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
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.
The following are some of the most crucial aspects which you should bear in mind while narrowing down onto a name/brand:
From LEGAL Perspective:
1) Conduct a thorough trademark search to avoid identical and similar names in the same class of goods and services.
2) Avoid names that are similar or identical to famous names having high brand value (even in different class of goods and services). This is meant to bypass 'dilution' charges/allegations.
3) Avoid names identical or similar to the names that have huge trans-boundary popularity and appeal and can be considered 'well-known' trademarks.
4) Trademark is a matter of territorial jurisdiction. However, there are many other concepts that have genesis in the Competition Law and you might want to avoid them. One of them is : free-ride on the investments of others.
5) Avoid those names that will attract the application of common law doctrine of passing-off.
6) Avoid names that are 'surnames' of individuals because it might turn out to be difficult if those people start using your trademark which is their surname as well, in the course of trade.
7) Never use a descriptive name for a product and service. The name has to be distinctive.
From COMMERCIAL Perspective:
1) Unique: The name should be unique, The more unique a name is, the more chances exists for its acceptance on a larger scale.
2) Small: The name should be as small as possible.
3) Phonetically easy to pronounce. This is, especially, specific to those products and services which have a tendency to be advertised by 'word of mouth'.
in those cases, where the product and services are likely to be advertised vide visual aid, the trade-dress and trademark becomes more important than trade-name.
4) If your products and services have sensory aspect attached to it, the name should correspond and, rather, enhance the characteristics of your products and services.
5) Western/Eastern: If your products and services are to be sold in the developing countries, the name ought to have a western appeal attached to it.
There are many other considerations that will apply keeping in view the type of your business, products and services you are dealing in and various other factors. Feel free to contact us.
Memorability, pronounce-ability, and read out loud ability. By the latter I mean when they read it they know how to say it right.
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!
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?
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).
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
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!
We do a lot of naming work and the first step is to create the committee or team in charge, identify who else should be involved in the process and then set the criteria. Here are some examples of possible criteria:
-has versatility (works in multiple ways from course name to concept to book)
-can be sustainable over time (longevity)
-sounds good when spoken
-contains playful element
-beginning of alphabet if possible
Once these are confirmed then you can start the process. We have many exercises to help generate names and a process to pare them down and test for a winner. It is a lot of fun and harder than it looks, hope that helps. Good luck!
Today when business is global my best tips are only three:
1.This is a classic tip. Make the name easy to remember. Make it short, connected to your business and unique.
2. Test the name over the phone line. If you can say the name AND url without the need to spell it for the recipient that is great! You will gain so immensely by abiding by this!
3. If your business is international make sure your name doesn't mean anything bad in another language - test at least English, Spanish, German, French, Chinese and Japanese. I have seen so many bad exampels of this lately.
Good luck in finding your name!
1. Make sure the .com domain name is available for the company, along with any shortened versions of the name, or derivations.
For example, my "parent" company for my photography activities is Dijon Creative Solutions. The URL that I use is www.DijonCreative.com, but I also own www.DijonCreativeSolutions.com, and a few other variations. I prefer DijonCreative (without the Solutions) for the domain name because 1) It is shorter, and 2) I may drop the "Solutions" part from the name at some point.
2. When it comes to "branding", be sure to leave room for future expansion into other business areas, and into other geographic areas (unless you know with 100% certainty that such expansion will never happen).
I'm sure that there are many other excellent suggestions from others, but I only skimmed over them, and just wanted to emphasize a couple of things.
When I think about creating a name I try to pick words that describe the business in some way and then try to put the words together. It's also fun to use this as a starting point to create a new word. Kodak did that. They just made the word up and it is totally original and recognizable. It's of course really hard to come up with such a novel brand name but by combining words into new ones you may be able to create a new word that can be the company name. And if you use a process that can be explained to the client on how you came up with the word that can help explain the name and justify why they should use it, Which can help when you pitch it to them. This May or may not help but it could help you start the creative process. Hope this helps! And thank you for all your wonderful advice too.
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
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.
this is the million dollar question kind. Naming is one of the most challenging project when it comes to Branding.
I try to stick to the concept, the name must sound as the brand's essence and must be short. That's a long, back and fourth process anyway. You have to be patient and persistent. Usually I end up with 5, sometimes 10 naming lists.
You have to have some alternative names also, because there are huge chances that the name you create has already been caught by another company.
The rule is: don't expect it to be fast. It has to be really good because Brand names has to last long.
I wish you good luck and hope I have helped you somewhat.
I hope this rebrand is a last resort as there is likely a considerable investment in the original.
When it comes to names I always try to create something which in some way describes the core product(s) of the company. This way the name never stops selling.
Also, since you are wanting to develop an emotional attachment, do your very best to create a name which will accomplish just that with your potential customers.
Name of a company is driven by five key factors:
1. Conveys the USP or distinctive competitive advantages
2. Simply explains the business value or service to the client
3. Unique name based on the promoter name, location, business type, idea or a key word
4. Catchy, precise and simple
5. Last but not the least- the domain name, pronunciation or spelling should not confuse with an existing brand or product
Sometimes it's OK to have the same name and then add another word to make a difference. It's a real challenge to find a .com that ticks all the boxes without costing big dollars.
You could consider slight spelling changes like Tumblr.
I would not use the word "The" in the beginning, Even though it may be what the client wants. It can become confusing. Also if you have a name that is very long, use an abbreviation in the domain name. ie... tncp.net. If I would have know how complicated the "The" was I would have left it out. However, you client must know that will original and unique branding he has to have his company on board. If not, let them go.