Expert brand namer and author of Brand Naming, Rob Meyerson, proclaims that, of all the strategic and marketing decisions you can make, a brand name is probably the one that will have the longest life span.
While a company may need to refresh its website every few years, or its brand identity every dozen, a brand's name can endure for centuries without having to change.
Take Coca-Cola, for instance. Coca-Cola is a brand name that has persisted for over 130 years, outlasting other brand choices like the shape of the bottle the beverage is sold in or the messaging used in its advertising. That's why choosing a brand name is one of the most important brand strategy decisions that needs to be taken.
With that in mind, I've put together nine nifty tips from Meyerson's book to help startup founders and marketers alike come up with some incredible brand names that will stand the test of time.
Whether you're looking for a real-word, descriptive name 'Pizza Hut', or something coined and a little more abstract like 'Google' and 'Dasani', deciding on the type of name you want (and don't want) can help you narrow down your choice.
When deciding on the type of name, bare in mind that a coined name à la Google will likely be easier to protect legally.
Let's imagine you're a startup selling flying cars. What kind of meaning do you want the brand name to convey. Do you want people to think of freedom? Consider a name riffing off of words like liberty or independence. How about weightlessness? Try exploring situations in which one feels weightless like diving, free-falling, or in outer space.
Consciously working towards an intended meaning can help you focus your efforts and explore naming options that will work hard for your brand with every syllable.
In the same way that words can convey semantic meaning, they can also evoke certain impressions and feelings through their tonality. Meyerson defines tonality as "the feeling a name evokes" and explains that it has to do with a brand's personality and that it can be communicated via a word's meaning, structure and sound.
Meyerson gives the example of Olay, which has a soft, open sound thanks to the letters 'o' and 'l', which may hint at the soft skin customers are likely to enjoy after using that brand's products.
Open a spreadsheet app and begin taking note of all of the ideas you have. Make sure that no idea gets left undocumented. If it means you have to bring a notepad and pen to bed, or a waterproof pad & marker for the shower, then so be it. You never know when a stroke of genius will strike so you have to be prepared to capture it at a moment's notice.
Take a look at the books, shows, podcasts, videos, websites, TikToks, and so on that your target audience is already engaging with. There might be a turn of phrase, word, or throwaway comment that sparks ingenuity.
Depending on your target market, you might be able to draw inspiration from other languages. If your target market is Ireland, the UK, and the US, then you can turn to non-English languages for inspiration.
Try translating words to do with the industry, your brand strategy, the meaning or emotions you're hoping to convey and something may just stand out as a potential brand name candidate.
Meyerson recommends creating hundreds of names — thousands even — for a single naming brief, using the method of "quality through quantity".
You only need one killer name, so by creating hundreds or thousands of potential names, the law of averages ought to work out in your favour with one of them being bound to fit the bill and be legally and linguistically viable.
Limit the number of people working on this to a handful at most. When you open the process up to large groups, it can hinder creativity as people succumb to the psychological phenomenon known as 'groupthink'.
Groupthink sees large groups tend toward conformity and can often be a hindrance to creative problem solving and decision making.
Sometimes you just need to sit with an idea in the back of your mind as you engage in other activities. Doing this allows your subconscious to process all of the information you've been pouring over and come up with something incredible, seemingly in the background.
If you've been hard at it, dictionary in one hand, thesaurus in the other and dictating your ideas to Siri, it might be time to take a break. Go for a walk. Grab a coffee. Call a friend. Do something, anything to clear your mind.
You might find that an idea pops up in the middle of an unrelated conversation. Just make sure you have your notepad or notes app on your phone to capture inspiration when it strikes.
If you're looking for help with brand strategy and naming your startup, product, or service, I can help. I work with companies to develop brand strategy, brand names, brand identity design, and web design.
If you want help to create a durable brand name that's likely to outlast virtually every other marketing material you produce, get in touch on the contact page.