Avoiding a Brand Name Fail: Considerations in Building Your Brand

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There’s no denying that there are many weird and wonderful brand names out in the world. Some of them are undeniably familiar to large segments of the consumer populations; some, like Kleenex and Xerox, coming to stand for the product category itself. Others are lost in obscurity, reflecting an epic brand name fail. However, with careful thought before you get started, you can avoid problems with your brand name; starting the long journey toward success.

brand name fail
Image courtesy of WP Beginner

But, how can you tell when your brand name isn’t good and when should you go back to the drawing board for ideas? More critically, when is it time to bite the bullet with a costly and dangerous rebranding campaign? Are there any telltale signs hinting at a brand name fail before you invest time and money in building your brand? Take a look at the following signs that you need to rethink your business brand name.

Epic brand name fail

Sure, a brand is much more than a name. To quote the Bard, “a rose by any other name would be as sweet”. But a poor brand name makes your life harder and forces you to overcome a myriad of problems just to grab onto the bottom rung on the ladder to success. For instance, Ford developed a car called the Nova, which was fairly successful in the US. When they took the brand to South America, however, it uncovered an epic brand name fail as Nova in Spanish means “no go”, which isn’t the image you want to project for your automobile.

If you’re in the early days of defining your business, consider these 7 factors that might contribute to a brand name fail.

1. Your customers can’t pronounce or spell your brand name

One of the classic signs that your brand name isn’t suitable for your business comes down to the simple fact that your customers can’t pronounce or spell your brand name! When you name a business, it’s crucial that it’s one that everyone can easily remember. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, as some designer or luxury brands thrive on the uniqueness and exclusivity of a brand name no one can pronounce properly except the initiated.

Also, you keep in mind that certain letters sound similar (such as “S” and “F”). If you’re stuck searching for options, you can always use a business name generator for some inspiration. Alternatively, make a list of ideas and ask those closest to you for their thoughts.

2. You use your full legal structure name

Another telltale sign that you made a mistake with your branding is when you use your full legal structure name for your brand. Remember you do not have to use limited in your trading name or other terms like “Inc” or “LLP.”

For example, Apple doesn’t have “Apple Inc.” embossed on its branding, and the computer brand HP is more memorable than “HP Inc.”. The same is true for brands insisting on using their URL as part of their brand name. For instance, we don’t refer to Amazon.com, so avoid associating your URL with your brand name. It just looks tacky.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to rebrand your business, so it’s possible to correct this error and become more memorable.

3. You use someone else’s brand

When you come up with a name for your business, one of the first things you need to do is check whether someone else is using the name or a variation of the name. As you can imagine, potential business or brand names aren’t always available, and it’s your responsibility to conduct some due diligence. If you use a name or logo that’s very similar to a registered brand name owned by someone else, they can sue your business. That’s why it’s best to save yourself time and money by researching your future brand names thoroughly. This is a legal requirement before you can form any type of legal structure for your business, such as an LLC.

You also want to ensure the URL associated with your brand name is available as each URL is unique. The last thing you want is to work on building your brand only to find out sometime in the future that the URL associated with your brand name isn’t available. If you come up with a brand name you like, register the URL now, even if you’re not sure you want a website (and, if you think you don’t want one, think again). The same thing goes for business pages on Facebook and profile names on other social platforms. I recently watched a program where Instagram users were harassed by people in hopes they would relinquish their desirable handles. Some business owners also trademark their brand names, colors, and logos to ensure no one encroaches on their brand.

4. Your brand name isn’t descriptive

Sure, it doesn’t make sense to have an overly long brand name like “Mike’s Delicious Candy and Thirst-Clenching Soda Company.” Equally, you should avoid the opposite problem with generic brand names like “Mike Inc.” First, you’re unlikely to find a unique brand name using such generic terms but you’ll also melt into the background with a name like that.

branding trends
Image courtesy of 99 Designs

It makes sense to come up with a brand name that is short, memorable, and gives people a good idea of what your brand is about. Try for a brand name that’s evocative of positive emotions. Consider writing down a list of different brand name options and getting feedback from others so you can select the one that isn’t generic or overly descriptive.

5. Your Brand Got Based on a Domain Name

Some entrepreneurs get stuck for brand name ideas and use a tool that generates random domain names. They then use those randomly generated URLs to form their brand name, as well. That can sometimes work, but only if the name reflects what the business is about.

If you used a random domain name generator and based your brand name on one you liked, you may have selected a domain name that doesn’t quite fit in with your brand’s goals, mission, and industry.

6. You haven’t considered perceptions associated with your chosen name

You may have come up with a memorable brand name for your business. But is it memorable for the right reasons? When you create a new brand name, one thing you must do is take into account possible perceptions and associations related to that name. Obviously, you want to avoid brand names with negative associations or negative events in the news. You can’t predict which associations might arise in the future but do a thorough job of checking for associations by entering your brand name ideas into a search engine looking for negative events or perceptions related to that name.

For example, you don’t want what you think is a trendy brand name that’s associated with something negative or offensive. Choose a brand name that is memorable for the right reasons and is welcoming to everyone in your target audience.

7. You haven’t thought about brand expansion

Last but not least, when choosing a brand name, you need to consider your future business expansion plans. You undoubtedly have specific products and services you offer today, but what happens when you wish to expand into other sectors? Will your brand name still work in the new market? For instance, choosing a Spanish name works when selling into a Latin X market but what happens if your brand succeeds and you want to expand to a larger consumer base? Will the brand name still work or is it a brand name fail?

For instance, Mr. Clean wasn’t able to expand outside the US market. Its classic image of Mr. Clean didn’t work or the brand name didn’t work without the image. In the UK, Mr. Clean became Flash because the brand name conflicted with an existing brand in that country.

brand name fail

Final Thoughts

The above list is by no means an exhaustive one. But, it does point out the most common branding mistakes made by entrepreneurs every day. Make sure none of them apply to you, or you may need to consider rebranding your business.

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