Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful Naming
Naming your brand — whether it’s your company, products, or services — is a decision that can shape the future and trajectory of your business.
Corporate naming is like choosing a name for a baby: hearing the name you chose should fill you with pride and joy. It should resonate with your values and be meaningful. At the opposite, a dubious name will attract a lot of negative attention and you must know which are the potential naming pitfalls, and avoid them like the plague.
Here is our Corporate Naming guideline, split between Dos and Don’ts:
Do : Focus on meaningfulness
A name void of meaning for its creator is just… sad. Aim for a name that not only sounds good but also create a consensus and more importantly, that resonates with your team in its very soul.
The brand name needs to encapsulate, in a few letters, the values your company claims to represent. Here are a few great examples: Verizon (a mix of Veritas, latin for truth and horizon), Reebok (running and training manufacturer, named after a speedy African Antilope), Sharp (The Japanese manufacturer is named after its first-ever product designed in 1915: an ever-sharp pencil).
Digital start-ups might be an exception to that and they can get away with a “weird”, 100% made-up name (ie: Uber, Glovo…), because there are launching groundbreaking, innovative business models. The goal for these brands is for their names to become synonym with the business itself.
Do : Be evocative, not descriptive
Descriptive names like YouSendIt are fine, especially when you’re first starting out. While a descriptive name can help your product get discovered in search marketing, such a name will probably limit your business ultimately.
If you plan to take the whole world by storm, follow the Apple model. In a world of International Business Machines and Microsoft, Apple’s more “poetical” name allowed them to move from computers to music players and phones without disturbing consumer perception. Remember: brand extensibility will mean greater opportunities down the line.
Do : Conduct surveys and consumer tests
Wonder how the marketplace will perceive your company name? Why not literally step in the street and ask people out? Direct consumer feedback is the MVP of data when it comes to choosing a name.
Make sure to conduct those surveys both online and offline and to probe the same target segments as your products will. Our tip: you and your team should narrow down all naming options down to a handful of finalists, before submitting them to a real-life consumer test.
Do : Let your products do the talking
Ask yourself what your product offers to the consumer and starts with the answers to nail its name down. A few examples of how effective this strategy is: cleaning paper and tissues brand Kleenex… Nailed it! Nyquil : a cold and flu nighttime relief medication blending the words Night and Tranquil in its name.
Pictionary, the infamous game’s name mixes Picture with Dictionary. Seattle-based coffee brand FUEL, which is exactly what you expect from a fresh cup of coffee to be in the morning.
Do: Be careful with geographic names
Some companies bare the name of their region, city or country as their name. If your long-temr ambition is to only operate locally, this might serve you well. But a geographic name could become cumbersome later on if expand your horizons. The perfect example of this is : Minnesota Manufacturing and Mining. Initially, the name worked because the business was solely focused on Minnesota. But once the company grew beyond the state of Minnesota, they needed to find a new name, and that is how the 3M brand was born.
Don’t : Skipping multilingual research
You may start your business on a local scale but we suggest that you consider a potential international expansion within the naming process. That means that you absolutely need to consider how naming options translate before deciding for a name. “Is that really important?” you ask… You bet! Ask that question to the glorious marketing teams behind the launches of the Toyota Pajero in Spanish-speaking countries, the Opel Ascona in Portugal or Nordic Mist in Germany (wanker, vagina and trash, respectively… poor choices indeed). There’s thousands of fun stories online surrounding brand naming stories, please follow our advices above and make sure you don’t become part of this hall-of-shame.
Don’t : Going for a generic name
Going for a generic name such as Natural Cosmetics is a low-risks, low-rewards approach. Indeed, you won’t expose yourself to any bad first impression and you’ll gain visibility by being bang-on descriptive about your products attributes but you also won’t be able to create a special hook from the consumer or to generate identification. We suggest to always try to go a little bit further than simply being generic and show personality and character through your naming process.
Don’t : Endless names
Long company or brand names are harder to remember, to write and to connect with. This is a no go, pure and simple. Plus, long names are a problem for digital marketers as characters limits are set for online domains registrations, SEA campaigns and social media postings. You also don’t want your public to start abbreviating your name, it is not a good look. Keep it short.
Don’t : Making things unnecessary hard
Simplicity should be a cornerstone of the naming process. More often than not, you’d rather want your name to roll off the tongue than creating confusion as per how to write or pronounce it. For instance, American beer producer Budweiser and beverage brand Schweppes had to apply marketing budgets to educate their targets on how to pronounce their names correctly. But those brands had interesting background story or solid reasons to legitimate their names so they are off the hook. Same thing for Häagen-Dazs, a made-up name that gave a strong Scandinavian flavor to the Brooklyn born-and-raised brand. Bottom line: always keep it simple, unless you want to create a specific connotation around your brand.
Don’t : Not considering the legal aspect
Last but not least, never forget to submit your naming options to a legal sanity check. Indeed, you simply don’t want to be spending time, energy and money developing your brand image on- and offline only to receive a cease and desist notification from an unbeknownst competitor who already claimed copyrights on the name you just chose. Naming functions on a first-come first-served basis, so do the smart thing before any launch project and contact an intellectual property specialist sooner rather than later. Extra tip: also check available domain names online.
To conclude, we’ll just leave you with a few wise words: “To have a bad name is the best help you can offer your competition”
Naseem Javed, President and CEO, ABC Namebank.