The Nuances Of Names And Brands By Annie Brooking

A brand is the marketing gold you hope to be able to generate from a company name, product or service. Brands are protectable in law with trademarks that have rules its best to know before you start naming – notably they can’t be descriptive. For example, you can’t get a trade mark on ‘The Great Coffee Company’ as the name describes a business function. Naming is a challenge – more so in our digital world as want to grab the domain name, preferably the .com and national domain. Annie Brooking breaks down the nuances of names and brands in this article.

So, what makes a good name and brand?

A good name must be memorable, catchy or evocative to get mind share of the prospect. Note the prospect, the person you want to buy the product. There is a great temptation to give the product a name that’s understood by the founders or product team, a clever play on words about technology but the product team are not the audience, the prospect is. 

The White Van Game

Next time you are driving look for white vans with signage, you will probably see vans marked L&J Carpentry or BG Scaffolding and so forth. No doubt Larry and John are great carpenters and Barry and George are good scaffolders but you will never know as you won’t remember their names or hire them. How about The Safe Erection Company Ltd?  Bet you remember that! (it’s in Tipton UK). 

Getting into the mind of the prospect

This is called ‘Positioning’, and it happens in the mind of the prospect not in the marketplace.  The goal is for the prospect to think what we want him to think when he hears our brands and names. So our marketing efforts need to add messaging to brands and names so the prospect remembers them. Consider ‘The Well Hung Meat Company’ very descriptive so no trademark but ticks all the boxes for memorability – (it’s in Devon, UK).

Be unique

Good names need to be spell-able. If the spelling is not obvious then the prospect will find it hard to locate it on the web. Ideally the name should be unique, which is very hard to do today unless the name is completely made up- or you use a suffix or prefix with an ordinary word – like iPhone®, or iPad®. 

Think long term

A name can also give a product a personality. Think about vacuum cleaners Henry (1981) and Hettie (2007). The Henry vacuum cleaner is nearly 40 years old and is a part of a family of 13 other models. 

Yahoo®, Squidoo® and Google® are great names. They are a white sheet of paper that marketing people can create a story around. These names are also lovely as they are melodic. Google has even become a verb – “I Googled it”. Marketing magic!

Should a name be clever or catchy?

Yes. Best if it’s both, provided it’s easy to spell and memorable. Names that bring a small smile are a good idea provided it’s suitable for the sector, so you would not call a cancer treatment product something light-hearted and catchy.

Here are ten self-test questions for good names:

  1. Is it easy to spell?
  2. Is it easy to remember?
  3. Does it avoid describing the product?
  4. Can it be trade-marked?
  5. Will it stand the test of time?
  6. It’s melodic. 
  7. Does it differentiate you from your competition?
  8. Is it a made-up name?
  9. Is the domain name available?
  10. Does it have the potential to become a great company asset?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to each of the above questions then your name is probably a good one. If not, best to rethink – you may have to live with it for a very long time!