7 Popular Types of Brand Names Explained
When you start a business, one of your most important decisions is choosing a brand name. Your brand name is more than just a label; it is the identity of your business and can determine your success in the market. But how do you know which brand name is right for you when there are so many different brand names?
In this blog, we'll introduce you to 7 of the most popular brand names and explain the pros and cons of each. Whether starting a new business or revamping your brand, this guide will help you choose the perfect name to make your mark in the industry. So dive in and find out which brand name best suits your business!
Table of Contents
What is a Brand Name?
A brand name is the most important identifier for a company, product or service. It is the name that customers associate with a particular offering and serves as a key differentiator from other brands within the same category. Choosing a brand name is often one of the most critical decisions a company can make, as it can significantly influence a brand's success in the marketplace.
Companies often register their brand names with the US Patent and Trademark Office to further protect their brand equity. This legal protection helps prevent competitors from using similar names or logos, which could cause confusion among customers and dilute the brand's identity.
In addition to a brand name, many companies also design a logo for their brand. A logo is a visual representation of the brand and helps to increase brand recognition among consumers. A coherent and recognisable brand identity is created when a brand name and logo are used consistently across all marketing channels.
The importance of a firm brand name and logo cannot be overstated. They are the face of a company and can help build a loyal customer base. A well-chosen brand name and logo can create an emotional connection with consumers, making it easier to develop brand loyalty and increase sales. A successful brand name and logo are essential to a comprehensive brand strategy that helps businesses stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Types of Brand Names
When it comes to choosing a brand name, the choice can be overwhelming. With so many different types of brand names, it can take time to figure out which one is best for your business. While some naming agencies and blogs categorise brand names differently, we will explore 7 of the most popular types of brand names in this article.
It's important to note that while these categories are helpful for analysis, brand names may fall into multiple categories or don't fit into a particular class at all. Understanding these categories can provide a framework for making informed decisions about your brand's identity.
The type of brand name you choose will significantly impact your brand architecture, logo design and overall brand message. In addition, the brand name you select can influence customer perception and market positioning. Therefore, weighing the pros and cons of each type of name is crucial before making a final decision.
While there is no perfect formula for choosing the best brand name, studying examples of successful brands within each named category can give you inspiration and insight into what might work best for your business.
In the following sections, we will look at the seven types of brand names and share examples of successful brands in each category. By the end of this article, you will better understand the different kinds of brand names and which is best for your brand.
1 – Descriptive Brand Names
A popular brand form is a descriptive name describing a company's product or service. Descriptive names have the distinct advantage of leaving no doubt about what kind of business you are in and what your core competence is. This clarity can be vital for companies operating in a crowded market, where a descriptive name can help set you apart from the competition.
Although descriptive names may seem unimpressive, many successful brands have used their functional names to their advantage by relying on their commonality. For example, Best Buy and Toys R Us are both descriptive names, yet they have built strong brand identities and customer loyalty.
However, there are some potential drawbacks to choosing a descriptive brand name. As a company grows and tries to diversify its offering, a descriptive name can be limiting. In addition, it can be difficult to trademark a descriptive name because it relies on common words or phrases, making it challenging to protect brand identity.
Another potential problem with descriptive names is needing more room for creativity or interpretation. While they may be functional and useful for a particular offering, they lack the emotional connection that a more appealing or abstract name brings.
Here are ten examples of descriptive brand names:
- General Electric – As the name suggests, General Electric is a company that specialises in a broad range of electrical products and services.
- Staples – Staples is a retail company that primarily sells office supplies.
- Subway – Subway is a fast-food restaurant specialising in made-to-order submarine sandwiches.
- Toys R Us – Toys R Us is a toy store that caters to children of all ages.
- Home Depot – Home Depot is a home improvement store that offers a wide range of building materials, tools, and supplies.
- Dunkin' Donuts – Dunkin' Donuts is a coffee and doughnut chain that offers a variety of breakfast items.
- United Airlines – United Airlines is an airline company that provides domestic and international travel services.
- Budget Rent a Car – Budget Rent a Car is a car rental company that offers affordable car rental services.
