Successful brand names earn billions in net profits every year – which brings up the question: How much does the name given to a brand have to do with its success? Let’s talk about the different strategies used to name brands, and some of the pros and cons of each.
The Nature of Great Brand Names
There are a number of ways to go about naming your brand, and we’ll get into them soon, but first, let’s talk about what makes great brand names great. Effective brand names share the following qualities:
- Meaningfully Marketable (they mean something to the people who matter)
- Distinguishable (they are unique enough to erase all brand identity doubt)
- Memorable (they aren’t just easy to remember, they’re hard to forget)
- Legally Secure (trademarks have been acquired)
- Adaptable (they have potential for future brand development and evolution)
- Reflective (they are representative of a brand’s image and values)
- Personable (they represent the personality of a brand and its enthusiasts)
- Emotive (they stir emotion and establish emotional connections)
Strategies for Creating Brand Names
Whilst considering the wide variety of common brand names, you’ve probably deducted that there’s no single naming strategy that works for every industry, niche, or brand.
As you begin to determine which brand name game strategy is best for your brand, consider these proven approaches, along with their pros and cons:
- Short: Keeping brand names short is one facet of the “simple” strategy. Short words and phrases can be easier to remember; they can also be more difficult to trademark if they are commonly used words. All-in-all, short is far more favourable than long. In general, “short” should be kept in the back of your mind when utilising any brand-naming strategy.
- Simple: Here’s the rest of the “simple” strategy. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean short, but the two concepts are related. The advantage of choosing simplistic words (or words without a wide array of letters) is that they are not obscure – they can be remembered easily and there are no guesses about spelling. The downfall? The potential for lack of uniqueness.
- Allusive (not Elusive): This name-game strategy involves using words that are indicative of the products or services your brand sells. You may run into problems with trademarking (and having your trademark violated); however, when your brand name is directly related to your brand’s products, you wield a powerful mind share sword.
- Unique: When brand names are unique, they are easily differentiated from their competitors. These are the brand names that have the most potential for becoming synonymous with the products they provide, and they generally aren’t words at all until they’re used as brand names. These brand names span language barriers – especially if they’re not rooted in any particular language. They’re also easy to find online. The downside? These words can sometimes be difficult to spell and to remember (until significant brand awareness is accomplished), and they could bring along inadvertent cultural implications if research isn’t conducted correctly.
- Personalised: This applies to the brand names that use their founders’ names. If the founder has a massive network, this can be advantageous. What happens if that founder passes away or leaves the business before brand awareness and mind share are established? A segment of loyalty could be lost.
- Alliterative: This has to do with catchiness. The sound of a brand name is far more important than the way it looks. We want people to repeat our brand names – and therefore, the way they feel and sound rolling off the tongue can be significant; however, too much rhyming, alliteration, consonance, etc., and your brand name will go from memorable straight to unoriginal and corny.
- Keyword-Rich: When brand names include the keywords that target audiences are using to search online, those brands enjoy a traffic bonus. The disadvantage? Those words are often very common, and may be difficult to trademark. Commonly used words have lots of search engine baggage, as well as connotation baggage in the minds of consumers.
- Culturally Significant: If your audience is strongly rooted in one particular culture, or lives in a particular geographical area (and your brand will not expand out of that area), vernacular can help to establish emotional connections. This rarely works for global, international, or multi-regional brands, though. What’s revered in one culture can be heretical in another.
- Acronyms: This may seem like a good move when you consider the success of brand names like IBM and BBC, but they were established before the acronym influx. Now, a search for nearly any acronym will reveal a number of unrelated meanings. Moving forward, acronyms should only be used as brand names when brand names have become so prominent that pop culture assigns them.
I bear witness to a lot of brand-naming mistakes. And in light of those missteps, I recommend that you never make naming your brand an afterthought or an otherwise unimportant task. Never put creativity before strategy. And lastly, please avoid mistaking your own affection for a working brand name for industry viability. In reality, naming your brand is not a game, and rolling the dice when naming your brand comes with serious risk.
This conversation about brand names is just beginning, and How to Build a Brand is ready to continue it with your questions and comments.
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