Naming your brand
types of names
“The right name captures the imagination and connects with the people you want to reach.” – Danny Altman
Tell me your name and I tell you who you are
The first question I ask a customer when designing their logo is “What is your business name?” It seems like a pretty basic and straightforward question, yet many people struggle with it, even those with established businesses. I often hear them saying: “Well, I have a name but I’m not sure it’s the right name for my business.” Sometimes they say: “I have several names – which one you think is best?” Or: “My business name is (…). I didn’t have time to think about it as I’m in a hurry to open my business, let’s get started with the logo as I need the sign printed ASAP. Oh and did I mention I needed it for yesterday?”
Naming a company isn’t quick and easy.
It’s a process and not something you can do during your lunch break or while driving, at a stop light. Some people say they’ll know it when they hear it but good names require hard strategy work, testing and examining then finally selling and proving.
Types of names
Let’s have a look at certain groups of names first. You may have already figured out which type is right for your brand or maybe you haven’t thought about it at all (and that is OK). Sometimes I catch myself thinking I have it all figured out, that I already know the perfect solution, but then I look at the basics (right where I should have started from) and I realise it’s not that simple and obvious as I initially thought. It’s always good to start from the beginning even when you think you already know it all.
examples: Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Marks & Spencer
Founder names are good for personal branding and popular especially in the fashion industry.
They promote trust and uniqueness but they are always tied to a real human being.
examples: Toys R Us, The Body Shop, Blue Orthodontics
These are the names which describe the nature of the business.
Some descriptive names can be too generic to copyright and if your business grows and diversifies, the name may become limiting.
Descriptiveness sometimes plays a legitimate role in nomenclature and some products or services are best served by descriptive names (especially medical and technical)
examples: Pinterest, Yahoo, Etsy
Made-up names are often created based on rhythm, sound, or Greek or Latin root words (or a name, for example: Häagen-Dazs).
They may be easy to copyright but require some investment into educating the target market as to the nature of business, service or product.
examples: Quartz, Nike, Amazon, Patagonia
This group represents things, places, people, animals, processes or mythological names used to reflect attribute certain qualities to a company. For example: Quartz watches: operated by vibrations of an electrically driven quartz crystal; Nike: In Greek mythology, Nike is the Winged Goddess of Victory. The mythological associations for the brand Nike are flight, victory, and speed.
examples: DKNY, IBM, YSL, MoMA
These names are not recommended for new businesses with limited marketing budgets as they are difficult to remember, difficult to copyright and require investment in advertising.
examples: Netflix, Flickr, Tumblr
Names in this group are simply words that have been altered in order to create a unique, protectable name.
examples: Jane’s Knitting Studio, Stacie’s Cake, Citibank
Some of the best names combine various name types as they are memorable and easy to understand.
What name type is right for my business?
One way to approach this is to think about your priorities. I often see many business owners who make fantastic products or provide excellent and unique services and are great in what they do but they’re lacking one thing. It’s not because they’re selfish or self-centred. Sometimes we become so obsessed and absorbed with our business work (creating new products, improving services, educating ourselves, researching new ingredients or testing new equipment) that we simply forget about the most important thing:
Your priority number one is your customer.
Sit down for a moment and think how your customer feels, what do they think, what do they know and especially what are they looking for.
What would they want you to communicate? Try narrowing down your choices.
Is your priority to create a luxury brand with exclusive products/ services or is your brand style rather relaxed and down-to earth, or perhaps somewhere in between or a combination of both?
Are you as the owner important enough to be included in the name? Does that add value, make the customer feel they need your services/products more than they need your competitors’ or would it just make you feel better about yourself? Be honest about it.
Is your priority to copyright the name or would you rather keep it more generic / uncopyrighted? Is copyrighting really that important to you?
What does your target market respond to? Do they know what a Malus (apple in Latin) is or perhaps they don’t care about metaphors and would prefer a name which reminds them of a tasty, homemade pie?
These are just some ideas that should help you understand the process involved in brand naming and how different name types can affect your business and market (in good or bad way). Remember naming your brand is not a quick process so try not to rush it. Give yourself enough time to think about your business and try to take one small action at a time (instead of trying to do as much as possible in one go).
Get started, and the rest will flow.