How hard is it to name a brand?
Naming your brand is one of the most significant business decisions you can make. Your brand’s name is the first point of access to your brand’s core messaging, strategy and values. It is intimately connected with your product, services and organization and will be with your brand for a long time. It’s worth doing the hard work to get it right. And in recent years naming has become a lot more challenging.
Before generating lists of name options, there are key strategic decisions to be made including the role that the name can play in communicating the positioning of the brand. You need to identify which of your brand values or attributes the name will highlight, and which of the various naming tactics make the most sense for your brand’s promise to the customer. The brand name is an important opportunity to grab your customer’s attention, differentiate your product and easily communicate key brand values.
There are myriad different approaches to what makes a good name: names can be short, clever, descriptive of the brand, or more fanciful. Alliterative or rhyming names are a memorable option if they are consistent with your brand’s values. Names can use existing words in new and interesting ways, or create new words entirely. Sometimes simple is best: some names reference geography, or the brand’s founders or key components. It’s important in the global business environment to ensure that the name does not have unintended or problematic meanings in other languages. This in itself isn’t easy, but ultimately it is important that the name fits the strategic objectives of the brand, helps to embody the values and story of the brand and helps to identify and differentiate the brand in the market.1
Naming something new is difficult; renaming an existing brand brings additional challenges, most notably dealing with all the prior associations from the original name and planning the complications of transitioning to a new name. There are a lot of people within and outside the company who have to like the name; to help with the process, it is important to have clear objectives about what it is the brand and its stakeholders want the name to do. It has to be memorable, compelling and represent a change. But as with naming a new brand, it also has to be available, and that can be the biggest challenge of all.
No names left? There are already 700x more domain names than words in the English language!
VS. 470,000 words in the Merriam-Webster
Third New International Dictionary3
The legal limitations on what is available for trademark, alongside the battle for URLs and the similarities to other names, mean the options are increasingly limited. With so many small businesses, start-ups and global expansions, the naming space itself has become highly competitive. Commonly used words like apple and square are no longer just vernacular language but trademarks in specific business categories. Even if it is legally clear to use a similar name in a different category, you may not want to do so due to potential consumer confusion. Names may also be very expensive: many domains have been taken and command high rents.
Naming is a skill, and it takes hard work, research, creativity, due diligence and perseverance. It all starts with knowing your brand: identifying your brand values and messaging is the first step in generating a name that works for you. In the increasingly crowded naming environment, finding the right name for your brand is a significant challenge. But it is also a process, the first and one of the most important steps in communicating your brand’s story. It’s worth taking the time to get it right.
As you consider your marketing strategy going forward, how will you infuse your brand values into your name?