What’s in a Name?

Unknown-1Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
 by any other name would smell as sweet.” While this might be true, once you have decided to name it a rose, call it a rose. Don’t abbreviate “rose” to “r” for ease. Don’t call it rose-y, ros-ie, or rose-a. Just call it a rose.

Granted, many companies resort to abbreviations or acronyms, and some quite successfully. Like IBM – “International Business Machines”. But without decades of marketing and hundreds of millions of dollars, the acronym would not signify what it does today – information technology and computer services. Today most start-ups or new products don’t have the luxury of time or hundred-million dollar budgets.

At Marketing Matters we have other concerns about acronyms. They exclude; they only make sense to people ‘on the inside’ and are jargon for those ‘on the outside’. Outsiders tune out, and when they do, your brand has missed an opportunity to engage with them. Acronyms can be cold and emotionless while names usually conjure up a mental image that is more likely to be remembered.

So what’s in a name? Your name represents your brand. It must telegraph who you are, what you stand for and what you do. The more effectively you use your name to represent your brand, the stronger your brand becomes. And strong brands are the foundation of strong businesses.

When naming a new brand, be it a company, division, product, service or program, consider the following:

  • Appoint a cross section of creative employees to join a naming team. If you have the internal resources, empower a senior marketing professional to run the process. If not, hire an outside resource.
  • Outline your company mission and values. Your name should be a verbal expression that supports your purpose and your key attributes.
  • Know your target audience. What will your name mean to them? Ideally, you want them to buzz about your name on social media.
  • Brainstorm. Free associate. Play word games with your team. Open a thesaurus and skim your favorite novel for inspiration. Remember, the process is iterative and if you remix your prefixes and suffixes, the order of your words, etc., you might land on the most compelling name.
  • Contemplate different types of names – from associative (Continental Airlines), compounds (Facebook), founder’s name (Charles Schwab), obscure (Google), real words out of context (Apple), to descriptive (Marketing Matters).
  • Screen your name through the following criteria:
    • Is it unique vs. competition? Not too generic, not too similar to a competitor.
    • Is it clear? If your name is clear upfront, you need to invest less time and money to communicate what it is.
    • Is it accessible? Easy to pronounce, easy to write, sound the same as it is spelled.
    • Is it memorable? Conjures up a mental image.
    • Will it easily relate to other products, services or programs in your company?
    • Does it mean anything or sound like anything in another language that you may not have intended? Ask some native speakers.
    • Lastly, is it available? Do a legal search.

Good luck!

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