What’s in a brand name?

Photo by You X Ventures

To create a powerful brand name, you’ve got to understand the strategic platform the brand is built on first.  This means a few strategic elements of the brand need to be clearly articulated:

  • Audience.  Who is the brand for?  What do they want, need, and fear?
  • Core Belief.  What does the brand believe in and why?
  • Vision.  What is the vision for the brand?  How will the brand impact the world for the better?
  • Mission.  What is the brand doing to make the vision a reality?
  • Positioning.  What is the brand’s unique promise to its customers and why should anyone believe it?
  • Brand Personality/Tone.  What kind of personality does your brand have?  Is it quirky, funny, serious, daring, caring… something else?

Armed with answers to these questions, the team on the naming project can be briefed and brainstorming can start.   Brand names typically fall into a several different categories, so you may want to break up into brainstorming teams and have each team take one of them:

  • Descriptive.  Names like GamerGigs, Wildlife Trading Company, AnkleAid, Sikorsky Credit Union, Instagram, Netflix
  • Intuitive.  Nexus Green, Uncle Julio’s, Cann & Co., Technolutions, Logitech, Volt, Nest
  • Associative. McAfee, Carrier, Nike, Okta, Twitter
  • Abstract. Tivo, Google, Zappos

A side note on brainstorming, you should try to include the internal brand stakeholders, so that their input is considered and they are buying into the process and decisions that are being made.  Some naming criteria that should be considered throughout the project include: distinctiveness, relevancy, brevity, easy to understand and say, likability, extendability, protect-ability (from a trademark perspective).

It is very typical that your brainstorming session will result in a list of more than 150 options, so use the criteria to filter out ones that don’t work.  To vet the names for trademark availability, it is recommended that you do 2 things: 1) A simple Google search to see if the name is in use in the same or similar industry to yours, and 2) A quick search of the name in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).  You may also want to survey some customers and others in your organization to get more input.   We like to use matrix questions that list no more than 10 name options, and ask how much they agree or disagree that the name is likable, appropriate, easy to understand and say, and that they are proud to be associated with it.  We also typically ask which name, overall, they like the most.

Once you have both qualitative and quantitative feedback, the list of names can be easily narrowed down to a few or just one.  Be sure to have your legal team do a final review of the name, ensuring that the name is able to be trademarked and defended.

We are passionate about all things branding, including developing naming conventions.  If you have a brand or product that needs to be named, feel free to reach out for more information.