The Art of Naming a Brand


What’s in a name? Turns out, when it comes to branding, quite a lot. 

True, a name is not the substance of your company. But in a world where nearly every industry is experiencing inconceivable overcrowding, it simply doesn’t do your business any favors to have a misinformed brand name. 

The first rule of naming a brand is...

There are no rules! That’s right. There is no comprehensive set of rules that can globally apply to the naming of all brands. The enterprise of naming a brand could go in a number of directions — expressive like Yahoo!, descriptive like Coffee Bean, General Motors, or Toys R Us, or completely esoteric a la Zappos, Google, or Prius. 

But rest assured, there is a method to this seemingly mad endeavor, and our team at STARMEN hopes to shed light on this typically daunting process. 

Go broad or go home.

Naming a brand is as much a science as it is an art, so experimentation and trial-and-error exploration should always be heavily exercised. Thousands — or even hundreds of thousands — of names are oftentimes considered by today’s top naming firms before a winning alias is arrived at. 

You can be cautious or you can be creative (but there’s no such thing as a cautious creative).
A creative thinker must be fearless. If you’re more tentative than decisive, if you’re more cautious
than creative, you’ll never be an innovative business leader,
and certainly not a great communicator. A cautious creative is an oxymoron.

 —  George Lois

If this sounds dispiriting, we offer the following perspective. Your brand name is the designation your company and its products will carry through the course of its operation for the foreseeable — hopefully very long-term — future. Your name is what consumers in your marketplace will use to identify your products when discussing them with friends and making purchasing decisions. Your name will also be the first point of contact for customers new to your brand, and it can make or break buying decisions when circumstances preclude all other components of your brand strategy (its visual presentation, its social activity, and so on). With this kind of pull, it is worth your while to heavily screen potential names. Eventually, with due diligence, the right fit will grow more apparent, and you’ll be thankful you held out.

People will question your brand name. Let them.

Much like naming a baby, naming a brand opens up the floor for debate and criticism. People will like, dislike, or even feel indifferent to a name. But, so what? 

Brand naming guru, Hayes Roth, echos this sentiment in his work, and in an interview with The Atlantic. "I was interviewed multiple times when iPad was announced because it sounded to everybody like feminine products," Mr. Roth explains. "I was asked, 'Is this a disaster? Will it sink Apple?' I said it fit with their conventions. A week later, people saw the product and nobody asked the question again." 

At at the end of the day, the quality of your product will speak much more loudly and pervasively than your name ever could.  A name carries with it a certain nuanced suggestive power, but it doesn’t actually employ the key elements of your brand’s personality — its behaviors, its values, or its look and feel.

Nurture your brand, and it will grow into its own. Let it.

Ever met a newborn, learnt its name, and thought, “But… he doesn’t look like a ____.” That’s because the association we, as non-newborns, have grown to assign certain nomenclatures has yet to be established in fresh little lives. The same is true for a brand new brand. Given time, it will grow to acquire an ample repository of personality and attributes, and its name will become as much a part of that complexion as anything else. Which leads us to our final point…

Remember: your brand is a tactile, kinesthetic summation of many working parts.

Nurture it. Grace it with a logo that reflects its personality. Indoctrinate it with your company’s mission, values, and objectives. Remember that your brand is not a static entity, but a dynamic one, and the retribution you take is equal to the investment you make.

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