What Makes for a Good Name? That’s the question some friends with new business ventures have been asking me.
Since the brand name is the main point of reference to any product or service as well as the primary verbal and written marketing tool, naming is a critical step in the branding process. A brand name is an intangible asset, optimally adding value or distinction to a brand (think Ferrari, Apple or Google).
As designers and brand strategists know, you need a conceptual framework. Start with a creative or design brief to ensure the name creation is strategic, has longevity potential, conveys denotative and connotative meanings as intended, and will resonate with the audience. Once you’re clear on strategy, you generate concepts. Select the best ones for legal vetting.
Here are several broad categories of names:
· Founder’s name: named for the company’s founder(s), such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream named for Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield; Levi’s named for founder Levi Strauss; and Martha Stewart for the brands created by Martha Stewart.
· Explanatory: named to best explain or describe the product or service, such as China Mobile, Burger King, American Heart Association, and The Nature Conservancy.
· Expressive or Invented: names that are constructed to have a certain flair, such as Google, Häagen-Dazs, Xerox, Roc Nation, EarthShare, and Intel.
· Symbolic: names that express their nature through an allusion to an allegory or a symbol to represent a brand, such as Nike (named for the Greek goddess of victory), Sirius (named for the sky’s brightest star), Vanguard, and Apple computers.
· Acronym: a brand name formed from the initials or other parts of several names or words; for example, GE for General Electric, BMW for Bayerische Motoren Werke, KFC for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and IBM for International Business Machines.
· Morphemes: a meaningful morphological unit of a word that cannot be further divided (e.g., “fed” for “federal” and “ex” for “express”); for example, FedEx and Acura.
· Geographical: a brand tied to the region of its origin or creator; for example, Nantucket Nectars, New York Life, and American Apparel.
Some researchers have found that sound symbolism influences the attribute perceptions of a brand. And if you’re Jeopardy fan, as my family and I are, you know that some people fancy names that exhibit alliteration (the repetition of same letter or sound at the beginning of closely connected or neighboring words); for example, Dunkin’ Donuts, Coca-Cola, PayPal, or rhyme (correspondence of sound between words or endings of related words); for example, Laffy Taffy, 7 Eleven, Mello Yello; and onomatopoeia (the form of a word and the sound associated with it, or a word that imitates a sound); for example, Ziploc, Swiffer, or Sizzler Family Restaurants.
Picture an insurance company. What comes to mind? You might think of a huge office space with people in cubicles working on computers, talking on phones, and participating in meetings. Now, let’s take it a step further—what is the difference in how you imagine five different insurance companies? On the surface, most companies seem like faceless, vast corporate entities, without much to distinguish them from one another. Without a good brand name, almost any company or organization would seem generic.
What’s a good brand worth? Plenty.
(Excerpted from Graphic Design Solutions, 6th ed.;