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What’s in a Name?

When it comes to brands, the name is one of the most important elements of its proposition. A name is often the first act of public branding and helps establish the tone for a product, service, or company.

It acts as the primary foundation for a brand. It’s a recall and recognition device, it communicates desired attributes or specific benefits and, through time and consistent use, it becomes a valuable asset and piece of intellectual property. 

NAME ORIGINATION GUIDELINES

The basic tenets for decision making on a name are to set clear and consistent objectives and criteria for the selection and to be unwavering in benchmarking potential names by those criteria. 

The criteria for final selection should never be one of ‘like/dislike’ amongst the management team, but of a name that fulfils the following objective and market-driven criteria:

  • Fit with the brand proposition 
  • Relevant for all target audiences 
  • Distinctive, unique and memorable
  • Future-proofed for the life of the brand
  • Linguistically acceptable and appropriate
  • Easy to spell and pronounce
  • Registrable and protectable as a trademark and URL
  • Approvable by the requisite regulatory authorities

Ultimately, a brand is about adding value. The development and selection of a name should be considered in the same terms. Being a familiar name takes you miles closer to closing a sale. It needs to be memorable to become familiar. People like to buy from companies they’ve heard of. They make decisions, rational and irrational, based on emotional connections. 

 

BRAND NAME TYPES

Brand names come in many different styles. If effective brand names build a connection between the brand personality, as it is perceived by its target market, and the actual product or service, it is even more important that the brand name is conceptually appropriate with the target market for which it is intended.

When considering name options some of the categories listed below can act as a starting point according to target market appropriateness in conjunction with the guidelines listed above:

  • Evocative: Names that evoke a relevant vivid image like Sea Wynde or Amazon
  • Personification: Many brands take their names from real or myth like people like Tilley’s Confectionery or Lir Chocolates
  • Descriptive: Names that describe a product benefit or function like Cater Hire or Slendertone or Internships Ireland
  • Neologisms or Madeup Names: Completely made-up words like Omniplex or Google or Shrek
  • Founders’ names: Using the names of real people like Flahavan’s or McConnells Gourmet Smoked Foods or Disney
  • Geography: Many brands are named after regions and landmarks like Kerry Foods or Connemara Seafoods or Emo Oil 
  • Alliteration & Rhyme: Names that are fun to say and are memorable like Dunkin’ Donuts or Chickatees
  • Foreign word: Adoption of a word from another language like La Moulière or Viva or Cuisine de France
  • Acronym & Initialism: A name made of initials such as AIB or VHI or KFC

 

NEOLOGISMS OR MADEUP NAMES

It’s also worth noting that some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world use arbitrary names that didn’t initially mean anything significant at all in the context of the brand e.g. Coke, Visa, Toyota, Guinness, etc. It’s what was done with them afterwards in terms of developing a personality and a brand vision out of nothing that has made them so successful.  

A name doesn’t have to have anything to do with your category so long as you come up with a great tagline which links it to what you do or offer or on which you can hang your attributes.

If you’re going to invent a new product which needs a new place in the mind and a new way of thinking don’t give it a name which links it to an old way of thinking. Be brave and bold instead and give it a new name which will be distinctive and memorable e.g. Google, ipod, Podcasting, Twitter. In today’s highly competitive environment the strongest brands are those that transcend the physical attributes of a product, service or company. 

Often some of the most successful names are apparently odd meaningless words until given emotional connection and meaning in the consumers mind through the branding and personality developed around them. A name in isolation is just the starting point, not the brand.

DESCRIPTIVE NAMES

When choosing a name companies often fall back on descriptive terms thinking they will be easier to sell and require less marketing investment or simply because they feel safer ! 

Don’t rule them out entirely but they can sometimes be problematic for the following reasons:

  • limiting as the brand grows
  • add no value to your story
  • bland and forgettable
  • difficult to distinguish from the competition e.g. Computer World, Party Land
  • difficult to protect and register (you typically can’t own a common word in a language)

ACRONYM & INITIALISM NAMES

In today’s world acronym names typically require substantial investment and advertising support to get the brand name known and understood because they are in themselves meaningless and provide very few clues about the product or service. The big global brands with acronym names we think of today were typically founded in a very different era in terms of communications and brand proliferation, not too mention the time and legacy that has got them where they are today. 

In some cases they started life as full length names and then over time, and with successive re-brand updates, became the acronym name known today e.g. AIB – Allied Irish Banks, VHI – Voluntary Health Insurance, KFC – Kentucky Fried Chicken. Generations of existing customers who have experienced the brand know what they stand for but these brand names don’t tell prospective new customers much.

Unless you’re already a well-known brand name at home and going global, beware of using acronyms or initials for a name. There are so many already out there that you’re only likely to add to the existing plethora of confusion, rather than successfully branding your product or company.

 

NAMING CHALLENGES & MISTAKES TO AVOID

  • Don’t treat your naming process as an afterthought
  • Don’t forget naming is as strategic as it is creative
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of a good creative brief
  • Don’t confuse the need for information with the need for differentiation
  • Don’t overlook complex trademark issues
  • Don’t ignore global implications through linguistic translations or cultural disasters
  • Don’t choose names subjectively
  • Don’t use names that are no longer relevant
  • Don’t use superlatives – they often become over used, abused and dated

If you are struggling to come up with a great brand name yourself, talk to us. Naming is key part of our professional expertise and we love working with clients to develop distinctive names for their companies, products and services.

 

If you’d like to know more we’d be delighted to talk with you T: +353 1 8322724

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