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.