What’s in a Name?

By Britten Follett – Senior Vice President of Marketing and Classroom Initiatives, Follett School Solutions

Liam and Emma are the most popular baby names last year. So, do you go popular? Or go unique? Soon-to-be parents can spend nine months or more debating their unborn child’s name. Alternately, there are the moms and dads who wait to see the baby because little Liam may not look like a Liam, while some parents keep the baby’s name a secret for the big reveal on the Facebook birth announcement.

In marketing, the naming debate is real. Waiting or keeping it a secret is not an option. As any seasoned marketer will attest, naming a product or offering is one of the toughest components of a strategic launch—the name must speak to what the product is and does, and also resonate with the intended audience.

As I’ve led the marketing team at FSS over the past five years, I’ve worked diligently to simplify our product names in order to bolster the brands according to what we have learned from our market research: our customers recognize and like the names Destiny, Titlewave, and Follett. That information has helped us understand that we sometimes must take the bold move to change the names of some of our ‘babies’.

Two years ago, when we began to offer book fairs to our customers, we assembled a room full of our most creative team members from across the organization – opinionated, energetic education-specific professionals who brainstormed about what to name this new offering. Overheard in the room were comments like, “We don’t want to be just like every other book fair, so we can’t call it Follett Book Fairs…” and, “If our customers already know them as Book Fairs, why would we call them something different? Let’s not reinvent the wheel.” You know how this story ends—sometimes, it’s best to call a product exactly what it is. Today, Follett Book Fairs is an exciting, new, up and coming competitor to the school book fair we all enjoyed as elementary students. Our naming and branding of Follett Book Fairs is built upon something we already had in place and had branded long ago: the Follett name, which our customers already trusted.

As we began creating the business plans designed to extend Follett Book Fairs into “Book Clubs,” I adopted the same worldview. If our customers understand what makes a Book Club, why would we call them something different? I quickly learned I was wrong. When describing the offering to customers to get their feedback, they looked at me somewhat perplexed. Both our librarian and teacher customers said, “Book Clubs are discussion groups where students reading the same book share their thoughts.” I explained that our competitor’s book clubs are the sheets of paper filled with books that students take home and ask their parents to buy the book they’ve circled to raise money for their teacher. All of a sudden, we were talking the same language and our customers responded, “Oh! We call those Book Orders!” Ah yes… the marketing challenge. The competitor calls them Book Clubs. Our customers don’t recognize them as Clubs but instead call them Book Orders. Yet, we’re trying to offer something better.

I lost sleep over this one. A few days later, during my morning pre-work run, I contemplated the Clubs’ name… and I had a revelation. A Club is essentially an online Book Fair run each month by a teacher. So, perhaps we should build on the momentum and affinity already in place with Book Fairs! That same day, our marketing team discussed naming once more: our Book Fairs marketing manager suggested that we build on the Book Fairs brand we’ve already worked to establish, while our Director of Marketing Strategy expressed concerns about calling the classroom solution a Book Fair, thinking it may cause confusion about the big physical event that happens in the library.

As all good marketers do, we headed back to the proverbial drawing board. A few days later, one of the team members came to me with an alternative. Follett eFairs. “e” indicated online… or at least indicates something “techy” and eFairs builds on the Book Fairs brand. I wasn’t sold, but I liked it. But the more I thought about it and our team discussed it, I realized eFairs solved a problem for the Book Fairs business. Now, when a customer didn’t qualify for a physical Book Fair due to location or school size, we could direct them to an eFair.  This also meant we could build off existing materials, a cost and time savings.  Most notably we could point customers to one Follett Book Fairs website that markets Fairs and eFairs and speaks to the benefits of getting kids excited about reading all year long.

Again, based on customer input, we needed “book” in the name so parents knew what we were offering.  So the official product name is Follett Book eFairs but I believe over time, if we do our job right… our customers simply call them eFairs.

After all, quite often, names on a birth certificate evolve into nicknames, right?

In the end it’s fairs for all!

Britten Follett

Britten is a journalist. A marketer. A storyteller. A board member. A philanthropist. An advocate for libraries and education. Britten spent 10 years as an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning television journalist. In 2010, she made a tough decision to give up a career she loved and embark on a new career as a 5th generation family member working for Follett Corporation. At Follett, she started as the marketing manager for the International team and has held various roles in marketing and communications throughout the organization. Today she is the senior vice president of marketing and classroom initiatives for Follett’s K12 education business.

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