5 branding lessons you should learn from Flora Shaw

We all know Aunt Flora, don’t we?

by George Charles Beresford, half-plate glass negative, 1908
by George Charles Beresford, half-plate glass negative, 1908

She’s the reason Nigeria is called Nigeria. She created the name.

In an 8 January 1897 essay which first appeared in The Times Of London, Flora proposed that the Royal Niger Company be renamed Nigeria. Clearly, we were property of the English throne. Whether we still are or have changed thrones is talk for another time.

So here are a few tips we learned from that essay of hers about re-naming your brand.

1. Make it short

Flora mentioned in her article about how Royal Niger Company  was too long a name for their real estate company. She wrote;

It may be permissible to coin a shorter title for the operation of pagan and Mahomedan States which have been brought by the exertions of the Royal Niger Company

We have to admit the Nigeria is shorter than the seven-syllable thing. Just look how even though the brand name is Coca Cola, they use Coke more in campaigns and media that require direct engagement.

Share a coke

You want people pronouncing the name of your company, not reciting it.

2. Make it memorable

A company that’s not remembered is a company that never sold anything. It’s the same reason you think of countries like Spain first when you want to name countries beginning with the letter S. Look at these; Akanka, D’Green Stripes, Hingees, Oluwole and Sons, Twitter, Haemo, Printivo.

I doubt you’ll be remembering Olufemi and Sons tomorrow.

3. Make it distinct

You don’t want people to hear your name and mistake it for another brand. That’s just you giving them free marketing. This is why Miss Shaw said;

To speak of them as the Central Sudan, which is the title accorded by some geographers and travelers, has the disadvantage of ignoring political frontier-lines, while the word ‘Sudan’ is too apt to connect itself in the public mind with the French Hinterland of Algeria, or the vexed questions of the Nile basin.

Even though Big Cola came to rescue us from the tyranny of the sugar-water bottling companies with its lower prices, it will always be treated as the rebellious son of Coca-Cola.Cola

Or how Hyundai is just Honda in Italic.


And who knows Minimie and Mimee noodles aren’t one and the same?


Still on being distinct, she said;

The name “Nigeria” applying to no other portion of Africa may, without offence to any neighbours, be accepted as co-extensive with the territories over which the Royal Niger Company has extended British influence

4. You don’t have to please everybody

This is not a democratic process. Everyone’s opinion won’t always matter. People will hate it, but even your harshest critics will remember it. So even if no one has any idea what it means, they better start getting used to it.

This explains why when we checked Flora Shaw’s 3000-word article, there was not a single mention of, “Oh lets ask these people who were once independent nations what they think about the name”.

That’s the point. Duh.

5. Re-brand when very necessary

So if your name is not memorable enough, or you need it to stand out more, and you feel like it needs an almost fresh vibe, renaming might not be a bad idea, even though this could be dangerous.

Like a bomb rigged to explode, a name change could be your red or blue wire.


Flora believed a name change from Royal Niger Company to Nigeria was going to be an advantage for the Real Estate Company to keep it ahead of the German and French competition.

A really smart American pharmacist was experimenting with soft drink recipes in 1893. His name was Caleb Bradham. So he called one of his drinks Brad’s Drink.

Someone probably asked 5 years later,Drake brad

And so, in 1898, Bradham dropped the name and Pepsi was born.



The Fu'ad

That go-to guy for different sturvs. Books and the Internet have taken him to Mars. He still loves his Garri with very cold water. Yeah, Content and Copy rock.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: