What is a geographic brand name? The pros and cons of geographic brand names
Geographic brand names are a form of business name designed to connect a company with a specific location. While linking your company to a specific space isn’t always a good idea, it can be a powerful method of building an affinity with your customers.
When naming an organization, companies need to think carefully about the connections they want to create with their target audience. Business names aren’t only a tool for defining your company and what it does or sells, but they are extremely important.
Just as human beings can form psychological links with colors and shapes, we can also feel a certain way about a destination or country. Building on this emotional experience could be an effective tool for businesses looking to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Today, we’re going to explore the basics of the geographical brand name, it’s pros and cons, and when you might consider using one of these titles for your company.
What are geographical brand names?
Let’s start with the basics: what are geographical brand names?
In simple terms, a geographical brand name is a company title which connects an organization to a specific location, such as a state, country, or even an entire region. American Airlines, New York Bagels, and even Kentucky Fried Chicken are all such examples.
Business leaders have a host of options to choose from when it comes to naming a company. They can choose to describe what their organization does or sells with a descriptive name, like “The Furniture Store”, or they can create an entirely new word, such as Google.
While a geographical brand name might seem at first like a type of descriptive name, it’s more often used as a form of “evocative” title. This is because from a young age, we’re taught to associate specific places with certain ideas, emotions, or things.
If you’re brought up in the United States, you might see France as romantic and sophisticated, while looking at places like the Mediterranean as exotic. We consider California to be a place of fame and technological discovery, thanks to Silicon Valley, while Italy is connected with luxury and taste.
Just as certain words like “Apple” make us think of growth and innovation, specific locations can influence our emotions and perceptions of a brand. For instance, “Kentucky” in Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), makes us imagine the south, flavor, and home-cooked food.
What are the pros of geographic brand names?
Geographical brand names might seem restrictive at first, but they can be an excellent way to add depth and meaning to a brand’s moniker. Adding a specific location to your name ties your company with the perceptions people have of the space.
This can assist in building a memorable and differentiated brand personality.
At the same time, geographical names can also play other important roles in the growth of a company. They help to link an organization to a specific community, which can create loyalty among a certain group.
People are more likely to buy products from a location they’re familiar with. As an example, “New York Bagels” might be more appealing to people in New York, as they make consumers feel as though they’re supporting their local community.
Some of the biggest benefits of geographical brand names include:
People like to understand the history and background of the companies they’re buying from. When we attempt to form an emotional connection with a brand, it helps to know where the business began, where it operates today, and even what kind of community it generally associates itself with.
Heritage gives a business more humanity and depth.
For smaller companies attempting to appeal to a specific audience, a geographical brand name can improve the chances of sales among certain consumers. Particularly in today’s modern age, people like to support local companies and help grow the economy in their own country or city.
A geographical brand name makes it easier to connect with a focused, local audience.
As mentioned above, geographical locations are naturally perceived in certain ways by people around the world. We see New York as stylish as exciting, while we might view a place like Yorkshire in England as rural and family-oriented (e.g., Yorkshire Tea).
Companies can build on these perceptions to help identify the values of the brand.
In some cases, adding a location to a business name can help to make it less generic. “American Airlines” is far more unique and interesting than simply “Local Airlines”, or something similar.
If companies are having a hard time setting their organization apart from a crowd, a geographical focus may help.
Often, it’s easier to choose a name with a geographical reference than it is to create a title from scratch using invented or abstract terms. Companies already know where they come from, or where their heritage began.
This means there’s not a lot of research and investigation necessary. Although due diligence will still be required to ensure the name isn’t too similar to anything else on the market.
A geographic brand can validate a sense of authenticity, quality, and history for a brand, while giving consumers something specific to connect with about the brand’s identity. Used correctly, it can allow for a very impactful naming strategy.
What are the cons of a geographic business name?
While geographic brand names certainly have their benefits, they’re not ideal for every business. Like other naming options, geographic company names have limitations.
They could make it difficult for an organization to grow into new environments if the connotations held about a location differ from one region to another.
At the same time, these names lack a lot of the creativity associated with other naming processes. Some geographical names can appear boring or uninspired, like “American Airlines”.
They may also make it harder to maintain ownership over your brand, as it can be difficult to trademark a name based on a geographical term alone.
