Brand naming may seem simple, however it is anything but simple. Generally, for a final name that makes it through all of the evaluation hurdles and is accepted by the client, generally hundreds, if not thousands of names were explored. So, what makes naming so difficult? First, the proliferation of brands in the market. Second, with the advent of the Internet, a brand must compete not just within a small geography, but throughout the global market. Which leads to the next point, the URL needs to be available. And one wants to own “.com,” not “.net,” “.info,” or some other equally obscure URL suffix. And one should not add “company,” “llc,” or other unexpected modifiers to the end of the name.
The name should be:
- Easy to pronounce
- Easy to spell
- Not used by any other brand, but especially competitors in the same categories and markets
- Easy to recall
- Not have unintended or negative meanings, including in other languages/cultures
- Broad enough to outlive a product category or a business owner
- Easy to trademark (and still available to trademark)
- Available as a “.com” or “.org” or .edu” URL, depending on the type of brand
It is also desirable for the name to communicate the brand’s unique value proposition if possible. (This is a tall order, so many brands should be happy to rely on the tagline to do that.)
It has been my experience (in the dozens of naming projects in which I have been involved) that the best, most desirable names are almost always already taken. Great minds think alike and it is likely that someone else in your category has initiated a naming project before your naming project, so they have taken the next best name available.
Sometimes it is desirable to choose an “out-of-the-box” name, something that does not immediately come to mind, and something that may cause some client discomfort. Usually, these are the names that have the greatest breakthrough value.
Often, we will conduct customer research to understand brand and category associations before we develop names. We always conduct multiple ideation sessions and we usually develop mind maps in at least one of those sessions.
One must carefully manage client expectations and demands in a naming project. If this is not done, one could be involved in a multi-month project with dozens of rounds of name generation. This is just not necessary.
The worst approach to naming is an internal (company or organization) naming contest. This almost never results in names that can be used. And it raises expectations that one of the names submitted by employees will be used.
There are different types of names. They range from coined (Kodak, Xerox) to associative descriptive (DieHard, RoadRunner) to whimsical (Apple, BlackBerry) [including invented whimsical (Squidoo)] to generic descriptive (engines, lab equipment). Each has its place and which is used depends on the type of brand, its market position and its intended longevity among other considerations.
In summary, there are many considerations in brand naming and it is not a trivial exercise. If you intend to name or rename a brand, give it the attention it deserves.