What's In a Brand Name?



When launching your own brand, it’s important to take into careful consideration what type of name you want to attach to it, and how you want your name to be interpreted. There are a variety of ways that you can identify your brand, from a name that’s clear and concise, to one that requires you to read between the lines to uncover its identity. It’s important to weigh a variety of factors and you want to ensure that the name tag you give it will represent it correctly. Below are popular types of brand names with pros and cons for you to consider before naming your baby.

ACRONYM

These are names that are acronyms or abbreviations of the company name, ones that may be difficult to pronounce or are just a mouthful. They are an older branding technique, one that’s not as widely used today. Interestingly enough, they have helped brands get themselves out of trouble by reverting back to their full names when needed for rebranding purposes i.e. after KFC found themselves in hot water, they reverted back to Kentucky Fried Chicken. These names are straightforward but can also be interpreted as boring. They are challenging for trademark purposes and also for the consumer to remember. Is it IBM or BMI?

Examples: AT&T - American Telephone & Telegraph, CVS - Consumer Value Store, Yahoo - Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle

COMPOUND

Compound brand names take two functional words and combine them together in the hopes they accurately represent the brand and sound catchy at the same time. Sometimes they spell out an action or service, and other times they just grab your attention. When they are effective, there is little room for misinterpretation. However, when you decide to take the route of combining two words, it can cause confusion on what the product or service is offering. It’s important not to leave too much up for the consumer’s interpretation – it could backfire on your brand potential if it requires solving a mystery.

Examples: QuickBooks, YouTube, WordPress

DESCRIPTIVE

These brand names usually contain the service or product in the brand name; they readily convey what you do to make it easy for the consumer to understand. They are functional and clearly communicate their stories. Creativity is limited since the brand name is simple – it’s the identity, occupation or service of the company. The good thing is that these brand names are clear and concise, with little room for interpretation error. However, they can be harder to trademark and if and when you decide to diversify, it can be challenging to get new messaging out effectively. Who knew that Red Robin Burgers & Brews served a killer chicken platter?

Examples: Dunkin Donuts, Auto Zone

EVOCATIVE

Creativity is at its highest with an evocative brand name. These are the brand identities that aim to grab immediate attention and response. They look to create a powerful or engaging experience with the way they position themselves. They evoke aspiration, emotions and feelings and are memorable because of their originality. They are also easier to trademark. However, their suggestive names could steer people away for personal reasons, and it may be harder to get potential investment in the company with a name that is abstract and requires a bit of unpacking. Fact is, evocative brand names must stay steadfast to their vision and mission or they could risk dilution and distraction in the marketplace.

Examples: Nike, Virgin, Uber

FOUNDER

It’s your show – the spotlight is on YOU! From a corporation standpoint, this avenue is less common – its more popular with influencers and entrepreneurs when they have something that best represents them and what they are selling. Whether people name their brand after themselves or their family dog, it’s pretty easy to trademark. However, this strategy is also harder to define since the consumer may not know the face / personality behind the brand, leading to more education with marketing dollars. That is, unless the founder is already famous.

Examples: Auntie Anne’s, Dooney & Bourke, Jimmy Choo

GEOGRAPHICAL

A geographical name is one that proclaims pride for your area! It showcases your allegiance and passion for a particular city, state or region, and people love to support brands that have names they recognize and love. They stand for a brand that represents cultural and historical associations, with ties to those territories. However, besides being hard to trademark, this brand type comes with such a commonality that it can be hard to find a name that isn’t taken. It can also limit your brand from expanding to areas in another region. How do you position a California Tan salon in the middle of New York City?

Examples: Nantucket Nectars, Boston Beer Company, New York Bank

INVENTED

Don’t have the perfect word for your brand? Make one up! These are distinctive names that offer both a creative name and attitude / tone of a brand. They are catchy and completely unique. Developing an original word prevents any kind of negative stigma and they breeze through the trademark process because they eliminate any possible conflict. There’s so much potential for their success! However, with no set definition for the word, it requires you to over-exert your energy to educate your consumer in an effective way, leading to larger budgets and more time spent. This is definitely not the simplest route to take, but if you have the resources, it could payoff.

Examples: Google, Oreo, Clorox

LEXICAL

These are clever brand names. They usually pair and modify existing words and phrases to create illustrations and puns. They rely on their wordplay for remembrance. They roll off your tongue and are very recognizable. However, they can actually be too clever and perceived as cheesy. It’s important to establish customer respect and a name that is viewed as "over the top" or "trying too hard" could have the adverse effect. Tread lightly with these types of names if you want to be taken seriously.

Examples: Krispy Kreme, Burger King

In conclusion, when determining your best brand name, make sure to weigh the pros and cons before deciding which route to take. Although a solid brand name is key, you must have faith in what you are selling, as a great product far outweighs a clever name.