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What Does Your Brand Name Do?

Choosing a name for your brand shouldn’t be an afterthought. Your brand name sends a crucial signal to your customers and affects their perception about your offering or company in many ways. When creating this all- important marketing tool, there are many things to consider. Below are some of the important task your brand name accomplishes

Communicates Core Communications:

Your name is likely the very first piece of information that customers will come across when they encounter your brand. This is important because certain words or phrases can trigger specific feelings and thoughts. The brand name Intel–a technology company best known for manufacturing processors–conjures up the concept of intelligence in a bite-sized form. Even if you’ve never heard of Intel, the association between the company and cutting-edge solutions is immediate.

Makes Your Brand Memorable:

Making a strong first impression on your customers is key but it’s not enough to ensure success on its own. Your name needs to be memorable as well as evocative–getting potential customers excited about your brand is useless if they can’t remember what it’s called.

In order to make your name memorable opt for simplicity. This doesn’t mean it should be overly short–in fact, some of the best names are longer than 2 or 3 syllables. But no matter the length, the name should roll easily off the tongue. While there are many brand naming constructions, a familiar dictionary word used in a new context can be compelling. Brand names like Oracle and Kayak easily stick in the mind even though they no longer point to soothsayers and boats, but to a technology and online travel company respectively.

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Helps Your Brand Stand Out From the Crowd:

One common mistake is to rely too heavily on descriptive names–in example, BookSeller for an online bookstore. Besides being bland and too generic to trademark, an overly specific name like this can limit your future growth. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Amazon, a name that easily morphed from an online bookstore to an online marketplace of everything. Or consider Blue Bottle, a coffee company and café. In addition to its compelling backstory, its allusive nature makes it easy to embrace products beyond coffee. This would be a much harder task for a name like Teavana.


Sets the Tone for Customer Experience:

Another area to consider when picking a name for your brand is its tone of voice or personality. A name like the make-up brand ColourPop is more playful sounding than an elegant, more classically inspired name like Sephora. Burt’s Bees’ new liquid foundation, Goodness Glows, keeps with the brand’s natural and authentic positioning. A more scandalous sounding name like Fetish–the moniker of a MAC lipstick–would be off brand for a company like Burt’s Bees, though it strikes just the right tone for MAC.

Makes Searching Easy:

In the age of the Internet, customers will be Googling your brand name, visiting your website, and communicating with you via email and social media. To optimize these interactions, your name needs to be web-friendly. And while you never want to lose a good name because an exact match dotcom is not available, the name–even it requires an extension–must be appealing in print and should not rely too heavily on special characters, dashes, or other kinds of marks. For example, the name Gehört–the German word for “belong–might sound appealing for a social club, but unless you have a German keyboard, it would be difficult to type without the umlaut, a diacritical mark that adds distinction and authenticity.

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You also want to check social sites like Twitter and Facebook to see other ways your name might be being used. Assuming there is no trademark issue–different industries can use the same name, as is the case with Dove personal care products and Dove ice-cream bars–you still want to be aware of the titles and handles used on social media pages as those name could dilute or negatively impact on your brand.

Naming is complex and the above five areas are just a few of the things to consider. But if you can get these things right, you will be that much closer to hitting the mark.

Margaret WolfsonAbout the Author:

Margaret Wolfson is Founder and Chief Creative of River + Wolf a New York City naming agency with clients around the world. For more than a decade she has worked as a naming specialist, developing names and leading out projects for established companies such as Burt’s Bees, Unilever, Target, Home Depot, Starbucks, and Yum China, as well as start-ups and mid-sized businesses. As a sought after thought leader, she has contributed articles and comments on naming and brand storytelling to a wide range of media, including Forbes, the New York Times, NBC News, AdAge, and Fast Company. Prior to launching River + Wolf, Margaret had a long career as an artist-entrepreneur, performing myths and epics with music around the world. She is also the author of several critically acclaimed books. Margaret received her M.A. in theater and communications from New York University.

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