Considering a new name for your business? Whether your company has just undergone a merger or acquisition, or perhaps just needs a fresh rebrand, corporate naming can be just as equally exciting as it is daunting. If you have kids you probably relate to the decision anxiety that comes with naming. Will the name fit his/her personality? Will the name be memorable and unique? Will it withstand the test of time? The classic choice overload paradox sets in. The infinite number of possibilities makes the ultimate decision even harder. Not to mention the significance a corporate name can hold. Choosing your company’s name is one of the most important decisions you’ll make, as it sets the tone for all future branding initiatives. For better or for worse, your business name helps create a strong first impression with potential customers and investors.
As a brand marketing agency, Bluetext has assisted a number of companies in the naming selection process. Many of our clients considering a new name often ask, “Well, where do we begin? How do we name our company?” And truthfully, there is no right answer to that. Coming from years of branding and messaging experience, we’ve learned successful new names can arise in a variety of ways, but names do tend to flatline for a few consistent reasons. So, we figured it would be best to start with what not to do, leaving exactly what to do open to the unique circumstances. Keep reading for a number of tests that can help you weed out names that can help you avoid brand regret down the road.
How Not to Name Your Company
Copy the Competition: Don’t select a name that mirrors others in your industry. Especially if you are in a crowded industry, or perhaps have business offerings that span multiple industries, it’s paramount you do thorough research to ensure there are no similarly spelled or pronounced competitors.
Twitter Test: Nowadays it is expected (and advantageous!) for every business to have social media accounts. One quick test for your new company name is whether it’s compatible with common social media handles. If your name is too long to be a Twitter handle (maxed at 15 characters), your handles will need to be adapted on other platforms as well.
Go Crazy with Creative Spelling: One of the biggest trends in naming is creative adaptations to spelling common words. For example, how Waze adapted the spelling of “ways” to creatively communicate their business. This strategy can be successful but can risk confusion. The issue with having an overly complex name is that you’ll always have to spell it when you say it because it isn’t spelled how people hear it. This could cause challenges with potential customers finding your business.
Bluetext’s Rule of Thumb: When doing alternate spellings of names, try and stay to one letter tweak per name.
Disregard the Domain Availability: Don’t fall in love with a name with an unavailable URL. When researching or considering new names, we recommend looking up the domain options immediately.
Let in Too Many Voices: While great in theory, opening this discussion to the masses is never a good idea. It is incredibly unlikely that involving everyone will result in a consensus. Oftentimes involving too many decision-makers is like having too many cooks in the kitchen, it just results in an inefficient and stagnant discussion of competing opinions.
Bluetext Rule of Thumb: Involve only key decision-makers. Ones with the company’s best interest in mind, and those able to leave their egos at the door. It may be worth taking the decision to a vote when you have selected a top 2 or 3 names, but in the early ideation and decision phases, be sure to limit the discussion to only relevant stakeholders.
Frankenstein Phrases: One common naming tactic is to combine parts of an adjective and a noun into a new word. While great in theory, more often than not the name seems disjointed or forced. The two words might work great on their own, but just don’t go together. Other common fallbacks include truncated words like Tech, Corp, or Tron.
Go Too Generic: While your name should not be overly descriptive and superfluous, going too generic can also be dangerous. Random acronyms don’t give any hint into your brand, offerings, or story. A good test is whether someone could tell what industry you’re in by the name. Overgeneralizing could cause people to overlook your company if there is no sense of differentiation. Conversely, you also don’t want to use a name that is too specific to the industry you’re in, as doing so will limit your ability to expand into new territories and sectors with the same company name.
Forget to Practice Pronunciation: One of the most telling tests of a name: Can it be easily pronounced? Ask unbiased third parties to read the name aloud. Did they pronounce it as you expected? Can you easily repeat the word over and over without mispronouncing? Does the name roll off the tongue or is it a jumble of awkward consonants? Just like you would want your brand to look and feel right, you need your company name to sound and feel right.
We’ve shared our top eight ways not to name your company, but what should you do? Consult a professional branding agency. Hiring a third party brings in a fresh perspective to your company and overall brand strategy. Not to mention they will have a staff of professional copywriters who can help craft your new name and corporate messaging.
Need a new name? What are you waiting for? Contact Bluetext to learn more.