Some of the biggest disadvantages of geographic company names include:
Issues with reach
Being too focused with your geographic brand name makes it difficult to expand your business. A company known as “Manchester Bikes” might struggle to branch out into other regions when it starts to grow.
This is because small towns and cities generally don’t have the same emotional impact as larger, well-known locations.
As mentioned above, trademarking a geographical name can be difficult, particularly if you’re just combining a descriptive term with a location. In order to maintain ownership over a name, it’s important the title is unique and specific to your company.
You may also find many of the names you’ve considered are already taken.
Though geographical brand names are simple enough to remember at first, they don’t have much about them which allows them to embed into the hearts and minds of your audience.
You may find some people forget some of the elements of your name beyond the geographical location, which makes it harder for your business to grow.
Just because some people think of a location in a certain way, doesn’t mean the connotations will be the same all over the world. The way people in the East view locations like New York may be very different to the perceptions we have in the West.
This means companies need to do significant research to ensure they’re making the right impression.
Adding a specific location to a business name can make it lengthier and more difficult to pronounce and spell. You may also find it’s harder to create an eye-catching logo the longer your name becomes.
This can harm the rest of your branding strategy if you’re not working with an expert to help you.
Do geographic business names limit reach?
One of the biggest concerns companies have when choosing geographic brand names, is the worry these titles could limit their reach. After all, while you might expect to see a business like the California Pizza Kitchen in California, it’s harder to imagine it elsewhere around the globe.
However, the good news is geographic naming doesn’t have to limit your reach as a business. Thanks to the emotional connotations we have with locations, and the global nature of business growth today, there’s no real limitation on how far a company can evolve with the right geographic name.
Technically, Amazon and Patagonia are both geographical titles. However, this doesn’t mean they specifically sell products in those select regions. Geographic names don’t stop your name at the border, but instead help to define where your business came from.
They can also be an excellent way to enhance your brand personality if a location is connected with the right associations.
The only reason a geographic brand name would limit your company’s reach, is if you were to go far too small with your focus. Naming a company after a certain town or borough might make it appear as though it only operates in one location.
However, even in these circumstances, it’s possible to expand beyond your original borders if you ensure you’re using the right branding and marketing strategies to connect with your audience.
Rather than viewing a location as a description of where your business is, it’s better to see the reference to a space as an evocative concept.
Famous geographic brand names: Examples to learn from
Often, the best way to start any naming project is with inspiration from growing and pre-established organizations. Fortunately, there are no shortage of geographical brand names out there to inspire you.
Indeed, naming a company with a reference to a specific space is very common, particularly when businesses are trying to create a specific identity for a brand.
To help you understand the potential impact of a geographical brand name, here are some of the most famous examples to consider…
Perhaps the most famous example of a geographic brand name and evocative title in one, Amazon is the world’s largest online marketplace. One of the best-known companies in the world, this organization was first launched in 1994, at the start of the online shopping revolution.
The Amazon, on the other hand, is a specific location in South America, home to one of the world’s largest rivers and a phenomenal rainforest. The name “Amazon” was chosen in part to create connotations with the vast size and scope of the eponymous river.
A leading provider of outdoor clothing and accessories, Patagonia was launched in 1973, in California. The company chose its name for a number of reasons, including as a way to leverage some of the exotic associations linked with South America at the time.
Patagonia is a beautiful region which many people may associate with outdoor exploration, hiking, and discovery, making it a good choice for a business connected to adventurous clothing. The title helps the company to stand out as one committed to exploration.
3. New York Life
New York Life is the third largest life insurance company in the United States, first launched in 1845. While the organization might have started by offering coverage and protection to people in New York, it has since evolved to deliver services across the United States.
New York Life is a reference to the company’s origins, and the title helps to form a deeper connection with the people the brand serves. When searching for an insurance company, it’s common for people to look for a brand capable of understanding what life in America is really like.
4. California Pizza Kitchen
Otherwise referred to as “CPK”, California Pizza Kitchen was launched in 1895 by a pair of attorneys. The name of the company serves a number of purposes in this case. On the one hand, it refers to the origins of the brand, which started in Beverly Hills, California.
