What are some guidelines I should follow for naming a company?
Hello everyone! So I'm working on a rebrand for a client that has me compelled to also recommend a name change. After many attempts to figure out new names were botched by Google searches coming up with other locations, I've found myself a bit lost.
Keep in mind that I fully believe in trying to come up with a name that's as original and unique to the client's brand mission, but how original can a name be until it's slightly or too similar to other locations? Is there a guideline that I should follow with naming (i.e. If there's another state location, don't use that name altogether)? If anyone's had a background in brand strategy and naming, I'd love to hear from you!
Creating a name is a fun and critical challenge. I've been fortunate to create brand names that have been purchased by P&G as well as being ranked in the top 3 in Millward Brown brand studies for their respective categories.
Here are my thoughts:
1. Before you decide to recommend a name change, I would assess the brand equity that exists with the current name and determine how the company is positioned relative to the competitive set. Does the current name support and deliver on the promise of the brand? Starting over often requires significant budget and planning to make sure that you don’t alienate customers and lose ground to the competition.
2. I prefer to use a simple approach starting with a copy platform that answers these questions:
To Convince: (define the target audience here)
To Buy: (define the product/service here)
Instead Of: (define the competitive set here)
Because: (What is the relevant point of differentiation)
3. Once you have answered these questions then I start first with secondary research to identify any emerging trends in the category, new competitive threats and develop a comprehensive list of the competitors’ brands as well as the leading brands in adjacent categories and the specific terminology that they use to set themselves apart.
4. Then I conduct some qualitative primary research with all the entities in the ecosystem, including your customer, their customers (preferably lead users), channel partners and analysts. If they want to make sure that they maintain their current customer base then you’ll want to understand the attributes of the brand that are appealing to the current customer base. I prefer to create a dialogue with “lead users” versus just average customers because they’re typically pushing the envelope of where the product is today and you can understand what issues they’re facing and how to solve for those and bake them into the rebrand. Lead Users are not working too far in front of the market so the end product is often applicable to a larger addressable market. It is important to assess your client’s competitive strengths and their relevance to the target audience. Then as Amara recommends, I synthesize that into a guide for a mind mapping session that results in a large list of terms. The reason I think this process is effective is because it is brainstorming with the guard rails of competitive positioning and customer relevance.
5. You’ll then create a list of naming options from the combinations of terms and/or creation of new words that accomplish your objective. Then you can run the traps of domain name, trade mark conflicts, etc… You'll also want to make sure that the finalists deliver on copy platform and that they'll occupy the cognitive real estate, in the minds of the target audience, that will ensure your client wins in the market. You'll also find that I support the school of thought of having the name describe what the company/product does - therefore you'll get more educational value out of the brand and not have to spend as much to educate the market.
Best of luck - Jeff
You can try to be as clever as you can... but never at the expense of obscurity. Being cute or creative in a name seldom has anything to do with the success of a product or service, but can have alot to do with their failure. Simply stated, the name must convey what your service or product is, otherwise you will have to work very hard and pay a lot of money to communicate your message. If you have millions to spend on customer awareness, then it doesn't really matter, but if you don't then choose wisely. Which do you think is a better name for an auto parts company? Auto Zone or Pep Boys? Get the point? Good luck.
First off, make sure that the URL is available, for this I use http://instantdomainsearch.com/. Any company that wants to have legitimacy MUST have a website, and if the domain is unavailable then you need to go back to the drawing board.
If the name is taken in another state and the company is only interested in regional coverage, it may be ok. There are multiple hair salons with the name Shears to You and similar. All depends on the scope of their ambitions.
I also recommend to clients that they try to secure a vanity phone number. I use http://vanitysearch.callsource.com/. Having a vanity phone number makes it very easy for users to remember it and increases business.
The last (and hardest) part of renaming or naming a new company (as many esteemed colleagues have pointed out) is creating inherent value within the name. It must be able to impart what the brand stands for in a word or two. If the client doesn't have huge $$ for branding, then this is even more critical. Companies such as Angie's List struggled at first with trying to explain their value proposition because it was not inherent in the name. It can be done, but it can be costly. Baking in a value proposition is the toughest thing to do, but once you do, it pays off for years to come.