Choosing a new name for a brand or a product is never easy. This is particularly true for companies that, through private equity acquisitions and spin-offs or other M&A activity, find themselves needing to quickly find a new name to separate them from their past affiliation. But finding a name that is original and conveys the right tone and attributes is difficult. Add to that the requirement that a URL be available, and it becomes seemingly impossible. Yet, as top branding agencies know, finding a strong new name can help launch a new brand that gets noticed, or re-ignite an old brand that is need of a new direction. What it takes is a proven and disciplined approach.
Finding the right name is hardly a new problem. Ford Motor Company notoriously faced this issue in the mid-1950s when launching a new line of vehicles into the U.S. market. Recently retold in an article in The New Yorker magazine, Ford searched long and hard to find a name for its newest car, even turning to a poet for help. She came up with a long list of suggestions that didn’t sound like a car, including the Intelligent Bullet, the Ford Fabergé, the Mongoose Civique, the Bullet Cloisoné and (my favorite) the Utopian Turtletop. Instead, Ford chose to name the car after the founder’s son and called it the Edsel. It went on to become one of the most notorious failures in automotive history.
Would a better naming strategy save the car from its ignominious demise? Maybe not, because the vehicle had other issues that didn’t resonate very well with consumers.
Flash forward 60 years, and the name challenge is even more difficult, with the modern twist of the proliferation of URL “squatters” that buy up every word combination in the hope that they can sell it at a profit, making it nearly impossible to find an available word without paying a fortune for the domain. Today, bad naming decisions still plague the corporate world. Earlier this year, the Tribune Publishing Company, owners of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune among other papers, decided to rebrand itself as a content company and chose the name Tronc, short for Tribune Online Content. The name was not well-received in the market, and the company has since put itself up for sale (and has seen a half-billion-dollar sale to Gannett fall through). Any branding professional would have seen that coming.
Why? First and foremost, because it’s an ugly sound, that’s a key criterion for a new name. As The New Yorker article points out, there is lots of research about how people respond to words and sounds. So, for example, front-vowel sounds – ones that are formed in the front of the mouth like the “i” in “mil” – evoke “smallness and lightness.” Those that come from the back of the mouth, such as the “a” in “mal,” emote “heaviness and bigness.” Softer consonants, like “s” and “z,” seem lighter than so-called “stop consonants,” like “k” and “b,” which seem weightier. When George Eastman invented the name Kodak in 1888, he did so because he liked that “k” was “a strong, incisive sort of letter.”
Bluetext’s Four Pillars of a Good Name
We’ve developed our own four naming pillars that we strive to meet when working with our clients. We believe that a new name should:
* Be easy to say
* Be easy to spell
* Be easy to remember, and
* Most important, Tell a story
We know that hitting all four of those elements is not always possible, especially as URL and trademark issues often require the use or words purposely misspelled, like the car service Lyft. Tronc fails on several fronts. It doesn’t tell a story about the brand, nor is it obvious on how it should be spelled. As The New Yorker puts it, “Tronc wants to seem light, fast, forward-looking, and unburdened by the media industry’s past, but its back-vowel sound and its leaden ‘k’ ending sonically convey something heavy, slow, and dull.”
Real words when used as names need to make a connection between the underlying meaning and the brand itself. So, for example, Tesla was a genius on the cutting-edge of innovation. Bluetext is the color that text turns when hyperlinked in a document, and thus is the window to the digital world. Made-up names don’t always have this connection, and thus need to rely on the root syllables and sound for their meanings. Lexus suggests luxury, Viagra both vitality and virility. Inspirata, a medical analytics company we recently helped to brand, suggests inspired data.
Names are the first exposure that key target audiences have to the brand or product, and need to be carefully thought out. A disciplined process for evaluating the key messages, the nature of the audiences, the competitive landscape and what that brand aspires to be in two-to-four years all need to be part of the process.
Bluetext has always prided itself as one of the leading naming agencies in the U.S. market. Our laser focus is on how a brand communicates its key attributes through the look and feel of its visual identity, and of course, through the name itself. Naming is, in fact, one of the more challenging elements of a brand, and the one that often stumps top branding agencies. There are several reasons for this, including finding a URL that is available along with the trademark.
That’s why we were so gratified to learn that Bluetext has been tagged as one of the top 10 naming agencies in the market by Clutch, the leading agency review site that provides market insight to guide business buying decisions. Clutch recently analyzed agencies that provide naming as part of its services and divided the leading contenders into those that are proven market leaders. Of the hundreds of agencies that Clutch evaluated, based on the ability to deliver, strong reviews, and focus on service, Bluetext ranked as number eight on the list of top agencies.
