Inventing a brand name

Made up brand names

What do all of these brands have in common? They all have brand names which have been made up or invented, they are also very well known in their respective markets.

When we start a naming job we usually have a client who wants a name that tells a descriptive story about their brand, product or service. These can be the hardest briefs as there are usually a lot of similar names so it can be hard to be unique. These are often the safest type of names to enter the market place with, as they don’t require a lot of education or brand building. However, every now and then we get a client who gives us the creative freedom to invent a name for their brand.

Both approaches are great ways to derive a brand name; there are pros and cons for each which are worth considering. The most important thing to remember is that whatever name you choose it should be distinctive, memorable and ownable. A name is only one aspect of the brand and in the end it won’t be the name that creates a powerful brand it will be the layers of meaning and story telling behind the brand that make it successful.

No matter what approach you take, naming can be a challenging and time consuming process. We often say that choosing a name for your brand is like naming one of your children, the only difference is that there is usually more than two people making the decision, resulting in more debate, personal opinion and an often laborious process.


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We’re in the process of a naming project where we have the creative freedom to invent a name. We thought this would be a good opportunity to share the pros and cons of this naming approach:

Invented name – pros

• Your name can be unique which can differentiate you from the other players in the market
• URLs are more likely to be available which means you can own your name in the digital world and have an advantage when it comes to search engine optimisation.
• It provides a blank canvas for layers of meaning and emotional connection to be built around the brand.
• Element of disruption in the market place which can cause the market to notice your brand.

Invented names– cons

• The market may need some time to attribute the product or service you offer with your brand name.
• You need to be prepared to invest in the brand and stand up for the name you have chosen. If people don’t understand the name it will be easy for them to criticise it.
• When starting out, your product or service may not easily feature in search engine results.
• If the name is not easy to say or spell this can be a negative.

If you invent a new word it should sound linguistically correct and easy to say with consideration given to how it will sound in the different languages you operate with. If you’re not comfortable making up a new word, another approach is to take a word that is already in existence and put it in a new context to create a unique and memorable name. e.g. Apple, Amazon.

If this approach doesn’t feel right for your brand there are some other approaches to naming that you may want to consider:

Founder
Companies are often named after their reputable founders in an effort to assure customers that a noteworthy person is overseeing the company (or for the founder’s ego) e.g. Ford, Myer, Walt Disney.

Provenance
The name has a strong association with where the product comes from, or the history of the company that produces them, their provenance.  More often than not the name is a place e.g. Evian, Australia Post, British Airways.

Functional/Descriptive
This is the simplest forms of name and is entirely literal. These names describe the product or technology used – “exactly what they say on the tin” e.g. Trip Advisor, Toy ‘r’ Us.

Image based/Associative
These are names that work by association. They can serve as a metaphor for function, or emotional and feeling that you get when using the product or service e.g. Red Bull, Nike, Jaguar.

Initials or abbreviations
These are often created when descriptive or names of provenance have lost their context or importance or are believed too cumbersome for market. e.g. NAB, BMW, IMB, Westpack.

The most important thing to remember when embarking on a naming process is to develop a succinct brief that all decision makers agree on. Even if the name is made up it should still evoke the emotion and energy you are trying to create with your brand. In the end a name is just a name and it’s what you put behind the name that will make the difference. It is better to have a unique name rather than something that doesn’t resinate with your market or blends in so you don’t stand out.

Gemma Dittmar
Director of Brand Projects

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1 Comment

  1. Business Namings

    You’re so right that inventing a business name is a great way to go. Of course as you mentioned, it may take your customers a while to catch on but, I think that the benefits outweigh the negatives. If like you say, people wont know what it is that you do with a invented name, you can always add a tagline.

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