I will go through these briefly but here’s the thing – the brand naming process should be seen as part of the larger exercise of Brand Development. Sometimes this process and the analyses involved in it gives rise to insights that can help to develop a suitable name, and before you ask, YES!! Names matter.
A hundred years ago, it may have sufficient to just append any old name to your creation or startup, but the whole package matters these days, especially with more and more large and startups companies undertaking the brand development process. Simply put, to compete, all aspects of a brand, not least , brand naming, matter.
The Naming Process – in the background
Now, to Brand naming. A marketing God, (perhaps THE definitive Marketing God, actually), Al Ries along with Jack Trout and his daughter, Laura Ries, determined ways to categorise marketing challenges in order create rules for developing solutions in the space for building a brand in some systematic way. There is no doubt that huge amounts of creativity are required to create great ideas within some structural frameworks and improve productivity. These rules in themselves, encapsulate the fundamentals and essence of the pursuit of great branding. There is an argument that the name of the brand is actually in itself the brand, i.e. the name is the brand. Personally, I find this a little simplistic BUT it is crucial at the start and there is no denying that once established, it’s very difficult to argue that Coke by any other name is still Coke, so you can see what the argument is based on. So, the name matters.
Brand building is about positioning and highlighting uniqueness. Uniqueness or per Godin – positive good, helps to position your product and therefore brand at the start and the name is part of the establishment. Establishment = leading in a category + owning a word in the mind of your target segment.
To put it another way:
Positioning = owning a category that is > or equal to a word + resonance of the word you own in a customer’s mind + the belief that that word means everything they need it to mean in terms of all the benefits desired or believed.
The name you choose then, for good or ill, and it really can be and has been both, become irretrievably enmeshed with a target customer’s belief system and their attachment and advocacy will spring from that. Ries argues that over time, your unique idea disappears. Your positive good can be diluted, duplicated and even replaced so that the only reason people stick with your offering is the difference between your brand name and that of your market rivals. I would argue that it goes beyond just the name as a word, but what that name has grown to mean, signify and project so you can see that the name is one that can be flexed in this way, with other things remaining equal. Ries also agrees that it’s the perception of the name. This is the ultimate goal, after all, of brand building.
Rules to live by
The rules below are some that we use at Iconify, for brand naming, some based on ideas from Ries, Trout and others, as well as our own experience and best practice
Rule 1. A new and unique offering should ideally have a new and unique name.
Rule 2. It should be short and snappy and easy to remember but be unique
Rule 3. If you already have an established company, avoid line extended names which are often meaningless, uninspired and lack resonance in a different category.
Rule 4: Use unusual words and spellings advisedly but do not automatically rule them out if a story can be built around it, especially if it meets the tests of rules 1,2 and 3.
Rule 5. Global audiences versus local markets – when it comes to what is easy to spell, pronounce and what is unique and unforgettable, consider who you are targeting. With increasing globalisation, these tests yield different answers than they may have even 10 years ago.
Rule 6. Create a shortlist
Rule 7. Test these names with existing and potential clients. Do some proper primary research and get feedback on the names.
Rule 8. Test initially in isolation – just the name but not without an offering context – make sure people know what the product/service/company is and does
Rule 9. Test again with at least an initial branding design context.
Great, you’re done. Your brand has a name that shows its face and personality to the world and reflects its vision. You’ve successfully completed a critical piece of your business’s branding!
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