Not all great brands start with great names. Some great product and company names are the result of great brand experiences – promises made and successfully delivered. Sure, a great brand experience can transform an otherwise subpar name. But why start off with the process of naming your brand with one hand tied behind your back? Some names are a just a little extra awesome, right out of the gate.
Determining how to choose a brand name for your company is an important opportunity to differentiate your brand and create an authentic and consistent connection with your most desired audiences.
The process is important. A hundred monkeys and a handful of darts just might get the job done, but you’ll thank yourself later with a framework for navigating one of the most important decisions that you will make in your business. Your name will stay with you a long time. Changing it will be painful, so make sure that it’s infused with potential.
Check Your Gut at the Door When Naming Your Brand
It’s easy to fall in love with a name because of its comfort, beauty or rhythm. Don’t get married right away. A name that you desire, right off the bad might be too good to be true. Its’ familiarity might actually be an existing brand that’s been taking up space in your subconscious. Or you might stumble onto a name that has pleasing connotations, but someone else might take offense. It’s important to get feedback and to consider deeper meanings and associations with your name to ensure that it’s a fit with your culture and strategies.
The Purpose of Your Brand Name
An effective brand name elicits an instantaneous reaction, the desired perception or a feeling. A great brand name might make you smile.
Start with a Competitive Evaluation: If you’re going to pick a place to plant your flag, you’ll need to survey the surrounding landscape and decide where you can best compete. Try to group the various leading brands within your category into 3-5 logical groups.
Select a Strategic Position: Identify a space that you can own. You may need to take over a space that’s currently occupied by a competitor or you might find some blue ocean in uncharted waters. Take into consideration that building a position anywhere in the market requires building an authentic brand that is both relevant and engaging to your customers, and delivers on its promise.
Build a Filter That Will Guide Your Decisions
It’s easy to get lost in the process of naming your brand, especially if you have no process. Selecting a guiding position and a set of requirements will help narrow the options and also free you to be innovative within the boundaries. Use as many categories as you like, but consider each one as a discrete variable with a spectrum of opposing vewpoints. Simply plot your choices along the spectrum. This simple technique will help provide some checks and balances as you move forward to create your brand name.
Naming Your Brand, Top Conventions
Functional or Descriptive Names: Brand names used to describe or educate the customer about the functions of a company. Although descriptive names are common and useful, they are “me-too” names and lack the emotional resonance of more evocative options. Brands are usually expressed through the context surrounding their name.
Invented Names: Based on poetic rhythm or visual appearance (OREO), latin or greek roots (Sony, Volvo, Xerox), mashup words, or names that are derived by creating unusual contexts such as (Adobe Software), or even omitting letters or syllables (FedEx, Razr). These names are relatively easy to trademark, but require more education and exposure to the brand. Customers don’t always get it. Inspiration: Try Wordoid to find brand name ideas that are invented based on visual patterns or tone.
Experiential Names: These names describe the literal experience of the product. They are typically easy to understand by the customer. Experiential names typically work well when brands enter a new category. (Think Vaping). As the category becomes increasingly crowded, experiential names are less effective at differentiating a brand.
Aspirational & Evocative Names: Are used to express the positioning of the company, rather than the function of its product(s). Evocative names work on multiple levels. They are typically metaphors for the aspirations of the brand (Virgin, Pandora, Apple).
Need a little More Inspiration in Naming Your Brand?
Visual Thesaurus: a wildly visual online thesaurus and dictionary engine that helps you explore word variations through an innovative branching interface. It’s the IMDB or Pinterest of thesauruses and can be very useful when naming your brand.
Forbes Most Valuable Brands: A compendium of the top 100 most valuable brands.
Make Sure You’re In the Clear
Stop here. Make sure that you don’t go any further in naming your brand without clearing your name against the USPTO database or a resource like Trademarkia to make sure that you can protect your name and that you have not infringed on a competitor’s intellectual property when naming your brand.
Invite feedback from an audience of prospective customers, partners, and influencers as a part of your brand naming strategy. Evaluate their perceptions of the name, how it sounds and what it means. Don’t pass go without some input from outside your organization. You’ll thank yourself later.