Brand naming

A brand’s name is one of the most powerful and emotional connections that a brand may establish with its audience. Actually, naming plays a crucial part in defining the brand’s identity.

Creating a name (or ‘naming’) is a complex and complete process that offers a huge deal of satisfaction and great joy. Both for the client and the agency. Perhaps because it represents that moment when the whole business strategy becomes articulate.

INOVEO offers various naming services: product naming, service, and corporate naming. Our team comprises linguistics, marketing, and intellectual property rights specialists. We have created brand names that have proved themselves in the market. Some of which we are quite certain you are familiar with. Have you heard of Radio ZU? We created it.

What is brand naming?

Brand naming is the process you go through in order to choose the right name for your company, product, or service. How do you know you found the right name? A name you choose during the brand naming process should act and feel like your main differentiator. It should help you to raise awareness (as the marketing jargon has it) and to transmit the key messages around which your brand is built. Therefore, you should really go through a thorough brand naming process in order to get all the differentiating features right and capture them in one name.

Don’t think the name is that important? How about this thought experiment: what would Apple be without the name? Out of the myriads of tech companies out there, Apple is the most iconic, unique, powerful, recognizable, and desirable brand. Naming, within this context of desirability, becomes a platform and it is the first indicator of brand culture and of different thinking.

The name gives Apple great power because consumers resonate with it. It builds trust. Experts in the field of branding consider that the name is way more important than the patent or the license. While the patent is costly and hard to defend legally, the brand name sets up right from the start the communication standard and the type of relationship you want to establish with your target audience. For example, names like Kodak, Google, VISA, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Amazon, Disney, Starbucks, Subway, FedEx, Red Bull, Twitter, and Shell instantly evoke trust and meaningfulness. The name’s strategic importance is the reason why the brand naming process can’t be dealt with in a few brainstorming sessions. It is a complex process, and behind it, there are a lot of decisions that shape the future of your company.

Why do you need a name?

The name is the single most important constituent of brand identity. Without a name, you don’t exist as a brand. A study conducted by the University of Alberta in 2010 concluded that people tend to respond well to names with repetitive structures, such as Coca-Cola, Kit Kat, TikTok. A good brand name is relevant and makes you stand out. It has to be easy to remember, as your clients are not going to waste any of their time trying to remember your brand’s name. It has to evoke positive associations. And remember: people only buy things that inspire 100% trust.

So, a good name is an important step toward gaining trust because:

  • it helps you to be remembered better;
  • the easier it is to remember the name, the more trust it conveys – which means it will work in your brand’s favor when the client plans to make an acquisition and needs to quickly identify a suitable provider (among other similar providers that offer similar goods or services)
  • it helps promote your company
  • it helps attract new customers. Believe it or not, a lot of people choose to try a new service or product just because it has a name that sounds good.

What is the process of creating a brand name? What does naming consist of?

A lot of organizations assume that their brand name would be easy to find until they try to find it. With so many competing brands on the market, many of them already equipped with trademarks, it is so hard to find something original and relevant to describe your brand or your company. Neil Blumenthal, the Warby Parker co-founder, revealed that they needed 2000 suggestions and 6 months to choose the name. Our naming process usually takes less, and our method comprises four steps. We present them below, one by one.

But first, it is worth mentioning a quick pro tip. You should make sure you have in your naming team people with proven expertise in linguistics and foreign languages. Also, make sure to use as many creative and innovative naming techniques as possible. Now, our four steps:

Research

Before initiating the naming process, we need to talk. We need to gather as much information from you as possible and we encourage you to create a comprehensive brief. The brief must include the objectives you wish to accomplish with the new name. This step is crucial because it helps to put all parties involved on the same page and set expectations.

As part of the naming process, the INOVEO team organizes workshops and interviews with your management teams and analyzes relevant info on the market category, the personality of the brand, and its audience. Our team then compiles this info in a comprehensive audit report that becomes the basis of the entire naming process.

Starting with this info and factoring in vision, mission, values, and buyer persona, we take to identifying name candidates.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is the moment when we put our cards on the table. We work together to identify the most suitable ways through which your brand name becomes apt to send key brand messages to its audience. At this point, it is important for the naming to align with your company’s positioning (if it’s your company that we’re naming) or the positioning of your products and services. Although it can be an amusing process, as brand experts we highly recommend keeping an eye on brand-specific constraints. The very first step toward building the right name is to identify the brand attributes and benefits. The purpose of this is to gather as much first-hand relevant information as possible, work on it and draw inspiration from it. The brainstorming process lasts for several days and utilizes techniques such as “the six thinking hats of Bono.”

Selecting the most suitable names

Some of the most frequent brand name types include:

  • descriptive components: these are names that tell your audience what you do; such is the case of General Motors;
  • syllable games and invented words: these names are created from scratch; examples: Google, Kodak, TiVo;
  • metaphors: perhaps the most telling example is that of Nike, one of the names of the Greek goddess Athens in her winning state (‘nike’ actually means ‘victory’ in Greek).

