Stevie Belchak | Strategy

Naming a child is hard. A name has meaning. It speaks to where a person comes from. It links one to a family. It can be a conversation starter (Stevie? Your parents must be Fleetwood Mac fans!). But, it can also lose steam too early (Where have all the Mildreds gone?). It can disappoint during a first meeting (How do you pronounce that?). And, it can fall short when it comes to the future (who hasn’t heard of the schoolyard nickname or famed interview bias).

While naming a child takes time and energy, naming a company or product can be even harder – as there is an even wider range of possibility. So if your future brand could talk, what might it say to help you whittle down an enormous list of potential names?

What’s my MO?
A brand name is the first thing that pops up in Google Search and the one representation of a brand that rolls off a convert’s tongue. Not surprisingly, it’s viewed as one of the most important vehicles for conveying functionality, emotional value, and the specific benefits of your brand. When it comes to communicating your offering, consider more descriptive names like Band-Aid, which can be more explicit and upfront but also more suggestive names that spark memorability by evoking associations. Take Visa for example. A visa is an endorsement on a passport that allows for travel and Visa, the company, is quite literally “Everywhere you want to be.” With four letters it says everything it does in an unforgettable way.

Give Me Some Legs!
Names are not just for the today; they need to work well into tomorrow– their meaning extending to new products and services. But, they also need to do more than help extend a branded house. They need to work well across applications – on small screens where readability is difficult and big billboards where visual interest is key. They may also need to travel internationally, where common words are easily translated but certain letter pronunciations fail. And, whether we like it or not, names can spark creativity or confound it depending on their suggestiveness and structure.

Short, fun to say and highly suggestive, Uber is a prime example of an extendable brand name. Once positioned squarely as a black car service, its name’s openness has allowed it to easily switch lanes to provide more affordable transportation options and even a food delivery service. Imagine if it had been called “Black Car”? Speaking so plainly to a single user experience could have curbed innovation or, in the least, required difficult brand extension conversations.

Make Me Part of The Family
Are you creating a branded house? Or, are you simply creating a product to fit into a larger suite of products? If the latter, how does its name link to its brothers and sisters? Before diving headlong into naming, it’s important to step back and think strategically about your brand architecture. There are many successful strategies to denote familial ties. For instance, while Apple uses the “i” to easily connect its hardware, brands like Nike carry through specific themes. Take Air Zoom, LunarGlide, and FlyKnit – all speak to nature and speed in a lightly suggestive way.

Help Me Stand Out In A Crowd
If you’re building something different, your name should signal a departure from the expected. While it’s important to look at your category and where it’s headed, it’s equally important to evaluate the names in your space and determine how you can make an impact. A perfect example of a “standout” name is the modern, millennial-friendly meditation app Headspace. Headspace plays in a world where “Zen” associations (e.g., Buddhify, Calm, Omnava) abound. Yet, it positions itself outside this realm in meaning and tone – targeting not the yogi but the busy professional needing just a few minutes to reflect.

Fear Not!
Great names grab a passerby’s attention, make them pause and smile, and/or drive their curiosity. Fun “takes” on long-forgotten words, repurposed words with off-color meanings, and names just slightly out-of-context (e.g., Rehab Burger) can excite users but feel scary to any company. Still, for those who put fear aside, these names can be worth the risk. Take Bugaboo, an incredibly popular baby buggy, as an example. It’s alliterative, incredibly memorable, and…has a horrible past. It’s original meaning: something that causes fear. And yet, somehow its playfulness outweighs these connotations. For this forward-looking brand, it completely works.

Don’t Lose Sight of What Makes You “You”
Are you science-minded and credible? Measured and diligent? Refreshing and zestful? A complete and unapologetic rule breaker? While a name should resonate with audiences, it should also be authentic to who you are as a business. In the ’80s, Apple broke from traditional hardware with a name that was uninvolved and iconic, and today, it continues to defy and surprise us in refreshingly simple ways. When naming, we recommend thinking like an Apple, taking care to select a name that is reflective both of your personality today but also who you set out to be.