Branding Basics – Step Seven

With your brand platform and an idea of the brand personality you believe to be attractive, and even compelling, to your target markets, you’re ready for the next creative step.

It’s the step most entrepreneurs begin with. Step Seven is name development.

For some, this is the fun part. For others, it’s just frustrating and energy-sapping. (If it gets to you, I can help. But you really should take a crack at it first so you’ll appreciate just what it takes to create a compelling name that’s not been adopted by someone else, and also meets your established criteria.)

First thing is to identify exactly what you are going to name.

Is it a single business that has no aspirations about going global? Is it a company you are naming, or is it a product line, a subsidiary, a family of products or a single service?

For companies with multiple product lines, and models and styles within them, you may need to establish a naming hierarchy early on just to make sure you won’t be confusing customers later on.

Perhaps you will be naming a product that will be replaced by newer versions in a year or two – like software.  If so, you’ll want to establish that ground work at the outset so you can establish continuity.

After clearly defining what you will be naming, it’s time to establish the criteria you will use to create and evaluate brand name candidates. Criteria for a particular offering can come from the list below. Not all need be considered and you may wish to add one or two of your own depending upon your branding project.

Each name candidate must (should) answer the following attributes in the affirmative:

  • Is it meaningful?
    Is it unique?
    Is it relevant?
    Does it suggest a benefit?
    Is it memorable?
    Is it appropriate?
    Is it easily pronounceable?
    Is it descriptive?
    Is it in good taste?
    Is it short enough?
    Is it vital?
    Will it “have legs” over time?
    Does it appeal to all stakeholders?

Now some will say that imposing criteria prior to generating name candidate lists will limit the quantity you’ll have to choose from. This may be true, but if those generating candidates have some direction and focus, my experience says you’ll get plenty of quantity and the quality will be much higher. (I related how I learned brainstorming from Alex Osborn while at BBDO circa 1959-60 in the blog entitled Naming Tips: Number 8 in a Series)

Next, you should distribute the tools you’ve previously developed – brand platform, brand personality document, description of what is to be named, and the naming criteria – to your naming team. After a day or two, get them together to answer any questions they may have and then have them clear a day on their calendars to brainstorm names. Give them at least two or three days, preferably a week, to “percolate” their own ideas.

On the appointed day, reserve a conference room with several whiteboards, appoint a person to record all the ideas so everyone can see those ideas and “hitchhike” on those that generate a spark. Remember, no negativism or discussion of ideas. There is no judgment taking place here; that comes afterwards. Go for quantity.

If you don’t have a group of people to brainstorm names, you might consider some of the resources available on the Internet that help you generate candidates, usually without paying any attention to criteria, though.

There are some tricks, tips and techniques to naming that can be beneficial in extending the brainstormed list. They can also be used if you’ve had to generate name candidates with no help. I’ve documented a couple of dozen of them in this blog – see the series Naming Tips under the category Name Creation. Once you have found the absolutely most appropriate, compelling and memorable brand  name candidate, you’re ready for Step Eight. And plenty of frustration.

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