Naming Nuts and Bolts

Of course there is a bit more to naming brands, whether for a company, product or service, than just getting qualified help. There's a lot any management can do to save time and money by setting the parameters of their brief in advance of appointing a specialist.

The first area to consider is overall brand positioning at the company level and how the new named entity should integrate with it. Questions to ask about the new name include: what strategies should we use to stand out from competitors? How does this product/service/venture work alongside our current offer? Do we need to define a brand architecture (or redefine the existing one) to specify the relationships between this new name and the rest of our portfolio? Could the new naming/branding support cross- or up-selling and if so, how?

With any brand name brief, whether for a company or a product, start by establishing three sets of parameters:

a) business: what are the territories for which this name is needed today. Could this be different in the future? Neglecting this can lead to unpleasant surprises when you find your name, protected in your home market, is unusable in a promising overseas location because someone else in your sector already has it (or something similar);

b) URL and online visibility: will you need a URL specifically for this name? It can be challenging to acquire a .com domain for almost any word so it's a key aspect of the brief if this will be needed.

c) social media availability: will you use social media platforms to communicate the new offer and if so should your name be easily available for the platforms and channels you favour?

Beware of seductively neat ideas. Something that sounds as though it ought to be out there probably already is. Often these proposals are clever amalgams of generic terms which carry great conviction for industry insiders but are simply too common to pass legal tests for ownability. Big companies make this mistake as well as small ones. For example, Cisco sued Apple over using the word iPhone. Cisco also charged that Apple had attempted to get rights to the iPhone name several times including through a front company after Cisco had refused permission. Unless you have deep pockets it is best to avoid your initial 'genius idea' and look at safer strategies.

Last, don’t fall in love with your best ideas. Consider made up words rather than misspelling. Misspelling common words can still face legal challenge on a 'look alike' basis. In fact, be strict about excluding industry generic terms as far as possible. Think abstract metaphor. Remember a name does not stand in isolation without straplines and design make it live. Our practice at Pajama will only present name candidates that pass the legal checks and URL/social platforms availability tests to avoid getting hopes up needlessly. Making sure all stakeholders understand the brief parameters in full at an early stage helps deliver a smooth process to an ownable, high-performance solution.

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  • Naming Nuts and Bolts