How to choose a winning brand NAME?

A striking brand name helps to grow your brand awareness faster. The more it stands out in your market, the faster it will catch attention. The easier it is to remember, the more likely it will pop-up in peoples minds on the moments that matter most (once they feel a need your brand can fulfil!). The more it tells people about your brands benefits or personality, the less you’ll have to explain.

A name that makes you stand out in your market                                                                         The battle for market space is a battle for attention. You name (just as your visual identity and tone of voice) is a tool that helps you to stand out and catch people’s attention. At the time Apple computers was launched, most computer companies had cold, distant and complicated names such as IBM, Digital Equipment and Cincom. The name Apple stood out for it’s simplicity. If their already had been a computer company named ‘Tree’ or ‘Flower’ the name ‘Apple’ would have been significantly less remarkable. Moreover the name Apple symbolised the vision of simplicity and accessibility to all.

Choose a name that fuels the right expectations                                                                           A striking brand name functions like the label on a folder or box: the more it tells: the less deep you have to dig to find out its contents. Your brand name helps to create an expectation about what your brand stands for. It has to evoke the right expectation about it’s functionality or character.

What bed do you expect to sleep better on, a ‘Heavenly bed’ or an ‘M Line’ mattress ??

The less marketing budget you have to explain what your brand stands for, the more advantage you can take from a meaningful name. If you insist on using an abstract name or abbreviation, at least add a slogan or descriptive caption that explains what type of business or product you are. Recently I saw a car  with the following signage: ‘the PCI group, an eye for partnership’. Only those who take the trouble to Google them, will find out what their mysterious business is (rental printers it turned out).

Easy to remember                                                                                                                                 You want you brand name to stick to target-customers minds easily; so it will pop-up in their minds once the need for your products or services arises.  Generally the human brain has trouble with abstraction; words with meaning are easier to remember than abstract words.

Not convinced? Present a friend with these two rows of words for 30 seconds, with the assignment to try to remember as much of them as possible. From which row do they remember the most items?

  • left row = Zebra, Lion, Dolphin, Monkey, Bird,
  • right row = XGC, FYY, GYY, GTY, GTI

Therefore it is highly recommendable to take a name that has meaning, as opposed to an abstract one of an abbreviation.Of course there are plenty of examples of meaningless acronyms in the market. The only reason that these companies get away with it, is that they have already been visible the market for a long, long time. Often, millions of advertising dollars have been invested to engrave their names in consumers’ memories and express what they stand for.

Express your brand personality or heritage                                                                                      A name creates an expectation and often affects our first judgement. People build mental images of people based on their names – even before we have actually met them.

Try to picture these three people in your mind, based on just their first names: Jay-Z, Edward Wallace and Shantilata Swaminathan. You’d be quite surprised if Edward Wallace turned out to be a goonda-styled rapper and  Jay-Z a Wall Street finance geek, right? And wouldn’t it be a quite of a surprise if Shantilata Swaminathan turned out to be a knife wielding gangster girl? 

Use the power of mnemonics                                                                                                                ‘Style characteristics’ like rhyme or alliteration can help to make your brand more easily memorable. Take for instance BlackBerry, ShopperStop, Vicco Vajradanti toothpaste or Big Bazaar.

Think across the border                                                                                                                          If your business operates internationally, you have to be extra careful.

  • The Ford Pinto was a great hit in the USA, but never became a great success in Latin America. Not surprisingly, since Pinto means ‘little dick’ in Spanish. The average macho didn’t feel much for driving around in a pecker.
  • The softdrink brand ‘Pee Cola’ might be hugely popular in Ghana, but could be rather unfortunate in English speaking markets. The same can be predicted for the Iranian washing-powder brand Barf. The Farsi word for ‘Snow’ might evoke associations with freshness in Iran- other people might be less charmed of the idea to soak their clothes in vomit.
  • Nokia’s smartphone ‘Lumia’ translates in Spanish slang to prostitute.
  • Likewise the Mitsubishi Pajero was sold in all Spanish-speaking countries as Mitsubishi Montero because ‘Pajero’ means ‘bastard’ in Spanish.
  • And it doesn’t need explanation either why IKEA’s (Scandinavian inspired) product names Fartfull, Jerker and Fukta had a short-lived existence in the English speaking part of the world.

Routes to brand development                                                                                                             A You can start your name development process from different points.

  1. Descriptive names (Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest, BookMyShow,, Tripadvisor, Cup-a-Soup)
  2. Names that express a functional benefit (EasyJet, ClearTrip, Fair & Lovely cream)
  3. Expressive, associative, onceptual names (lingeriebrand ‘Agent Provocateur’, cakeshop ‘Guilt Trip’, Havemor icecream, German laundry, Nature’s Basket, FlipKart, Stayzilla, Yes Bank)
  4. Symbolic names (Apple)
  5. Abstract names & accronyms (HDFC, ICICI)

Summary & takeaways

  1. An effective brand name makes you remarkable and increases the odds that your brand will stick to people’s minds
  2. The more meaningful our brand name, the less you’ll have to explain in communication
  3. If you develop a new name, measure the options along the following criteria:
  • does it stand out among competitors?
  • is it easy to pronounce and remember?
  • does it creates the right expectations and evoke the right emotions with your brand’s target audience?
  • does it sound attractive and appealing to your target audience ?
  • does a name fit the long-term ambition of the brand?
  • is a name in sync with the tone and style of your brand
  • practical
    • Is it internationally usable?
    • Is it legally protectable / not registered yet
    • Is it web domain-name free
    • Is web-friendly (preferable the name contains no dashes, numbers, etc. ) and can be easily found online

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s