Naming is a discipline that strikes many as part voodoo, part marketing strategy, and totally mysterious. We suspect it was easier a century or so ago when founders named the brand after themselves — e.g., Ford (Henry Ford) and Wells Fargo (Henry Wells and William Fargo) – or simply described what they made – e.g., International Business Machines (IBM). Now, it is not so easy, and companies usually turn to professional naming firms to come up with effective memorable brand names that will resonate with consumers. On top of that, they have to make sure the name can be trademarked, pronounced easily, have positive connotations around the globe, and stand out on a retail shelf, on a website and on its own. Here are some tips from David Placek, founder and president of Lexicon Branding, the firm that developed the familiar names you see below.
1. A Brief for the Development of a Name Is Different
Than a Brief for an Advertising Campaign.
(1) A naming brief makes sure that distinctiveness is a primary goal and that risk will be rewarded.
(2) A naming brief answers this fundamental question: How can the name help this new brand to become a winner?
(3) A naming brief defines a specific role for the name rather than the product itself, messaging or design.
(4) A naming brief tells the story of the brand so that the brand name becomes an essential part of the story — better yet, the title.
2. You Can’t Manage a Creative Process. You Can Only Lead It.
Never write a brief for a creative team. Write it with them. Creative leadership is about encouragement, and the root word of encouragement is courage. A truly creative meeting is one where you speculate, not evaluate. Talk to creative people about their ideas and their process; ask how they want a session to be run instead of setting the agenda. Encouragement generates creativity.
Peter Drucker once said that “it’s not about being right along the way, it is about being effective in the end.”
3. Ideas Need to be Nourished.
How many times do people actually say, “Tell me more about that idea”? That sets the tone for innovation. Start with the goal of understanding every idea presented and build from there. If you do that, you create a climate for innovation. If you have been given the privilege of leading a branding program, focus on creating a climate for new ideas and innovation. Killing ideas is easy. Nurturing ideas is demanding.
4. Don’t Let a Committee Select Your Company’s Next Major Asset.
Clients often email a list of names to their teams and look for responses. This is a mistake. Naming decisions should never be made by committee. Breakthroughs do not lend themselves to consensus. Names need to be thought of in context, creatively, as tools to move a company’s message forward. Do this yourself, then take the responsibility and risk to get it approved and launched. What could be more rewarding?