A brand by any other name… How to come up with a brand name

A brand by any other name… How to come up with a brand name 

How to come up with a brand name

Netflix, Coca-Cola, Kleenex, Google. It’s amazing how something as simple as a word can transform a company from a faceless entity, into a household name. Today, brand names surround us everywhere we look. In fact, they’re so prevalent, that they’ve become a natural part of our speech. We no longer “search” for something, we “Google” it. When our lips are dry, we don’t use balm, we use “chapstick”.

That’s the power of choosing the right brand name. While providing the right product or service is crucial, the way you present yourself, through your imagery, communication, and brand name, decides whether you’re going to infiltrate every part of your customer’s life. In this article, we’ll be exploring how to come with a brand name.

Your brand name is more than just something to put on your business card. It’s a distinct part of your online, and offline presence. It gives your company meaning, helps shape perception, and promotes growth. Yet, for every company with a name that becomes an entrepreneurial landmark, like Apple, or Uber, there’s countless whose names fail to represent their brand.

At Fabrik, we pride ourselves on knowing the sheer power that branding can have. When a name helps to structure the face of your brand, it’s clear to see that getting it right is crucial. That’s why we’re giving you this exclusive guide on how to come up with a brand name.

Why your brand name really matters


Before we get into the details of how to come up with a brand name, let’s start by introducing why names really matter.

First of all, brand names help to ensure strong customer connections. Today’s business environment is characterised by a desire for human connection. In a world that’s drowning in digital solutions and automated processes, customers want something they can form emotional attachments to. Since entire relationships are dictated by first impressions, using your brand name is a powerful way to promote the right branding success.

Think of your name as your very first handshake. Combined with your brand image, and your website, it helps to deliver brand affinity. On top of that, a unique, and catchy name helps your customer to remember you, by giving them something to describe you with.

Names are pivotal to any brand. You don’t want to be known as “That company that does branding”. That’s a description that could apply to hundreds of your competitors, and it’s not exactly going to boost your traffic on the search engines. Learning how to come up with a brand name that speaks to your audience means finding a way to sum up everything your company is about, in just one or two words.

A brand name is the distilled form of your brand manifesto, something that can appeal emotionally to your audience, while establishing you as a leader in your industry. In fact, your brand name can even show your customers your unique take on a specific niche. It gives some insight into “why” you do what you do, rather than just explaining what your company is for.

Let’s consider the psychology behind brand naming for a moment.

Learning words – whether as an adult, or a child – is about more than just memorising a series of meanings and letters. When we’re young, and absorbing information about the world around us, we form associations with words that help us to describe our experiences.

By the time we’re 10 years old, most of us already know 10,000 words – a number that doubles as we enter adulthood. The interesting thing, is that the words we learn have emotional associations that dictate our behaviour. Think of “cat” for instance. Cats are four-legged mammals that we often keep as pets. But that’s probably not what you think of when you hear the word “cat”.

The chances are, if you had an affectionate, fluffy cat when you were young that liked to curl up on your lap, the word now makes you feel warm and fuzzy. On the other hand, if you knew a cat that hissed all the time and liked to shred your legs when you walked to school each morning, then your associations might not be so fond.

Take that concept into the world of business, and you can see why names and branding can be so crucial. Not only do you need to use words that have the potential for positive associations, but you need to create a whole-new term that your customers can imbue with fresh, exciting connotations on your behalf.

How to come up with a brand name

How to come up with a brand name: The key features


Figuring out how to come up with a brand name that works is no easy task. As we mentioned in the paragraphs above, your use of a name is your chance to shape the entire identity of your brand with one decision.

While the things you do, the visual imagery you use, and the communications you try will all help to shape your identity, your name could be the feature that determines whether your customer chooses to interact with you in the first place.

So, what are some of the key features you can use to make your brand name work? Here, we’ll cover some of the elements that we think are the most important:

How to come up with a brand name: Feature 1: Understanding


Like most things in branding, an effective brand name starts with an understanding of your user personas. If you can identify the characteristics of your ideal customer, then you can figure out who you’re creating your brand for (after all, your brand isn’t for you).

Bring together as much data as you can about things like age, location, ethnic origin, and gender. You can even find some useful information about your audience by examining your competitors and checking out their followers on social media. Once you have your user persona, use it to create a list of terms that might appeal to those “types” of people.

How to come up with a brand name: Feature 2: Clarity


The digital era might have spawned a desire for human connection – but people still want their interactions to be as seamless, and convenient as possible. In other words, don’t make your customers struggle to work out what your brand name means. The feel and sound of your brand name should suggest exactly what you’re about.

For instance, if your brand name is Moneybanks, then your business should probably be in the financial industry – not the catering sector. Start off by playing some word association games with your team, this could help you to brainstorm hundreds of new ideas.

How to Come Up with a Brand Name: Feature 3: Simplicity


The human brain is terrible at remembering names. The only way to improve your audience’s ability to keep your brand in mind, is to make sure that it’s as simple, and evocative as possible. We’ll address creativity in its own section, but when it comes to simplicity, it’s all about making your name easy to understand, easy to spell, and easy to say.

