Branding 101: Brand Name

There are two massive traps when it comes to naming or renaming a business.

  • One is the ‘does what it says on the tin’ trap, and the other
  • is the ‘let’s go crazy’ trap. Small businesses have a terrible habit of falling into one of these.

Interestingly, the name choices are not usually small variations on a theme but are instead quite different in nature. They tend to fall into the following categories.

  1. Does what it says on the tin names (which are generally trying to communicate something about the product or service benefit to the prospective customer).
  2. Charming/wacky/weird/enigmatic names (which are trying in one way or another to make an emotional connection).
  3. Straightforward labelling names (which tend to stem from the names of the founder or the origins of the business, using family names, initials and so on).
  4. Made-up words (which might also be trying for some kind of emotional connection but are generally more concerned with distinctiveness and memorability, and of course online uniqueness and trademark ability).

In a recent TED video Jonathan Bell outlined 7 categories that names fall inside, they are ..

  1. Eponymous (named after someone) (e.g. Disney, Adidas, Tesla)
  2. Descriptive (e.g. American Airlines, The Home Depot)
  3. Acronymic (e.g. GE, BP, KFC, HSBC)
  4. Suggestive (e.g. Uber, Slack, Facebook, Pinterest)
  5. Associative (e.g. SiriusXM, Red Bull)
  6. Non-English (e.g. Samsung, Lego, Hulu)
  7. Abstract (e.g. Rolex, Kodak)

How to pick your brand name that connects on emotional level

You first need to figure out the purpose of your brand, what are you trying to do?

Next the meaning of your brand. How do you want people to feel?

Short names are generally easier to remember than longer names.

Settle on a name that has resonance in some way. A name with flavour, interest and zest.

If you have a name that is well known, be wary to throw it out and start again. Going back to square one is the long game, you can’t shortcut the time require to build a brand.

Don’t use initials, they’re not particularly memorable, and have little emotional resonance, which means you’re going to have to work extra hard to get your brand to stick.

Build onto existing developed schema. For instance the movie Speed can be best described as Die Hard on a bus. This immediately allows you to understand what the movie is about, because it uses your existing knowledge about the Die Hard movies as leverage.

How do you craft a brand name?

Make sure ..

  1. Is it distinctive and different from competitors?
  2. Is it ‘appropriate’ (will people be repelled or embarrassed by it)?
  3. Is it engaging?
  4. Is it informative (does it help tell your story)?

Use an 8×8 grid similar to a morphological box but simpler, and put every phrase and every word you can think of in separate boxes and see if you can link them in some way. i.e. Brand Strategic Expert.

Also before settling for a brand name, make sure the domain name is available to use for your website. Often doing a search will uncover possible competitors who may have beaten you to the punch. Check out .com, (if you’re in the UK) or other country specific domains variations that are more relevant to your business location.

Changing business and brand alignment

If your business changes in nature, it’s important to realise that the box may no longer match the content, and it might be time to rebrand, otherwise they will be out of alignment. Unless the brand is broad enough to cover the change in your business. Brand should always fit the business.

Branding 101