December 4, 2018

Effective Naming Strategies for New Brands

Push10 web design strategy session for Facebook

Choosing a name for your company can be one of the most rewarding aspects of creating a new brand identity; what word will come to mind when people think of your product or service?

As you brainstorm potential possibilities, what should take precedence when choosing that name? Is it more important that it be straightforward? Memorable? Simple? According to Ken Beasley, Push10’s Director of Marketing and Business Strategy, “it’s not enough for a name to be catchy and memorable, it should also convey the feeling that the product or service provides. If the product is powerful, the name should be. If the service is uplifting, the name should be.”

While it may seem like a straightforward process, there are a handful of major mistakes and roadblocks you may come across if you don’t know any better. Check out our quick guide explaining where to begin, what to avoid, and what to keep in mind when choosing a name for your company.

Where to Start

Think. Before you get the pen to paper, go in with some purpose. What is the mission of your company? What vision do you want to express? Make sure you have a clear sense of these objectives before you decide on your name. One thing your name will NOT be able to do is express the entirety of your organization’s purpose. It’s important that you have a clear, concise sense of your company’s mission before you choose a name. A wobble-y sense of purpose won’t be cured with a zinger name.

Write. Start big and narrow down. Take out a whiteboard and list every catchy name that pops into your head. This is likely not how you’re going to find your perfect name, but it has another important purpose: it’ll get the bad names out of the way. If you can get the cliché names out of your psyche and onto the paper, they won’t be swimming around in your head, influencing your decisions, and will leave room for the true winners.

Make a Plan. When it comes down to it, a name is just a name. Who would have thought that a company with a fruit for a name, Apple, would become the most successful computer enterprise in the world? Think of your name as your child; for it to grow into a successful, resonating brand, you need to feed it the proper nutrients and give it a strong support system. In the beginning, your name won’t stand on its own. Before you launch your company’s name, be prepared to surround it with strong marketing, branding, design and messaging.

Don’ts

1. Don’t play it safe. While it may seem smart to pick a simple, straightforward name, this will ultimately hurt you. Being safe means being boring, and boring means unmemorable. It goes without saying that no one wants a boring company name, but more importantly, this choice will hurt you in the wallet when you have to spend extra in marketing and messaging to prove to your customers that you are memorable and unique.

2. Don’t overthink it. Don’t sweat the little details. A common source of unnecessary stress companies face is the acquisition of a domain name. With every possible four letter -.com currently taken, there’s no point in getting worked up over finding a great URL, because you likely won’t. With so many other options out there, such as .co; .io; don’t let a hiccup like this hold you back. Similarly, don’t expect to fall in love with your name right away. Again, when all is said and done, it really is just a name. The name doesn’t need to, and truthfully isn’t capable of, encompassing the entirety of your product; the brand traits, marketing, and messaging will do the heavy lifting over time.

3. Don’t copycat other companies just because they’re successful. While it might seem like the best bet is to copy the pros, this is a huge mistake. First, you must remember that the companies that resemble your own are your competition. You want to set yourself apart, not fade into the background, or worse, seem like an imposter. Second, this tactic will hurt you financially. You’ll have to work extra hard to express to consumers that you are both different and better than your competition, and your name will consistently hold you back.

4. Don’t expect to appeal to everyone. This is a big one that trips up a lot of entrepreneurial hopefuls. You’re not going to be able to appeal to everyone, so don’t even try. Instead, determine your target market, and focus in on what they want. Further, never underestimate your customers’ intelligence. Don’t dumb down the content; consumers can tell when you do this, plus they are more likely to remember you if you engage with their intellect. This rule is good to keep in mind even in the planning stages. Not everyone in your company is going to like the name. In fact, it may be better if more people don’t like it, because at least then they will remember it. If you get input from every single person, you’ll end up with the safest, and more boring, option. Sabrina Pfautz, Push10’s Partner and Creative Director, recommends to “pick a small handful of trusted advisors who know and understand your business and restrict feedback to that intimate group.”

Team of UX designers working on web design strategy

Do’s

1. Do keep an open mind. When the founders of Nike or Amazon wrote their name concepts on the whiteboard in their brainstorming meetings, initial feedback may have been a bit underwhelming. Out of context, these names certainly might look a little odd. But for these names to have been chosen, the company had to be willing to keep an open mind and see potential where others may miss it. Never forget that the name will be surrounded by marketing, branding, and messaging to give it the meaning that it will represent. Be willing to take a risk. And always remember that without supporting branding and marketing efforts, a name is often just a name, with little or no meaning.

2. Do be real and authentic. These days there are so many descriptive buzzwords companies tack onto their products that are not only a waste of time, they can be downright inaccurate. If your product isn’t actually innovative or groundbreaking, don’t claim it is. You will risk coming off as dishonest. Furthermore, if your product is actually innovative and groundbreaking, you shouldn’t have to say it. Thus, it’s better to avoid these sorts of lofty buzzwords altogether.

3. Do keep it short and simple. Your name is not there to explain what the product or service is. You’ll have plenty of other opportunities to do this. The name needs to merely be the representation of your product. Be sure to back your name with ample marketing, inciting your customers to make an association, which creates a much stronger impact. On the same vein, don’t feel the need to have a literal image of the product your name represents; the name will be on the product and therefore it’s redundant (who wants to wear a shoe with a picture of a shoe on it?). At the same time, don’t go to the other extreme and make up a nonsense word that you now have to train your consumers to memorize. Unless you have the branding budget of Spotify or Facebook, it’s best to choose a word that is already recognizable. A name acquires the personality traits you give it and people will learn to associate the brand traits with the name.

4. Do appeal to your consumers’ emotions. If you want your product to be memorable, it needs to contain more than a service. Sell an idea. Don’t tell your whole life story, because chances are this will bore your consumer base. Rather, give your product personality and make it relatable.

While these tips will help lead you to success in choosing your name, overall, the name is just one piece in the success of your business. If you really want to get ahead, you need to keep the big picture in mind from the beginning stages of product development to the final launch. As Sabrina explains, “it’s important to consider your brand’s logo, overall visual style, tagline, and messaging in conjunction with the name itself. Your customer experiences all of these components at once, and it’s the sum of those individual parts that create a memorable brand.”