What’s in a name?

Your name is your primary form of identity bringing along with it a number of attributes and perceptions. This is as true for organisations as it is for people.

Brand names are the first opportunity any business gets to stand out - for good or bad - with the name and its reputation often proceeding engagement, making first impressions that bit more important. 

With that in mind, big organisations spend large amounts of money – some around $100 million, on finding a name for their business, products and services. However, even then, some have in the past overlooked simple things such as pronunciation and regional connotation; from Vicks to Mercedes-Benz which entered the Chinese market with the brand name ‘Bensi’, meaning ‘rush to die’. Even Coke has previously been caught out when, after launching Schweppes in Spain, the brand realised the Spanish struggled to pronounce the name of its product.

Big budgets have saved some of these business from further trouble (e.g. Coke invested big money in a national television campaign educating Spain on how to pronounce ‘Schweppes’), but not every organisation have this level of finance to fall back on. And once the damage is done it’s hard to change perception which is why investing some time on research is key to ‘getting it right’.

So how do you go about finding the right name?

The key is to define what a good name should deliver. Defining the brief will allow you to widen the creative process but give you the tools to hone down the options objectively. Setting some criteria or guidelines to assess a name’s relevance contributes to a more rational, goal-driven decision, which usually leads to better results for the business. 

As this article shows many of the most well known names came about randomly but there are ways of getting the creative juices flowing. Exploring the value and relevance of the thing you’re naming and playing around with the word constructions and languages are two of them; an interesting exercise we very much enjoy doing.

And holding what you come up with against the audiences, competitive environment, wider brand offer, naming heritage, future development, trademarking, available domains etc. will help you steer through the clutter.

Thus, naming should not be a random exercise, but – paradoxically - a creative rational. Having plenty of ideas is always a good start, but… the question here is: how many of those answer the brief? From those, how many could work? And which ones could we own? A tricky process, but ultimately it is a laborious journey worth investing in.

To find out about the organisations we have helped in this area see the links below:

Maintaining relevance: Charter (Coloplast)

Owning the cause: Keeping Britain's Horses Healthy - KBHH (MSD Animal Health)

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