On the other hand, California Pizza Kitchen also takes advantage of the associations between California and a specific kind of deep-dish pizza. This helps to define what the business offers, and acts as a reference to its USP (unique selling point).
5. American Airlines
When it comes to famous geographic brand names, few are better-known than American Airlines. Sometimes referred to as “AA”, American Airlines first launched in 1926 with the slightly different title of American Airways.
The company is one of the biggest airlines in America, and the world.
American Airlines chose its name as a reference to the specific region its crafts covered during the earlier years of the company’s growth. Today, it also helps countless people from around the world visit America.
The name also helps to position the company as a large, expansive brand.
6. Florida’s Natural
An agricultural cooperative based in Florida, Florida’s Natural is best-known for producing orange juice and other citrus-based products. The company first launched in 1933 and is still going strong today.
Like many geographical business names, this company’s title is a reference to its origins.
However, the name of this organization also has another purpose. It helps to tie the company to the connection Florida has with the orange tree and the growth of citrus fruits. Most people view Florida as home to fresh, and delicious fruit.
7. Kentucky Fried Chicken
Better known as “KFC” today, Kentucky Fried Chicken first launched in 1930 as “Sanders Court & Café”. The company was founded by the iconic Colonel Sanders, and started with him selling fried chicken from a roadside restaurant.
Kentucky Fried Chicken has a variety of purposes as a name. First, it connects the company to its original location in Kentucky and gives the brand a sense of history. At the same time, Kentucky is a place frequently associated with home-cooked and deliciously flavored foods.
A Japanese multinational corporation best known for its focus on construction, forestry and mining, Komatsu launched in 1921. The company is now headquartered in Minato, in Tokyo Japan, and it sells products to companies all over the globe.
Despite its worldwide presence, Komatsu has maintained its geographical brand name, a reference to the coastal town where it was first founded. This helps to give the massive corporation more of a human and approachable identity.
Cisco uses a significant amount of geographical branding in its strategy to connect with consumers around the world. The telecommunications and technology giant chose the name “Cisco” as a reference to “San Francisco” where it was originally founded.
Cisco even creates an image of the golden gate bridge in its logo, made to look like sound waves, to help represent the nature of the business. Since San Francisco has a strong connection with modernity and trendiness, it’s a great reference for a forward-thinking business.
Launched as the Smithfield Packing Company in 1936, Smithfield, or Smithfield Foods has grown to become one of the biggest sellers of pork in the world. The company chose its name based on where it was originally founded, in Smithfield Virginia.
As the organization continued to grow, it maintained its geographical business names as a reference to the roots of the organization. The name “Smithfield” has become so heavily associated with pork production over the years, the location is now known as the pork capital of the world.
Tips for choosing geographical company names
The process of naming a business is often complex, whether you choose a title with a reference to a geographical location or opt for something more inventive.
Although a geographical brand name can have a lot of benefits for a business in the right circumstances, the moniker needs to be chosen with caution to ensure it has the right impact.
If you’re thinking of choosing a geographical name for your business, remember to:
Know the associations
First, you’ll need to ensure the associations people have with your location of choice are positive and relevant to your business. The emotional impact of a specific region should be connected to what you’re trying to convey as a brand.
Do due diligence
Since geographical brand names are quite common, there’s a good chance another company has already chosen a similar name. You’ll need to ensure a title with the same terms isn’t already being used by another brand, even if it isn’t trademarked.
Remember your history
A good way to take advantage of a geographical brand name is to link it to your heritage and history as a brand. It may be difficult to connect with your audience on a deeper level if your origins and name doesn’t match.
If you’re struggling with choosing the right geographical brand name, it may be helpful to seek assistance from a professional branding agency to assist you in making the best choice for your organization.
Should you use a geographic brand name?
Geographical brand names certainly have their value. While some people assume these names would be restrictive or make it harder to grow on a global scale, this is rarely the case. Instead, in today’s world of global commerce, geographic names are more evocative than descriptive.
The right geographic company name can be an excellent way to highlight your history as a business, showcase specific values connected to your organization, and generate emotional impact. Pick the right location, and you can effectively convey your company’s personality.
However, as with all naming processes, it’s important to select your name with care, ensuring it has the right influence on your audience, and the correct associations.
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