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What’s in a brand name?

June 21, 2013
marketing consulting firms take on brand names

creating a brand nameMarketing consulting firms are often hung up on brand names. There’s a good reason for that. Your brand name is an important part of what your customers will recognise.

Yet so many businesses these days only consider SEO. While this is important, it is far from the whole branding ballgame.

So let’s take a look at why marketing consulting firms who choose to dig deeper than simply SEO have the edge when it comes to building your brand and deciding on a business name

Building anything without framework is just asking for trouble. You need to give yourself a set of guidelines so you don’t forget anything and also to help with the creative process itself. You’re aiming to balance business needs with something that gets stuck in someone’s imagination, so a little balance is required.

The first (and most important) piece of framework you need to understand the kinds of names that are out there (so point A in the previous blog what does it take to develop a brand?)

The types of brand names

Descriptive Brand names

The favourite for the SEO hound, the descriptive brand names put it right out there what something is. They are based on keywords and aim to lift SEO, are crammed with keywords and want things to be instantly recognisable. This is “the what you see is what you get” of product naming as you describe what you do.

Think Singapore Airlines and General Motors.

Legacy brand names

People who want to insert themselves into their product create legacy brands. Think of names like Ford, Disney or established descriptive names that take on legacy value like The ABC.

When you design a legacy name, it means you are inserting yourself into your brand from a surname perspective and will continue to trade on the good currency that name raises.

While they may be popular with individuals who want their day in the sun, marketing consulting firms need to work hard to establish these brands. Brand recall takes a lot of time and energy (and money) to establish.

Synthetic (made up) brand names 

Tech startups love these because you can hope that your name not only creates an instantly recognisable company, it becomes a word people use to describe what you offer like what happened with Google.

Kodak and Kleenex are other strong examples of brands that became what we used to describe the product itself. They pull on Greek and Latin spelling, play with mish-mashed terms and come from an entirely different place to words consumers know.

There are a plentiful range of online tools you can use to play with word combinations to try and figure these out. Which makes the need for marketing consulting firms to dive in and give you a hand fairly redundant.

Metaphorical brand names

To be honest, I lean towards the metaphorical brand. The story teller in me loves them. Tugging on the human love of metaphor, these brand names take a new look on something consumers already have an emotional connection to.

It’s the stretch of road that sees an internet browser being called Safari or Navigator, a hair colour called Nice n Easy or a wine called Poet’s Corner.

It’s about taking those emotional feelings and product barriers, or aspirations we have and cooking up a name that tugs on the heart.

Marketing consulting firms tend to avoid them in these days of SEO because they play on the vision as opposed to the literal. But you can’t discount how powerful an affinity a customer can get with a brand they can visualise on this level.

Brand name by letter and number  

If you’re called Kentucky Fried Chicken and you want to lose the fatty connotations, you use an acronym and become KFC. If you want to stop being Heng-Seng Bank Corporation when you go international, you become HSBC.

If you want to stop sounding a little stade and get a little hipper, you move from Hewlett-Packard to HP.

Grabbing letters and numbers to make a name usually comes after a merger or an old tired brand becomes in need of a revamp.

Evocative Brand Names

Some companies really wanted you to think “what the heck is that about?” in their vertical and spent a tremendous amount of energy ensuring you did. Once they carved their mark of crazy, they kept at it and built an umbrella with their own branding, product line naming conventions and personalities to keep the fire stoked.

These are your brands that usually get a loyal following for bravery and you know them as brands like Virgin and Apple.

Again, marketing consulting firms love these guys when they’ve grown strong and can find them exciting in the first instance because you have a client who is interested in pushing the envelope.

You don’t have to be a marketing consulting firm to have to think deeply about brand names

In a lot of respects, the first decision you make is what kind of team you want to join and how much work you want to put into your brand comes from the simple act of choosing what type of brand name you want to use.

For example, its great imagining your name will ring on in the halls of infamy if you adopt a legacy brand name approach, but it may be very limiting come expansion time if you’ve chosen “Fred Smith- Screen Writer” come expansion time.

If you choose a made up name, prepare to spend a lot of time educating people as to what you do, and forget about even contemplating an easy pass on the visual branding, storytelling or consumer education phase. Tight budgets will often find a made up name virtually impossible to do what is needed to break down.

Most businesses choose descriptive or metaphorical names for two very simple reasons- people get the universal and underlying meaning behind them, and this lends itself well to building a strong story. But even they have problems.

Too descriptive, and you look as imaginative as a cardboard box, something that never sits well with people when you are selling a creative, non essential item for living.

Too metaphorical and you can lose the plot completely and the audience as a result.

If you want to be space age, hip and edgy, alphanumeric is great. But if you look like a weird algebra problem, forget baby boomers and beyond giving you the time of day.

What’s really in a brand name? 

Consider the kind of name you use carefully because you’ll have to live with it. Make sure you test it against the short and long term goals for your business, and keep your target audience firmly in mind. Go with work works for your aims!

Next, we’re going to look at how you actually thrash about to come to a name in Coming face to face with a brand’.

Sick of marketing consulting firms giving you the bum steer? Come talk to me– I’ll help you get your branding sorted.

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