March 22, 2021

What do you have to think about when naming your brand or business?

It’s tempting to think short term as an entrepreneur. To go with a brand name that seems to get the most attention. But your brand is perhaps the biggest and longest-term decision you face.

Anita Roddick created The Body Shop as a multinational business, a huge success, but was inspired by a single store on the West Coast USA (i.e. she copied it!) called the same thing. So, her business was locked out of the US market for ever. Not good.

Some conundrums:

Do you make your brand distinctive (or even controversial) or do you make sure it conveys what you do and who you are? The former may be great for attention but might be tough on achieving conversation. Particularly in a world where attention is measured in seconds not minutes. On the other hand, do you make your brand nice and explanatory but ultimately easy to copy and hard to protect.

You can make any brand dominant by spending lots of money behind it, but most of us have limited budgets so the harder your brand identify works for you, the better the impact for each dollar you spend.

In the example shown below, the store name may be fun and eye catching but can it ever be ownable and distinctive? Its appeal is derived from something else, surely, so that would be a limitation if they chose to grow.

A check list for brand naming success:

Remember: Naming is the art of the possible. Naming is as much about what you can have, as what you want. Just think about everything a name faces: language checks, domain availability checks, legal checks, getting the thumbs up from colleagues and the boss’s husband or wife…

  1. There’s no such thing as a perfect name: Names grow on you: Fact. The first time someone hears an unusual, distinctive name (exactly the kind that makes a strong trademark), they often think it silly or ridiculous or that they’ll never get used to it. But they will –  so live with it for a while.
  2. Start with what you are trying to communicate. What makes you unique and what do you offer that others don’t. Build your brand around that.
  3. Where do you compete and who with? What’s the established language of the sector and how can you disrupt it? What is the balance between being “different” versus “recognizable”?
  4. What is the problem you are solving for consumers and how can you indicate in your name how you solve it better?
  5. Can you protect it legally? Can you secure the domain name? In today’s world that’s key.
  6. Distinctiveness is legally defensible (differentiation is not). Distinctiveness results in strong brand memory associations and thus salience. You don’t want customers to be thinking “what was their name again?” as they try to come back to buy again.
  7. When first thinking about names it is good to explore your ambitions and expectations for the name what role do you really want it to play for you?
  8. Explore a naming spectrum for a range of name styles. Broadly speaking, there are three different kinds of names: descriptive, associative and abstract. Flirt with all of them at this early stage.
  • Descriptive names are those where you can tell what the product or service is from the very first time you hear or read the name. (Think British Airways or Duracell).
  • Associative names are those where you get a sense of the personality of the thing or how it might make you feel. (Think Red Bull or Purple Bricks)
  • Abstract names are those that, on first hearing, leave you none the wiser as to what it is or does. (Think Apple, Bulb or Rolex) Ultimately these are the most protectable and ownable, but maybe also the most expensive to build.
  1. Do have you the budget to create and build awareness if you choose a more abstract name
  2. Don’t go falling in love: This can be dangerous if your name is yet to go through all the legal and trademark checks. Get it checked early in the process. Be prepared to compromise.

The more abstract the more awareness has to be built to impart meaning.

Your brand name is the shop window of your business, it becomes your business so is a crucial decision. But don’t get too hung up on it. Many successful businesses have had less than perfect names. Over time you will give the right meaning to whatever name you choose. But if you get it right your name will give you as short cut to winning attention, achieving interest from your possible clients and even attracting staff or investors.

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