How To Create A Brand Name

In a previous marketing life, I was responsible for naming several pharmaceutical products. You know, creating such iconic names as “Adcetris” and the ever popular “Zytiga”. So what you probably don’t know about naming drugs is that it is almost impossible to create a normal name. There are a lot of restriction placed on the process by the FDA, the United States Adopted Name Council, and not to mention the internal pharmaceutical company legal teams.

The US Council has some specific rules, such as:

  • “Prefixes that imply ‘better,’ ‘newer,’ or ‘more effective;’ prefixes that evoke the name of the sponsor, dosage form, duration of action or rate of drug release should not be used.”
  • “Prefixes that refer to an anatomical connotation or medical condition are not acceptable.”

So most pharmaceutical drug names end up looking like Webster barfed letters onto a page.

  • Xeljanz
  • Abitrexate
  • Everolimus
  • Ixabepilone

I had the responsibility to name an erectile dysfunction product once.

Here is how the final decision process went down.

Me to our legal team: We have undertaken a thorough naming process for our new erectile dysfunction product, and have a name that tested well with our target audiences. ARIZED (pronounced ARI-ZED)

Legal Team to Me: “ARI-ZED? Interesting name. How do you spell it?

Me: A-R-I-Z-E-D.

Legal, writing A-R-I-Z-E-D onto a notepad. “Ah, that could be a problem.”

Me: Yeah? How so?

Legal: A-R-I-Z-E-D could be miss-pronounced as A-RIZED. Which sounds like ARISE. Which sounds like a drug benefit.

Me: What? Seriously?

Legal: Yep. Seriously. I can’t approve.

So it goes in the brave world of pharmaceutical branding.

Needless to say that when I started the process of naming Brand Cheddar I had to throw out all of my previous naming preconceptions and start from scratch.

So here are the steps I took to name Brand Cheddar. These are the same steps you can take to name your product:

Step 1. I sat down with my friend Dave, who didn’t know anything about my business, and described it to him. I then asked him to describe the business back to me in his words, while I took notes. His description gave me some new and different words as a framework for beginning my naming process. (I did this with several other friends and business acquaintances as well)

Step 2. I took the descriptor names that Dave and others came up with and expanded upon them. Since Brand Cheddar is a marketing company that provides insights, tips and tools that help solo entrepreneurs grow their businesses, names such as, sharpen, build, and empower, prosper, accelerate, enrich, came to mind.

I created a long list. The longer the list you create the more creative juice you will have.

Step 3. Now this is where it gets fun and you get to use your right (creative) brain. Look at your long list of words. Play with them. Combine words together, or combine parts of words together. Combine features of your product to create new words, for example, TRIVAGO is a combination of three words, Trip, Vacation, Go. Use alliterations and rhyming words. Use words that conjure up positive and relevant meanings. Go for volume. This is not the time to be critical or to edit. Just write until you run out of juice. Use a thesaurus to look for different ways to say words you’ve written.

For Brand Cheddar, I used a combination of words that I thought were interesting, memorable, and available. Cheddar is a slang word for money, which is certainly what we help our clients achieve more of, so it was a fit with our product offering.

Step 4. We found the best 10 names from our list. Each of the 10 names was interesting to me… at least a little bit. I then narrowed down my list down 5 solid names. This is not the time to fall love with them yet. You still have some work to do.

Step 5. Then I tested out the names. I’m not talking about market research, I mean running stuff by people you know and don’t know. When I did this, potential names such as Brand Mondo, Biz-a-Go-Go were knocked out of the running. Thank God, because those really were terrible.

Step 6. Then I secured the web address. Once I came up with the name, I quickly secured the web address. Luckily I found a .com, which is very rare. I would’ve been ok with .marketing, .net, or .us too.

Step 7. Finally, I moved to trademark the name. It’s a pain in the neck, but it protects my brand.

So that’s it.

Some people love Brand Cheddar, some will hate it, and others will go ‘meh.’ At the end of the day, my brand is more about the experience of my customers.

But that’s the subject of another blog…

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