Prescreening

We check name availability and select only available names for our presentation.

These four steps conclude with the final, 5th one, which is:

Presenting the main naming routes

We make a comprehensive presentation of all the main routes of the naming, arguing for the name candidates’ potential.

What does an ideal name sound like

With hundreds of millions of businesses worldwide, it’s getting more and more complicated to differentiate. Even in best-case scenarios, the naming process remains subjective and emotional. Whether you’re naming your baby, your boat, or your brand, the process is subject to numerous debates. When it’s about the brand, we’re here to help (sorry, we don’t do baby naming!). Generally speaking, an ideal name is relevant, it sounds harmonious – meaning, it sounds good! – it’s easy to remember, and it conveys the benefits of your product or service.

We have discussed this subject at large (here). There are 8 principles of brand naming. We have selected the essential ones and we touch on those below. From our perspective, an ideal brand name should: be memorable, be semantically complex (that is, meaningful), be representative of the industry that you belong to, sound good when said out loud, and trigger a good deal of positive associations that unfold progressively. An ideal name seldom works like a coup de foudre. On the contrary, it is similar to mature love: it unfolds with time and reveals its full potential while your brand grows and evolves.

An ideal name is memorable

What does ‘memorable’ mean? It draws attention and is easy to memorize. But also the audience resonates with it. It is compatible with their cultural values, serving the vision of the company and communicating to the customers how your brand may be of use. Although you might feel tempted to name your brand with a complicated, out-of-the-ordinary name, we don’t recommend it. Your clients will buy only if they trust what you have to offer. With a too-complicated or cryptical name, you’re not making yourself a favor. One reason why a name is memorable is that it stands in line with the category. Why do you think you easily retain FAN Courier or eMAG? It’s because you know from the start that they’re about shipping and e-commerce.

An ideal name sounds good in any language

As theory has it, we have to be able to identify the sound of persuasion in a brand name. A good brand name is contagious and may be pronounced while amply opening the soft palate. (See, there is a reason why linguists should be consulted when choosing a brand name!) For example, when Kraft rebranded as Mondelez, they expected the new name to be successful. The term is a somehow forced joining of ‘monde’ (french for ‘world’) and the invented term ‘delez’ (which should have functioned as a creative, invented version of ‘delicieux’). The name barely caught on. Language experts have since commented that this happened because the naming team did not pay enough attention to the psyco-linguistic implications of the term. Traditionally, when you build a brand name you bear in mind a few linguistic tricks, such as the alliteration in Coca-Cola, the morphological associations in Craftmatic, or the semantic allusions in Nike.

A 2007 study by Tina M. Lowry and L. J. Shrum about phonetic symbolism and brand names suggests that vowels and consonants may have symbolic significance in themselves. Certain sounds are perceived as positive, while others are negative. This perception ends up associating a positive or negative ring of the name with the product or service. The study sprang from another experiment by Edward Sapir, in 1929, in which the participants were asked to associate the artificial particles Mal and Mil with a larger or a smaller table. Over 80% of the participants agreed that Mal (with a long vowel, voiced from the chest) refers to a larger table than Mil (short vowel, voiced with the tip of the tongue). On the other hand, long vowels like O or U may convey a negative meaning and could suggest a heavy or a big object, while words like Pinch and Slim contain short vowels that convey a feeling of subtlety. The Sapir study also concludes that long vowels like the U in Putrid and Puke are often heard in words that communicate disgust. That is why they also elicit negative connotations when used in other words.

An ideal name is unique

By unique, we mean original, easy to write, easy to pronounce, and available as a dot-com (or .ro) domain. You can easily check domain availability on domain.com and/or rotld.ro.

What to avoid when choosing the brand name

  • Don’t speed up the process. It is more complex than it seems – we explained that already.
  • First simple, then smart. We may be inclined to hyper-complicate the naming process for the sake of being different. Different is good, but good brand names follow the simplicity rule particularly because they aim to help the target audience associate the brand with the product or service.
  • Avoid descriptive naming. A name that only stresses what you do (for example, Wood Furniture Inc.) or a name too generic (like the over-used ABC Technologies or ABC by XYZ) will fall flat.
  • Avoid choosing your brand name by slightly adapting your competitors’. Conduct thorough research and analysis of your competition before choosing your name.

It is equally important for your brand name to comply with digital usage rules. On the other hand, don’t choose a name because you found a tempting dot-com domain. Name comes first, dot-com second.

How do we test a suitable name?

When testing how suitable a name is for our brand or our company, you should have in mind its compatibility with various media on which it will be printed or otherwise used. Also think of its compliance with the overall brand vision, its emotional resonance, semantic meaning, and of course, how it differentiates from the competition.

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