oooh, I was waiting for a thread like this!
I don’t work in advertising now, but I spent a year working for a brand consulting firm, where my job was to create names for new products, services and companies.
My personal claim to fame? I named the Sony Aibo.
Now for the dirt. A while back, Cecil wrote a column about dumb car names. I now know that a significant part of the problem (at least from Japan) can be traced to a single person. Before being presented to a client, all our naming suggestions had to be approved by the head of the sales department. Aside from the fact that he couldn’t speak a word of English and viewed the entire creative department as a waste of money doing something he could do with one arm tied behind his back if only he didn’t have so many more important things to do, he also had a major hard-on for words ending with z, v or a vowel combo. Names that didn’t satisfy his little fetish stood a much higher chance of being rejected, regardless of the product or the client’s explicitly stated preferences. Eventually, we’d intentionally tailor the names to suit him just so we could finish our work (a typical project would involve creating over 2000 first-draft names). We had a lot of car projects.
Anyway, to make a long story short, it’s because of this one man that we have the Toyota Vitz, Toyota Platz, Mazda Familia, as well as Mondeo, Tourneo, Grandia and several others.
Another near-horror story: one of our companies earlier naming projects was the Yokohama BayStars baseball team. In 1998, they won the Japan Series, so he wanted to approach them to create a new slogan for the team. The MVP was Kazuhiro Sasaki (now of the Seattle Mariners), so he came up with a clever little slogan that would effectively communicate that Sasaki and the BayStars were #1.
Say it out loud. Fortunately, we talked him out of that one.