Shakespeare was wrong when he said that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” because nothing is more important in marketing and brand building than picking the right brand name.
Memorable, catchy descriptive names are best because they communicate the essential idea or value proposition of the brand in an instant, and may even re-trigger the essential meaning of the brand every time the name is mentioned. So names like: AirBnB, Burger King, DirecTV, Energizer, Facebook, iPhone, Playboy, Mastercard, Netflix, Slimfast, Toys R Us and YouTube are born winners. [ So AT&T’s decision to acquire DirecTV and then drop the name is dumbfounding, don’t you think?].
Suggestive names are also very powerful because they involve the audience in the idea - and participation always enhances learning. So when people stop and consider names like; Alphabet, MTV, Playstation, Pinterest, Pampers, 7 Eleven, Tropicana, Twitter and Visa they will join the dots, go “aha”, I get it and forever associate that name with its intended meaning like for example: “Visa is like a passport to get me anything I want”.
A variation on the genre is to craft the brand name around a more symbolic suggestion of what it wants to stand for like for example: Apple, Cosmopolitan, Fuji, Jaguar, Nike, Playboy, Rolling Stone, Red Bull, Uber or Virgin. The meaning of the symbol may be appreciated in an instant as in Jaguar equals a fast, sleek car. Sometimes it takes a little more work on the audience’s behalf but when they discover that interestingly, Nike symbolizes the Greek goddess of victory, the essence of the brand is indelibly imprinted.
Now of course there are those who resist all these discipline to create a coined name that simply stands out, sounds good and is sticky; like Amazon, BlackBerry, Gap, Google, Pepsi, Starbucks and Yahoo.
The selection and successful registration of a great brand name is hard, hard work in a world where a plethora of names exist for everything. However hard naming might be, don’t fall into the classic traps. Forget about even considering a bunch of letters like ABC, NBC or CBS. This might have worked in the good, old days when there were only three TV stations in America. It isn’t going to work today.
Now service companies like legal firms and ad agencies have long held to the convention of putting the names of the owners on the door. Okay maybe if there is just one name and that name is famous for something in particular like Ogilvy is for advertising, or perhaps Einstein for a business consultancy but not for a bagels place for goodness sake. A big no - no of course, is to put all the partners’ names on the door like Bruce Barton, Durstine and Osborn did in the day. You see people hate long names, they will abbreviate everything down to the fewest number of syllables so that name is going to be quickly shortened to a say nothing, mean nothing, series of letters “BBDO”. Or CPB, DDB, FCB, JWT, TBWA, Y&R - the list is endless which in the case of the advertising industry is frankly shameful given that we’re meant to be experts in branding. [Beyond just naming it is incredibly ironical and pretty pathetic that ad agencies have proved to be uninterested in branding themselves - but that’s another story].
The morale is this story is simple. The most important branding decision is the name because if brands are ideas that people store away in their hearts about a name, the bottom line is that it pays big time to begin the branding process by selecting a name that communicates the idea or value proposition in a pithy, catchy, memorable way that can’t be abbreviated and easily rolls off the tongue.
Today there is just one cardinal exception to this rule. Personal brand building should of course be focused on building the most important word[s] in every single person’s life – their own name