5 Secrets to Creating Good Brand Names

bad product

A Rose by Any Other Name Might Smell as Sweet, but Consumers aren’t so forgiving when it comes to your Brand Name. Hence, creating good brand names is an important aspect of your marketing success.

creating good brand names
Image courtesy of Clarity

In developing your marketing strategy, finding the perfect brand name is a very serious element distinguishing between success and failure.  So, what should you look for in developing a brand name? Read on!

Branding

Before we can discuss good brand names and why they matter, let’s clear up some issues about brands and branding.

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to what makes up a brand and who owns the brand. If you talk to design folks, they argue they own the brand due to the impact of symbols, logos, colors, fonts, and other design elements that make up the visual aspects of the brand. There’s no denying the impact of these visual aspects that make it easy for consumers to pick out their favs from among the other products on store shelves (both physical and virtual ones). Visual elements of a brand also impact our beliefs about the brand, as we’ll discuss later. For instance, the gold packaging used by Godiva certainly sets the tone for these expensive products by highlighting their quality and excess.


visual branding basics

But these visual elements of a brand act more as identifiers than defining a brand. Originally, brands were used on cattle to identify the ownership of a product that lacked any distinction from among hundreds of others. The legendary advertiser, David Ogilvy, is credited with the early recognition that a brand is much more than this identification; it’s what consumers think a brand is, emphasizing the ephemeral nature of branding. Forbes offers this definition of a brand that builds on Ogilvy’s notion:

Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic). Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it.  It’s fixed. But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.

When I teach the Intro to Marketing course, I liken branding to creating a hologram that encapsulates the meaning consumers assign to a product. Thus, a brand contains multiple attributes assigned to the brand by consumers, which fits the image we used to begin this post. So, beyond the brand’s visual elements, what makes up a brand?



Trust

Brands build consumer trust through their performance over time by keeping their promises, delivering high-quality products, and ensuring they provide prompt service. And trust is a big factor in determining between different product offerings when making purchase decisions, as you can see below.

trust on online shopping
Image courtesy of Edelman

Brand personality

Like people, brands have a personality formed through advertising messages, other marketing tactics, and experience with the brand. Brand personality matters because consumers buy products that are a reflection of the way they see themselves. Brand personality is a big factor in differentiating your product from those produced by your competition, as well. Apple Computers produces messaging that differentiates their Mac computers that run on iOS from those produced by the many PC brands that use the Microsoft operating system. Macs are promoted as cool, focused on creativity, and innovative, while PCs are portrayed as stoggy, conservative, and decidedly uncool. The reality is that both computer systems now do a great job for most tasks, yet Macs are strongly preferred by students and for personal use (and command a premium price) while PCs dominate in corporate settings.

Values

Consumers, especially younger consumers, strongly prefer to buy products from brands that represent their values, with younger consumers even paying more when products embody their value system (80% are willing to pay 30% more when products support their values). When your product doesn’t support the values held by your market, you may suffer a decline in sales or even a boycott, such as what happened after the owner of Papa John’s used the N-word in public. He later lost his position with the company when the stock tanked. Having not learned its lesson, Papa John’s currently faces another boycott of its unwillingness to close Russian stores over the war in Ukraine.

That’s why corporate social responsibility isn’t a cost center but supports the overall performance of your brand in the marketplace. Values also provide a great opportunity to create a community on social media, which spreads your brand messages and generates loyalty.



Creating good brand names

Start with the image you want to project with your brand name to generate good brand names. Then, play around with some words related to your brand. For instance, 3M came from the name of the company, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. You can also start with evocative words. Returning to our example of Godiva, the company built on the story of Lady Godiva, who, in the legend at least, rode through the town clad only in her hair. Hence the name conjures up images of nobility, excess, and rejection of convention.

When creating good brand names, something to consider is that it’s expensive, time-consuming, and risky to change your brand name once you start building under one brand name. When a brand changes its name, consumers sometimes feel abandoned, something called rebranding, causing a backlash against the brand that costs sales. Below see the image of Trocicana’s efforts to rebrand, resulting in a 20% decline in sales. So, take your time and build your brand name the right way in the first place.

creating good brand names
Image courtesy of Klint Marketing

Below are 5 specific considerations when creating good brand names.