The more natural it feels to pronounce your brand name, the easier it is for customers to promote you through word of mouth. Similarly, the shorter and easier to spell your brand name is, the quicker customers can find it when searching online, or brag about it on social media. Shorter brand names are easier to remember, and it’s a good idea to avoid anything that could easily be spelt wrong.

How to Come Up with a Brand Name: Feature 4: Creativity


Just because your brand name should be simple, doesn’t mean it should be boring. Brand names need to be memorable if you want them to become household names. Making your name too straightforward could kill the curiosity and interest that’s needed to sustain your customer’s attention.

When figuring out how to come up with a brand name that’s creative, consider looking at your competitors, and pinpointing any trends that are common in your industry. Just make sure that you don’t simply copy whatever your competitors have. Ultimately, you want something that’s clear, obvious, memorable, and unique.

How to come up with a brand name: Feature 5: Consistency


Finally, remember that your brand name, and your visual identity will go hand-in-hand throughout the life of your business. However, while your visual identity is likely to change from time-to-time, your brand name is likely to remain the same. If you want to invest in strong branding for your business, then it’s generally a good idea to make sure that people can associate your logo with your brand name. For instance, the “Apple” brand has a pretty obvious logo in the shape of an apple.

While it might feel more interesting to choose a random assortment of shapes for your logo, combining your visual and verbal identity is crucial when helping people to recall your business. This way, instead of relying completely on linguistic memory for brand name, your customers can also store a visual memory too.

Remember to check availability


Once you’ve narrowed your brand name down to a few choices, you’ll need to check to find out what’s available online. The last thing you want to do is have the perfect name, just to find out that you’d need to register a completely different, or altered domain name just to establish your online presence. Remember, don’t just settle for anything if your first choice isn’t available. If you’re not totally happy, then it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

How to come up with a brand name

The different types of brand name


The beauty of learning how to come up with a brand name, is that you’ve got plenty of creativity to play with. There’s a ton of flexibility out there when it comes to generating and selecting the right title for your brand. You can use a descriptive name that shows customers exactly what you do, you can make up a word like “Kodak”, or you can even name your company after someone.

When we narrow it down into specific sections, there’s four primary categories of brand name to choose from. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The descriptive name:


A descriptive brand name simply outlines what a service, product, or company does. Descriptive names are some of the oldest types of brand name around, simply because they’re easy to come up with. For instance, if your business sells toys, why not call yourself “Toys “R” Us?”

How to come up with a brand name

Descriptive names make sense – they’re easy for customers to understand, and they’re also easy to remember. Subway sandwiches sell “Subs”, and PayPal exists so you can pay your friends. These names clearly position the brand in question, and make it incredibly straightforward for consumers to identify products and services.

The acronyms:


Many of the most popular and recognised brands in the world are acronyms. Just think of “HP”, “IBM”, or “UPS” for instance. Many acronym names come from functional names. Either they’re used deliberately, or customers create them on the behalf of a brand because it’s easier for them. For instance, it’s much easier to say “GEICO” than the Government Employees Insurance Company.

How to come up with a brand name

Acronyms are easy to remember and quick to say, but they lack a lot of personality. Acronyms don’t really describe anything. They don’t draw from any of the other words in our lexicon, so they can’t create emotional resonance.

Invented names: Made up words


There are plenty of iconic brands that use made-up words to describe themselves. Basically, when someone in a company wants to know how to come up with a brand name, and they can’t find anything that exists that accurately describes their company, they make something up. Just look at Xerox, Kodak, or Google, for instance.

How to come up with a brand name

Invented words used as brand names can be very powerful, because they lack any pre-existing baggage. Consider the cat example we used above, if you’ve never heard a word before, you can’t have any negative associations with it.

The best invented names are those that help to evoke the experience of the brand. For instance, you might associate “Google” with googly eyes that you’d use to search through pages. Twitter, on the other hand, suggests the idea of talking fast.

Experiential names: Building on feeling


Finally, experiential names could be the most powerful class of names, because they build on the experience or feeling a brand can deliver. These names are statements of positioning for a company, like “Apple” or “Oracle”. They don’t really describe what the company does, but they help them to stand out in the marketplace by setting expectations.

How to come up with a brand name

Perhaps the biggest challenge of using an experiential brand name is making sure that you can connect a specific meaning to a brand. This process requires an in-depth understanding of your business and what it stands for.

How to come up with a brand name: What not to do


Naming your brand is a lot like laying the cornerstone of your company foundations. Once you’ve got that in place, then your entire structure can start coming together. Unfortunately, if your foundation isn’t steady, then the rest of your building could easily crumble. At Fabrik, we’ve had the benefit of working with numerous companies on their branding needs, from logos – to brand names.

Our experience means that we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to naming. With that in mind, here are a few things we think you should avoid when learning how to come up with a brand name.

