You Name It

It’s a golden question: how do you name a brand? Naming can feel daunting, not least because a name is judged instantly. Your brand name is a signal for who you are. A great name creates an instant point of difference, building intrigue and interest.

But the naming process can be a long and windy journey. We’ve noticed a few misconceptions that tend to come up in naming projects:

  1. The name should explain what the business does (and everything we do and all our values and all our brand personality).
    Aiming for a name to be all-encompassing sets you up for failure. Better for the name to hint at an aspect of what you’re about, than trying to explain too many things.
  2. You will come up with it “on your walk over lunch”.
    Yes, moments of serendipitous ingenuity happen… but rarely. The best names tend to come out of many days of intensive creative brainstorming by many creative minds. You’re unlikely to come up with anything original within 2h.
  3. It should be short and easy to spell.
    Short names can be good and yes, you should avoid names that could be spelled differently depending on how they are pronounced. But that doesn’t mean a long name should be ruled out entirely. Sometimes a long name that tells a story or evokes a feeling is better than a meaningless short one. Might be easier to get a good URL for a longer name too!

So what makes a brilliant name?

Here are a four names I’ve recently come across that I love:

  • Earny (an app that gets you money back on items that you bought before they drop in price)
  • Cheddar (a business news network targeted at Millennials)
  • Sellery (a pricing tool for Amazon sellers)
  • Triptease (a direct booking platform for hotels)

These all have a “hook”, a slight imperfection that creates intrigue. You get a glimpse but not the whole story and it makes you look twice. I think Tee & Frost works by the same principle (why is it not “Tea” & Frost)?

Some of the best names are “pictorial”; they generate an image in your mind that you start associating with said brand. Sellery and Cheddar are particularly strong pictorial names.

You’ll note that none of these directly describe the product. They lean on an aspect of the proposition, but “Cheddar” is not a cheese brand. Maybe Cheddar sounds a little like “Chatter” (tune in to the Cheddar channel and you’ll see that there is indeed a lot of chatter), but apart from that, it’s actually totally unrelated.

Finally, remember that many names aren’t “instantly loved”. Instead, they are the product of many years of familiarisation and brand building. As naming expert Nancy Friedman put it, you want an “arranged marriage” with your name not a love match. If you settle on a name that everyone in the business can get behind, chances are you’re compromising too much and the name doesn’t have enough “bite” to it. It’s worth the investment of time and money to get it right though — a strong name is far more likely to “stick”, with customers, employees, the media, the public.