1. Meaning resonates

Good brand names are the first and most important element of your company’s brand as they differentiate your brand from those produced by other companies.  Brand names are a shortcut for customers – telling them about your brand, what it stands for, and its personality.  If your brand name doesn’t have a positive association with consumers, they’re not likely to choose your brand.

For instance, look at Godiva. What image comes to mind?  Most people think about the lovely, wealthy woman riding her horse clothed only in gorgeous hair.  So, what does that tell consumers about your brand? The image likely implies luxury, privilege, sensuousness, and maybe even decadence.  Are these positive associations for the brand? Sure, they make people think they’re getting something exclusive, expensive, and rich.

Other brand names have associations that contribute to your marketing strategy in other ways. Take Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, for instance.  This brand name creates associations of church socials with a couple of guys making hand-churned ice cream. The brand name implies comfort and quality. This is a great marketing strategy when competing against big businesses that seem impersonal.

What comes to consumers’ minds when they hear your brand name? What meaning is associated with the words used to reflect your brand?

2. Cross-Cultural meaning

In developing a marketing strategy, you need to look far into the future to see where you see your brand in 50 years — in 100 years. Are there opportunities for your brand to go beyond a regional product to a national or international brand? Then, think about the meaning of your brand in different cultures and languages.

Probably the most famous international branding mistake was when the Chevy Nova was introduced into Spanish-speaking countries where the words mean “no go” — hardly an association you want with a car.

Good brand names have meanings that resonate in multiple cultures.

What meanings are associated with your brand name in other cultures and other countries?



3. Good brand names are easy to pronounce and remember

You’ll spend lots of money advertising your brand, so you’d like consumers to remember your brand name, but your name may be entirely forgettable. Consumers who can’t pronounce your brand name also can’t recommend it to their friends.

In the age of digital marketing, you also need a brand name that’s easy to spell. If consumers can’t spell your name, they can’t post about it to their social network, they won’t be able to find your Facebook fan page or your Twitter feed when they search, and they won’t be able to find your website. Short names work better than long names.

4. Clear legal title

Good brand names are normally legally protected trademarks, so you can’t choose a brand name that is the same or too close to a brand name owned by another company.  Of course, why would you want to use someone else’s brand name as it defeats the purpose of a brand name to identify your product and distinguish it from other products? Companies protect their brand names fiercely, so you’ll face expensive lawsuits if you infringe on another company’s brand name. So, before you start using a brand name or if wish to register your current one, first run a trademark search on your country’s trademark database, such as CIPO. However, the Canadian trademark search process can be complicated so talk to an IP expert or lawyer for help. You also need to protect your brand by registering it in the US and foreign countries (in case your brand goes global).

You also need to make sure domains for your chosen name are available in the Internet age. People buy up domains they think might make good brand names, so even if there’s no company using your brand name, you might find the domain name already taken. This happened when the Washington Redskins finally decided to get rid of the offensive part of their brand name. Many good options for a new brand name were available, but the domain was already registered by a speculator who wanted a lot of money in exchange for the domain.  You also want to buy up all the domains associated with your brand name, not just the .com.  Get .net, .org – everything available. Otherwise, someone might take advantage and create problems for your brand name in the future by siphoning off some of your traffic when users enter the wrong domain. A famous example comes from the White House, where whitehouse.com will take you not to the home of the President of the US but to a porn site — the President’s home is whitehouse.gov.

5. Strategic fit

Finally, consider how the brand name fits within your overall marketing strategy for the firm and the other products produced by the firm. Strategic fit is assured if you’re using a family branding strategy — where all your products share the same brand name.  Family branding is a good strategy, especially if you introduce new brands, as the family brand name sets up your new product with a known personality, reputation, and perceived quality. However, if you use individual brands, good brand names probably need to fit together or at least not fight against each other by creating inconsistent brand images.

Conclusion

Creating good brand names is a critical starting point in building a brand image for your product.  There are 5 key elements in selecting a good brand name: 1) it creates a positive image for consumers; 2) the positive image travels to other countries well; 3) it’s easy to pronounce, remember, and spell; 4) it legally available and domains are available; 5) it fits into your overall marketing strategy.

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