- Bank of America – Bank of America is a financial institution that offers banking and financial services to customers.
- Pizza Hut – Pizza Hut is a pizza chain that offers a variety of pizza and side dishes.
Why are descriptive brand names important?
Descriptive brand names are essential for several reasons:
- Clarity: Descriptive brand names create clarity and help customers understand what a brand offers or stands for. This can be especially important in crowded markets with similar products or services.
- Memorability: A descriptive brand name is often easier to remember than an abstract or unrelated name. Customers can associate the brand name with the product or service, making it easier to remember when needed.
- Differentiation: A descriptive brand name can set a brand apart. Clearly stating what the brand offers can attract customers looking for specific features or benefits.
- SEO: A descriptive brand name can enhance a brand's search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts. Keywords included in the brand name can improve a brand's visibility in search results and help potential customers find it more easily.
- Trust: A descriptive brand name can also help build customer trust. When clearly stated what a brand offers, customers can be confident that they know what they are getting and what they can expect from the brand. This can lead to stronger customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
2 – Evocative Brand Names
Evocative names are at the opposite end of the spectrum from descriptive names. Rather than explicitly stating what the company does or sells, an evocative name uses metaphors and innuendo to evoke a feeling or image associated with the brand. These names are powerful tools in the world of branding because they can convey a deeper meaning and story that goes beyond the products or services offered.
One of the main advantages of an evocative name is that it is easier to trademark than a descriptive name. Unlike descriptive names, which rely on common words or phrases, evocative names are more unique and distinctive, making them less likely to infringe on existing trademarks.
However, finding an evocative name can be a challenge. Creating a name that effectively conveys the brand's essence and resonates with the target audience requires creativity and imagination. Having clear expectations and agreements between stakeholders from the start of a naming project is vital to ensure everyone pulls in the same direction.
Here are ten examples of evocative brand names:
- Apple – The name Apple is simple yet powerful, evoking a sense of innovation and creativity.
- Amazon – The name Amazon refers to the mythical tribe of warrior women, suggesting strength and power.
- Dove – The name Dove suggests purity and gentleness, aligning with the brand's message of natural beauty.
- Uber – The name Uber is derived from the German word for “above,” suggesting excellence and superiority.
- Airbnb – The name Airbnb evokes a sense of hospitality and community, aligning with the brand's focus on sharing and connection.
- Tesla – The name Tesla is a nod to the famous inventor and physicist Nikola Tesla, suggesting innovation and forward-thinking.
- Coca-Cola – The name Coca-Cola is an alliteration that rolls off the tongue and evokes a sense of fun and happiness.
- Instagram – The name Instagram is a play on the words “instant camera,” suggesting quick and easy sharing of photos.
- Twitter – The name Twitter suggests a quick and efficient way to communicate, like a bird chirping.
- Patagonia – Patagonia evokes images of rugged and untamed wilderness, aligning with the brand's focus on outdoor adventure and exploration.
Is an Evocative Brand Name the Right Choice?
An evocative brand name can offer several benefits, including:
- Emotional connection: Evocative brand names can create an emotional connection with customers. They can evoke certain feelings, associations and memories that resonate with customers and increase the likelihood that they will remember the brand.
- Differentiation: A meaningful brand name can set a brand apart from its competitors by creating a unique identity that stands out in a crowded market. It can also convey the brand's personality and values, which can help attract customers who share similar values.
- Brand recognition: Memorable brand names are more memorable and straightforward than descriptive or generic names. They can create a strong brand identity that customers can quickly identify and remember.
- Storytelling: A meaningful brand name can tell a story or convey a message about the brand. It can communicate the brand's mission, vision or unique selling proposition, which can help create a deeper connection with customers.
- Flexibility: Meaningful brand names can be more flexible than descriptive names. They can allow a brand to expand its product or service offering without limiting its name to a specific category or feature.
3 – Invented Brand Names
Brand names are essential to any business, and the possibilities are endless when creating a memorable brand name. One type of brand name that is becoming increasingly popular is invented names. These names are unique and are produced by developing a new word not commonly used in the language.