One of the reasons we believe that we rank so high on the Clutch list is our proven methodology that delivers strong name options for each of our clients who are seeking to rebrand either an entire organization or develop a naming system that includes products and services. We’ve renamed and rebranded major corporations in the technology, defense, consumer and enterprise sectors, as well as challenger brands, start-ups and new divisions and product lines. We seek to understand our client’s place in their markets as well as where they aspire to be in two to five years. Our proven process includes a thorough analysis of the competitive landscape and how a new name can help a brand stand out in its market. It also assesses where the market is heading, and how the right name can position a brand for success.
But don’t just take our word for it. Read through the independent analysis from Clutch and the various recommendations of our clients. They tell our naming story far better than we can.
Whether it is your portfolio of products, services or solutions, most marketing executives and branding professionals are well acquainted with the concept of brand architecture. They may be less familiar, however, with the related concept of naming architecture. While the two approaches are similar, there are significant differences in both purpose and process.
At its core, a naming system or naming architecture is created to simplify navigation of a suite of products, services or solutions, usually created via clear and concise names. It is important to create names that have SEO considerations in them from both a long tail and short tail perspective. In practice, a smart scalable naming systems enables a company or organization to guide the naming of its capabilities and offerings so that customers can readily understand what is being offered. You want these names to be accessible in the following three core components:
- Accessible to customers
- Accessible to search engine spiders
- Accessible in all markets you hope to target
Organizations most frequently need to develop a naming architecture or naming system when they are a startup or newly formed division or have merged with another organization and need to clearly present a new or combined set of products, solutions, capabilities and offerings. It is also required when an existing portfolio has become so inconsistent or burdened with proprietary names that it is too complex to comprehend or navigate.
A good naming hierarchy is useful when organizations can create a new offering and the naming of it is swift, painless, and builds on top of the naming system of its current offerings in market.
While developing a naming architecture may involve creating new names, it’s actually more critical to focus on creating consistent naming criteria, hierarchies, and constructs. In fact, this process often results in streamlining the number of proprietary names in a portfolio.
Here are four critical steps to creating and/or simplifying a naming system or naming architecture:
Model Your Portfolio
Analyze your current product suite as a starting point for understanding the naming challenges being faced and identifying opportunities for simplifying things.
No two companies are exactly alike, and no single architecture model fits all. This auditing process provides the framework for restructuring the portfolio and determining where different types of names fit.
For example, when WellNet needed to simplify their complex and evolving portfolio we helped them develop a framework by first organizing offerings into four broad categories: Health, Engage, Prescribe, and Advise. This enabled WellNet to offer a clear, comprehensive integrated solution to the market to achieve their growth goals.
Define Criteria For Naming
After analyzing the current suite of names, the next step is to determine the criteria for selecting the right types of names. When are generic or descriptive names most effective? When are suggestive names — names that evoke an offering’s purpose or benefits — more appropriate? When should you consider using arbitrary or made up names instead, given that these, while distinctive, are less meaningful?
For example, Inspirata. When entrepreneur Satish Sanan (who sold his previous enterprises for close to $1Billion) needed a branding firm to bring his new cancer diagnostics venture to market, he turned to Bluetext. Working with his extended management team, Bluetext created the name, messaging, brand, logo, visual identity, responsive website, family of videos, and process infographic to most effectively share with their target audience the impact of their solution. The name Inspirata was rooted in two key words. Inspired Data. Part of Satish’s vision was to inspire the medical industry of what’s possible when we curate, manage, and analyze big data using advanced technologies and methodologies. For Inspirata, SEO was not a focus out of the gate. Their business focuses on executive relationships with the world’s leading cancer centers. Capturing business opportunities through Google and other search engines was not a KPI thus he wanted a name that engaged and inspired their customers / partners as they build out their full vision.
Once the naming system criteria have been determined, the next step is to rationalize how the names will fit together within the suite of products. This step has two parts. First, one needs to determine the overall structure and hierarchy of names. Next, one needs to create consistent naming constructs. Here you consider the individual parts of a name. Typically, a naming construct will include a masterbrand, a specific product name (based on the naming selection criteria), and a descriptor. It may also, in certain cases, include a modifier that indicates the audience or specific area of solution for this offering.
