One of the first things any new business requires is a name. Many start ups approach us at this early stage for branding assistance, often in the belief that arriving at a name is a relatively easy process. As anyone who’s been involved in the naming process can tell you, it can be a drawn out process.
And needless to say, it’s a decision the company will probably live with for its entire duration. It will be one of the most essential elements of the company’s identity, appearing on business cards, letterhead, website, promotional materials, products, and pretty much everywhere in print and multimedia wherever your company’s and it’s services or products are mentioned.
Many businesses fall into the trap of creating a name using descriptive words. Usually these names are effective in describing what they do, but don’t act as the distinguishing start point on which to build their own brand story. In any market category, the first company can get away with this. Hence your General Motors or General Electric. But once there’s competition in that space, differentiation s quickly needed. Particularly now when online media places us all in a global context, it’s vital to carve out your niche and find a unique identity.
Indeed insightful naming is tough!
But if a business can internally find a name that desires their intent, and summarises their story and what makes them different, that’s a huge and cost effective achievement. If you need to bring in the heavies then we have a raft of resources that can aid the naming process.
Look to differentiate and distinguish – rather than describe
The easiest and most obvious thing to do is describe your company in your name. Avoid the temptation and push the boundaries. You need to future proof your name so it describes your uniqueness as a brand, and begins to reveal your brand story.
It’s about strategy, not personal preferences
Naming is such an emotionally charged decision – any parent will agree. In business it’s no different, except that business naming decisions are fraught with politics, turf issues, position power and individual preferences. Stick to the strategy and do not allow the lowest common denominator solution.
Watch out for the obvious and the comfortable
The most successful names over the long-term are often those that are initially the most controversial (think Google, Yahoo!, and Ikea). When you select a name, you are looking for something to punch through the marketplace clutter, not add to it. Overtly literal meanings can sometimes limit growth and show a lack of company creativity.
Keep it brief
One word brands are most effective. Lengthy, multiple word names lead to truncation. When people abbreviate your name, you lose control over your brand.
Company or Corporate brands belong in the Boardroom
Names are too important to be (just) left to marketing. But at the earliest stages brand names are very fragile and the naming is a highly emotional and political decision. So engage the most senior personnel from the outset, keep them engaged and build a strong rationale for your shortlisted set and have a clear recommendation.
Avoid long names that will frequently be shortened to acronyms
Simply consider the Australian financial services industry. The long names in the industry have become AMP, MLC, QBE etc. Short (real or invented) words are many times easier for consumers to remember.
Employee contests struggle
While they are often well-meaning, they frequently do not result in names that are based on the appropriate strategic rationale. They tend to be very typical, familiar, unmemorable and unavailable – particularly the URL.
It is very difficult to keep a new name a secret, but nonetheless critically important. At the beginning of the naming process, prepare your press release and press kit in the event of a leak. And lock down your legals, trademark and URL’s early and in confidence.
Don’t expect unanimous agreement
In the first few weeks following introduction, there is often a lot of discussion and publicity about a new name. Not everyone will love it, but familiarity breeds content. As people become more familiar with the name, they will become more comfortable with it.
Until you have arrived at your new name, we recommend using a placeholder name like New Co. After legal clearances have been made, do a global search and then replace – once and only once. When you’ve cracked the naming, the next stage is logo development and creation of a look and feel, a corporate profile, power point templates et al as necessary.