Creating a brand is like having a child; a flash of passion followed by months of discomfort, culminating in the birth of something you hope will one day grow up to support you. Or at least not spend you dry and dent your car.
Naming companies, programs or products can be one of marketing’s most creative and rewarding opportunities. Or it can be a bottomless time-vacuum.
To avoid the latter, here are three questions that may help get your bed-wetting bundle of business love off to a well-named start.
What’s your story?
The best names often encourage the reader to ask ‘why?’ This is a much stronger question than ‘what do you do?’ The chance to engage a prospect with your brand story is one of the most powerful opportunities in marketing.
In the case of ‘Sole’, a boutique coffee produced on a single farm in Costa Rica, the name means the same thing in English and Spanish – the ‘sole’ or only producer. Sole also happens to be the name of the Mamacita of the farm itself. This name led us to use photos of the actual farmers on the packaging, offering a sense of local pride that stretched all the way to the shelf.
How different is good?
Being another Robert, Jane or Jack comes with its comforts. A strong, stable, familiar name puts you in good company and is not likely to encourage taunts around the playground. But in the corporate world, the familiar may not stand out on a resume or in a busy market scape, either.
Businesses also face the complex challenge of trademark. Get too close to a competitor’s registered name with your corporate baby and you could be quick pen pals with their law firm.
Online marketing is another reason to look at staking out new naming turf. Securing a strong series of web domains is tougher and tougher these days, and in a crowded market space your SEO could be confounded.
I often recommend considering names that have a lateral connection to the category; that at first glance seem unusual, but upon further reflection, make a lot of sense.
Fresh Canvas Spa is a good example of this. To begin with, the spa started up in a building that for decades was home to a local art gallery. We made the new instantly familiar while opening up a whole range of possibilities in the customers‘ imagination.
Will it grow on you?
Many of the most successful names I have worked on have not been big client favorites right out of the gate. I like to compare this to the ‘B-Side’ album effect (for those retro enough to get the metaphor) The pop song you heard and instantly liked often wears quickly. It’s the quirky track further back in the album that gets its hooks into you, speaking to your life stages even more meaningfully as years progress.
OCION was one such name. As the identity for a water clean-tech company, it evokes a global image of vast horizons of pure H20, while incorporating the ions that are at the heart of the technology. When first presented, some thought it too unusual, and difficult to pronounce. But it has gradually won over its detractors, and is now leading the re-branded company into a larger market future. (You can find out more about the process here)
That’s what I always try to coax out of a brand identity – a focus not on who a company is, but who it wants to be. Your name should have layers of meaning that can unfold as the company or product matures. It should grow to surprise and delight you, taking on a life of its own that will make you proud to say you brought it into the world.
So pass the cigars – say, what brand are those…?
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