New brand name development is one of the most challenging processes in the branding business. While not everyone has an opinion about strategy, brand architecture, or logo design, everyone has an opinion about names—those they love and those they hate. Developing a new brand name that will position your company for the future and create enduring value is crucial. The process should not be taken lightly, and decisions around naming should be informed and expertly guided.
1. Don’t describe—distinguish
One mistake that companies often make is being too descriptive with their names. To stand out, a name should have the ability to evoke the unique essence of your company. You are looking for a name that can become a “brand.” A new brand name that is too narrow or too descriptive lacks the depth or dimension to rise to this level, which means that your marketing dollars are diluted. While this is a general rule, there are exceptions (i.e., The Container Store).
2. CEO involvement is key
Selecting and activating a new brand name is a highly emotional and political process. It is virtually impossible to be successful in this effort without the full support and involvement of leadership. Establish buy-in from the C-Suite in the beginning, keep them involved throughout the process, and counsel them to be an active brand champion through launch and going forward.
3. Avoid alphabet soup
Building a strong brand name out of letters of the alphabet is difficult and costly—a sure road to anonymity. As author Jack Trout put it, “A no-name name is the corporate equivalent of a disguise.” Some companies, like GE or IBM, are often offered as exceptions to this rule, but they have invested hundreds of millions over many decades to create name equity.
4. Research should inform decisions, not make them
Research is a valuable tool to test for unforeseen red flags with potential new names and provide additional insights to consider during the decision-making process. Leverage research for these reasons, but never abdicate your role as a marketer or that of your leadership team and your trusted advisers in the final selection. Together, you understand your strategy and positioning objectives better than anyone. Using research to identify the “winner” is often a popularity contest, where more unique names have little chance of rising to the top.
5. If it’s comfortable forget it, because everyone else will
The most successful names over the long term are those that make a statement and stand out in a crowded marketplace. Names that are too comfortable for you and your team may not be pushing the envelope enough to own the desired “mindspace.” However, a unique name does not need to be completely obtuse or unprofessional.
6. Your name is but one tool in your brand toolbox
The new name can’t do it all. Leverage your other brand assets including visual expression, tagline, messaging, imagery, and other key brand touchpoints to reinforce your unique and meaningful brand story.
7. Keep it brief
One-word brands with up to six letters are most effective. While this one word may be followed by a descriptor, the best names have the ability to stand alone. Lengthy names lead to truncation and when this happens, you’ve lost control over your brand.
8. Employee contests don’t work
Employee contests to find a new name are well meaning but rarely result in names that have the strategic, creative, or legal underpinnings to become a strong brand.
9. It’s about strategy, not internal politics
Turf issues, political posturing, and personal preferences can frustrate the process. Institute an intelligent, culturally appropriate governance process with a strategy and naming brief as your guidepost to avoid a compromised name result that is also late to market.
10. Managing the decision-making process is key
Never confuse internal input sessions with decision-making sessions, otherwise keeping the process on track will become impossible. Determine at the outset who the real decision makers will be, keep them involved, and agree on how decisions need to cascade.
11. Don’t expect unanimity
Getting any sizable group of people to agree on a single name is difficult, if not unrealistic. After thoughtfully considering all of the input and recommendations, a decision will need to be made, either through a vote of the brand committee, or by executive privilege. After the decision is made, everyone on the leadership team must be onboard. And, when the name is announced to the public and employees, you can expect significant scrutiny, often more negative than positive. Be patient as this extra exposure helps to create valuable “lift,” and remember that in naming, familiarity breeds comfort, not contempt.
For more information on developing a new brand name visit our website.
Rick Jacobs is a Principal at Monigle.