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What's in a Name? Zest, Companies Hope


It's been amusing to watch U.S. radio stations change their call letters to combinations they think are hot and innovative. Now, every FM station that plays music seems to have a Q, an X, or a Z in its name: "The Mighty Q-91!" "WXZX!" "KXQQ Rocks!"

Whether or not broadcasters started this, name changes with an eye toward adding sizzle or sex appeal have become epidemic. So many pharmaceutical drugs start with X or Z today -- Xanax, Zoloft, Zantac -- that the drug companies agreed to stop creating X or Z names for awhile.

But other companies are going to zingy names. Remember when the credit card Visa was "Bank Americard"? That was a real yawner.

Old, generic college football postseason games are re-branding like crazy, too, thanks to commercial sponsorships. It's not the "Peach Bowl" in Atlanta, Georgia, any longer. It's the "Chick-fil-A Bowl." Chick-fil-A is a brand of fast-food chicken. Here's another: the "Brut Sun Bowl." Brut is an underarm deodorant!

Change is everywhere! A trendy clothier paid Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, $10 million to become the "Abercrombie & Fitch Emergency Department and Trauma Center." As the magazine Mother Jones noted, the American Association of Trial Lawyers is now the American Association for Justice. That's because trial lawyers have a slippery reputation in some quarters, and who could dislike justice?

Creating a fresh new name may seem like a good idea. But there's a lot of work involved -- and probably considerable expense, too, when you add up legal, advertising, printing, and publicity costs. So you'd best be careful, because suddenly there are an awful lot of zesty X and Z and Q companies out there.

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