Brand Naming – Ideas, Strategy and Process
The brand naming process is perhaps the most challenging step and the most critical in the brand identity design. After all, the decision ultimately determines the course of the business.
Sure, the late Steve Jobs named his now-successful company Apple when he was doing one of his fruitarian diets, but he also chose it because he thought the name was ‘fun, spirited and not intimidating’.
Apple’s brand name set the stage for their identity. It enabled them to build this entire lifestyle that consumers so passionately want to be a part of, which is what also propelled them to where they are today.
They were not overnight successes. At some point, all they had was a name and a dream.
However, today, without any explanation, consumers immediately know what these companies stand for. Reaching such a status is a slow and gradual process.
Moreover, brand naming is one of the fundamental elements that can guarantee that this long and arduous process leads to success.
Naming a brand is not something you do with a small committee after a few brainstorming sessions. It entails a systematic approach and a whole lot of creativity.
When done right, the name can either help brands connect with consumers on an emotional level, or it can appeal to their sensibilities.
Today, you will get to know the brand naming process. You will learn the fundamental approach to selecting the right brand name and what you can do to test prospective labels.
What are the different types of brand names?
1 – Experiential Brand Names
Experiential brand names are all about the consumers’ experience.
Take Apple, for instance. They build upon what consumers feel when they own and use Apple products. That is basically how experiential names can stand out in their industries. They set expectations of what it is like when consumers choose their company or product.
However, connecting meaning to the name itself is also the most significant obstacle when it comes to creating an experiential brand name.
To be able to create an impactful brand name, companies must first define what they stand for and how they want to be perceived.
2 – Descriptive Brand Naming Process
This simple naming convention entails using a name that describes the company’s products or services. These names make it easier for consumers to remember what the brand offers.
An example of this is PayPal, which is an online payments system. Another well-known company that belongs to this category is Subway, a name derived from their primary product, submarine sandwiches.
The downside to this practice is that when companies are not able to back the name up with the right marketing and advertising strategies, it would be straightforward to fade into the background.
Subway, for instance, can refer to other things, including a rapid transit rail system and a British rock band.
3 – Acronyms
Brand names that fall under this category are abbreviations of descriptive names.
For example, BMW stands for Bavarian Motor Works, IBM for International Business Machines and KFC for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Acronyms are more natural to say and remember. However, they may not be as effective in evoking meaning or feelings as experiential or descriptive names.
Acronyms work best for large corporations or brands that have already established a name for themselves under their full names, like BMW.
However, for startup companies, this practice should be avoided as a random mix of letters may only lead to confusion or indifference.
4 – Neologisms
Companies who use made-up words to represent their brands exude a sense of uniqueness. When developed correctly, it should give them a competitive edge.
However, choosing the right words can be tricky since not all invented words will be able to make such a substantial impact.
Also, during the initial phase of the company, these brands do require more marketing effort to become recognised.
Google, Twitter, Xerox and Kodak are some of the most iconic brands ever to concoct a name that would embody what their respective companies stand for.
5 – Founders’ Branding Names
The naming practice for this type is pretty straightforward. It uses the name of the person who started the company.
One of the most famous examples of this is Disney, which is named after the man who started it all, Walt Disney.
Note: Brand naming may involve the use of several of these conventions. The best example for this is IKEA, which is a neologism and an acronym of the founder’s name and his hometown – Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd.
How to come up with brand name ideas
Begin the brand naming process by mapping the competitive landscape of your brand.
Make a list of all competitors within your niche, both direct and indirect. Next, make sure you divide these companies into five categories: experiential names, descriptive names, acronyms, neologisms and founders’ names.
Now, look at your list and identify the brand naming trends:
- What are the most popular naming conventions?
- Do the brands fall into one category? Or are they hybrids?
- What attitudes do their names embody?
- What names stood out? And why?
By doing this first step, you should be able to know what you are up against to generate a brand name. It also makes it easier for you to set some guidelines for the brand naming process.
Setting Your Naming Branding Guidelines
To ensure that the brand name stays true to what the company represents, you must take a moment to reflect on what you want your brand name to symbolise and how you can use it to support your business. Think about the kind of brand experience you want to offer to consumers.
- What do you want to promise them in the long run?
- How do you want to stand out amidst such fierce competition?
- What standards should the brand observe?
- What should you avoid?
