Company names evoke feelings. Those who choose the names may not care whether the chosen spelling violates the rules of Finnish. The National Board of Patents and Registration of Finland recommends that names conform with grammar and spelling rules. However, the name of a company is much more than just a string of characters that distinguishes one company from another. At its best, the name immediately sticks in the consumer’s mind, creating positive images and conveying information about the business.
A name also has legal, business and communicative significance for the company. According to the Board of Patents and Registration: “The more inventive the business name is, the stronger protection it gets. The inventive company name stands out from other registered company names and sticks better in the consumer’s mind.” Further, a company name is an expression of corporate culture and a tool for enhancing the brand’s reputation. In this way, breaking norms may be not a mistake but a way to command attention.
Business names are also multimodal entities; they’re more than their letters and their pronunciation. If we consider them only as text, we miss essential factors. For example, the company name is closely associated with the logo, which is an established graphic representation of the name. The selected styles, such as the typeface and colors, tell you about business practices and values. As for the literal text, Finns often perceive the letters “ä” and “ö” to be unpleasant or even ugly. I asked Japanese speakers about these letters; they think the same graphemes are visually cute and generate positive images.
In company names, you can also use any language, a mix of languages, or even made-up language, and the names can still work in terms of Finnish grammar, at least to some extent. What matters is how well they suit their operating environment. Examples of such names include Papu Design and Cimec. These names do not mean anything, but that doesn’t matter! Whatever its name, in the end a company creates its content and meaning. The name and its form may also have a story; that’s a new chapter and possibly a blog post of its own.
This week’s guest writer, Maritta Kela, is a Finnish language student who participated in the Language Consulting Course at the University of Tampere. For her master’s thesis, she is examining the Finnish names of Japanese companies.