Creating a Brand Name
A name must capture consumer interest and the brand’s intent

Your brand name is one of the most powerful brand signals that you can own. However, many people make the mistake of trying to articulate their brand before they have fully defined it, often choosing a name without considering differentiation, longevity, phonetics and trademark-ability. Your brand name is more than just a word. While the brand name is not the brand itself, it is a core signal that consumers directly equate to the brand. The name provides tangibility to an otherwise intangible concept by allowing your audience to identify and differentiate your brand from others by capturing and communicating your brand’s promise. Unless you know what you’re trying to communicate, you may end up mixing your signals.

The brand’s name is paramount to its success. Few, if any, successful logos were designed before establishing the brand’s name. The process of developing identity, specifically a verbal identity, can be defined as creativity under constraint. Often, in only a single word, brand names represent larger meaning to consumers by conveying a concept and a promise. The name you choose will say volumes about both your brand and your competition. It has the ability to define both what you are and what you are not.

There are many methods for conjuring up brand names. Compiling long lists of names is not all that difficult. Choosing the RIGHT name, a truly ownable name that is a legally protectable trademark within a given market space is the goal. A good name gets your attention. Great names claim a position that is intriguing, inspiring, and believable. Most importantly your name provokes thought, preconditioning consumers with understanding. Your name must claim mind share and market share.

Your brand’s name is a powerful tool for helping to translate your business into a consumer-centric message. A brand name evokes semantic associations that carry a promise. Names speak to consumers, not at them. The most effective brands exemplify their promise by preconditioning consumers with a name that underscores and emphasizes the position the brand has taken. Great names don’t preach, they seduce.

Names are signals, and like all brand signals, a name is a vessel that carries meaning. Upon first encounter, some names are full of meaning, while others are empty and are filled with meaning over time. The name you choose to identify and differentiate your brand must punctuate the position you’re claiming. Depending on the position your brand takes and the competitive landscape you compete in, your brand’s name either dilutes or strengthens your market position. The criteria by which you judge potential brand names can help to mitigate the risk of making an off-brand decision.

You’ll quickly find that as the list is weeded down, only select names will remain. Ensuring that the final candidates are actionable, ownable, and appropriate becomes a whole lot easier when you rule out the names that don’t meet functional considerations. This requires careful planning and a highly objective approach to judge prospective candidates. To arrive at a memorable, marketable name you’ll need to consider the Differentiation, Longevity, Phonetics, and Trademark-ability of all potential candidates.

DIFFERENTIATION
A distinctive name champions the brand’s unique position by communicating relevant differentiation. It distinguishes the brand as being different from competitive offerings. By crafting an atypical name, you frame your brand in a unique way, which underscores the difference between your brand and those it competes with. An effective brand name helps to gain loyalty and capture higher market share by delivering on the brand experience. It states that your brand is truly different and not a commodity.

Proposed names must be unique from the competition as well as brands operating in unrelated categories. The negative impact of ubiquity can be devastating. Consumers associate truly unique brand names with their specific offerings, not with the category at large. A category typical name can actually dilute your brand to the point where it can be dethroned from the position it currently holds.

LONGEVITY
When marketers choose trendy names or names that are too descriptive of a given technology, they find that their brands quickly fall out of favor. If a word is currently popular or is the “next big thing,” chances are it won’t be for long and other companies will choose similar names. This can compromise the brand’s position. By developing strategically sound names that function as systems, the name can be applied to a wide range of applications over the life of the brand. When the trend fades, where is the brand left? With little exception, making the decision to change the brand name, changes the brand.

PHONETICS
A name that is difficult to pronounce or uncomfortable to say is unlikely to be repeated or remembered. Many names that work in the conference room simply don’t resonate in the marketplace. Invented, constructed, or de-constructed names must mimic natural language if they are to connect with consumers. It is an issue of phonetics. Your brand name says a lot about your intentions. If consumers can’t say it, spell it, or they forget your name all together, it says nothing at all.

Certain names stick in your mind. They are often fun to say and are rarely straightforward descriptions of the offering. They use abstraction and metaphor to convey their concept. The more the name sticks in consumers’ minds, the more likely consumers will recall it when moving forward with a purchasing decision, or recommendation. Simple names that look and sound like real words are called to top-of-mind easily and more often.

TRADEMARK-ABILITY
The hallmark of a viable name is its ability to be trademarked. As a trademark, your name provides a proprietary and legally protectable method for identifying your goods or services from those of competitors. Any name that is unlikely to receive trademark registration must be removed from consideration. A word that is not legally protectable as a trademark is worthless as a brand name!

However, a name that cannot be trademarked may still hold value. If you’re creating a new category you run the risk of your brand name becoming the generic label that defines the category. Creating a category name in addition to a trademarked brand name can help to ensure that your brand name does not become the vernacular. This exemplifies the brand name as a “brand” and not a generic product or service type.

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It is important not to fall in love with a specific name too early. The verbal identity process is fine a balance between art and science, creation and elimination. This requires a highly objective approach to developing and judging prospective candidates as well as validating your decisions.

Many people believe that if the brand name cannot be obtained as a domain name, than that name should be abandoned. Unless your brand is web specific, you shouldn’t reject a great name simply because “yourbrandname.com” is taken. It is ideal that you own your brand name as a URL, but a memorable URL that captures your brand concept may be just as effective and may even create more traffic for your site.

The right name can help to focus the brand and business to achieve success. The wrong brand name can dilute your brand’s impact. Effective brand names translate business objectives into clear and simple words that express the brand position to consumers. A name today must be able to capture consumers on its own merits. A great brand name can create competitive advantages. When you develop your brand name on a foundation of strategy, consumers don’t only hear, they listen. <