How to name a Brand
Millions of new businesses are created each year. That’s a staggering figure when you consider the rarity of start-ups becoming profound successes. Most of those start-ups would have found their spark with a concept or idea, quickly followed by a name. Sometimes, the naming process takes more time, requires more consideration and deserves a brainstorm from an established, experienced branding agency. That’s where we come in!
Over the last decade, we’ve christened many businesses in a variety of sectors. What we’ve learned is that each is different and there are loads of ways to arrive at the perfect name. You can consider the USP’s of the business, the heritage and history of the brand, the nature of the industry, the latest trends and more. On top of all of this, we have to take into account the entrepreneur’s personal opinion and preferences. After all, it’s their baby and the name is one they’ll need to be proud of and excited about for years to come.
While there are numerous routes to finding the ideal name, it can be helpful to categorize the options the same way we do: Abstract, Literal and Invented.
An abstract name is one which appears to be totally unrelated to the business and its industry. They can become fantastic assets to the brand as people start to attach their own personal meanings, emotions and affections toward the name. Seeing or hearing the word ‘Apple’ no longer makes people think of the humble fruit, instead it evokes thoughts and images of a clean, white, exciting, modern, tech brand and all the gadgets that come with it.
The name itself isn’t enough though. There needs to be well-thought out, solid brand identity from logo to packaging to tone of voice and messaging. The bow that wraps all these gifts up into one brand package is the name.
‘Vinny’ is a great example of an abstract name which we dreamt up and devised for an exciting new healthy, vegan vending company. Vending machines are traditionally dull and drab, so we turned ours into a real character called Vinny. But that’s not enough, for the name to have any power at all, we needed to pursue the identity through all aspects of the business from the design of the machines and the style of the website to the way the social media team communicates online. That’s what makes Vinny, Vinny. It’s the details which make all the difference, empowering the name to take off and become a strong brand asset.
We also created the name ‘Maize & Grace’ for an exciting popcorn brand. While the ‘Maize’ element provides a hint about the products, generally the name evokes a feeling rather than a description of a function or feature of the business. We wanted people to get a sense of the brand’s values directly from the name – classic, indulgent, trustworthy, authentic and fun. ‘Maize & Grace’ has a mom-and-pop store feel to it, coming across in a soft, inviting, intriguing way rather than bold and brash.
Invented names are words which don’t already exist. You might think it sounds like an impossible task to do what’s never been done before, but it doesn’t have to be. You could combine two existing words together to create a new one which incorporates both meanings. Alternatively, you could focus on the way you want the word to feel and sound, and take inspiration from existing words and names.
We deployed this tactic with ‘Ouvo’ and ‘CORA’, a digital coffee shop and a scented candle brand. We liked the way they sounded and felt, their ease of pronunciation and how they visually appeared attractive. They fit well with their respective brands and the perception that the owners wanted to portray.
It’s worth remembering that invented names can be abstract or literal. For example, Microsoft is an invented brand name but ‘micro’ and ‘soft’ literally relate to the business and the industry. A tasty example of a more abstract invented brand name is Häagen-Dazs. The word has no meaning at all and the founders simply wanted a name which conveyed craftsmanship and tradition. It worked!
While choosing an invented brand name can be risky, there are some benefits too. One of the advantages is that there will be little competition for the word in terms of domain names and trademarking.
Literal names are always the safer options since they directly tell the audience what the business does. They leave little room for confusion. A great way to create an interesting literal name is by thinking about some of the processes and actions that are at the core of your business and its products/ services. Then, tweak that word in a way which will make it unique or more exciting.
For example, we created the name ‘Harmonify’ for an app which combines music and meditation, inviting users to relax and pacify their minds. Harmonify came from ‘harmony’ and ‘harmonisation’, and the ‘ify’ helps to make the word more active while also referring to music (thanks to the success of Spotify).
Another literal approach is to think about the key selling points of the brand, and the words or emotions which could summarize them all. A great example of this is ‘Array’, which is an impressive restaurant and bar concept being launched by a British celebrity. We decided to call it ‘Array’ to reflect the sheer variety of things to do, see and try once you step inside.
As we create our shortlist of preferred brand names, we simultaneously check how strong the competition is in terms of domain names and trademarks. While it’s always best to get professional legal advice before making a decision, you can use sites like www.godaddy.com and www3.wipo.int/branddb/en/ to do your own homework.
If you’re launching a new brand, product or service, and you need help coming up with a strong name – please give us a shout as we’d love to offer our expertise. It might seem like the easy, fun part of the journey that you want to do yourself but our advice is not to rush it. The name will exist for as long as the business exists, and changing it later on down the line can be an expensive PR and branding exercise. It’s better to get it right the first time by getting some input from brains that are obsessed with branding.
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