• Transform magazine
  • November 18, 2019

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Insights: What’s the difference between creating a brand name and naming a goldfish?

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The 2019 Transform Awards Europe will celebrate excellence in rebranding and brand development for the 10th year. Labbrand is nominated for the awards

At first sight, naming a brand or a product is about creation – a type of creation that seems easily accessible. Unlike drawing for instance, we all write, play Scrabble (at least once in a lifetime) and we all already found names for our children, our dogs or our goldfishes. So why not a brand name? And here is where it may start out wrong. You know how to write but it doesn’t mean you can write a book. Same with a brand name. It is not just about letters.

The art of the brand name has specific features. Unlike for your goldfish, the name of a brand has an ambassador role. A name is the first step in the brand building process, it conveys the first message of your brand and resonates with your brand positioning. The question of meaning is key. What do we want to say through the name? A name can say something about who you are, what you do, how you do it, your vision of life, your audience, rational or emotional benefits, the experience you promise, offering a large scope of possibilities. Hence 'naming' is a question of strategic choices which implies going beyond the surface and raising questions that help consolidate the brand positioning.

Having said that, naming is not solely a question of meaning. The form a name should take is equally important. In short, how do we want to say what we mean? We can subconsciously suggest a message in playing with name types (existing, coined, arbitrary), phonetics, languages (Italian, French or English resonate differently) or visual aspects (rounded shapes or symmetric sharp letters for instance). All these forms are part of the story and the building of the personality of the brand. Celeritas, Rapido, Zip or Hop! are different ways to talk about rapidity but will create different brands. The choice of a form defines the brand ambition and degree of audacity in building its difference.

When you named your goldfish, you were the main decision maker. In our increasingly complex organisations, where collaborative is the new motto, yet hierarchy and egos remain end validators, the journey to give birth to a name, and ultimately a brand, may be chaotic. Many wrong processes lead to weak consensus, disappointment or nonsense. Adding the fact that, in naming, crush at first sight is a legend, your chances to succeed may reduce to zero. Successful name creation is a tailor-made facilitation journey where you need to embark the right people at the right time in the right direction.

Finally, name creation is by essence dedicated to the outside world. Your goldfish will spend its life alone in its bowl, but your brand is going to address different targets in different countries, cultures and will navigate among competitors, resulting in the two usual constraints in naming: legal and linguistic.

There are over 37m trademarks registered across the world not to mention the .com that you are eager to own. Finding the perfect name available is therefore not easy. Rather than a constraint, legal is an opportunity to further differentiate and boost creativity.

Any article on name creation will relate to an amusing anecdote of bad connotations or cultural pitfalls in another language (as the Chinese car Trumpchi about to be renamed for the US market). To avoid bad buzz or costly changes, a name should be checked in all languages and countries you target.

To conclude, the brand name is a fascinating journey in which you start building relevance and difference with foresight.

Nadège Depeux, brand strategy director, Labbrand Paris

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