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The Name Game

Stack of name tags or badges

Contributed by Ryan Nelson

Quick question. What one thing does every person, place, and object on planet earth share?

If your answer was “a name”, then you are right and I’m highly certain you cheated and referenced the title above, shame on you.

All kidding aside, naming what’s around us is our method of identifying and categorizing the world and the people, animals, cities, buildings, etc. that share it with us. Names are so important that we give names to things for which we don’t even know proper names! Does a thingamajig or John Doe ring any bells?

When thinking about building your brand, careful consideration should be given to the name and the role it will play. Below are 4 questions to help get you started.

Is the name recognizable and repeatable?

If the name is going to be playing a large part of your branding efforts, it needs the ability to be consumed quickly and short enough to be retained by consumers or clients. In this fast paced world, we have seen time and time again brand names getting shortened. Think about Proctor & Gamble’s switch to P&G or American Online changing to AOL. Names that are shorter are easier to remember and allow the name to be utilized more efficiently in marketing. Another consideration is the use of acronyms in place of the full name, like KFC over Kentucky Fried Chicken. Shorter doesn’t always mean better but it is something to definitely consider. After all, our attention spans aren’t getting any longer.

What would the ideal emotional response be when someone hears your name?

People connect words and phrases to emotions and memories. If your company sells concrete it is not ideal to choose a name that evokes the same feelings as say Dove soap or Snuggle laundry detergent. Apologies to the Fluffy Concrete Company if it is out there and reading this. A company’s name should be directing consumers to an eventual purchase decision and not be an additional hurdle for them to overcome. If your name is going to be doing any heavy lifting in creating and promoting your company’s brand, it has got to connect with your consumers in a way that complements how they connect with the services or products you sell.

Will your name suffer from mistaken identity?

The last thing you want is your marketing efforts to be mistaken for that of another company, or worse, one of your competitors. Doing a little bit of research early on in the name game can help you identify any potential conflicts. The most important thing when planning is to not operate in a vacuum, do the due diligence early on so you have a solid plan in place. Equally important is to stay informed of any new issues that may come up that would cause a brand name identify crisis. Once your brand and name have been established, it is important to keep them protected!

Can your name stand the test of time?

What’s in and popular, much like the seasons, changes. Be careful not to fall into a trap of using a name that is popular at the moment. If you do, you will soon find yourself with something that feels outdated very quickly. Not too long ago it was common to see tech startups include “.com” in their brand names. RIP Pets.com, Webvan.com, and eToys.com.  We’ve seen that practice come full circle and now start-ups are trending towards simple names built from single words and definitely no web or dotcom’s included. Sometimes standing out from the crowd can help, so be aware of the trends and what the competition is doing.

These four questions really are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything you should consider when it comes to your brand name. It can be an overwhelming endeavor for sure. Start small and start with what you know, which is your company. If you start by describing your brand instead of naming your brand, you will learn a lot about how you and possibly others view the company. Those views could align or those views could differ, either way it is valuable information. You can use that insight as guideposts for when the real fun begins.

That is, if you’re like me and think naming brainstorm meetings are fun.