Invented names offer the most creative scope when naming a company or product. They are not limited to existing words or expressions, which allows for greater creativity and originality. However, creating a successful made-up name can take time, as you need to find a word that sounds like a real word and has some meaning.
Many invented names derive from a common root, e.g. from Latin or Greek, or they are portmanteaus, combinations of two or more words. Some invented names are deliberate misspellings that exploit the meaning of an existing word to create a new and unique word.
Invented names are usually easy to trademark because they are unique and not in everyday use. However, the more unique the name, the more effort and resources are required to build a meaningful brand story.
Despite these challenges, many brands have created memorable names with invented names. For example, Google, Kodak, Xerox and Starbucks have all built significant brand equity around their unique invented names. These brands have shown that a well-crafted invented name can become a valuable asset for a company.
Here are ten examples of invented brand names:
- Kodak – A name that founder George Eastman created because he liked the letter K and thought it was a robust and memorable letter.
- ExxonMobil – A portmanteau of the words “excellent” and “on” meant to convey a sense of superior performance and efficiency.
- Xerox – An intentional misspelling of the word “xerography,” a type of photocopying process developed by the company.
- Haier – An invented name that sounds similar to “higher,” suggesting the company's aim to create high-quality, innovative products.
- Accenture – An invented name that combines “accent” and “future” to suggest the company's focus on forward-thinking solutions.
- Verizon – A portmanteau of the words “veritas” (Latin for truth) and “horizon” meant to convey a sense of reliability and vision.
- Skype – A portmanteau of “sky” and “peer-to-peer,” suggesting the company's goal of facilitating communication across distances.
- Novartis – An invented name that combines “novel” and “art” to suggest the company's focus on innovation and creativity in the healthcare industry.
- Zillow – An invented name that sounds similar to “pillow,” suggesting the company's aim to make the real estate buying process comfortable and easy.
- PepsiCo – An invented name that combines “Pepsi” and “Company” to create a unique and memorable name for the beverage and snack food conglomerate.
Is Inventing a Brand Name Good?
Invented brand names can offer several advantages, including:
- Unique identity: Invented brand names can give a brand a unique identity that stands out from its competitors. They can create a distinctive image and make the brand more memorable.
- Trademark protection: Invented brand names are easier to protect and legally secure as trademarks. Because they are unique and not related to existing words or phrases, they are less likely to infringe on existing trademarks.
- International appeal: Invented brand names are easier to translate and adapt to different languages and cultures. They are not tied to specific meanings or associations, which can make them more attractive and relevant to a global audience.
- Flexibility: Invented brand names can be more flexible than descriptive or evocative names. They allow a brand to expand its product or service offering without limiting its name to a specific category or feature.
- Brand awareness: Invented brand names can create buzz and arouse customers' curiosity. They can pique interest and encourage customers to learn more about the brand, leading to increased brand awareness and customer loyalty.
4 – Lexical Brand Names
Lexical brand names use wordplay to create memorable and attention-grabbing names. They often contain puns, compound words, alliteration, onomatopoeia, intentional misspellings and foreign words. Because of their creativity and cleverness, lexical names are popular with consumer brands in industries such as snack foods, pet supplies and restaurants, where playfulness and fun are valued, like the well-known cat health and care website, Excitedcats.com.
However, lexical brand names are only sometimes suitable for more serious and professional B2B brands. This is because they can come across as too informal or gimmicky, which may need to go down better with a more discerning audience.
Another potential disadvantage of lexical names is that they can seem dated over time. While a great pun can be memorable and practical, the novelty of a lexical name can wear off quickly.
Overall, the success of a lexical name depends on the brand and its target audience. A well-executed lexical name can be an effective tool to increase brand recognition and appeal to customers. Still, it requires careful consideration of the brand's tone of voice, values and industry context.
Ten examples of lexical brand names:
- Dunkin' Donuts – A chain of coffee shops that sells doughnuts, coffee, and other baked goods.
- Krazy Glue – A fast-drying, strong adhesive used for bonding surfaces together.
- Sizzler Steakhouse – A casual restaurant specialising in steaks and other grilled items.
- Krispy Kreme – A chain of doughnut shops known for its glazed doughnuts and coffee.
