#The Branding Blog

Naming Process: The best weapon for a succesful brand

A complete look at naming process in brand creation

Naming Process

Naming process is one of the branding areas most ignored by the general public. If you ask anyone how a brand name is created, chances are good you get answers like “the owner thinks of a good name.” At best they may tell you “the owner thinks of a variety of names and consults with friends and family which one they like best.”

And to tell the truth, many times it is like that. The business owner simply has a good name for the brand, or what he feels can be a good name. There are many, many cases of successful brands that have emerged in this way.

But in today’s world, the margin for error is very small, and can cost a lot of money.

The process of creating a brand name, or naming, is a cumbersome process that requires a lot of work and conceptualization. Creative and design factors must be taken into account. But also psychological, sociological and cultural factors.

And we have not yet reached the legal area!

Another misconception: if you ask people how to name a product, brand or service, you may end with something like Harry Balls.

Imagine this situation: John Smith had this great business idea. He raised enough capital to launch it, and he only lacks a name. Decide that a good name could be “Puton” like in “put on”.

Already with this name as a brand for his great product, he hires a logo designer or a branding agency to develop the “Puton” brand. So far so good. The designer (or the branding agency) passes the budget for the design, and it is within what John can invest for the aspect of brand development and visual identity.

Therefore, contracts are signed, and John patiently waits for his designs. Upon receiving them, you decide that you like them and that it is time to launch your great business idea.

And the branding nightmare begins …

John launches his brand with his new visual identity and is an immediate success … until he receives a letter from an attorney claiming for brand abuse. It seems that John registered his trademark in the US, but another business had registered it for the whole of Europe. Latin America and Oceania. And of course John launched his campaign globally, with a website and social media.

Result: a big legal headache, and a lot of wasted money. But John is really focused on this idea and decides to duck his head and move on, paying everything he has to pay and reaching a judicial settlement.

The sun shines again for John. After all, his idea is brilliant and he works very hard to carry it out.

Suddenly, he starts to notice that sales are starting to drop. And it doesn’t take many days until he discovers that his brand is a derogatory term for the Spanish-speaking LGBT community. And that your brand is used as a mockery by homophobic people.

Basically, John created a name that was unknowingly a kind of swastika for millions of people.

The naming process

What did John do wrong? Well, he himself did nothing wrong. At least he did nothing maliciously.

However, we cannot say that he did something well either. The problem is that he did not know that this process, which many think is trivial, is today a highly complex process. And that all the good things about reaching everyone, in multiple languages ​​and cultures, can also be bad.

The birth of a a succesful brand: Psychology

Naming requires a complex psychological study. What we want our brand to represent. Who we want to reach, and how we want to influence the users of our brand emotionally.

It also requires a philological (or at least anthropological) study to know what representation and meaning the brand has. For that, an investigation is made to know what the semiotic analysis behind the name is, and its implications, including the different pronunciations (example: Danone is Dannon in the USA because people in the US pronounced the brand name in different ways. For this reason, the Danone company decided to use the phonetics of the real name only for the US).

Of course, this is only the beginning. Knowing what we want to transmit is very important. Knowing how to influence emotional design and brand perception is undoubtedly a great idea.

Having a semiotic and anthropological reference is a part of the branding process that most people don’t know about. However, I’ll tell you a secret:

all the big brands and companies, as well as the good branding agencies have staff specially dedicated to these tasks.

As we saw before, we must also take into account the legal aspects of the naming process.

Naming process: Legal aspects to consider

We all know that trademarks must be registered. It is something of public knowledge.

However, what not everyone knows is that trademarks must be registered IN EACH COUNTRY in which you want to do business. For example, if we register the trademark in the US, it is possible that someone steals the trademark in another country (or that it simply already exists, or that someone registers it without knowing about the existence of our brand identity).

In cases like these, our brand (our website and social media accounts) may be blocked in countries where other companies have registered the brand.

