5 Naming Principles we learnt from Gotham City

Before you start reading, we have a quick exercise for you. Try naming 5 characters from Gotham City. Batman doesn’t count. Go!

Easy, right? The good names are easy to remember and associate with a character. In your case, to your brand.

Let’s review the principles for good naming with the help of Bruce Wayne’s villains in Gotham City. Which characteristics should all good names have in order for them to stick in our clients’ memory? Let’s begin:

1.- Conciseness
Good things, if short, are twice as Bane.

Those four letters bring to mind his mask, his physique, and his appearance in The Dark Knight Rises.

What if we ask you to name credit card brands with four letters? I have no doubt you thought of VISA.

What about the multi-coloured building blocks? Or the car with four rings?

Lego and Audi also opted for names that are easy to write, say and, most importantly, remember.

People are notoriously bad at remembering proper names, so make it as easy as possible for your audience. When they want to become your client, they’ll have to remember your name!

2.- Consistency
5 actors, hundreds of comics, multiple universes. One Joker in Gotham City.

His makeup, smile and attitude make him unmistakable. One of Gotham City’s most interpreted and re-interpreted villains, but always staying true to his essence. This essence is what we associate with his name.

Apple is a classic example because of its obvious association with its logo. However, its consistency goes beyond this: its sub-brands, which we associate with its products are characterised by a small i (iPhone, iPod, iPad, iMac), its design is minimalistic and uses a lot of white, its communication is fresh and elegant and there’s even a tribal consciousness among its consumers.

But we’ll leave that for another article.

Here we’ll focus on how all the values of its products end up being associated with a single name: Apple.

If you get your whole brand consistent and your values associated with your name, you’ll have done a good job.

3.- Creativity
Harley Quinn from Gotham City sounds much better than Harleen Frances Quinzel.

Take some creative liberties when looking for the perfect name for your brand. We give you our permission.

You might have to break a few rules or make up some new words to ensure that your name is unique and memorable. A classic example of this is Kleenex. The tissue brand draws on the word “clean” but altered its spelling to create a completely new word.

Another example is Google. One of the first names that was considered for the internet giant was “Googol”. Googol is the number you get when you write 1 followed by 100 zeros. Or 10100. It is perfect for representing the search engines’ power. But what happens if we combine it with “goggles”? We get Google; something that allows you to see beyond your own vision and provides you with an infinite number of search results every time.

Betting on creativity is risky. You might get a memorable name that connects you to your clients… Or one which doesn’t tell people what you do.

So, it’s usually a good idea to follow the next principle.

4.- Clarity
The other side of the story.

You might not know who Harvey Dent is.

What about Two-Face? Yes, that’s the one. The villain’s descriptive name is what makes us remember him the most. It’s the clearest and easiest name to link to his identity.

Other examples of clear, descriptive names that are easy to associate with a service are Toys “R” Us, General Motors Company, or Dunkin’ Donuts.

Looking for something a little less literal? What do you think about DropBox? A virtual box where you can drop your files for safekeeping. What about PayPal? A system for making payments to your friends (and others) in an easy manner.

Finding a good balance between clarity and creativity will be key to a name that is distinct but still easy to remember.

5.- Uniqueness
There’s only one Batman.

Okay, so this is a slight exaggeration. Batman has appeared in hundreds of comics, films, video games and parallel universes. But he was the first. And there won’t be another one without permission from Warner Bros (who currently have all rights to the DC characters).

Make sure that your name doesn’t come into conflict with any other brand. In order to avoid legal action, headaches, and confused clients, don’t get caught up in a fight with record companies (Steve Jobs couldn’t register as Apple Computers because Apple Corps, the company that managed The Beatles’ rights, said that it sounded too similar) or with pandas (the wrestling platform WWE had to change “Federation” to “Entertainment” in order to avoid coming into conflict with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)).

Naming the next superhero saga seems a little complicated, right? We’re not experts at baptising villains at Little Buddha, but we’re pretty good at creating powerful brands and memorable names.

If you’d like us to help you, have a look at our naming page and check out our best projects.

About the author: Xavier Puche | Head of Strategy Iberia
• Ex Client Director of Summa, Coleman, CBA & Landor
• Ex Strategy Director of Columna
• Ex Marketing Manager Maxxium
October 7th, 2020 | Naming articles
Little Buddha Brand Design Agency

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