Creating an identity is a fun part of brand marketing. Except for one little thing... the brand name. Check out this easy-to-follow guide on how to come up with a brand name.
There are some company brand names that just seem to stick with us. Can you imagine a world in which our favorite soda and beans hadn’t been christened Coca-Cola or Heinz? Who knows what we’d be asking for at dinnertime! But why is a brand name so important? And how can you come up with a brand name?
Think of it like this - everything needs a name.
It’s the label that people will refer to things by, and it is something that will define the very thing that it's naming.
When you think of all the best brand names, you’ll start to realize just how important it is to try and come up with one that will grab your target market’s attention. Take the name “Hoover” for example. This simple word has now gone on to become a catch-all term for the common vacuum cleaner. Even if a household doesn’t have a Hoover-branded vacuum, they’ll probably still refer to their model as a Hoover. Imagine if your new brand name went on to become the household standard for your product? Customers will be asking for you in the shops without even thinking about it, and you’ll blow your competitors right out of the water!
You’ll already know just how difficult it can be to come up with such a unique and catchy brand name, though. You might have way too many ideas and trying to pinpoint the best one for your brand could be like being made to choose between your own kids. That’s when there’s just you trying to decide – imagine how chaotic it can be when you have a whole team of managers behind you shouting out their own ideas!
Some companies spend weeks, even months, agonizing over a new brand name. They want to get it just right as the name really could be make or break for them – you can’t just go with the first word someone thinks of.
On the face of it naming should be easy, but it very rarely is. There are a few problems that many companies face – you might have even encountered some of these yourself already.
- Everyone on your team disagrees. With too many opinions, it can be very difficult to reach a final decision.
- Everything you come up with is, well… let’s face it, not that great. Inspiration doesn’t always strike when you want it to and your list of possibilities might only be a couple of suggestions that, to put it bluntly, suck.
Do they sound like the problems you’ve been having?
Don’t worry; you certainly won’t be the last company to go through these. Now you just need to know how to push through and get to your perfect brand name. These steps should help.
This isn’t a decision that should be opened up to the whole of your staff, as there will be too many conflicting ideas to shortlist. Spend some time deciding on a small core team of stakeholders who can debate the best brand name to go with. Your brand manager would be the best person to supervise this team.
What are the core values of your company? Who are you trying to attract with this new brand name? How do you want this to reflect your business? Once you’ve answered these niggling questions, you should find it easier to think of a word that can better reflect your brand.
Now that you should have a list of possibilities, you need to pick out your favorites for a shortlist. You might find that sorting the names into categories helps you with this. Once you’ve got a shortlist, evaluate each one and think of its strengths and weaknesses. Any on the list that could be seen as offensive? Disregard them straight away!
Now you’ve got your shortlist, it’s important to take another look at your potential brand names from another perspective.
Before you make that all-important decision, you need to make sure that the one name you think sounds original and catchy will translate well. After all, you don’t want to limit yourself to a monolingual market. And you certainly don’t want to unknowingly put your foot in it by giving your wonderful new product a name that could offend speakers of another language, or just give them a good laugh.
Your brand name needs to be able to cross borders just as easily as the product itself will. Perhaps the name you’ve chosen means something less-than-polite in Mandarin. Or perhaps it’s the name of a controversial figure somewhere on the globe. Perhaps it just sounds really odd in the language spoken by one of your target markets. You should focus most of your attention on the languages spoken in markets you’re currently operating in or plan to operate in. But it’s also worth making sure that it wouldn’t be controversial in any of the world’s major languages, just in case you become an international phenomenon.
Of course, you can never guarantee that it won’t have negative connotations in any of the seven thousand plus languages spoken on our wonderfully varied planet, but as long as you’re not offending millions you should be okay. Some brands do, of course, change product names for different markets for just this reason, but if you can then it’s best to keep your brand name consistent internationally.
Here are a few examples of international brand names gone wrong, and what we can learn from them:
- Mercedes-Benz first entered the Chinese market as “Bensi”, which means “rush to die”.
If you’re targeting a specific market, make sure you work with a native speaker.
- Ford tried to launch the Pinto in Brazil, not realising that it’s a slang term for rather small male genitals.
Take slang into account when selecting a name, especially if you’re borrowing a word from another language.
- Vicks thought that their brand name would do just fine in Germany, but failed to take into account that Germans pronounce “v” as “f”, and “ficks” is rather an intimate term. The brand is now known as Wicks in Germany.
Just because something isn’t spelled in a certain way doesn’t mean it won’t sound strange when it’s said out loud.
- Colgate launched a toothpaste called “Cue” in France without realising that there’s a French pornographic magazine with the same name.
It’s not just offensive words you want to avoid. Other products or companies with the same name could cause you problems too.
So, you think you’ve come up with the perfect brand name? Not so fast! Once you have a contender that looks set to be crowned as your new brand name, it’s worth letting your whole team know. You don’t have to take any of their personal feedback onboard, but it’s worth passing it by as many people as possible to make sure there are no negative connotations that you might have missed.
What will your competitors think about your new brand name? You’ll no doubt want them to be green with envy over just how excellent it is – you certainly don’t want their ears to prick up thinking that it reminds them of something… like their own name! Your brand name needs to be completely unique so that it doesn’t infringe on any copyright that your competitors might have taken out to protect their own names. Not only could this put you in some hot legal water, but it might also end up confusing your target market.
Choosing a new brand name can end up being quite frustrating and there may be some situations in which you feel like you make little progress. Sticking to the process above, though, should help you come up with a great name without too many problems. It’s really worth spending the time on this process as creating a fantastic brand name is one of the key foundations of any company. Once you have a strong name in place, it will certainly be a lot easier to build a reliable brand around it.
A good name is just a small part of building a strong brand. Read why brand tracking should also matter.