So, how do you create a great brand name?
You start with three steps:
First, select what type of name you want.
There are seven different categories of names and pretty much every brand in the world falls within one of these seven categories.
Eponymous names like Disney and Burberry work by embodying the vision and beliefs of their founders.
These names are okay if you're feeling lazy or just have a big ego.
Adidas is more unique it derives from Adi Dassler, the company's founder, and Tesla wasn't created by Nikola Tesla; he died in 1943, but the name is an homage to Tesla's electrical engineering achievements.
Descriptive names like American Airlines and the Home Depot work by telling you exactly what the company does, but these names can be a mouthful and are much harder to own and protect.
Acronyms like GE and BP are just shorthand versions of descriptive names, some acronyms are more strategic; Kentucky Fried Chicken switched to KFC because Fried Chicken didn't sound too healthy, and the Hong Kong and Shanghai bank changed to HSBC to help the bank expand globally.
Real words like Uber and Slack rip right out of a dictionary and suggest attributes or benefits. Uber literally means an outstanding example, so it works well for a company with big broad bold ambitions beyond ride-hailing.
Now, real words might seem like good ideas, but in a world of 300 million companies, it's getting harder to find any real words left in the dictionary.
Composite names like Facebook and Ray-Ban are created by gluing two words together; these names have a kind of one-two punch and can be really memorable because it's so hard to find real words; Companies like Kleenex and Pinterest have invented names by changing, adding or removing letters for impact.
Now, inventing names can be highly unique, but if you're not careful they can start to sound like pharmaceutical drugs or worse, the name of a sofa from Ikea.
Associative names work by reflecting imagery
The Amazon in South America is the world's largest river, therefore the earth's biggest selection of books, clothes, content, and so on matches.
Sirius is the brightest star, therefore, the radio channels where you can hear the brightest stars of music and entertainment.
Red Bull associates with a drink with bull light qualities, such as power and confidence.
Some brands are derived from non-English languages like Samsung which means three stars in Korean.
Lego means play well in Danish, Zappos comes from the Spanish word “sapatos” for shoes and Hulu comes….. I bet you didn't know… Hulu actually comes from a Chinese proverb. “a Hulu is a ball used to store precious things”
Finally, the seventh type is abstract names like Rolex and Encoder; these names
have no intrinsic meaning, but instead, rely on the power of phonetics to create really powerful brand names.
Okay, so once you decided what type of name you want, you need to decide what you want the name to say and look.
Of course, it's tempting to create names that talk about who created them or what you do, or where you operate, but the best brand names don't.
They describe what they stand for: a big idea, one that translates into emotional appeal.
Nike is about winning. GoPro is about heroism. Apple is about simplicity and usability and Google comes from the math term that's a one with a hundred zeros after it.
So that really big number helps support the company's really big original vision, to organize the world's information.
So, as you think about your new brand, think carefully and ask yourself what's your big idea.
The third step is to check the name isn't already taken; you might have to create hundreds of names, perhaps thousands before you find one that's even available, and of course, don't forget to check the name doesn't mean anything negative in other languages or countries.
The last thing you want is an embarrassing naming fail.
Finally, a few words about Alphabet, the parent company of Google, now one of the world's most valuable companies.
Much has been said and written about the business strategy, but I'll say a few words about the name.
Is Alphabet a great name? You bet!
First of all, the name is an idea, as we all know, an alphabet is a set of letters that forms the basis of all language and communication. Second, the name encourages Wall Street.
Investors buy this stock and you're making an Alpha bet, one that will outperform others, and last, of all, the name is a real dictionary word which is a rare find these days.
You guessed it by now, naming a new company or product line is laborious work. That's why many businesses reach out and partner with a professional naming agency. Here is what you can expect and how to get the best result possible from your naming partner.
DIY or Hire an Agency?
So, you've launched your product or service, and you need a name, one that is not only reflective of your brand personality but one that can withstand extended legal screenings and link it to a strong domain.
One of the first choices you will need to make about your name is whether you would like to develop it on your own or work with a naming agency.
The benefits of naming your company or product yourself or with the help of your in-house team include:
- Affordability: Choosing a name in-house is less expensive than hiring an agency, but you may still need to handle trademark issues.
- Ease: You can control the entire process, relatively straightforward.
- Expertise: You know your business and your customers better than anyone. That can help you create on-target names.
However, naming is a challenging, complicated process that will probably require more time and energy than you expect. Businesses choose to partner with professional branding and naming agencies because they trust their experience, creativity, and legal expertise.
Working with a naming agency should save you time and result in a shortlist of influential names you may not have come up with on your own. The benefits of partnering with a naming agency include:
- Quality: Naming agencies draw on a wealth of experience. They understand what names work and why. Agencies can also help you step out of your convenience zone because great names aren't always the most comfortable.
- Peace of mind: A naming agency has the expertise and legal resources that can increase your chances of avoiding the probability of confusion with another mark.
- Time-saving: Naming is a full-time job. By outsourcing the process, you will save time and energy for other aspects of your business.
If you decide to go with an agency, the agency will drive the process, but your ability to communicate your business objectives and preferences will play a significant role in determining your relationship's effectiveness.