For example, for our client Sourcefire you will see how we helped drive a smart scalable system for their products naming them as firePOWER, fireSIGHT, fireAMP, and fireCLOUD. This product naming system replaced naming from acquired brands like Clam AV, Snort, and Razorback.
With all of these systems in place, it is critical to ensure the naming architecture will endure the test of time. This is accomplished by developing internal governance procedures, future naming frameworks, style guidelines, and other tools to aid decision-making and compliance. You want to make sure that moving forward, everyone involved follows the same process and guidelines when it comes to naming.
At the end of the day, the key goal is accessibility, clarity and consistency. By developing an effective and enduring naming architecture, a product portfolio becomes more understandable for customers, while reducing the cost and complexity of creating and managing names as a unique process each time.
My colleagues and I at Bluetext have spent a fair amount of time developing brand and positioning strategies for dozens of new, disruptive and innovative brands…and more often than not are tasked with creating a new name for the company, the products or services they deliver, or both.
With 99.9 percent of the commonly-used words in the dictionary already taken among the close to 300 million registered domains from more than 125 million companies worldwide, how many great names could possibly be left?
We are currently in the process of branding and naming a highly disruptive technology product that is almost certain to quickly become one of the most visible B2B product brands in the US. We thought this might be a good time to define the five critical tenets of coming up with a great new name:
1. The most important aspect of a brand or product’s name is a crystallized vision statement and its supporting proof points. The name should deliver against your core objective for the business and central vision for the brand. Perhaps the most important question you need to answer is whether the brand should be company-focused or product-centric. In most cases it’s the former – but many well-known brands – like RIM’s Blackberry – have successfully incorporated a strategy that leads with the latter.
2. Before you begin the name-storming process, agree on what you want the attitude or voice of the brand to be – what emotion, feeling or idea do you want it to evoke when you see and hear it? Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz summed it up best by saying, “A great brand raises the bar – it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it’s the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness, or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you’re drinking really matters.”
3. Once you establish your vision, there is a set of ten key initial criteria that any name being considered must meet:
- Is it easy to remember?
- Is it easy to understand?
- Is it easy to pronounce?
- Is it easy to spell?
- Does it sound good when spoken?
- Does it look good when written?
- Is it unique?
- Is it trademarked?
- Is the domain name available?
- Are there any negative connotations with it?
4. Consider the five primary approaches to naming to determine which may best represent your central vision for the brand in a distinct and powerful way:
- Functional or Descriptive (Facebook, Instagram, UnderArmor )
- Derived from Color, Number, Shape or Word Root (Accenture, RedBull, Starbucks)
- Experiential based on Human Processes (Discover, United, Visa)
- Abstract or Evocative (Apple, Uber, Virgin)
- Invented (Google, Skype, Xfinity)
5. Quantity and Diversity Equals Quality – Naming is a matter of satisfying many competing criteria – and while we have seen cases where the first name our team comes up with ends up being the final one chosen – the chances of having a name just pop into your head that meets all of them is practically impossible. The most effective way to come up with a name is to think of lots of different ideas, carefully screen and choose, and repeat. One method that’s proven effective is having all names under consideration sorted into an A and B list and reconciling it every time a new one is introduced. It is interesting to see names held initially in high favor lose a little bit of their luster with each review, while others move up the ladder.
Once a name is chosen – it will be forever attached to the brand or product it is developed for – so continuous review is critical to ensure it will stand the test of time.
Bluetext is pleased to announce that on July 25, its client Acentia launched with a new brand identity and website to better represent its mission supporting customers on programs of National Significance. Over the past three months Bluetext worked with the Acentia management team, employees and customers to overhaul its messaging, create its brand, design and develop a new website, and re-launch the company to the public. On July 22 Acentia brought all of its employees to Nationals Park to unveil the brand for the first time. The launch was covered in the Washington Post and Washington Business Journal, and represents the type of fully-integrated campaign that Bluetext can deliver for clients. Be on the lookout for their new advertising campaign in the coming months.
Bluetext completely rebranded ITSolutions to Acentia. Including name, logo, tagline, visual identity system, messaging platform, brand positioning, website, collateral system, public relations and social media.
Bluetext launched Acentia at Nationals Park followed by major Washington media coverage.
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Bluetext produced a family of thought leadership videos to communicate sector focus inside Acentia.