I hope that helps.
Here's a link to a great article:
It will give you options for different kind of naming strategies, including picking names that would rank higher SEO-wise.
We wrote a white paper on How to Name Your Brand Successfully, you can download it here: http://www.finien.com/2013/06/how-to-name-your-new-brand-successfully/
I discuss the following in detail, and it should help you tremendously:
Characteristics of a Great Name
Types of Brand Names
Selecting the Final Name
Megatrends, Trends, and Fads
If you need further help, or would like to collaborate, please reach out!
A lot of great advise. If I could add my 2 cents - think of the End Goals of target market demographic. An example for this type of business would be "BeachBody" the marketing arm of the "Insanty" line of products. A "BeachBody" is what the clients are hoping to achieve from the product/service. I hope this offers some insight.
you should consider what you want your customers to be thinking off when ever they mention your company out to the public. for instance naming your company after your name is most suitable. e.g you tell me I have to get something from Lombardo. normally I will ask you what or who is Lombardo, and I will say it is a construction company now I have done two things
1. told you what Lombardo mean
2. the name Lombardo construction has gotten stick to your memory
so now if I were to be chatting to a friend and he tells me he needs to buy some quality construction goods, I will immediately say Lombardo constructions.
THATS MY TAKE. THANK YOU
When considering a name change for a business, put yourself in the customer's frame of mind. What do they want? What will they be typing in for search terms? What will solve their problem? The answers to those questions may lead you to a great new business name that people will remember.
Make a list of at least 30 possible answers to those questions. Don't censor them on first round. Just brainstorm and write down whatever occurs to you. Then go back and refine.
I named my business Look Good Now because that's what people get when they work with me, (as a certified personal image consultant), and that's also what people want.
Hope that helps.
Marian Rothschild, AICI FLC
Here are some general guidelines for naming. It's not an easy task and can be highly subjective.
1. The less that a name describes the goods or services being sold, the stronger the legal protection that name receives. The strongest names from a legal perspective are those that have no meaning -- i.e. made up words. You will recognize some of the strongest brands in our society are meaningless except as a trademark - e.g. NIKE, KODAK, EXXON, XEROX, etc.
2. It is important that the name evokes the right emotions, associations and images. What associations does the name evoke?
3. Easy to Read
4. Easy to Spell
5. Easy to Pronounce
6. Reflect the quality of the product.
7. Is it unique in your competitive space?
8. Does it express a desired message?
9. Is it authentic to your brand?
10. Does it paint a picture? Is it sensory?
11. Is it easy to spell and pronounce? Do you like to say it?
12. Does everybody like it? Does it make some people uneasy?
13. Is it free of negative connotations / associations?
Very interesting question as we were just asked the very same from one of our potential clients :) How long have they been in business? Are there URL's that compliment the existing name? Why do they want to change their name?
These would all be questions I would ask and require them to answer before embarking on a name change, it could harm their brand and your good name.
I don't believe there is a magic answer for this one, sorry!
This is a really loaded question. Before I begin, the one thing I like to express first and foremost, is naming is the most counter-intuitive process in all of branding and marketing. There are so many very powerful considerations at play that are the complete opposite of what most people think.
For example, there are at least a half dozen categories for business names and a company name can fall into more than one of them. Of these categories "Descriptive" names are the second weakest (only a long name shortened to initials is worse), but descriptive names are by far the most common names mainly because that's where most people's intuition takes them. But when you apply counter-intuitive reasoning, you will see that these names are the most predictable, boring, least emotional and most similar to the competition.
A second counter-intuitive aspect to the process is in the collection of feed back, opinions and in most cases board room votes. A name that the entire team is unanimous in evaluating as very good, but not great is most likely boring and predictable too. It will be misinterpreted a safe choice. Conversely, a name that splits the board room and creates a heated argument because some people love it and others hate it, is most likely a powerful name. That's where the courage to take a stand comes in.
