We are often asked about naming brands. We always say:

How your brand looks and feels is more important than your name.

Of course we aren’t saying that names aren’t important. But all too often names are looked at in isolation rather than in context. The perception of names changes with their associations and names go in and out of fashion. We don’t believe brands should take heed of fashion when it comes to naming and branding, because you can’t predict the future. We believe that brands need to consider naming in context and create branding based on their own principles, beliefs and story. People remember pictures more than words.

On its own, Pizza Express sounds like takeaway pizza. But the brand feels far more aspirational than the name suggests. People recognise before they read. If I said ‘Cola in can with red stripe’ or ‘face cream in blue tub’ you identify with the picture that paints in your mind of the brand, yet I haven’t even mentioned the name.

It’s important to look at names in context, especially for a start up. A name on a blank piece of paper may feel right, but may lead to a less successful branding solution. The two elements should really work in harmony.

 

THERE ARE A COUPLE OF WAYS OF LOOKING AT NAMES. THEY ARE A LITTLE LIKE PASTA.

  • You can get filled pasta: interesting on its own, with or without a sauce. The sauce is always in harmony with the filling. With Innocent for instance, their name is emotive. It drives everything they do, from graphics and adverts to having a banana phone.
  • Or you can get shaped pasta, which needs a sauce. These names rely heavily on the branding. With Giraffe for instance, if you’re not familiar with the brand  and hear the name in isolation, you wouldn’t necessarily think that they’re a family friendly chain of restaurants. Once you see their logo, graphics, interior design etc you understand what they’re about. Why are they called Giraffe? They’ll tell you “giraffes are so tall they see a different view of the world. We LOVE fresh ideas”, which is a nice story, but chances are you’ll find out about this while you’re eating at one of their restaurants.

Neither approach is right or wrong. It just depends what’s right for your business.

Our advice is to sort out your branding and naming together if possible, pick something unique and something that feels right, that emotively fits with your company.

 

AVOID ABBREVIATIONS. DO THIS INSTEAD:

The only thing we’d steer clear of are abbreviations. They only work when your customers abbreviate your name. It’s an organic process, your name becomes an historical shorthand (IBM, HSBC, BHS). Instead try this:

  • There is nothing wrong with using your name (It worked for Kellog’s, Ford, John Lewis).
  • You can take two words and combine them to make a new name (Tesco, Natwest, Fedex).
  • You can take a word that sums up your business emotively (Innocent, Lush, Divine).
  • Or you could be upfront and descriptive about what you do (The Body Shop, The White Company, Eat).
  • Or you could make up a new word (Haagen Dazs, Lego).

There are lots of variations of course, Virgin came, apparently, from being complete ‘virgins of business’. But its name you associate with the companies of Richard Branson. While most people wouldn’t question what the origins of the name are or what it really means, it’s a nice back story to the name and back stories help to drive identity. Ultimately the brand is presented confidently and everyone knows what it looks like.

 

STRAPLINES:

We’d only add a strapline if it sums up your business in one memorable soundbite. Why would you have a strap line that’s saying the same thing as your name? That is pointless. What’s the point in saying the same thing twice? What’s the point in saying the same thing twice?

 

DON’T BOAST

Saying you are amazing means nothing. I don’t believe SKY is better or that Peugeot is the ride of my life. A testimonial or review from someone saying you are good, works wonders however.

Whatever you do, make sure that it’s truthful about what you do, what you believe and your values. And communicate with confidence. Do that, and you can’t really go wrong. Remember, the most important thing is you, what you do and why you are doing it. Everything is else is just communication, and if no-one likes what you are communicating, they won’t listen.