- Froot Loops – A breakfast cereal made by Kellogg's that consists of colourful, fruit-flavoured loops.
- Dribbble – A social media platform and community for designers to showcase their work and connect with others in the industry.
- Laffy Taffy – A candy brand that makes stretchy, fruity taffy in various flavours.
- Whiskas – A cat food brand that offers various wet and dry food options.
- Mello Yello – A citrus-flavoured soft drink that is similar to Mountain Dew.
- Cheez Whiz – A processed cheese sauce often used as a topping for nachos, hot dogs, and other foods.
Advantages of Lexical Brand Names
Lexical brand names, i.e. names made up of actual words, can offer several benefits, including:
- Clarity: Lexical brand names can clarify and help customers understand what a brand offers or stand for. Because they are made up of actual words, they can more directly convey the brand's products, services or values.
- Familiarity: Lexical brand names can be more familiar and understandable to customers. They use words that customers are already familiar with, making them more accessible and easier to remember.
- SEO: Lexical brand names can improve a brand's search engine optimisation (SEO). Because they use real words, they can contain keywords that customers can use when searching online for products or services.
- Versatility: Lexical brand names can be more versatile than other brand names. You can use them to create slogans, taglines or other marketing messages that emphasise the brand's identity and values.
- Trust: Lexical brand names can also help build trust with customers. Using actual words, you can assure customers they know what they are getting and what to expect from the brand. This can lead to stronger customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
5 – Acronymic Brand Names
Acronyms have become a popular naming convention for large, national companies, with brands like AT&T and IBM leading the way. The combination of capital letters can convey a sense of authority and longevity but also presents challenges. Acronyms do not inherently have the same meaning as the words they stand for, and many people may not know what they stand for. Instead, acronyms are usually used as invented names whose purpose has evolved over the years through branding and marketing efforts.
Established brands like BMW and CVS have invested heavily in brand positioning and design to give their acronyms trust and credibility. However, it can be difficult for start-ups and new businesses to justify using an acronym as a brand name. Acronyms can be complicated for the public to remember, and securing brand protection can be even more difficult. For this reason, start-ups should consider alternative naming conventions that are distinctive and memorable, such as descriptive names or unique word combinations.
Here are ten acronymic brand names:
- IBM – International Business Machines Corporation, a multinational technology company.
- NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a US government agency responsible for space exploration and aeronautics research.
- AT&T – American Telephone and Telegraph, a telecommunications company that provides voice, video, and data services.
- ESPN – Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, a cable sports channel and media company.
- UPS – United Parcel Service, a package delivery and supply chain management company.
- NBC – National Broadcasting Company, a US television network.
- GE – General Electric is a multinational conglomerate that produces various products and services, including aviation, healthcare, and power.
- BMW – Bayerische Motoren Werke, a German multinational corporation that produces luxury vehicles and motorcycles.
- CIA – Central Intelligence Agency, a US government agency responsible for national security intelligence gathering and analysis.
- CVS – Consumer Value Stores is a retail pharmacy chain providing health and wellness products and services.
Should you go with an Acronym?
Acronymic brand names can offer several advantages, including:
- Memorability: Acronymic brand names can be more memorable than prolonged or complex names. They are easier to remember and recall, which can increase brand recognition and customer loyalty.
- Distinctiveness: Acronymic brand names can be distinctive and unique, especially if they are not commonly used or well-known acronyms. They can set a brand apart from its competitors and increase its recognition value.
- Simplification: Acronymic brand names can simplify a brand's identity or message. They can take a longer term or phrase and put it into a shorter, more concise form that is easier to communicate and remember.
- Versatility: Acronymic brand names can be more versatile than longer or descriptive names. You can use them to create slogans, taglines or other marketing messages reinforcing the brand's identity and values.
- Modernity: Acronymic brand names can also be seen as modern and innovative. They are often used in the technology and digital industries, which can help position a brand as innovative and forward-looking.
