What’s in a name?

Naming your brand is a vital but often overlooked part of the branding process. Too many businesses make the mistake of not giving naming the time and attention it deserves and often to their peril.

Gemma Boss, Director
laptop notebook and pen

Starting out

We’ve all been there when a friend tells you the name of their new baby and your immediate (hopefully internal!) reaction is more ‘uggh’ than ‘ooh!’ Along with a logo, your brand name is often the first impression customers have about you and they will form an immediate subconscious reaction to it. It’s up to you to try and control as much as possible what that reaction will be as you want your customers to associate something positive with your name. Naming your brand is an extremely important job and not one to be overlooked.

A strategically good name needs to be memorable, relevant and meaningful. It should be easily retrieved from memory and should support the planned strategic positioning or image of the product. Names that achieve this don’t just fall from the sky so you, therefore, need to make sure that you follow a systematic and planned approach.

It’s also important to make sure that you’re re-naming for the right reasons. Obviously, if you’re developing a brand new product or service then clearly naming is a fundamental part of the process but if you already have a brand, you need to make sure that you don’t lose any equity that might already exist.

When naming goes wrong

In early 2001 the Post Office, with all its years of history and tradition behind it, decided to re-name itself Consignia. The thought behind it was to compete with brands such as FedEx but the new meaningless name was a laughing stock and absolutely bombed in the market. The hugely expensive re-brand only lasted about 16 months before they quickly reverted back.

If they had done any customer research in this whole process, they would have found out that nobody wanted the name to change and they could have saved themselves a lot of time and money. If you’ve got years of positive equity in a name and brand, it can be disastrous to embark on a re-brand, especially one that changes the brand so drastically.

Other companies choose to put their re-naming out to their customers and ask them to develop the new name, probably expecting and hoping that this collaboration would lead to them bringing their customers along on the journey and getting their buy-in from the start. This sounds like it could be a great solution but this approach also has its perils….anyone remember Boaty McBoatface?!

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5 Things to consider for a naming project

If you are embarking on a naming project we can help you with the 5 key things to consider and remember:

1.Be clear on your naming strategy.

Why are you re-naming? What do you want the new name to achieve? What kind of name do you want – descriptive, associative or abstract? Are you putting enough time into this project? If you can set out a clear strategy before you start, then you’re making good moves towards a successful naming outcome.

2.Don’t create names based on project code names or specific functions.

During an NPD process, your product is likely to have been given a code name and sometimes the familiarity of that name can lead to businesses choosing it as the brand moving forward or they focus on specific attributes. A good brand name should communicate something inspirational about the brand such as its Core Values or the benefits of what it serves to customers. If you’re too descriptive then you could be limiting yourself to adding more services or products in the future, whereas if you’re too abstract then you need to fight harder to make customers understand what you’re about.

3.Don’t forget about protecting your name.

In today’s digital world, obtaining the right domain is becoming harder all the time but many businesses are getting creative with their domains and customers don’t necessarily expect the domain to match the brand name anymore. Once you’ve decided on your domain, make sure you buy up all the obvious iterations so that nobody else can pounce on your good idea.

Trademarking is also an important consideration. The process can add a lot of time to a naming project, especially if you’re trademarking in international markets but it could be an extremely costly mistake if you don’t. It will depend on your appetite for risk as many brands exist without a trademark but there is always the chance that someone else could trademark your company name and demand you change it.

4.If you’re a global brand, make sure you do a linguistic check.

The other pitfall of naming is when global brands don’t do their international research properly and name their product something which has negative connotations in another language – you only have to google brands such as Laputa or what Coca Cola was translated to when it first launched in China to see what I mean.

5.Get customer feedback.

And finally, if you’re launching your brand to the market and you want your customers to think positive thoughts when they see it, just ask some of them in advance to see what they think before you spend lots of money on the launch. Pretty obvious really isn’t it?!

Find out more about Chalk + Ward branding services or get in touch to discuss how we can help your business grow.

Gemma Boss, Director