A-B-C-D-E-F-G. The 7 criteria for Brand Naming.
Defining a brand name is no simple task. Something that requires a lot of planning and creativity. I can say that it is one of the most challenging tasks in branding. However, when you reach a solution that pleases and represents well the brand strategy, what a joy! Time to register the name and create the visual identity.
Part of the challenge comes from the language aspects, in addition to cultural and individual references that must be taken into account when creating a brand name. I’ve talked about this in another article. You can check out here.
In all my Naming projects I have always arrived at the same result: after a hardcore exercise, the final list of possibilities usually has more than one option. The client expects just that because clients are the ones in power for the final choice.
A list of criteria can help in this very important decision, of which names to present and how to define the champion. For this, I took inspiration in the alphabet, something I have recently started introducing to my daughter:
A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
Let’s do this.
It can’t generate the “nose-twisting” effect. It has to sound beautiful and interesting. Generating curiosity is a winning goal. Even if it’s made of an existing word, it can be quite charming and arousing. Example: Why did Richard Branson choose “Virgin” as the name of his airline and record company?
What I mean here is that the name needs to have a cradle, to originate from its category. Somehow it needs to be part of its group. A rabbit pup cannot be born within a wolf pack, or it will not survive. The universe of each category already has formats or styles that can indicate belonging. For example, it’s common for brands in the couture universe to carry the designer’s name.
It cannot be phonetically difficult to speak, causing a slight “laziness” in elocution. In latin languages, for example, combinations of vowels and consonants cause certain discomfort to be spoken. You may remember growing up with kids with Dysdalia. A speech disorder in which a person exchanges letters to make the word easier to say. For adults, this happens at a similar level during a colloquial conversation. People tend to develop an unconscious aversion to words that require a lot of effort to be said out loud. Therefore, brand names that create such discomfort should be avoided.
This is quite a challenge. At the same time, it needs to be part of its category while needing to be different from other brands. There are two important objectives here: The first is to help the brand gain an exclusive territory in the consumer’s mind by being distinctive from the others. Second, to be able to be registered without any other brand getting in the way. For this reason, many brands choose to create names. For example: “Pringles”.
The name needs to evoke the right things. It’s worth studying language influences, cultural references, and individual desires, to get a feel for whether the name in play passes these sieves or not. And most importantly, if it represents well the positioning of the brand. There are brands that seek names that sound more global, aiming to expand in several markets. Others prefer to connect with local audiences. You will see giant hotel chains with the same name around the world, such as “CitizenM” and “Hilton”, whereas other hotels prefer to assume a local identity, even if they are part of a holding company.
There is no point in being different and creative if the name has no potential to be easily remembered. “What’s the name of that brand again?” — have you ever experienced that? Of course, visual identity and communication are a big help, but the name itself, if it has the ability to stick in the mind, has more chances to leverage the brand as a whole. Some brands use some tricks, like adding sonority to the name, or acronyms, such as: CNN, IBM, and WWF.
It needs to work well where you will operate. Especially if you think of taking your brand to other countries, you need to study what the name means in other markets. I always remember the case of Mitsubishi’s “Pajero”, which had to change its name when it arrived in the Hispanic South American countries. This word in Spanish means something quite erotic and naughty. So it is worth thinking big, imagining all the possible future paths of the brand, and foreseeing this problem.
Et voilà. With these 7 criteria, it is much easier to make the right choice among the finalist names. But to arrive at a good list of possibilities, it might be interesting to count on someone with experience in the matter. A branding consultant is always a good choice.
Ana Negreiros is a mom, an entrepreneur in the hospitality and gastronomy sector, and a specialist in Brand Development. She is the founder of Branding Aurora, a consulting company for small and medium companies around the world.