News and Insights

It’s All in the Name

Lynn Yoong, Client Ambassador
October 10, 2013

Advantix, Advantis, and Advanta. Actuant, Equant, and Reliant. Why are there so many sound-alike names? The simple answer is this: most of the good names are taken. Between the rising tide of start-ups on one hand, and a flood of URLs on the other, organizations are forced to dive deeper for workable names. The need for good brand names originates with customers, and customers want simple and clear ways of identifying, remembering, discussing and comparing brands.

The right name can be a brand’s most valuable asset, driving differentiation, acceptance and loyalty. Some of the most powerful brands successfully combine their name with a distinctive, visual style to create a memorable brand icon. Think of Apple, Nike, IBM, CBS, and Volkswagon.

How a name sounds and appears impacts it’s perception. Like naming a child, the phonetic quality of the name and the visual arrangement of its letters, can suggest positive and/or negative responses. These responses reflect cultural, historical, and personal experiences. Does it sound friendly? New? Scientific? Corporate? Professional? Established? Foreign? Exotic? Fun? Are the letters uniform? Easy on the eye, or awkward?

What makes naming particularly challenging is the plethora of brand names and URL's already in the market. More than three-quarters of a million names have been registered with the U.S. Patent Office. Last year, more than 120,000 trademark applications were filed. That is roughly ten times the size of an average person's vocabulary.

At Grady Campbell, we believe that there are 7 criteria for a good name:

Distinctiveness. Does it stand out from the crowd? Does it separate well from ordinary text or speech? The best brand names have  the “presence” of a proper noun.

Brevity. Is it short enough to be easily recalled and used? Will it resist being reduced to initials or a nickname? Long, multi-word names will be quickly shortened to non-communicating initials.

Appropriateness. Is there a reasonable fit with the business purpose of the organization?  If it will work better for another entity, keep looking.

Easy Spelling and Pronunciation. Will most people know how to spell the name by the way it sounds? Will they be able to pronounce it after seeing it written?

Likeability. Will people enjoy using it, seeing it, and saying it? Names that are curious and intellectually stimulating, or have a good “mouth feel”, have a head start over those that don’t.

Extendibility. Does it have “legs”? Does it suggest visual interpretation or lead itself to a range of creative options? Great names provide endless possibilities for “brand play”.

Protectability. Can it be trademarked? Is it available for web use? While many names can be trade-marked, some names are more defensible than others, making them more valuable in the long run.

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