“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This immortal line from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” reminds us that names have only as much power as we give them – but Shakespeare didn’t have to worry about branding.
The name of your company, product, service or range etc. is often the first thing anyone will come in contact with. It’s your first impression. The question here is, do you want your first impression with your primary audience to be something that’s interesting and helps tell your story? Or do you want something that sounds like many others, an industry or category norm but consequently has less impact because it blends in with the rest. That might be a strategic choice but often not the one most desired.
So what’s in a name, really? Everything, when it comes to your brand. A great brand name is a vital element for brand success, yet so many companies neglect to place enough emphasis on this key ingredient as a fundamental aspect of what makes a sustainable and impactful part of their branding strategy. Naming is all about strategic rationale, not emotion and not politics. If its comfortable and safe – don’t be tempted, it’s totally forgettable too.
Why is your brand name so important? A good name is a compact easy-to-communicate piece of information. It can grab peoples’ attention and make them want to know more. Ideally a good name should communicate one key objective which is strongly founded on your brand promise, positioning, brand values and tailored to fit with your core customer mind set. An effective brand name is memorable and enables it to carry a hugely significant portion of your brand recognition all on its own. It captures a piece of your customers mind share. On the other hand, a forgettable brand name forces you to work much harder to keep your brand visible or even memorable to your customers.
Here’s some ideas on how you can create a powerful brand name that’s memorable, resonates with your target audience, and serves to strengthen your brand collateral while adding amplification to your overall branding strategy.
Understanding the Different Types of Brand Names
Brand naming should not be a haphazard process or a random occurrence. It’s equally a systematic, holistic and creative process driven by very clear branding and commercial objectives. The first step to choosing an effective brand name is to familiarize yourself with the many styles of brand names, and decide which type is conceptually appropriate for your company, your products or services, and your target audience. Set clear and consistent objectives with a solid brand naming brief for your name selection. Avoid the temptation to choose your name subjectively and rigorously benchmark against your agreed criteria during the creative process. Before we start any work creating names for our clients we’ll have completed the brand profiling work which shapes and provides the direction and rationale for the whole brand together with the brand naming brief and its only then we set to work using our Nail It Naming System™.
Here are several brand name types that can serve as a starting point for your brand naming process.
Top Ten Brand Name Creation Categories
1. Founders’ Names:
Among the simplest type of brand name, this one can also sometimes be difficult to use effectively. This style uses the name of the person who founded the company as the brand, with or without further qualifiers that describe the products. Disney, named after founder Walt Disney, is one of the most famous examples of this. Other examples include Cadbury (after John Cadbury), Tata Group (after Jamsetji Tata), and Horlicks (after founding brothers William and James Horlick).
Image via www.cadbury.ie
2. Descriptive Names:
Another fairly straightforward brand naming convention, this style uses brand names that describe the products or services offered. Some examples of this include Internships Ireland, Slendertone, O’Egg, Whole Foods and Internet Explorer. One important thing to note with this category is that sometimes, brand names which seem to describe a product are actually powerful brands that have become synonymous with the products they offer – such as Xerox for copy machines, Band-Aid for elastic bandages and Scotch tape for clear cellophane tape.
When you get so big you’re your trademark protected brand name becomes the byword for the whole category, it potentially becomes a huge problem for the brand owner. These types or brand names are almost victims or their own success and are now fighting the problem of generification. Whenever we say we want to search for something online we say ‘I’ll Google it’, now the byword for search! Frequently people will say they’re ‘Hoovering’ when they mean vacuum cleaning! When a brand name becomes so commonly used, it can lose its value and in worse case scenarios, it can also lose its legal protections! Although it has to be said the brand’s with these problems are in the minority!
3. Geographic Names:
Once again, this simple naming convention is what it sounds like – the use of a region or landmark associated with a product or service in a brand name e.g. Patagonia, Clonakilty Black Pudding. Connemara Seafoods is a premier shellfish company named after its location, the coastal Ireland district Connemara. Emo Oil is named after the company’s home village of Emo. Global tech company Cisco Systems, Inc., draws its name from a shortened version of the company headquarters’ location in San Francisco.
These brand names are centered around either a real or mythical person who is not the founder, and may not even be associated with the company. Personification brand names may use historical figures, legends, or may create a brand personality around a fictitious company mascot – such as Aunt Jemima or Betty Crocker.
Image via www.bettycrocker.com
5. Evocative Names:
This type of brand name is designed to paint a vivid and relevant image for the customer e.g. The Body Shop, Amazon. For example, Sea Wynde rum evokes images of relaxation on a Caribbean beach with a cool drink in hand.
6. Alliteration or Rhyming Names:
This category includes names that are both memorable and fun to say e.g. YouTube, Piggly Wiggly. Dunkin’ Donuts uses alliteration and a shortened word to create a rhythmic and easy to remember brand name.
Image via www.youtube.com
7. Derivative Names:
This category includes names that are almost like something you’ve heard but have somehow been changed to sound different e.g. Nespresso, Zappos. It can be one of the most creative ways to create a name that is unique and is very reflective of more contemporary naming trends and can be easier to legally register, protect and buy the relevant URL.
