We do a lot of branding projects. My personal favorites are when we get to come up with a brand-spankin’ new brand name for a client. Coming up with one perfect word to sum up an entire organization is tougher than writing pages of copy, because every letter counts.
It’s like the world’s most high-stakes game of Scrabble.
Over the past six months, OOHology has named several clients, in a wide variety of industries. Here’s an inside look at how we approach the challenge.
Avoid the obvious
Coming up with a catchy company name means boring or predictable choices just won’t do. One point of a brand is to avoid commoditization. If you choose a generic-sounding name, you’ve already crippled your ability to differentiate. Your brand name should be meaningful and evocative. It can’t just state your business. It has to make a statement.
An option which is too on-the-nose can make it harder for your business to expand into new areas. The name “Any Given Sundae” works great if you never want to sell anything besides ice cream. Also, if it’s the first thing that springs to mind, what are the odds someone else has already claimed it?
I’m talking about two different things here. In a literal sense, if your brand is going to reach outside the US, make sure it doesn’t have negative connotations in a different culture. If you use a foreign word, make absolutely sure it means what you think it means. Otherwise, you’ll end up sounding like Vizzini from The Princess Bride.
(And of course, never go in against a Sicilian when your brand is on the line.)
In a broader sense, thinking globally means stepping back from the product, service or industry and seeing the emotive, big-picture image.
- What feelings should your name convey?
- What effect should the phonology create when spoken aloud?
- What interesting visual effect could the letterforms create?
- Are there root words, prefixes or suffixes which could be used to create a new word which immediately suggests important elements of your brand?
Get a reaction
Different people have different backgrounds, biases and mental associations. What sounds great to you might make someone else cringe. Be sure to survey a broad group of people for their reactions. Their gut responses might surprise you — and keep you from making a big mistake.
Remember: Aciphex and Vegetti are real product brand names. Which I assume no one said out loud before they were chosen, because nobody can say either one without giggling. Try it. I dare you.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the considerations you need to keep in mind when coming up with a brand name. You’ll also have to look into trademark, domain availability, and many other issues which can kill an otherwise great name.
Finding the perfect brand name for your product or business can seem impossible. But with the right creative mindset, it’s a puzzle where the answer can yield rich rewards.