What’s in a name?

published 8 September 2020

Juliet said it best. Be it a person, product or a company, pretty much everything has a name. Names are one of the foremost and fundamental ways we identify the new or unknown. Unless of course, you were the artist formerly known as Prince in 1993, but we’ll talk brand symbols another time. Brand names can spark instant connections. One quick glance can shape someone’s opinions, judgements and associations based on what your name says or how it reads. Because simply put, names give meaning, they help us understand each other. A good, interesting name will quickly leave a positive and lasting impression that incites curiosity. A name that is safe or generic, however, won’t do a damn thing. This could place your entire brand at risk of being forgotten, lost or straight-up ignored as if it wasn’t even in the room.

So, how will you know a good name when you find it? Any business owner or entrepreneur might struggle to answer this. Even with an abundance of ideas for names, it’s often hard to land the one. And even if you do, that name might not be legally available. Such deliberation can delay a brands development and launch. Which may explain why the mere thought of uncovering the ‘perfect’ brand name, eagerly awaiting to be discovered from the depths of your psyche, might seem just a little unnerving. So where do you start? The short answer? There isn’t one. The long answer? Read on.

It’s worth stating that a name alone can’t do all the work. Early on, a name is just a humble word on a page full of potential. We recommend avoiding comparing any new potential names to those of an existing successful brand, who may already have a logo, a website or 100,000 followers. All things that help bring that brand to life. Before embarking on your quest for the perfect name, there’s some groundwork to do. Our naming process covers this by combining the right tools along with a tight framework. It means we’ll find a name that’s not only the right fit, but will assist you in setting your brand up for long-term success. Our process supports clients in covering everything from strategic fit to competitors, trademarks, URL’s and beyond. And we do this through three key steps: Prepare. Propose. And pick.



Setting up to win

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Whether it was Romulus and Remus, or Roma and Aeneas, one of them probably had a pretty solid crew to help get the thing done. In lieu of slaves, we work collaboratively with our own team of good sorts, along with the client (insert your name here), to develop a naming strategy that defines the criteria for a winning name. After all, a brilliant name starts with a bullet-proof brief. One that will help surface something far more valuable than any product or service: your purpose.

This communicates why you do what you do, supporting authentic storytelling, signalling who you are and why you matter to those that matter. Your purpose will help inform the type of experience you’re looking to create for your brand and your people—those whose lives will be made all the more better as a result of your brand’s beliefs and values. Consider this strategy a blueprint that will establish the ins and outs of the rest of the process and evidentially, your new brand name.

Putting all of this into practice, we recently worked on a brand and naming project for children’s footwear brand Pop & Weasel. We worked closely with designer and founder Fleur to learn all about her story and why she wanted to start the business she had always dreamed of starting. At the core of everything, Fleur wanted a brand that would encourage children and parents alike to wholeheartedly embrace their creativity and bring to life a world within; one that can sometimes get left behind when we grow up. Fleur’s vibrant shoe designs promote freedom of self-expression, and so it was only fitting that both her brand name, visual identity and supporting language direction communicated a balance of encouragement and playfulness. Almost like an imaginary friend—always there when they’re needed most. And so Pop & Weasel was born. A play on the song that many children and adults alike, know and love, but also interpret in their own unique way. Through this, the personality of the brand was able to shine at its brightest. Research suggests that brand personality increases customer preference and usage, evokes emotion in customers and promotes increased levels of trust and loyalty.



Not quite a brainstorming session

Okay, we’ve laid the foundations for further success. Now it’s time to stop, participate and listen. Once we have all of our findings ready, we set out to generate as many ideas as possible through several naming exercises that help us to explore all possible avenues. The more ideas generated, the better chance of finding the perfect name. But this isn’t some typical group brainstorming session. The goal is to generate lots of ideas independently, with active participation and contribution across the naming team. In this step, we help clients (and each other) stay curious and open-minded, while respecting and advocating for diversity of thought. It’s also here that we continue to emphasise the valued commitment of time and energy required to make the project a success. We’re creating at this stage, not testing.

And create we did on a recent naming project for zero waste online store Zilch. Based off early strategic findings, the brand name had to be clear enough to speak to an environmentally conscious but time-poor market, yet clever enough to best position the business’ unique selling point: cool and convenient access to hand-picked zero waste products. The name, just like the brand, had to stand out in a competitive landscape laden with eco warriors and #zerowaste trends. From Google searches to list making and notetaking at any time of the day, we each cast our ideas net wide. In this process, we embrace all means of idea generation, no matter where or how they come about. Because the best outcomes don’t just happen—they are worked for. A key part of our naming process is to ensure that new ideas are being produced every day. Simply put, never leave anything to chance, especially not a name.



Let’s get analytical

Based off the strategic fit of the brand, the market and competitive landscape, it was time to reel it all in. By this stage, the names generated for Zilch were far from zero. There were literally hundreds. Though not all of the names were created equal and not all were going to be available. So, we made some ruthless cutting and culling, before testing and assessing the names that resonated with everyone the most. The lucky few were put to the test through analytical considerations, sizing up potential names and cross-checking against the naming strategy with a set of rateable markers. This ensures a calculated result, rather than going off an emotional response comparison to existing competitor or other brand names.

After all this, it’s time to see how the names would perform in the real world. Any good researcher knows that the best way to measure product efficiency is to get it in front of the customer. And with Zilch, it payed off. The large majority just got Zilch. The name managed to encapsulate the key components of the strategy and it seamlessly fits within the zero waste market, while communicating a whole lot about a brand that’s all about a whole lot less. It’s simple, easy to remember and after a trademark check, the decision was clear with no hesitation in sight. Zero. Zilch. Nada.



So, to answer the question, “what’s in a name?” Well, quite a lot. We know that a name alone cannot do all the work for the brand. A name is a living being, like a magnet collecting everything that you do, attracting all of the interactions, experiences and communications of your brand. All of this supports the building of brand equity over time. That being the commercial value that derives from consumer perception of the brand name over time, rather than from the product or service itself. But by doing the hard yards with substantial research, collaborators and with thorough analysis, the process of both generating and choosing the right name becomes a lot easier. And a whole lot more fun. After all, it’s how we chose ours.