remembered his name was spelled with a “k” instead of “c.”

I guess what this also means, really, is that details matter.

nice article :)

Picture of Hannah

Name Hannah

Date Jul 08
01:38 PM

Mine is Dhamphy. but the original domain is dhamphire.. is that ok?

I’ve always had to deal with the missing ‘e’ im my last name. Sad to say I have gotten used to the misspellings, although it is funny to watch computers not find me because e comes before s!

I find the debate over correct spelling v the ability to be found in searches an interesting issue. This also hods true when you make the decision to use a made up word like grafix as part of your name. What cost is individuality over ease of use?

Picture of Seamus

Name Seamus

Date Aug 12
03:31 AM

This is one of those things that I don’t want to be a stickler about. I also have a frequently mispronounced/spelled name and for most of my life haven’t bothered to correct people unless absolutely necessary.

But ever since starting a company, I’ve become more diligent about the issue. It took FOREVER to come up with a decent name that I liked. And I liked that it rolls off the tongue in a specific way, looks a specific way and represents what I do in a specific way. I’ve also noticed that if I correct people in a friendly, non-confrontational way, it can be an opening to a conversation about the origins of my name/business, which happens to be a pretty good icebreaker.

My studio’s name is qweb-studio. And we didn’t care of how to type it either QWeb or Qweb or qWeb. And we felt uncomfortable when one of our clients said that it’s not professional to write it in different ways. So, that’s my story. Now it’s always qWeb.

I help a lot of start up companies that are in the “naming” stage of brain storming (my favorite part).

I’m middle of the road on this and find it to be situational – here are a few of the considerations:

Techology / Web based businesses: It’s acceptable to be edgier in these realms than traditional corporate. However, when considering a name, URL availability is a key factor. And if you’ve chosen a name (say, XPress instead of Express) that needs to accommodate for misspellings, you should check availability on both the correct and brand spelling of your URL. Likewise, secure all possible spellings on social media sites. Think about it – if you hit it big and neglect to grab them early on, someone could easily capitalize on your success and divert your customers.

Second is the level of investment / reach for the company. There are two scenarios that have a better chance of effectively branding a unique spelling – folks willing to spend big bucks (i.e. you accomplish awareness through pure saturation) and boutiques (i.e. you’re brand personality / identity is funky enough and supported by smart grass roots and local marketing that people will take note).

Finally, I’d suggest that the actual product / service you provide and target market should be considered. If your audience is tech-savvy, younger folks, unique spins on common words are memorable. If you’re reaching out to more traditional or corporate markets or those that tend to be low-tech or tactical / operational in mind set, you will probably just confuse and frustrate them.

As a general rule, it’s always better to be clear vs. clever – so be confident that the hip, trendy, or edgy spelling that you love for your name couldn’t be misunderstood, etc.

Picture of Joe Lewis

Name Joe Lewis

Date Sep 30
11:57 AM

I doubt these ideas will ever be included in English pronunciation courses any time soon, but very interesting nevertheless. And I agree, brands should be fussy about how their names are spelled.

Picture of matthew

Name matthew

Date Dec 04
04:32 AM

I always wondered about this topic and still unsure if, I should discuss the attributes of the misspelled domain name… getting people to search is always risky

Picture of Jessica

Name Jessica

Date Dec 15
10:05 PM

I often wonder if people misspell my domain name. I cannot imagine how they would spell it if they weren’t spelling it correctly. I think I need to focus group this!

Picture of Raquel

Name Raquel

Date May 01
12:23 AM

I’m glad to read all your stuff on branding. I’m a student of graphic design right now and although I’ve been doing freelance stuff for around 8 years now, I want to get more serious. My name is Raquel, and for a very long time, no one really knew how to say it, or spell it, even family members or teachers I’d had for years. I’m kind of a stickler on such things, and I remember words and spellings really easily. Nevertheless, when my boyfriend started calling me “rara” when we met, I really liked it. I prefer the look of a lowercase “r” than an uppercase and it’s for this reason as well as the name sounding childish that I’m not sure I want to use it as my brand. Yet I’m not sure I can tear free of it just yet. I’m going to try all your branding suggestions and see exactly what I can come up with in hopes that a new name comes to me by then. I don’t lack introspection, but sometimes I’m really horrible about settling on names for things.

I often get my name misspelled, or worse yet, miss-pronounced. I never though about the SEO implications. Interesting article. Nicely done.

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