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Your brand story in its shortest form: its name

Behind every great brand is a story worth telling. A story that has meaning. The kind of brand story that people can relate to, and one they can build a connection with.

Your brand’s name can be one of the most powerful elements in telling your brand story. In fact, your brand name is your story distilled to its shortest form.

What makes a name truly great is, when chosen well, it works as a shortcut for people to make decisions. That’s because a great name serves as the fastest and easiest way for people to navigate the choice, whether it’s based on brand, product, or service, when they need it most. A great name also plays an important role in brand recall and recognition, along with enablingawareness, loyalty, as well as choice. It can also play a role in the success – or even failure – of a brand by influencing how people perceive an entire brand experience. It becomes the handle for the brand; the reason why people choose it, use it, and recommend it.

That’s why choosing the right name to tell the story of your brand is so important. It should be a disciplined and rigorous journey based on your business’s unique creative and strategic criteria. To ensure success in your next naming pursuit, consider these five helpful tips:

 

1. Start with getting your story straight. 

To get your brand name right, you must perfect the story of your brand first. Without having this brand story to guide your pursuit of the best name, the process will not be fruitful, and it can also be downright frustrating.

The brand story will define the criteria the team and decision makers will use to evaluate and select a name – objectively.

A few keys to getting your story straight:

  • Know WHAT you’re naming. Sum it up in a sentence.
  • Know WHO cares about itWho exactly are you creating this brand for? Know your consumer and target.
  • Know what you want to SAY. What do you want people to know about your brand from the name?

 

2. You can’t tell a great story without a solid creative brief. 

Like any piece of creative work, exceptional names begin with a well-crafted creative brief. The brief is the team’s guide, a contract that outlines what the name needs to achieve and – just as importantly – what it should NOT do.

The naming process is just as strategic as it is creative.  The unique creative and strategic criteria for the brand must be at the heart of its name. The process of crafting the brief allows the opportunity to address very specific questions, and to create clear parameters early on.  From the brief, appropriate guardrails and objectives are communicated to all team members and stakeholders, making it a great tool to ensure alignment before even getting started.

 

3. Stretch your thinking. Leave your comfort zone in order to arrive on the best name. 

It may feel safe to use a real word as a name for your brand. There is a belief that such names are less risky, equating to more sales and less marketing investment, as their meanings are overt. However, real names aren’t always the ideal. Consider the future of your brand and where it will stretch. Real names can make it difficult to evolve and take on new, expanded meaning.  In creating your brand’s name, explore composite combinations of words and “coined” names along with more “real” names. Find the right balance between conveying trust and explicit understanding, while infusing some personality and fun. Throw all ideas at the wall, both literally and figuratively. You never know what might unexpectedly stick and resonated with your audience.

An example of a great brand name that is not a “real” word is Swiffer. In its infancy, one of the goals of creating the brand name was to avoid the words “mop,” or “clean,” or any other word that communicated the drudgery of cleaning. Instead, Swiffer combines words that relate to fun and fast and take the “work” out of housework. The name also conveys the action of the product. The combination of a great name and great product has made Swiffer an iconic brand.

 

4. Just as writing a story takes time and diligence, so does creating a name with the same effect. Start early. 

Authoring a story requires a clearly defined and systematic path from beginning to end. Choosing a name demands to same type of consideration. Naming is a more complex process than one would imagine. Beyond the thousands of potential names that may be developed in the early phases of name development, there is an arduous process of linguistic and trademark screenings that can take months. Start early to avoid a last-minute scramble to meet launch deadlines. Naming can also be accomplished through a scrappy process, as long as timing is built around the number of steps and key milestones that are needed. The best names are the ones that you can use. Allow enough time to put the necessary rigor into the process to arrive at the ideal name that is both loved and available.

 

5. A great brand story has the potential to transcend borders.

Even if your brand is launching just on a local or regional scale, it may one day be global. Always think big– bigger than the brief– to avoid linguistic disasters. With today’s digital age, there is greater access to products and information. Enabled by ecommerce, brands can be accessible across borders, and future opportunity for your brand may lie in new, unexpected markets. For example: originally named “Kwanon” after a Buddhist goddess, Canon changed their name before going global to have international appeal. The due diligence of global linguistic checks early can prevent costly setbacks after launch that could inhibit future growth of your brand.

 

A name is just a word until you put meaning behind it. Only when there are established brand experiences to associate with it, does the word grow into a name. Think about the iPhone: only with the experiences created with the brand does the name exude meaning and value. The LEGO brand holds a lot of meaning– and nostalgia– for people of all ages. A composite name is rooted in the Danish words for “let’s play,” LEGO demonstrates the alignment of the brands’ name and brand story with its customer experience.

Without a brand story to guide that development, people will make one up for you, and there’s no guarantee that would be a story that you would want. So craft a name with a story with care. Ensure it communicates the message you want with a narrative that will make people care. For instance, a food truck and frozen meals brand, Wicked Kitchen’s name was chosen to appeal to the evolving tastes of Millennials and to  bring an edge to the frozen food aisle. Wicked Kitchen communicates the brand’s bold “street food” recipes and ingredient combinations. People are always paying attention, and you have one (or two) words to tell them exactly what you want them to know the most.

A great name should strategically reflect business objectives and communicate the role of the brand in a compelling way. To learn more, download In A Word, Interbrand’s naming handbook.

Contributors

Senior Director, Strategy