Regardless of the product or service that your business provides, the first thing that you need to consider when embarking on opening the business is how to find a good brand name. The brand name, often together with the brand image/logo, is the first element of the business that customers encounter so you want to make sure that it’s memorable and distinctive enough to stick in customers’ minds.
A brand name is linked to the customer’s impression of the business and inspires a sense of trust and connectedness. Your brand name doesn’t have to describe what the business does because you will have supporting taglines and images to tell that story. The brand name communicates the business’s presence in a way that gives customers a reason to go looking for that brand’s product or service and then return.
According to Marty Neuemier in The Brand Gap, for companies ranging from clothing and sportswear products to pokies and other entertainment services, “customers will always want convenient ways of identifying, remembering, discussing, and comparing brands. The right name can be a brand’s most valuable asset, driving differentiation and speeding acceptance.”
If you’re embarking on a new business adventure, it may seem a daunting task to choose the right brand name. You need to find a name that works, that resonates and is memorable. Your brand is the first opportunity that you have to distinguish yourself from your competitors. Your brand includes your brand name as well as your image, your tagline, your advertising, reputation, customer service and other profile-building elements.
Once you choose your brand name, you can’t sit back and wait for the brand to take off. You have to see branding as a perpetual process because the market is always changing and you have to make sure that your brand evolves as well. Your branding impacts your company because it influences how people see your product or service, drives new business and can increase your brand value.
That’s why finding the right brand name should be your first step as you move your business forward.
The time to choose a brand name is:
- When you’re starting a new business or have developed a new product.
- You need to change an existing name to represent a new direction for an existing business (Facebook recently rebranded as “Meta” to signal their focus on the metaverse).
- You want your brand name to be more reflective of your service or product (remember the scene in Forest Gump when he says that he’s made a lot of money because someone invested for him in “some kind of fruit company” – Apple!).
There are six different types of brand names including founder names, descriptive names, metaphor names, acronym names, real-world names and fabricated names.
Regardless of the type of brand name that you choose, it should be easy to remember and say, timeless and tireless. You want it to have some kind of rhythm and not be too unwieldy to pronounce.
Levis, Ben & Jerry’s, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger are examples of brands that were named after their founder and are popular because they inspire a sense of connectivity and familiarity. These types of names are often found in the fashion industry (Gucci, Tiffany), are generally unique (unless your name is John Jones or Sam Smith) and become familiar over time. These names are good for brand owners who want to create a lifestyle brand and are fairly sure that they won’t be selling the name.
Descriptive names tell you exactly what the product or service does. The name itself expresses the nature of the business but if you choose a descriptive name, you might find it hard to find a name that hasn’t yet been used which makes it harder to own and protect the name. Some well-known descriptive brand names include Facebook and Groupon.
Metaphor names reflect meaning and imagery back into the brand. They are meant to help you visualize the image that the company wants you to “see” whenever you see the brand’s name. Amazon, forever, is the world’s largest river and evokes a huge jungleland with thousands of species of animals and plants – a good name for a company that supplies pretty much everything. Using a metaphor name is what is known as “positioning the brand.”
Acronym names make a long name more “friendly.” Kentucky Fried Chicken takes too long to say so the brand changed it to KFC. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank is now known as “HSBC” – a move meant to make it more acceptable to an international audience and help it grow globally. Today, who knows what IBM (International Business Machines) or CVS (Convenience, Value and Service) stand for? Yet few people today are unaware of exactly what those brands provide.
Real-world names are regular words that brands have adopted and now are recognized as relating to that brand. “Uber” means an outstanding example and “Sharp” means big, bold ambitions. Good choices for brands whose services aim to provide just that but go beyond.
Fabricated names like Nike and Google are distinctive and can turn the name itself into a “thing”. They’re also easy to copyright so your intellectual property is well-protected.
Some stories behind iconic brand names:
Cadillac cars date back to 1902 when General Motors created a luxury car. They named it a “Cadillac” which was the name of the French explorer who founded Detroit where General Motors was located. Today there are few people who have not heard expressions like “it’s the Cadillac of ballpoint pens” or “it’s the Cadillac of pillowcases” which simply indicate good quality.
For years, schoolchildren would use the term “googolplex” as the term that meant the highest number. In mathematics “googol” has traditionally meant the number 1 followed by 100 zeros and Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, chose it when they launched their first search engine.
Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos originally called his company “Cadabra”, short for Abracadabra” but Bezos’s lawyer thought that it sounded too much like “cadaver” so Bezos, who wanted a name with an “A” so that it would appear first in an alphabetical listing in a web search, chose “Amazon” because of its imagery of strong, swift and exotic. The fact that the name is similar to the word “amazing” didn’t hurt either.