What Brand Naming is not.
Anyone who has ever written anything about developing brand names or product names has probably, at some point, referenced the following:
Tis but thy name that is mine enemy:
What’s Montague? It is not hand nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.
What was Billy Shakes trying to say in this line from Romeo & Juliet? The idea is quite simple: names are not that which they describe in real life, and thus should not be placed on a pedestal. Try telling that to P&G’s shareholders, who bet on the company’s strategies as much as the ubiquity and strength of the brand names housed within. But Shakespeare was right about something: a name is just a word, the thing it describes is something else entirely, something real, something sweet, something that can be loved, something that must be experienced.
Why is Brand Naming so difficult?
Brand names and product names must serve many masters—the URL, the SEO, the feelings and associations, the sound, the shape of the letters, and the list goes on. The process of developing and selecting brand names and product names can be draining and demoralizing—you think you’ve landed on something perfect, something that captures exactly what you want people to think and feel, plus it looks beautiful in chunky sans-serif text. But then you turn to Google and find out someone has beat you to the punch.
Commence deflation, commence return to the drawing board.
The real nightmare scenario is when you’ve hired an expensive branding firm to develop your name, design your logo and packaging, build and launch your e-commerce site, create excellent social media content, and then the Cease and Desist letter drops on your doorstep like a ton of bricks.
How do you develop brand and product names?
What is the brand naming process? The beauty and challenge of naming are that there is no one way, no hard-and-fast (besides some common sense things like maybe don’t make it super offensive and don’t steal). Names can convey direct meaning and context for the user or customer, or they can also evoke a feeling or image as a metaphor for the customer’s experience with a product or service. Successful and sustainable company and brand names range from evocative and stylized (Apple, Google, Virgin) to functional and simple (Bank of America, Big Ass Fans) to values-based (Fidelity Mutual, Charity Water). We find comfort in the fact that your success does not depend solely on whether or not your name is functional or metaphorical or fancy or simple—it just has to be imbued with purpose; a “why.” Our job as brand strategists is to explore the universe of possibilities for your brand name given what we know about your vision, your customer, their problems, and the noise you’re competing to cut through.
After spending time with you and your product, performing research into the functionality and needs to be met by the product, and looking out at the landscape of competitors, we develop options. We typically aim to start with a list of hundreds and cull that down to a top-twenty. Of the top-twenty, we begin searching for use-cases and red flags through google, the United States Office of Patent and Trademark search function, and URL availability search sites. For high-stakes projects, we engage an experienced Intellectual Property attorney to perform a more in-depth search on the options we have internally flagged.
At the close of this process, we come back together and present between five and ten options, how we developed them, what we believe they say and do, and why we stand behind them. The final step is to start saying them out loud, start living with them. As we always tell our clients, eventually, the name becomes the brand and you can’t imagine a world in which they are separate.