Two of the stronger name categories to consider are Evocative and Experiential. These names are least likely to sound like your competition and will have slightly different meanings to everyone. The evoke different ideas and emotions in people and for that reason have the potential to be loved.
Analyze great companies names and ask yourself, what categories do they fall into. I'm sure you will find that most, like Apple, Google and Nike, follow my counter-intuitive reasoning.
There are also many factors to take into consideration. Number of letters, URL availability, pronunciation, foreign linguistics, visual aesthetic... the list goes on.
I don't make a practice of link dropping in these forums, but this is a big subject. ;)
Best of luck with it Christopher!
Great input so far... I'll add, in naming your company you have a couple of options in a name.
1) Capture the essence of your positioning or descriptive naming - Shredded Wheat, International Business Machines
2) Coin a defensible word that could acquire secondary meaning and that you could own - JetBlue, Southwest, Starbucks
3) Make up a name that has no meaning and no relations to your business - Google, Bing, Advantis Credit Union (a company I helped name)
Once you have your list of names, then check to see what URL is available
Memorability, pronounce-ability, and read out loud ability. By the latter I mean when they read it they know how to say it right.
It can be a daunting task since the name will impart, in just one or three words, the entire concept of a company. You have received some very helpful tips here already!
One thing I would mention is that even if you find another company with a similar or identical name, see if the company is even in a related business. if I name a new salon Touch of Beautiful but find a landscaping company with the same name, that isn't necessarily an immediate issue.
Also, if you find a name that you really want to use but don't want to interfere with another company, play around with the derivatives of that name (i.e., Touch of Beautiful, Beautiful Touch, Touch of Beauty).
You've already gotten some great input Christopher, I would suggest also checking for domain names. I'm sure they will want to have a good online presence as part of their re-branding >
This is my Go Daddy Re-seller site... look in the middle of the Home Page for "Domain Names". It's a free tool...
With warm regard,
CJ @ 1 Click Solutions - Denver
Hello. could you please clarify just a bit why the name is connected to the location in the first place? What sort of business is it?
Ah, OK, got it from another answer.
OK, so you need to think about the customere - always. Place yourself in the skin of their consumer - if it's a gym, what are the values to the customer? Is it to be buffed, to be beautiful, to be healthy? Pick one and continue drilling down until you come up with a list of words that in a word define what the customers are looking for.
Hope that helps.
During the 1970's I turned around a bunch of European Heath spas around the US. The name was significant because at that time the name European was very orginal and had all to do with a perception of a certain nuance in heath and spa services. Lately I see 24 hr workouts is coming about. They have all sorts of names like workout at any time types. Possibly is there something very unique in culture as well as service or new approach that the client is offering? If so, some distinctive Latin connotation might be appropriate. Latin derivatives can be French, Italian, etc.
In our case we utilized Fautires as an example because in Latin it relates to advocacy. Our main name is Family Financial Advocates. That way each company has an advocacy derivative. Just a thought, you have a good challenge.
Hi Christopher ~
What a valuable question! I've named or helped rename both startups and established businesses, and I always start with an in-depth interview, asking the client everything I can think of about their mission, vision, USP, services/products, company history (in the case of startups, impetus to launch), etc.
Once I synthesize all of the above, I begin brainstorming, initially not ruling out anything or checking for URL availability. You don't want to staunch the creative flow. It's also valuable to coin words that convey the essence of what your client is or does.
After you have an impressive list, select your top ten favorites and research name availability. I've found that even invented terms can be taken!
I then share my top choices (those that are available) with the client and suggest they sit with them and see which one(s) feel best. Once we have a choice, or a top few, I also work on taglines to ensure the name and tag work well together. Sometimes what doesn't work as a name can be part of a tag, to help expand the meaning/purpose/vision of the business/brand.
Hope this is helpful. I'd be happy to work on the project with you if that might be appropriate.