Coming up with a viable name for your brand is exciting, intimidating, and––let's be honest––frustrating as hell. I've been part of a few brand-naming projects in my day and thought I'd share some tips, tricks, and lessons I have learned along the way.

Types of Brand Names

Generally speaking, brand names fall into four categories: descriptive, experimental, acronyms, and invented.

Descriptive. Descriptive brand names are useful because they plainly explain a brand's premise, connecting the dots for new customers. Names like Paypal, Toys R Us, and Shoppers Drug Mart are just a few examples of household brand names that communicate the core service or product they deliver. One challenge with descriptive brand names is that they can be constraining and difficult for brands to evolve their offerings over time.

Acronyms. Some of the world's largest brands use acronyms. KFC, BMW, AMX, VW are just a few more recognizable ones. Acronyms are great for longer, multiple names. Some reasons you may choose an acronym are:

  • Using technical or industry language

  • Acronyms are easily searchable

  • Reduce the chance of misspelling

  • Often, acronyms are more accessible to trademark

  • Work well in multilingual marketsPro tip: If considering an abbreviation (or any name for that matter), be sure to research the meanings of the names in different languages.

Inventive. Sometimes the primary goal of a brand name is to get attention and differentiate you from your competitors. Made-up names are less likely to have competition (helpful when trademarking) and don't carry the baggage you experience with different kinds of naming conventions. Inventive names can be poetic, or even onomatopoeia, "the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named." Take Kodak, for example, a brand name that was thought to mimic the sound of a camera taking a photo.

Experiential Names. Unlike descriptive brand names, experiential brand names communicate the value or benefit of a brand. They play on the feeling or experience that a brand offers. Yahoo is an experiential brand name that communicates the feeling a user has when they finally find the content they're seeking. These names are positioning statements that promise what a customer can expect to feel or experience when engaging the brand.

Lessons Learned

Committees Kill Names. If you've ever tried to land on a brand name with a committee, you know this all too well. Committees are the bane of creativity. Branding overall should remain a c-suite activity, so try to limit those involved to key decision-makers.

Choose your brand team wisely. Each person in the room should serve a specific purpose. Who's generating the names? What skill or qualifications do they bring to the table? Who's testing or vetting the names?

Research, Research, Research. What domain names available? Are the social media handles and account names relevant to your name taken? Is there an existing or pending trademark for your name? There's nothing more heart wrenching than landing on the perfect name only to discover you can't use it. Also, be sure to research your competitors, industry trends, and know your customers.

Be Patient. The most common reason a branding process goes awry is lack of time. Be sure you have the time, resources, and team in place to really commit and craft a brand you and your customers are proud of.

Hopefully, this list provided some value for you as you aim to craft that perfect brand. If you're at the beginning of your branding journey and are looking for naming, logo, or brand messaging help, give us a shout.

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