The Dos and Don’ts of Naming New Brands

(My top ten rules AND a stay out of jail card, absolutely FREE!)

When you face the dilemma of what to call a new brand or product, you can engage an expensive consultant to help you to work this one out – or you can follow the rules below and have a go at it yourself.

Rule Number One: You Have To Name It.

The most important thing that you are going to do when you create a new product or service is to provide that product or service with a name. Why? Because it’s names that people remember. And because names become brands, and brands facilitate the selling of your products or services.

Rule Number Two: Don’t Dilute Your Goodwill.

Don’t fall into the trap of apply your existing name to everything. And this is especially true if you are launching a different product, to a different market, for a different budget. Despite having existing brand goodwill for something else, the rules are that the more you stick your brand name over something, the weaker it becomes.

Rule Number Three: Don’t Do Illegal Things.

Don’t call yourself a corporation (or similar) unless you are registered as such. You will find that it is illegal – and you will not pass go, you’ll go straight to jail.

Rule Number Four: Keep It Short.

If the name has to appear on a piece of packaging for a shop, make it short. Names like “Scratchy White Stuff that Rids Bacteria On Kitchen Bench” are not practical. It’s simply too long to fit on the packaging.

Rule Number Five: Avoid Geographic Limitations.

Avoid names that limit you geographically if you have plans for growth. Names like “Australian Pensioners Society” limits your market to Australia, “Melbourne Tea Shop” might mean you can’t move easily into Sydney. The exception to this rule is when you want to create a “village” image. In this environment, you might have multiple retail stores – but each one has the village’s name in its brand.

Rule Number Six: Don’t Be Dull.

Avoid long-winded, boring names that cannot be remembered. Worse, don’t shorten them to a bunch of initials and expect people to know what they mean. This naming strategy used to work – brands such as GE and IBM were founded on it – but it doesn’t work today. This means names like “Software Systems Incorporated” or SSI should be crossed off your list of options. Use short, catchy, simple words that can lock into a consumers mind and stick there.

Rule Number Seven: Communicate Who You Are.

The more your name communicates to consumers, the less money you have to spend to educate them. You can make up names (Kodak, Canon, Xerox are all examples) but these will mean that you will need greater marketing budgets to get them off the ground. Some naming experts advocate coined words (linguists call these morphemes) where there are two word segments brought together. Possibly the most famous example of this is Microsoft. They argue that by taking meaningful word segments (in other words, word segments that leave the right impression), you can create a meaningful brand name that conveys all the things you want it to convey.

Rule Number Eight: Check The Translation.

Don’t pick names that translate badly in another country if you think you might export there one day.

Rule Number Nine: Make Sure A Domain Is Available.

Check to see if the dot com domain name is available. If it’s not, don’t bother pursuing the name.

Rule Number Ten: Avoid Committees.

Never ever choose a name by committee. You are never ever going to get agreement. You just can’t please everyone. Someone has to be brave and make a decision.

How To Come Up With A Name.

STEP ONE: Think about what the name needs to convey.

STEP TWO: With your friends or associates and a very big piece of blank paper, draw up a long list of options.

STEP THREE: Match the options against criteria (your own and as described above) and come up with a short-list.

STEP FOUR: Check your shortlist against trademarks to see if they are available.

STEP FIVE: Pick the one you like best.

See! It wasn’t that tough….

Want more?

Check out more of my posts on brand and digital marketing.


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