Naming mistake 1: Using the “Trainwreck” style


When trying to come up with a memorable name, a lot of entrepreneurs try to be innovative by using part of an adjective, and welding it onto a noun. In other words, they crash two words into each other to create something new. The results often look, and sound awkward. For instance, something that started off as a company designed for customer service becomes “QualiServe”, while a classy spa becomes “RelaxaSpa”. The problem with this approach is that it’s “forced” creativity. It just sounds wrong.

Naming mistake 2: Being boring


General Motors is one of the few companies that have managed to get away with this mistake. “General” just isn’t an interesting word, and if you have a lot of competition in your marketplace, then you need to be a lot more precise with your naming strategy. Imagine if Google was just “General Internet Directory”. The name would be more descriptive of what it does, but it wouldn’t be memorable or catchy. As the marketplace becomes more saturated, it’s crucial to carve out your space by showing off what makes you unique.

Naming mistake 3: Becoming a cliché


Once you’ve gotten past the literal and obvious word choices for your name, your first thought might be to look at metaphors. Metaphors can be great, but they shouldn’t be used as a cliché. The world is full of “Pinnacle”, and “Summit” companies that are trying to put across the idea that they’re the best around. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these names, they’re totally over-used. Rather than using the same old metaphors, look for combinations of metaphors and positive words. For instance, Iron Oak conveys security and strength without sounding obvious.

Naming mistake 4: Being too obscure


Just because you don’t want your name to be the same as your competitors, doesn’t mean that you want it to be impossible to understand. Making your business name so obscure that customers don’t know what it means could lead you into losing a lot of traffic. If the reference you’re making is too obscure or difficult to spell, then you’ll simply miss your chance on customers actually finding your company. Be unique, but keep it simple and clear too. Unless you have the marketing budget of Apple.

Naming mistake 5: Making it too difficult


Finally, a lot of companies find themselves adapting their preferred name when attempting to find a domain name that’s available to use. This frequently means resorting to purposefully misspelled or awkwardly constructed names. The results are brands that sound more like they’re a form of prescription anti-depressant than an actual business. It’s amazing how good random names can start to sound after you’ve been working on a brand name for days at a time – but resist the urge to choose using a “K” instead of a “Q”, or a “Ph” instead of an “F”. It just makes finding you online much harder.

How to come up with a brand name

How to come up with a brand name: Finding inspiration


Learning how to come up with a brand name is all about finding the right inspiration for your company. We already know that certain sounds and terms can inspire positive emotions and promote experiences that are more likely to be enjoyed and remembered. When thinking about brand names, choose something that people are likely to use in their everyday lives. Think about the artistry of words that you learned in school, such as assonance and alliteration.

At the same time, remember that the best brand names are often driven by emotion. Emotions make words memorable, and if you’re struggling to name your company, you should start thinking about what you want your customers to feel when they think about your brand. Remember, consider terms that resonate specifically with your target audience.

If you can’t find a word that works for you in today’s language, then this is when you need to get really creative. There are countless ways to make your brand stand out simply by choosing to design a word from scratch, rather than borrowing one that already exists.

Coming up with a new word can be a very difficult process, so this is something that you might want to ask a branding expert to help you out with. However, if you can get it right, then you can use your brand name as a way of creating your identity for your customer.

The important thing to remember is that the value of a brand name should never be overlooked. The right name demands your respect, attention to detail, and care.

To put it simply, a brand by any other name doesn’t smell as sweet. A brand name is a powerful tool for your company. It deserves time, and attention – and when it’s handled properly, it could transform your business forever.

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About the author...

Stewart Hodgson

Marketing Director. Brand master. Audiophile. Stewart lives and breathes design. (Even his toaster is a Porsche.) Has spent the last 20 years getting businesses like The BBC, Johnson & Johnson and AXA excited about what good design can do for them. Makes sure Fabrik delivers it – and then some… Always tuned in to clients’ needs. Always plugged it to iTunes. Has OCV (obsessive collection of vinyl).

    One Comment

  1. I have been involved in both helping to rebrand a company I was an employee of, as well as coming up with my own company name.

    At the company I worked at, the Director handpicked 10 of us (a mixture of content marketeers, graphic designers and project managers) to sit in a room and brainstorm a name from scratch. It was one of the most obscure and bizarre few hours I’ve ever had in an office! It went in so many odd directions frankly because we had no direction. In the end, we pulled in a branding agency and all of our original ideas that we had scrawled onto a white board were scratched because they were pretty terrible. Unfortunately I wasn’t best pleased with the final name, but that was primarily because the Director decided to have the final say and dismiss the voting of the rest of the team! It would have been very good to have directions such as these to start us of with in that scenario – we certainly didn’t get anywhere on our own.

    When choosing my own name, I went with meaningful and experiential as I wanted people to feel a certain emotion when reading my company’s name. This has worked well for me and is often a talking point when discussing my company (it has latin origin!). Choosing my brand’s name was a huge part of creating its identity and I can’t stress the importance of getting it right!

    Thanks.

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