What's A Good Brand Name?

Author
Mara Rada
pubslished on
July 25, 2020
category
Naming
"The best name is not the one you like. Nor is it the one with the available domain name. It's one that's fresh, memorable, and thought-provoking."
Mara Rada

A name is the first thing your customers get to know about you. It's what comes before changing business cards with a potential partner, before a user decides to follow you on social media, and before clicking the link to your website. It's your first chance to make a strong impression. You only get that first chance to make a lasting first impression well... once. Make sure it's a memorable one.

So, what makes a name good? Analyzing company names that are widely loved by the public, naming and branding experts have settled on a few sine-qua-non attributes a good name should have.

video showing the word brand is being written out of its component letters
Strong brands have inspiring names

When you name a company or a product, you're not naming its services or features, you're naming its perception. An evocative name talks about the company's bold aspirations and goals, about the challenges it wants to overcome, about the changes it wants to produce in society. Think of some of today's most loved companies, their names, and their positioning - Apple's original mission statement had little to do with manufacturing computers. Instead, it said that "Apple is dedicated to the empowerment of man—to making personal computing accessible to each and every individual so as to help change the way we think, work, learn, and communicate."

An evocative name based on a visionary positioning is a powerful differentiator. It is multidimensional and stimulates one's imagination. By engaging emotionally, an evocative name that is well synchronized with a nuanced and specific positioning is highly memorable. It creates a brand image that is above the goods and services that a company has to offer, producing higher levels of consumer loyalty than plain, descriptive names.

Before settling on a name, take some time to look at where your industry is heading, at what your competitors are doing, and at what names they are using. Besides their names, also pay attention to their messages, positioning, and the images they are trying to portray of themselves. If you are going to be like them, sound like them, talk like them, you're likely not going to get noticed. An investor's market research analysis that was recently in my hands showed that 430 new telemedicine companies were launched in one week in the US alone at some point during this pandemic. The competition can be overwhelming and it requires thorough analysis on naming and positioning. Don't get lost in the noise. Choose a name that's fresh and that will make your company and products stand out from the crowd.

When choosing a name, you have the option to go for an existing word or combination of words, or to create a new one. Think of Oreo. Invented names, when well thought-out, can position your company as a pioneer in its field. Unfortunately, they also need a bigger marketing budget to create new associations that don't yet exist in consumer's minds. Regardless of whether you're choosing an existing term or inventing a new one, make sure you're bold and provocative.

Some of the best-known names and most loved brands out there have provocative names: Slack, Monday, Discord, Carrot, Appy Geek, Uber, Virgin, Impossible Foods, Pandora, Gap, Caterpillar. Despite the apparent "negative messages", consumers love these brands. Clearly, they are well able to contextualize the brands and their messages and treat the negative aspects positively and with humour. as long as a provocative name is mapped to some of the brand's positioning points, consumers understand the figurative meanings and the negative aspects only give these names a deeper meaning and greater depth.

It is very powerful to use a word with strong connotations and emotional associations and tie your brand onto those already-existing connections. This name development strategy is, by far, the most powerful one of all. Sadly, it is one that can be the hardest to get approval from your CEO, so here are a few helpful explanations.

“Don't worry about the domain name. Find the name that resonates with your business purpose and inspires your consumers. Then just add a prefix or a suffix. Or a 'hey'. You get the idea...”
Mara Rada
Strong brands have inspiring names

It is a well-established fact that consumers make emotional choices even when, in the face of it, a choice might look like a rational one. And with primal choices being triggered by primal emotions, brands and their messages need to evoke and amplify these emotions. Brands with visual names can better engage consumers, as it is easier for them to remember something they've seen or felt than it is to remember abstract ideas.

"According to Forrester Research, 50 percent of every buying decision is driven by emotion. Not only do we buy things that make us feel good, but we are also inclined to buy things with names that make us feel good.” - Alexandra Watkins, "Hello, My Name is Awesome"

One of the most desired forms of advertising out there is "earned media", meaning people are talking about your brand without you having to pay a platform to distribute your materials. That is the holy grail of advertising. But how are they going to talk about you if they can't remember your name or, when looking for it online, they won't find your spelling?

Unless you're the only one providing that service, chances are your consumers will end up with your competitors because at the moment they had the intention to purchase they either couldn't remember you or couldn't find you. Avoid all this pain by choosing a name that's easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and easy to remember.

It's hard to predict the future, especially if you're an early-stage startup that might have to pivot a few times until it can find its grounding and reach the product-market-fit. That's why you need to start this trip next to a name that's flexible, that can grow with you and adapt when you need it to. Think of it as a marriage - you'd ideally want it to be for life. Sure, should things go south, you can choose again, but it's gonna cost you and leave some scars. So try to get it right from the first try.

How many companies do you remember that are called Solutions, or Consulting, or Software? That's right, you probably won't remember a lot, but there are so many of them. To be remembered, your name must be inspiring, engage your audience at an emotional level. It needs to evoke good memories, visuals, desires.

“Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating. You know you can’t bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them into buying it.”
David Ogilvy

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