Once you have reflected on that, come up with a set of guidelines that your brand should adhere to when you start brainstorming for names that will appeal to your target audience.
How to choose a business branding name?
Make sure you come up with as many ideas as you can just to get those creative juices flowing.
If you do not know where to start or if you get stumped along the way, take out the set of guidelines that you made. That will help steer you in the right direction. To further narrow down your choices, you can practise focused brainstorming.
Ask yourself a few questions that are relevant to your brand, like:
- What products do you sell?
- What services do you offer?
- How can your products or services benefit consumers?
- What’s unique about your products or services?
- What is your brand’s mission?
Don’t limit yourself to what is obvious. Feel free to entertain endless possibilities. Pick up your favourite book. Open a dictionary.
Explore as many words as you can and remember to write everything down on a pad of paper or take notes on your phone.
Acquiring a Business Domain Name
Part of the brand naming process is zeroing in on a domain name. Finding a .com domain name can be quite the challenge, even if you have made use of unique word pairings.
However, if you are using made-up words, this step should more likely be a breeze. Even if a lot of the right names that you thought of have already been registered, you should not lose hope.
You can always opt to purchase some registered names that aren’t being used on marketplaces such as GoDaddy Auctions and Sedo.
Creating a Short List of Brand Names
Take the list you have compiled from brainstorming in the brand naming process and reduce the number to 10 or 20.
So you can figure out which ones hold more depth, opt to show the list to your target audience. Ask them to select their best five favourites. You can also personally go through that list again but with a fresh perspective.
And this time, you should listen to your gut, and drop the names that you feel aren’t good enough, even if that means cutting the entire list. This point of the brand naming process is quite humbling.
Although you might find a handful of great names, you could also realise that the whole set is not good enough. If you ever experience the latter, just remember that it is not a setback.
You should never compromise and pick a name from the list so that you can get through with it.
Testing Your Brand Name
Once you have that short list of names, you can check their balance and readability using the Helvetica test.
Print the names on your list in large capital letters in Helvetica Neue Bold, and hand them out to people for evaluation.
- What comes to mind when you read each name?
- What is your favourite? And why?
Days after you asked for opinions, go back to those people and ask them to recall the names that they reviewed. Remember which names stood out and consider how easily they were able to remember the names.
When it comes to this brand naming process, the more people you can get to critique the list, the better.
Testing during the brand naming process is as important as discovering your options. And much like the latter, it can either lead you somewhere, or it can lead you nowhere.
Therefore, set a reasonable time frame for the brand naming process so you can further explore the possibilities. Set an hour a day so you will not stress about it, and you can wake up the next morning with even better ideas.
Remember that the right brand name is the key to success in your industry, so invest your time, and trust in the brand strategy process.
Brand Naming Quotes
“When people use your name as a verb, that is remarkable.” – Meg Whitman
“Your brand name is only as good as your reputation.” – Richard Branson
“It is the value invested in a name over time that makes the name(brand) and not just the name.” – Bernard Kelvin Clive
“Personal branding is about managing your name — even if you don’t own a business — in a world of misinformation, disinformation, and semi-permanent Google records. Are you going on a date? Chances are that your “blind” date has Googled your name. Going to a job interview? Ditto.” – Tim Ferriss
“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” – Howard Schultz
“There isn’t any significant difference between the various brands of whiskey, or cigarettes or beer. They are all about the same. And so are the cake mixes and the detergents, and the margarines… The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.” – David Ogilvy
“A product can be quickly outdated, but a successful brand name is timeless.” – Stephen King
“All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” – Tom Peters
“You too are a brand. Whether you know it or not. Whether you like it or not.” – Marc Ecko
“Life being what it is, you won’t get your names right the first time. In this situation you may well be tempted to leave it—after all, it’s only a name. That is the work of the evil demon Obfuscatis; don’t listen to him. If you see a badly named method, it is imperative that you change it. Remember your code is for a human first and a computer second. Humans need good names.” – Martin Fowler
“That’s just the first part. What others call you, you become. It’s terrible magic that everyone can do — so do it. Call yourself what you wish to become.” – Catherynne M. Valente
Author Bio: Callum Mundine is part of the marketing team at www.oneegg.com.au. He is an Amazon marketplace & white hat link building specialist and has launched multiple successful brands on Amazon.com. Callum like his eggs boiled.