Chapter 2 - Brand Identity I: Defining Your Business
The name of a business is not only a creative consideration but also a strategic one. The name you end up choosing should have the potential to be recognized within your sector and be available to be trademarked. Like the rest of the brand, it should reflect who you are and what you stand for. It’s the identifier employees are associated with and customers are loyal to. There are multiple ways to choose a name:
Descriptive names describe what the business does or what it offers. These are easy for consumers to understand, but can be limiting if you decide to modify your business or offering. Common descriptive names are acronyms and identifiers.
Evocative names rely on associations to suggest meaning. They can powerful and symbolic, but rely on associative networks already existing in the mind of the consumer. Common evocative names are figurative, associative, or obscure (which appeals to people in the loop).
An example of an evocative-obscure name with a strong brand is Prufrock, a London-based cafe whose name derives from a TS Eliot poem in which the author wrote “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.” Evocative names can also be inspired by idioms, colloquialisms, and onomatopoeia, like with yogurt brand Gü.
Abstract names, or names that are neither descriptive nor immediately evocative, are usually easier to secure but more difficult for consumers to understand. Common abstract names are made-up or a homage, like using a founder's name or paying tribute to another person or character.
Before settling on a name, check:
🔍 Trademark databases and patent offices
🔍 Social media handles
🔍 Search engine results
🔍 What it means in other languages, to avoid negative associations
Naming experts at brand agency Superunion argue that people don’t usually like new or unfamiliar names. You make a name likable by associating it with a great offering and experience and make it desirable through well-considered design and execution, as well as simple repetition. That said, it is valuable to consider how the name fits in the world.
Visualize it on different mediums. How would the name look on a store sign? Printed on a mug?
Test how it sounds in different sentences. “Let's go to X.” “X is my favorite pizza (or other category) place.” Does it fit easily in a conversation? “Let me get a pizza (or other item) at X.” “I work at X.” “How do we get to X?”
At the end of the day (and a somewhat controversial opinion), names themselves are not as important as the offering that lies underneath. You can imbue a made-up word with great power if it's associated with a strong experience, while highly evocative names lose meaning if the offering is unpleasant. It is necessary, though, to be confident about the name you end up choosing; you should view names as something you're stuck with for a lifetime. Associations related to a name are extremely hard to change. Renamings are not usually done unless something about the business itself is fundamentally different; for example, if it changes owners, or if it is expanding to a new market.
Try brainstorming different types of names using the naming canvas.