6 – Geographical Brand Names
Brands closely associated with the cities where they originated or the regions they represent, such as Nokia (The name is from the town Nokia and the Nokiavirta River), Adobe (Adobe Creek in Los Altos, California) and New York Life, have a unique advantage. They allow a brand to merge with its namesake's cultural, natural and historical associations, making it more identifiable and memorable. A well-chosen geographic name can evoke a sense of adventure, romance or nostalgia that resonates with consumers deeply.
For example, Klondike evokes images of rugged mountains, icy rivers and gold rush fever, while Outback evokes Australia's vast and untamed wilderness. On the other hand, Hawaiian Punch and Florida's Natural produce the sun-drenched beaches and tropical fruit groves of these famous destinations.
However, one of the most significant drawbacks of geographical names is their limited reach. Often, these names are tied to businesses that initially targeted a geographically restricted audience but have since expanded into new markets. In such cases, the geographic name may no longer reflect the brand's identity or mission, hindering its growth potential.
If a brand has outgrown its original region or market, it may be time to change the name and adopt a universal term that can appeal to a broader audience. In addition, geographical names may already be taken in specific industries, making it more difficult for new businesses to stand out from the competition and establish their own identity.
For example, using the name of a city or state as a prefix for a product or service is a widespread naming convention. Brands such as California Tan, Portland Automotive and Miami Subs are already established, making it more difficult for new businesses to stand out. In summary, while geographic names can effectively build a solid brand identity, they are not always the best choice regarding scalability and marketability.
Examples of Geographical Brand Names:
- Arizona Iced Tea – This tea brand takes its name from the state known for its hot and arid climate.
- Detroit Muscle – This automotive brand is named after the city synonymous with the American auto industry.
- Texas Pete – This hot sauce brand is named after the state of Texas, which is famous for its spicy cuisine.
- California Pizza Kitchen – This restaurant chain is named after the state of California, known for its fresh produce and innovative cuisine.
- Timberland – This outdoor apparel and footwear brand takes its name from the rugged and wooded terrain of New Hampshire, where it was founded.
- Patagonia – This outdoor clothing and gear brand is named after the sparsely populated region in South America known for its stunning natural beauty and extreme weather conditions.
- Himalaya Herbals – This brand of natural health and beauty products takes its name from the majestic Himalayan Mountains, which are home to many medicinal plants.
- Blue Nile – This online jewellery retailer takes its name from the river that runs through Ethiopia, known for its abundant supply of precious gemstones.
- Fiji Water – This premium bottled water brand is named after the island nation of Fiji, known for its pristine natural beauty and pure, mineral-rich water.
- Columbia Sportswear – This outdoor apparel and footwear brand is named after the city near the Columbia River and is known for its active outdoor lifestyle.
Branding Local or Global
Geographic brand names can offer several advantages, including:
- Authenticity: Geographic brand names can give a brand an authentic and genuine image. You can use them to emphasise a brand's local roots, heritage or culture, which can help build customer trust.
- Differentiation: Geographic brand names can set a brand apart from its competitors by creating a unique identifier tied to a specific place. They can also convey the brand's personality and values, which can help attract customers who share similar values.
- Association: Geographic brand names can evoke positive associations with a specific place or region. They can evoke positive feelings and emotions associated with the place, such as natural beauty, cultural richness or innovation.
- Storytelling: A geographic brand name can tell a story or convey a message about the origins or values of the brand. It can communicate the brand's history, vision or unique selling proposition, which can help create a deeper connection with customers.
- Tourism: Geographic brand names can also attract tourists and visitors looking for authentic and memorable experiences. They can help attract tourists to a specific place or region, boosting the local economy and generating positive publicity.
7 – Founder Brand Names
Brands named after their founders have a rich heritage that goes back to the earliest branding days. In the early 20th century, it was common for brands to be named after their founders. Iconic brands like Ford and Kellogg's owe their names to their visionary founders who revolutionised their industries and left an indelible mark on the world.
Today, the names of company founders may not be as ubiquitous as they once were, but they still hold pride of place on shop shelves and in law offices. Brands like Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren and Ben & Jerry's continue to thrive under the leadership of their namesake founders, who have become synonymous with quality, innovation and style.
