Whether you’re starting a brand, sub-brand, or product extension, its name matters. You want something that’s recognizable but is also unique. In some cases, such as Kleenex for tissues or the Magic Eraser for cleaning sponges, you can create a name so iconic that people use it to describe any product within that same category—even if it includes competitors.
In these examples, the branding was perfect as it catapulted a single brand to the top of its field. So, what are the steps required to find a name for your brand or product that’s not only relevant and unique but evokes a positive response from your target audience?
You might be surprised to learn that there’s an actual process behind effective brand naming, and every step is intentional.
Names Only Matter When the Product Works
Having a memorable name that evokes positive feelings is possible only when you have a quality product or service to offer. A catchy name won’t overcome subpar service or poorly-crafted products that fall apart or fail to meet company claims.
Many brand owners put so much energy into picking a name that they fail to focus on whether their product or service is living up to the hype. Consider that the only reason certain brands can achieve “top of mind” status is that the name is attached to something effective.
Thinking back to our initial brand examples, no one would care about Mr. Clean’s Magic Erasers if the product were terrible at cleaning up messes. And who would care about Kleenex if the tissues were rough on our skin and failed as handkerchief replacements for coughs and sneezes?
So, while names do matter, make sure that you’ve already fine-tuned your product or service offering. Is it meeting a need not met by competitors? Or is it improving upon a pre-existing product offering?
Names Should Be Distinct Yet Memorable
Especially for brands just starting out, you’ll want a name that showcases your unique brand voice and helps differentiate your offering from that of the competition. Keep in mind that you might use this name for your website domain. Names that are too long or hard to pronounce might be difficult for customers to remember. Short is best, but at the same time, it’s okay to pick unfamiliar words that stand out in people’s minds.
Consider the streaming service Roku. Roku is a Japanese word that means six. Incidentally, Roku was the sixth company launched by the founder Anthony Wood. So, the brand name has personal meaning, is different from competitors like Netflix or Hulu, yet is still easy for consumers to remember.
However, there’s a caveat to picking words from other languages. Always make sure that the word is positively received in the language you’re selecting. The last thing you want to do is alienate other markets by picking words with negative connotations.
Names Shouldn’t Pigeon-Hole Your Company
Everything evolves, including brands. Maybe today your brand focuses on selling brooms, mops, and other cleaning hardware, but as time goes on, you might realize that expanding into cleaning products is a natural segue that makes sense. Having a brand name called “Mops for Less” would be limiting if you eventually offer floor-cleaning solutions and window-cleaning sprays. A name that references general cleaning would make more sense and can still apply to cleaning tools and solutions.
While none of us can predict the future, it’s best to avoid single-use type names that limit your flexibility.
Mind the Legal Issues
The last thing you want is to find yourself in a legal battle for a name—especially if you’ve already invested time and energy into branding your business and products with that name. Before you settle on it, you should perform a trademark search to make sure there aren’t any conflicts.
Even if a brand owns a name but hasn’t used it yet, avoid using that one. Additionally, once you settle on a name and confirm that there aren’t any outstanding claims on it, perform the necessary due diligence. Submit your trademark request to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to protect both the name and your investment.
Consider the Distinctiveness Angle
If you pick a name that’s too generic, it will be nearly impossible for your customers to remember in a sea of competitors. Brand recall is important and should be a top consideration when effectively looking at naming options.
For example, if you own a frozen pizza brand, “New York Pizza” is a terrible brand name. There are hundreds of thousands of pizza shops across New York, and the mental competition for that keyword will be high. Also from an online search perspective, you’ll spend a lot of money for SEO campaigns to land on page one when customers Google “New York Pizza.”
Does It Tie Into Your Brand Story?
Tying a brand name into a brand’s overall story might not always be possible, but for businesses that try to create a cohesive image, be sure to come up with product or brand names that support your overall mission, vision, and values. This can be a powerful opportunity to further market your company.
The Importance of a Name
While a good name is no substitute for a quality product or service, a well-crafted name can help build consumer trust and visibility. It can serve to remind your target audience of your product offerings. And more importantly, a relevant and unique name can support your marketing strategies.
SmashBrand is a data-first branding agency that can help you bring your packaging to life, and it can assist you with building out a brand that endures. Contact us for more details about our branding and marketing services.