A brand name is a unique identifier, a form of reference for a product, service, concept or company. The art of naming a brand is far removed from any conventional naming process. We have to think in terms of trademarks, domain availability, rarity, the ability to capture essence etc. It’s not just about personal choice anymore.
A brand name much like your own is something you have to live with. The more marketing effort placed behind it, the more entrenched it becomes and the more difficult it is to retract or revise.
Some things to keep in mind
The name has to be distinct, perhaps on an international scale. It must be easy to pronounce, memorable and free of negative connotations.
A brand name functions as a workhorse and is transmitted religiously through company stationery, emails, business cards, products, websites, advertising, packaging, even conversations.
The naming process is rigorous and warrants a professional approach without emotional influence. A good name has the potential to become self-propelling.
Qualities of an effective name
UNIQUE – Easy to read, spell and pronounce. Distinct from the competition. Owns its space.
PROTECTABLE – It can be trademarked. A domain is available in the same name. It has international relevance.
EXTENSIONS – Must be capable of brand extensions. Capable of new product-market fits.
ARCHITECTURE – Capable of adapting to various forms of portfolio architecture such as Master brand + Sub-brand, Co-drivers, Master brand + Descriptors, etc.
MEANINGFUL – Communicates the essence of the brand. Supports the type of image the entity wishes to portray.
FUTURE ORIENTED – A name that’s sustainable.
POSITIVE – Emits positive associations and avoids negative connotations.
VISUAL APPEAL – Lends itself to graphical representations – logo and text.
Types of Naming Conventions
FOUNDER – Many companies are named after their founders. It runs the risk of commonality, may not be internationally applicable or becomes inextricably tied to a real human being. For instance – Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, Versace, Dell, Boeing.
METAPHOR – Places, people, animals, processes, mythological names etc. are used to apply an associated quality on the brand. They tend to be evocative of some suggestion, symbolism or trait. For instance – Amazon, Puma, Patagonia.
ACRONYM – Longer names, especially when multiple words are used, tend to be difficult to remember or trademark. Substantial resources are needed to build equity in an acronym. Both forms will need to be consistently associated and re-enforced so that they become relevant to each other. For instance – WWF (World Wide Fund), DKNY (Donna Karan New York), GE (General Electric), IBM (International Business Machines)
DESCRIPTIVE – A name that conveys the nature of the business. It tells the audience exactly what it is associated with. For instance – Toys “R’ Us, Mazor Robotics, General Motors.
LEXICAL – Some brand names are created by altering the spelling of a word. Others rely on a clever play on words. Both tend to be creative and distinct. It is also easier to protect. However, they run the risk of being tacky or discreditable. Examples of lexical brand names – Flickr, Tumblr, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts, Krazy Glue.
INVENTED – These names are made up and allow for creative flexibility. They are especially useful when no other name seems to fit. They are much easier to trademark. Invented names may have links to certain languages that indicate possible origins. They can be entirely fabricated with no context at all. Of course, such names need large advertising budgets to educate the masses on the type of business it is associated with. For instance – Xerox, TiVo, Kodak, Exxon.
GEOGRAPHICAL – These names are used when an entity wishes to draw upon the heritage, cultural or historical energy of a particular location. Often it is a name employed by a company that aims to serve a particular location (city, state, even country) and is usually followed by the business category (descriptor). The trouble with these names is that they aren’t always unique and limits the company when it goes beyond its intended market. However, if strong associations exist for the location, and positive energy can be harnessed, then it makes sense to employ it in the name. For instance – New York Life, Miami Subs, Bombay Dyeing.
Ultimately, a brand name remains ordinary until you infuse meaning and reason into it. A product or service must deliver on its promise. A poor product or service will do nothing but harm even the most ingenious of brand names. Conversely, a great product or service can make even the oddest name great. Good naming options are built with strategy and tested for adaptability and longevity.
As mentioned above, when deciding on a brand name, it’s also worth considering how it lends itself to logo design and a tagline. The combination of a brand name along with its logo mark and tagline form what is referred to as the brand signature.