Is it possible to overcome this problem in case we find it? Yes. But it is a process that has no guarantees, and is always cumbersome and expensive. It is preferable to do things right from the beginning and save time and money.

Technological considerations for naming

The Internet works based on IP addresses. These IP addresses are blocks of 4 numbers between 1 and 3 digits. For example, your computer is 127.127.127.127.

Now these IP addresses are difficult to remember, so they are related to names that we can easily remember, which we call domains. For example brandelk.com, google.com, nike.com are examples of domains. When we type in the address bar of our browser the words google.com, our browser will search a database for the IP address that corresponds to such domain.

Obviously, the number of domains for a specific word is very limited. Initially, we only had the extensions .com, .net, .org (plus .edu and .mil that were reserved for educational and military institutions respectively). To these extensions, also known as top level domains or TLD, country specific ones are added. For example .co.uk, or .org.de or .mil.us. Of those extensions, .com was always the most popular. Thus, if someone was looking for cars, it was very likely that they would type www.cars.com in the address bar of their browser.

As it can be deduced, any brand was going to try to have its brand name registered as .com (and many times in all possible domains). But also, for marketing reasons, we will try to record the activity to which we are dedicated. So if my company name is Don’s French Fries, I’m going to register donsfrenchfries.com, but I’m also going to try registering frenchfries.com and / or french-fries.com. And the same with .net and .org

But … what happens when our domain is already registered by another person or company? One or more of these things can happen:

  • we have legal problems again
  • we lose sales because our prospects go to the competition site
  • our brand is devalued by having to use a different domain, which also requires an extra investment in advertising
  • our brand identity is diluted in electronic environments

As we can see, any of the scenarios represents an economic loss of greater or lesser magnitude.

Today there are many more extensions, which, far from making things easier, makes them even more complex. Because wether we want it or not, people keep typing {keyword}.com. And no matter how hard we insist, it will continue to be so.

So what is the solution?

As we can imagine, the most obvious solution is to create a brand whose domain is not yet registered (let’s forget to register by activities, ALL the words in the dictionary and their variants are already registered)

Naming Types

There are many different naming types conventions. Same as the different types of logos, there are different types of naming. There are lists that include 6 naming types or taxonomies, and lists that include 8, 10 and up to 16 branding types.

However, we think that there are 10 naming types, and then you have some small differences , which you could call sub-types. The types we recognize are as follow:

Acronym Naming Type

Between all the naming processes, acronyms are the most common ones. Acronyms (or initials) are basically what the name implies: an abbreviation of a longer name. For example, IBM (International Business Machines) . On a side note, this type of logos are usually displayed as Lettermarks or Emblems

Acronym Naming Type: IBM

Neologisms, invented and made up words

These are names that don’t exist as regular words, or names. Or are otherwise strange to the target market’s language (a very known example: Ubuntu, which is a Bantu term that means Humanity) .

These names are usually frisky and playful. If succesful, they provide a huge sense of identity. Basically, it’s something that never existed and now is famous (Twitter anyone?). However, the same characteristic that makes them so great, is the one that could make them fail. After all, the public has to remember something that doesn’t exist!

Neologisms and made up words: Kodak logo

Evocative Names

Evocative names use hints and symbolism for remembering a brand or related experience. They are unique, versatile and multifaceted, so they represent a great opportunity to build a brand with meaning that goes far beyond the products or services that the brands represent. The use of metaphors is extremely common in this type of brand. Example of evocative names are Nike, Patagonia and Virgin

Evocative Naming Process: Virgin Logo

Lexical and Word Play Naming

Lexical names are based on the use of puns to remember them. Word play, catchy phrases, compound words, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and intentional misspellings are all common patterns for constructing these names. Lexical naming tend to be catchy and clever, using modification of existing words to achieve a linguistic and semiotic effect.

Examples of lexical and wordplay naming are Dunkin’Donuts, Cheetos, Krazy Glue and Coca-Cola among others.

lexical and Word Play naming

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