Brand Naming Process: What Makes a Brand Name echo?

A brilliant name is the basic core differentiator of your brand. It helps to build awareness and convey meaning.

What would Apple be without its name? There are plenty of innovative technology companies around the world, but Apple has the brand. The name provides a platform for the branding, and it’s the first indicator that this company thinks differently.

The name garners Apple a great deal of power, because it resonates with consumers. It’s a mark of trust. David Aaker writes in Managing Brand Equity, “A name can serve as a substantial barrier to entry once it is established. Consider the power of names like Velcro, Formica, and Kodak. In fact, a name can be more useful than a patent, which can be difficult and costly to defend.”

A brilliant name sets the stage for the brand. This becomes evident when you read the lists of the Top 100 brands. You see names that immediately evoke meaning and trust: Google, VISA, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Amazon.com, Disney, Starbucks, Subway, FedEx, Red Bull, Twitter, and Shell.

Brand Names

Without any other description or explanation you know these companies. You know what they are, what they represent, and where they fit (or don’t fit) in your life. The brand name is the container of meaning. We may know the brand symbols or its mascot, but we reference and talk about its name.


Four Types of Brand Names

1. Descriptive Name: Indicates what the company, product, or service is or does.

Descriptive brand names are the oldest class of brand names. John Deere, for example, is the brand name for Deere & Company. The company was founded in 1837 and the name is derived from its founder.

Descriptive names are also effective for describing the business. PayPal is a payment company. Subway serves submarine sandwiches. These names clearly position the brands and make it easier for consumers to identify their products and services and when to choose them.


2. Acronyms Names: An abbreviation of a descriptive name.

Many of the world’s most recognized brands are acronyms: GE, UPS, IBM, SAP, HP, and TD, to name a few.

Most acronyms evolve out of functional names. Either deliberately or organically, descriptive names can be paired down into bite size chunks. For example, it’s easier to say AFLAC than American Family Life Assurance Company, or GEICO than Government Employees Insurance Company.


3. Invented Names: A made-up word.

Some of the most iconic brands are invented words: Kodak, Xerox, Acura, Google, and Twitter. They are names created specifically to represent a brand.

Invented words are very powerful, because they don’t come with any baggage. They are empty vessels designed to represent a brand.

But using invented words is very tricky. Not all invented words make compelling brand names. It’s best to avoid invented names with Greek or Latin roots such as Verizon, Cingular, or Agilent. According to Steve Manning, founder of the naming company Igor International, “Because these types of names are built on Greek or Latin morphemes, you need the advertising budget of a gigantic global corporation to imbue them with meaning and get people to remember them.”

But using invented words is very tricky. Not all invented words make compelling brand names. It’s best to avoid invented names with Greek or Latin roots such as Verizon, Cingular, or Agilent. According to Steve Manning, founder of the naming company Igor International, “Because these types of names are built on Greek or Latin morphemes, you need the advertising budget of a gigantic global corporation to imbue them with meaning and get people to remember them.”


4. Experiential Names: Build upon what the feeling or experience the brand delivers.

Experiential names are the most powerful class of names. This is where the most iconic brands stand: Apple, Virgin, Caterpillar, and Oracle.

These names are positioning statements. They help a company stand out in their marketplace by setting an expectation of what it’s like to choose them.

The biggest obstacle of generating an experiential name is connecting meaning to the brand. This requires a deep understanding of your business and what it stands for before the naming process begins. If the name is out of sync with the positioning of the business it loses impact.

The best course of action is to give your team the time and space they need to explore and test names. Ninety days is a good time frame. This doesn’t mean your full time job is to generate and test names. Rather budget an hour a day to work the process.

By investing the time to get it right can make all the difference in the world. A brilliant brand name can set the foundation for your business to be a leader in its category.

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