Was I listening to Blink 182 when writing this blog? Of course! But it does also make a catchy title - so let’s get into what we are really going through in this blog.
As suspected from the title, this blog is a guide on how to get started naming your company. This is relevant for startups and existing companies alike - if your name isn’t fitting for your brand or your audience it can have a negative effect on sales.
First off we are going to talk about why having a fitting name for your company is very important and can affect your business in the future.
Whilst a great business name won’t save a badly executed idea, it can be a powerful marketing tool. A good name not only represents your company and product, but will also stick around with every interaction with all customers and potential customers and will be the way they spread the word about your company.
Your name is a beacon
At it’s best it represents how your company thinks and behaves, distilling the purpose and setting expectations to your audience around the experience they are likely to have. Brand names give us a sense of direction, by influencing our choices, shaping our behaviour and becoming definitive words in their own right (‘Google’ it).
At its worst, a bad name can result in a diluted brand and limit it’s marketing potential - or even create outrage amongst existing customers - remember when Kellogs tried to rename Coco Pops to Choco Krispies? It only lasted 4 months before outcry demanded it be changed back.
I agree, it’s extremely hard and requires a lot of thought and attention (most of the time). You might wake up one day and have that ‘aha!’ moment, but creating a killer name that gets audience approval can be tough for more reasons than you think:
It’s an opinion
Every name you come up with for your company will have personal values and thoughts attached to it, which can give it a completely different meaning to your audience. So staying objective is important when generating that brand name. I’m not saying that if you should use a brand name even if you think it sucks, just take a step back, let it sit for a few days and try it on your audience.
It’s already taken
The amount of times I have thought of the best name for a company ever, for it to already be taken if frustrating. Unfortunately with the ease of URL registration there are many names being taken and not used for anything or not being used properly. So while creating your naming candidates always give database registries a look to see if it is available.
It means something else
When launching a brand with the potential to go global, you need to think about the meaning or connotations in different languages and places. You might not be able to predict every place where your name will mean or resemble a word from another language, but it is always best to do your best to check. Chevrolet launched the Nova in Latin America where the meaning could be ‘doesn’t go’ (No va) - so checks are always a good idea.
It’s scary locking in a name
It’s true, finalising your finished brand name is one of the hardest parts of the naming process, because once you’ve done that, you’re locked into it for the life of the brand.
It’s even scarier when opting for a unique and interesting name. Whilst General Motors is an easier sell for a car manufacturer, it doesn’t create much intrigue or conversation about the company, whereas Tesla does. So thinking outside of the box, if it works for your brand, is a great way to build up brand recognition quickly.
Fun fact - naming has trends too
Like with anything, there are trends to naming conventions as well and if you look back at history you can clearly see the evidence of this.
Back in the early twentieth century, it was the trend to name the brand after its founder or product, everything was named quite literally in that sense - think Ford (1909), Chanel (1909), General Motors (1908), General Electric (1982).
Skip forward through the years and you get brands named after geographic location such as British Airways (1974) and business attitude named brands such as Virgin (1970). Forward to 2000s, we are finding a lot of brands are naming themselves with compounds or misspelled words such as Facebook, Youtube and Flickr. These names are easy to trademark and purchase domains for because they aren’t traditional words, yet can be easily recognised and read by many countries with their language roots in Latin.
We don’t know what the future of naming could be, but it is a widely discussed topic to have single letter domain names made available for registration - so if this happens, could we see an increase in companies naming themselves with just a single letter? Maybe next could be symbols?
To make it easier to develop your company name you can first choose one of three naming conventions to pursue:
Brand names that are descriptive do what they say on the tin. Companies that use descriptive names could be British Museum or Royal Bank of Scotland.
This type of naming can really help your brand if you have a particular feature or benefit that is easily promoted and recognised through a name. It can lack finesse but is great for busy markets where a user wants to know exactly what it is you do within a millisecond, it can also be great if you are launching a product within a masterbrand.
It’s not an ideal naming system if you are thinking about expanding your product or service, having a name based on something you do now can end up being restrictive down the line. The other issue can be going too descriptive with your name, it can end up not sounding like a brand at all but just the description of the product itself.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have your abstract names. These names are completely invented and aren’t linked to the product or service at all, but can have a great lasting impact and culture. Think brands such as Skype, Spotify and Uber.
This type of naming can be great for consumer based brands with a playful culture that plans to expand globally. The great thing about this type of naming is that it starts with a blank slate, no one will have any connection or pre-conceptions about your company when naming in this manner. The other benefit of naming in an abstract way is that protecting that name is fairly simple as it will be a unique word, it also travels well and can be understood by most people in the world.
The issue with abstract names is that they can mean… well… nothing. This can affect how relatable they are to your audience and end up being forgettable.
Now for a nice middle-ground name, it’s not over the top like an abstract name, but it’s not completely rigid like a descriptive one. These names often relate to the brand in some way, but can be a little more interesting, for instance Crunchie bars are crunchy. It’s an interesting name but also describes what the product is.
This type of naming can really help your audience build an emotional connection with your brand and work perfectly in a consumer market for this reason. They can help differentiate your company from others with a very similar product or service. They are also fairly open for future development as they stand more for a value or emotion than a direct product.
These names do come into issues with people understanding the offering, similar to abstract names but not as much. So initial marketing to users connect your product to the name is essential for a long-lasting brand.
It’s hard to define what makes a name great and what makes a name bad, but there are some values you should think about when creating a name to help you create one that works for you, your brand and your customers.
If you run your name through these four checks and it comes out the other side all green then you can add that name to your ‘approved’ list.
The next consideration when naming is to think about how it sounds, and how these sounds represent your brand and values. Every letter and sound represents a value, although we don’t think about this when talking, it will make sense once it’s explained.
Letter such as P, T and K are harder sounds that and a stop to your breathing patterns and words, almost like a full stop. These letters tend to make words sound more masculine and hard. Where as letters like L, M and N have much softer sounds and let your air and words flow, giving them a much more feminine and softer sounding name.
You can then expand this out into other sounds which can give your brand a smaller or larger feel depending on what you are looking for. The sound ‘ee’ can be classed as a diminutive and can make your brand sound smaller (that’s not a bad thing depending on your product), think ‘teeny’ for instance. Letters such as ‘o’ and ‘a’ can have the opposite effect and make your brand sound larger, think ‘core’ and ‘father’.
Once you have a list of a few names you can perform one final check, which is the simplest in nature but also the hardest to do:
Which name feels right?
In essence, it’s a lot of research and iteration to get that perfect name. BUT - you will have to wait until the next post for us to reveal that!
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