Naming a brand is a very delicate process. Emotions and opinions come into play, and sometimes it can feel exhausting to find the right solution. Here are some pieces of advice to handle the task and come out alive.
In the Bible, we read about God giving names to day and night, to earth and sea. And it all goes smoothly for two reasons: he’s the first one to give names and there is no one else around to question his ideas.
Jokes aside, brand naming can feel like a biblical effort, whether you are the brand owner or the creative working on it (or maybe you are both). A deceptively simple mission, naming seems to touch our very core and fights over a brand name can become intense. After all, it’s one of the key elements of branding.
This is because names are powerful and they shape reality. Which, surprisingly, doesn’t mean that you need the perfect brand naming. I will explain.
Your brand naming: does it exist already? Yeah, probably
This will probably be hard to accept, so let’s tackle it upfront: your name – even the one you will choose – is probably taken. Fifteen years ago, you wouldn’t have known it, as most businesses were not online.
Today, though, brand naming is a different thing. Every small pancake shop of Kuala Lumpur, every thrift store in Melbourne, and every student association in Nairobi is online. Humans are naming things everyday.
So if you Google that up it will probably come up, one way or the other. The first reaction is usually of shock and disappointment: understandably, we want our brand name to be completely unique. This is not impossible, but it shouldn’t be mandatory.
You want to make sure:
• the same name does not belong to a prominent brand
• the name does not belong to a brand in the same industry
• the name does not belong to a brand in the same territory
Apart from that, swallow your pride and assess the threat in a realistic way. If you have a very good brand name and it happens to have been used by a cookie shop in Nantucket, you might want to go ahead with it.
Of course, you could stumble into a name no one has ever thought of. In that case, good for you. But don’t make it a must, or you will end up with a list of complicated, weird-sounding names no one has picked up yet, for a reason.
No URL? No worries
This is another common anxiety in brand naming, and it’s usually put forward in the brief phase: “we want the .com to be free!”. As you might know, this is becoming increasingly hard.
The most sought-after domain extensions, like .com, are a finite resource that is being consumed by the day: not necessarily by a brand with that name. It could be a personal blog or even someone who just bought it to speculate. Or it may be available for purchase – starting from 5.000$. Too many good names have been sacrificed on the altar of the .com domain.
Consider that users are skilled today, they don’t need the domain to be identical to your brand name. You can:
• use a creative URL: your brand is called “Spoon”? Go for tryspoon.com or haveaspoon.com! There all sorts of creative ways to circumvent this problem.
• use a different domain extension: today you can have tech or company or hotel and so many others. Alternative domain extensions are becoming commonplace and you can use them to build a sentence to make the most of it.
A good brand naming? Don’t crowdsource it
There comes a time, in almost every brand naming process, when hopes are down and the client (or the agency) resorts to crowdsourcing. Hey, let’s hear what everyone has in mind.
This can be useful at the beginning, and only if people are asked to suggest values or references. If you ask people to input names, be prepared for a disaster.
No matter how good, people will come up with all sorts of names, most of them unusable. Realizing how hard it is to find a good and free name will frustrate people, rather than engage them. Or worse, you will try diplomacy with a mash-up. Don’t go down that road.
Judge brand naming with your heart, but mostly with your ears
Naming, while apparently simple, is a very technical thing. But then, judging it is up to you. How to do it? First of all, listen to the rationale. It matters, but not 100%. Then, use your heart. How does the name feel? This is usually pretty straightforward. Don’t trust your heart too much, though: being very attached to your brand, your judgment might be biased.
Or you might associate it to a memory or another brand you dislike (but that’s just you). Give more credit to your ears: the way a name sounds is usually the most important thing. If it sounds awkward, hard to pronounce, or embarrassing, just skip it.
A brand naming takes on meaning with time
Lastly, don’t ask too much about your brand naming. It has to be good, it doesn’t have to be perfect. If it sounds good and is quite memorable, it will be fine. You will build associations with branding and communication. Just think of how many brands with obscure or weird names have built strong associations through the years and are now more powerful than many “trendy” brands with carefully crafted names.
Your brand naming is out there. Go and take it.
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