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Choosing a Brand Name

The creative process for naming requires you to go off on as many creative tangents as possible in the first instance. After speaking with the client and signing off on the brief, I've typically had several weeks to immerse myself in the business, brand or product before I start putting pen to paper. It means I've been letting my subconscious do some work.

Regardless of how crazy or strange these initial ideas seem to be, I get them down on paper and start exploring. Once I have the first 500 or so candidates, I like to meet with the client to discuss the merits of each candidate based on the brief.

Shortlisting at this point is not as simple as excluding names that you don't like or selecting names for a final list to review at the end of the creative process. Shortlisting is about determining what you like and dislike about the structure of each name throughout the development and creation process.

Therefore it's essential to include every candidate you have for the first presentation. Resist the urge to self-edit the list in the early stages, unless of course you know there's a specific issue with availability or legal boundary. Even in those cases, the idea can still be presented and discussed as you never know what ideas might form from it.

For instance, rather than discarding a name completely, you put it on a new list to be worked further.

Sometimes there may only be a single aspect of a name that appeals to us, such as the sound of the word when spoken - its onomatopoeic quality. However, the spelling and number of syllables may not be desirable. Instead of completely discarding it, I go back and create a bunch of alternatives based around that word.

It's not uncommon to create twenty or more variations from a single idea, so you have to be careful not to throw out ideas on face value.

The brief must be central to all shortlisting discussions, and it's up to the naming consultant to sell each candidate based on how it conforms to the brief. As a client, you should expect guidance from your consultant that is both resolute and empathic. A competent consultant will not shy away from arguing the merits of each name with you. Good outcomes are the result of a robust argument.

Naming projects require everyone involved to leave their comfort zones, and that is why the name brief must be central to all discourse.

In the early days, I used to think that selling naming as a service was the most challenging task. Convincing someone to pay you to develop something that doesn't yet exist in any form at all was tricky.

Also, my previous successes were either names that, however effective they were in their own right, had little relevance on what the prospective client needed. Couple that with the fact I can't showcase my previous work if it is subject to Nondisclosure Agreements.

My promise of an outcome was the best I could do in some cases. The point I need to make here is that the 'sales process' if you want to call it that doesn't end with a signed contract to do the work.

The real sales process lies in the presentation of name candidates. As I have discussed in other areas of this book, it's far too easy to discard ideas if they appear on the surface to be too wild, too bold and even seen to be at first too simple.

In the later stages of presenting shortlists, it is sometimes a requirement to develop name stories for selected candidates that make the final list.

The objective of a name story is to start to put the name into context and provide it with some much-needed tangibility, even if it's only superficial tangibility in the form of a logo on a mock business card.

Brand names rarely exist in isolation in Helvetica or Arial on a single sheet of A4 paper. For creative types who can picture how a name might work in their mind's eye, then writing the name up on a whiteboard to judge is no problem.

However, if you're working with a handful of people in a steering committee, then not everyone should be expected to visualise how a name might look and work in the real world, which is why it's sometimes beneficial to present final selections in a real-world setting.

It needs to be your commercial imperative not to let your taste and ego dictate a choice in name. Rather than let personal emotions guide your decision, study the emotive quality that each candidate creates

Your emotive response is largely irrelevant when you start looking at the market position you need to occupy or the perceptions you need to build. For instance, does your brand need to appear as premium and expensive or low-end and budget conscious?

Names can be designed to evoke either perception, so it's best to have a clear brief, so you don't end up with a contradictory message. In this instance, we're not looking at a name based solely on its creative merits; we're looking at whether it will help to build the right brand image, which ultimately attracts revenue.

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