Image via www.zappos.com
8. Neologisms (new made-up words):
Some brands use completely made-up new words, which creates a sense of uniqueness and infuses memorable qualities with the brand that help to set it apart from the competition. Examples here include Omniplex, Kodak and Twitter. Neologist brand names, when developed properly, can be among the most powerful brand naming strategies and like Derivative names, easier to register and protect. However they typically require more initial marketing resources to become highly recognized and given meaning through the branding strategy.
Image via www.twitter.com
9. Hybrid Names:
This category refers to brand names like Swissair, ThinkPad, Microsoft, Swisscom and Nice and Easy. All are combinations of current words or recognized syllables which when combined send the right message and potentially highlight attributes and benefits relating to the brand. This form of naming can deliver very creative and memorable results too and like Derivative and Neologist Names are less likely to infringe on other trademarks.
Image via www.swissair.com
10. Acronyms and Initials:
This category refers to brand names that stand for something longer, such as KFC for Kentucky Fried Chicken, VHI for Voluntary Health Insurance, and HP for Hewlett-Packard, GE for General Electric. Names like AA for Automobile Association and BMW for Bavarian Motor Works, only became acronyms after each company had made its mark. They’ve typically rebranded when the long name version no longer served its purpose as effectively e.g. it was so well known and well established in the market place and customers were shortening it colloquially because it was too long winded!
Image via www.bmw.com
Note: Initial or acronym brand names typically work best for companies that are well known or large corporates and have already established a brand under their full names, and shortening the names won’t impact their existing brand equity. For most brands this type of naming convention is best avoided as it effectively amounts to a meaningless mix of letters leaving the customer confused and indifferent.
Image via www.ikea.com
Brand naming can also combine several of these conventions to arrive at a distinctive and powerful name. IKEA is a great example of this. On the surface, IKEA is a neologism, a made-up word that’s easy to remember, and it’s also fun to say. But looking into the origin of the company name, it’s actually an acronym for the founder’s name and the Swedish property and village where he grew up: Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.
Below are three brand naming methods and tips with strategies you can use to come up with a memorable and effective brand names.
A. Brand Naming Methods: Strategic Brainstorming
Brainstorming, or coming up with as many ideas as possible in a short amount of time, is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. When it comes to naming your brand, you can engage in focused brainstorming by asking and answering a series of questions in as many ways as you can, and then narrowing down to the best choices. It’s important to do this also within the context of an agreed naming brief and a very clear branding rationale based on your brand profile and brand strategy to keep everyone on track.
Some questions you can brainstorm include:
- What does your product or service do?
- What is the purpose or function of your industry?
- How does your product or service benefit your customer?
- What’s your brands’ mission?
- How does your brand promise solve your customers problems?
- What is unique, different, or interesting about your product or service?
- How do your brand values enhance your customers lives?
- What are some of the common terms in your industry’s lingo or jargon, that apply to your products or services?
Once you have a list of solid possibilities, you can take your brainstorming a step further and list all of the synonyms for the words or phrases you came up with during the session.
B. Brand Naming Method: Name and Word Lists
With this method, you can generate lists of words or names in certain categories that are relevant to your brand, and spin the results into possible brand names. For example, a brand that is based on heritage, classic themes, and timeless roots might look up lists of geologic periods, Latin or Greek roots, historical figures or events, and geographically appropriate legends or myths. Enter “list of [your term]” into Google, and you’ll find plenty of lists to choose from.
When choosing which lists you’ll look up, consider your products or services both literally and abstractly. You may find useful, evocative, or memorable words and names in unexpected places that can create powerful connections with your audience.
C. Brand Naming Method: Puns and Plays on Words
If your brand would benefit from a sense of fun, a touch of whimsy, or cheeky and humorous themes, using a pun or play on words can give you a memorable and highly effective brand name. There are some great examples of brands that use word play like alliteration, alternate spellings, partial word or letter replacement, letter dropping, rhyming, and more, including:
- Poo-Pouri®: A toilet odour control product
- Krispy Kreme®: An American donut brand
- Slim Jims®: A brand of meat jerky snacks
- Burt’s Bees®: Natural skin care products made with beeswax
Image via www.burtsbees.com
Play with your brainstorming and word list phrases, and look for opportunities to create plays on words. Experiment with combining and replacing until you come up with several possibilities.
Your brand name is one of the most important elements for the success of your company. Taking the time to create a memorable, evocative, and distinctively unique brand name will give you an unshakeable foundation for an effective branding platform that ultimately leads to your brands success and growing profitability.
What do you think?
• Do you already have a brand name for your company, products, or services?
• How did you come up with your brand name? Was it a process, or did you end up using the first idea that came to mind?
• What brand name type or types is best suited to your brand’s goals, themes, and brand personality?
• Are there any people (real or fictional) or places that tie into your brand? How would you use them in a brand name?
• What categories would you consider relevant to your products or services, either literally or abstractly, that would help you create a great brand name?
• Are your products or services suitable for a brand name that’s a play on words?
• Is your brand naming part of a rebranding strategy and if so how near or far away from the previous old name does it need to be?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!