• Transform magazine
  • February 04, 2023

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The method for brand naming

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Tim Dove and Sarah Bonnefoy, respectively the strategic director and senior brand strategist at New Zealand-based Re:Brand, argue the importance of adopting a good naming strategy to the success of a brand. They offer advice on how to get a new brand’s name just right.

Whatever the business stage you’re at, brand naming is always a challenging time and a huge focus for business owners and managers. Most feel like it’s the most important decision they have to make in regards to their brand. And rightly so.

History is littered with brands that have demonstrated it can be very damaging to “get it wrong”, because a name is the exposed element of a business strategy. But what if following the right methodology could make the task of choosing a name a lot smoother (and more enjoyable) than you think?

To help, we’ll help you unpack what’s actually in a name, what job it really does and how to develop one.

What’s in a name?

Your brand is like an iceberg floating in the ocean. Whether there are many others around or you’re isolated, you’ll only catch a boat’s (consumer’s) attention with what they can see: your tip.

Your brand’s name is the tip – here to get you noticed, appeal to your audience and make a connection.

Understandably, you want this tip to be polished and bright, i.e: attractive and memorable. There’s a long list of boxes you can tick to achieve this: make sure it drives recognition, differentiation, emotion and equity. You also want to make it pronounceable, spellable, short, sharp, while being relevant for functional use and ownable (trademarks, URL etc).

And, of course, ensure it reflects a core value or service that your target can understand straight away, easily engaging with your business.

What does a name do?

If a name was only about expressing a value/service and complying with a list of tangible features, surely that would be easier. Your name is Moses, you’re making sandwiches: you call your foodtruck “Moses’ Sandwiches”.

But a brand’s name does more than this. To be successful, a name must also convey who you are, what you do, how you do it and why better than anyone else. This is highly challenging to define in itself, so aligning this with a name is pretty arduous.

With a plethora of offers out there, it is critical that your name answers the audience's expectations in terms of service, identity and positioning. Because it can simply lead to gaining customers.

How to develop a good name?

There’s still a belief that the right name comes from divine or genius inspiration. Often business owners start by ‘dreaming up some names’, then reaching out to friends, family and trusted advisors to get their feedback. Often, that is where clients go around in a dreaded naming circle not being able to land on something that works – why?

We find good names are the results of a methodical process that unfolds a brand’s core purpose, uniqueness and knowing a business inside out to turn it into a name. It’s about the appropriate “translation” of a brand’s facts.

Want to give it a go?

  1. Gather everything that your brand and your strategy relies on
  2. Try to objectively unveil what your brand does, distil this and write it down as precisely as possible
  3. Identify what is unique about your business, offering and approach
  4. If your brand was a person, describe what would motivate them to do what they're doing
  5. List all the words/groups of words that connect with what you just found out.  Your name is probably in this list
  6. Extend the list as long as you can and try to explore different angle, thinking and way to express these core concepts
  7. Finally, reflect on the list of “must have features” mentioned above (including URL availability and legal status):  does the name you picked tick the boxes?

If you can’t generate names that are working for you it might be time to seek help. Get in touch with a local branding agency.

Your brand will become your most valuable asset, so our advice is not to underestimate the naming phase – take your time and invest properly your effort to get it right. Trust us – it’s worth it.

Reach out to Transform ANZ Gold winners for 'Best naming strategy', re:brand, for more info!