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BRANDING | 10 Most Common Naming Mistakes | Part Two

A Great Name is Vital. Don’t Omit Crucial Steps.

When it comes to brands, the name is one of the most important elements of its proposition. A name is often the first act of public branding and helps establish the tone for a product, service, or company. It acts as the primary handle for a brand: It’s a recall and recognition device, it communicates desired attributes or specific benefits, and, through time and consistent use, it becomes a valuable asset and intellectual property.

However, many organizations take a very haphazard approach to naming, often omitting crucial steps that end up making the naming process longer, more arduous—and more expensive.

Following, I’ll explore some of the most common mistakes made when creating or choosing a name, and some tips to avoid them.

3. Underestimating The Importance Of A Good Creative Brief

Even after clear strategic criteria have been established for a name, many companies underestimate the value of a focused, detailed creative brief. For the creative team, however—whether an internal team or an external agency—it’s an invaluable tool.

While a creative brief will contain much of the same information as the brand strategy, a good naming brief gets specific, highlighting what elements of the strategy (or attributes) should be communicated in the name and setting clear parameters for the approach and construct.

As you pull together a brief, you’ll find that the process forces you to answer very specific questions for your audience—the creative’s who’ll use it. It crystallizes the white space in the competitive landscape, personality, tonality, word types, constructs, and areas to avoid.

Your brief will focus your creative, and it becomes the lens for assessing and choosing names that are on-brand and are a comfortable, natural fit for your organization.

4. Confusing The Need For Information With The Need For Differentiation

When choosing a name, companies often fall back on descriptive terms, based on the belief that they are easier to sell and require less marketing investment. They might think that the more overt the name, the more likely to be understood—and so picked—by customers. Or they might choose them simply because these types of names feel safer.

But descriptive names aren’t always the answer, particularly because they can be limiting as your brand promise evolves. To effectively decide, it’s important to define the role the name needs to play—whether it’s to describe a function, signal a departure from where you are today, or to position something new and different.

Neither approach is right or wrong. Strong brands and mindshare can be built on both. Think of names like The Container Store or Bed Bath & Beyond versus names like Target or IKEA. All successful brands, each with a different name approach.
Spend time deciding on the best approach for you, and don’t always settle for safe. It’s the difference between creating a name that is easy to remember versus a name that’s hard to forget.

5. Overlooking Complex Trademark Issues

One of the most overlooked challenges in naming is the highly complex trademark process. But consider that there are over 2.5 million active trademarks in the U.S. alone, and over 13 million globally. And then there’s over 108 million URLs registered globally.

Then consider that there are (arguably, because it’s impossible to count) only some 250,000 words in the English language—and not all of them are useable as a brand name. In fact, almost every word in every major language has been trademarked. This means that someone, somewhere, owns the name you want. Securing viable trademarks is becoming increasingly difficult—but definitely not impossible. To overcome legal challenges, weave trademark prescreening throughout the creative process. It identifies, early on in the process, names to avoid so your creative team can keep searching for the right, legally viable name.

Don’t leave legal to the end, so you don’t have to settle with just any name. Prescreening avoids wasting valuable time and money evaluating (and falling in love with) names that are clearly unavailable for use.