One of the advantages of founder names is that they can be easily trademarked and are distinctive when adequately positioned. They can also leverage the existing brand equity of a celebrity or influencer, making them a powerful tool for building brand awareness and loyalty.
However, founder names, like invented or acronymic names, usually require significant marketing investment to build a strong brand identity. Unless the founder is a prominent figure closely associated with the brand's core offering, the value proposition behind the name may not be immediately apparent to consumers.
For this reason, founder names are not always the best starting point for a compelling brand narrative that resonates with consumers across all channels and touchpoints. There may need to be more than a founder's name to convey the brand's unique selling proposition. That is why many brands opt for more meaningful and descriptive names that capture the essence of their products or services.
Examples of Founder Brand Names:
- Ford – Named after Henry Ford, the American automobile manufacturer that produces cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles.
- Chanel – Named after Coco Chanel, the French luxury fashion house specialising in haute couture, ready-to-wear, accessories, and fragrance.
- Adidas – Named after Adolf Dassler, the German sportswear brand that produces footwear, apparel, and accessories for sports, lifestyle, and fashion.
- Armani – Named after Giorgio Armani, the Italian luxury fashion house that produces ready-to-wear, accessories, eyewear, cosmetics, and fragrances.
- Burberry – Named after Thomas Burberry, the British luxury fashion house that produces outerwear, fashion accessories, fragrances, and cosmetics.
- Calvin Klein – Named after Calvin Klein, the American fashion brand that produces apparel, accessories, fragrance, and home decor.
- Ferrari – Named after Enzo Ferrari, the Italian sports car manufacturer producing high-performance luxury and racing cars.
- Gucci – Named after Guccio Gucci, the Italian luxury fashion and leather goods brand that produces handbags, luggage, shoes, and accessories.
- Louis Vuitton – Named after Louis Vuitton, the French luxury fashion and leather goods brand that produces handbags, luggage, shoes, and accessories.
- Ralph Lauren – Named after Ralph Lauren, the American fashion brand that produces apparel, accessories, fragrance, and home decor.
Do you have a Brandable Name?
A founder's brand name can offer several benefits, including:
- Personalisation: founder brand names can add a personal touch and create a closer connection with customers. Using the founder's name, the brand can communicate its values, personality and story more directly.
- Authenticity: The brand names of founders can also give a brand an authentic and genuine image. They can highlight the founder's vision, expertise or passion, which can help build customer trust.
- Legacy: Founder brand names can create a sense of legacy and continuity for a brand. They can honour the founder's achievements and contributions and convey the brand's commitment to its roots and heritage.
- Differentiation: Names of brand founders can set a brand apart from the competition by creating a unique identifier associated with the founder's personality or values. They can also communicate the brand's unique selling proposition, which can help attract customers who share similar values.
- Storytelling: Founder brand names can tell a story or convey a message about the origins or values of the brand. They can share the founder's career, challenges or successes, creating a deeper connection with customers.
Renaming a company can be a complex and challenging process, and there are many reasons why a company might consider doing so. Perhaps the company has outgrown its current name or wants to reposition itself in the market. Maybe ownership has changed, or the present name is no longer relevant to the company's products or services. Whatever the reason, choosing a new brand name requires careful thought and planning.
There are several types to consider when choosing a brand name. Each class has advantages and disadvantages, and it is essential to carefully consider which style best suits the needs of your business. For example, descriptive names can help convey your company's actions, while evocative names can create an emotional connection with customers. Invented names can be distinctive and memorable, while geographical words give a sense of place and authenticity. Names of company founders can convey a personal touch and a sense of legacy for the brand, while names with acronyms can be concise and modern.
Defining your expectations and goals at the beginning of your naming project is crucial, regardless of which type of name you choose. This way, you can manage the creative process and ensure the resulting name aligns with your company's brand strategy and values.
Naming a company is a complex task that requires a deep understanding of branding and marketing. For this reason, it is best left to the experts. A branding agency has the expertise and experience to create a meaningful and compelling brand name to help your business stand out in the marketplace. But whether you choose to tackle the naming process on your own or with the help of a branding partner, it is a worthwhile endeavour that can significantly impact your business's success.