Your company or product name is the first and most elemental point of audience contact with your brand. In many respects, your name is the brand. It sets the tone. It’s the handshake, the introduction, the first impression (formed within a matter of seconds) for everything your brand is about.
Your name is the cornerstone of your entire brand identity to follow — logo, tagline, advertising, website, etc. That’s why it’s vital to get it right. And in our experience, evocative names pack the most powerful brand punch.
The power of an evocative name
Many of the greatest and most widely recognized brands have evocative names. These are names that map to and support the positioning of a brand metaphorically, rather than literally and linearly. (Think Amazon, Apple, Virgin, Tesla.) They paint a bigger picture and often work on multiple levels of meaning.
An evocative name, by definition, evokes strong images, memories or feelings, which means it connects with your audience on an emotional level. And it’s this emotional connection that translates into brand engagement, trust and loyalty.
An evocative name makes an emotional connection
The growing importance for a brand to make an emotional connection is evidenced by an array of sources and studies rooted in psychology, academic and market research. This 2022 article explores How Brands Create an Emotional Connection with Their Customers:
The role of the brand in peoples’ lives has changed dramatically over the past few years. Consumers have spent two years decluttering, throwing away, updating, and changing what they need. As they’ve assessed the results, people’s attitudes towards certain brands have also changed. Brands that invented themselves decades ago are not necessarily communicating successfully or coming across in the same way anymore because people have changed and moved on.
Consumers now want a less transactional and more emotional relationship with brands. According to a recent survey by Motista, customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have three times higher lifetime value and will likely recommend the company at a rate of 71%, instead of the average 45%. It is this personal approach to building relationships that brands should develop. Like with any personal relationship, it should be built on key psychological principles.
The article goes on to explain how emotional connection (via shared values) is especially important with Gen Z. “According to a recent study by Attest, “more than 60% of Gen Z say they’re likely to stop buying from a brand that doesn’t meet their personal values – 42% say ‘likely’ and 20% say ‘very likely’.”
In fact, in naming, the growing importance of authenticity, notably with Gen Z, is a trend Zinzin has also observed in these two blog posts:
- Authenticity in naming: when brands keep it a little too real
- How Do You Do, Fellow Kids? Gen Z-speak in naming and branding
An evocative name demonstrates (vs. explains)
A great evocative name has the ability to demonstrate the ideas and qualities that you’re looking to communicate. It can and should do several things, such as:
- help your brand rise above the goods and services you offer
- create a positive and lasting engagement with your audience
- be unforgettable
- provide a deep well of marketing images for many years
- generate press
- ignite word-of-mouth buzz
- dominate the conversation in your industry
Mediocre names are easily ignored because they “sound like everything else” in a given industry. On the other hand, an evocative name evades this process of routine filtering. This is the first job of a great name: to make consumers slow down and pause to think. Once they’ve done that, their minds are open and receptive to the message, the story your brand presents.
An evocative name is memorable and paints a picture
For example, Zinzin illustrates the power of memorable, evocative names in our blog post: Paint the salmon misty: colorful names done right. With paint names like Dead Salmon, Metro at 5, Avocado Toast, and Blue Ivy, companies like Valspar and Clare tap into something deeper than simply descriptive names.
People are hungry for stories, emotion, pop culture, and language that takes risks rather than just panders to the lowest common denominator. A great name can be as simple as a single word that paints a thousand pictures. And Zinzin hopes this example paints a bigger naming-picture for nearly every industry out there.
14 well known evocative brand names
While these brand names are very familiar to us these days, imagine the day when each of these companies needed a name. Instead of going for a descriptive, experiential, or invented name, these companies went for an evocative one. (By the way, you won’t find Google in the list below, because it’s an invented brand name, even though it’s based on a real word!)
We’re going to take a different approach to examining these evocative names. Let’s briefly explore the way each takes a bold, evocative leap from where they could’ve (descriptively and forgettably) landed. Note how each name rises above the goods and services the company offers.
Amazon | e-commerce company, among other things
Originally an online marketplace for books, this company saw the potential to evoke feelings of a vast and powerful network, instead of a limiting, descriptive name, such as BookNook.
Apple | consumer electronics and technology company
Steve Jobs had vision, that’s for sure. This company embraced the name of a familiar, “everyday” fruit with zero immediate connection to computing or technology. Kudos to Steve for not going with Jobs Computing.
Caterpillar | construction machinery and equipment company
Leading worldwide brand of heavy machinery represented by the name of a small, cute, colorful insect in its larval stage. It would’ve been very easy to blend into the industry landscape with names using “Big,” “Strong” “Dig,” “Diggers,” “Dirt,”…you get the descriptive picture.
Dove | personal care brand
A worldwide symbol of love and peace, connoting gentleness. Boring, descriptive name they could’ve chosen: Body Clean or Fresh-something.
Nike | leading sports brand (footwear, apparel, equipment, etc.)
Nike is the mythical Greek winged goddess of victory, symbolizing speed, strength, power, motivation. Boring, descriptive name they could’ve chosen: Sports King or any name describing “winning” or “strong.”
Numi | tea manufacturer
Named after a favorite steeped dried desert lime drink from the sibling-founders’ childhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Numi could’ve easily fallen into a boring name trap, such as Green Leaf or Tea Time.
Oracle | computer software company
Meaning prophecy, Oracle took a big, bold leap from their original, painfully descriptive name, Software Development Laboratories.
Patagonia | retailer of outdoor clothing
Evoking the adventurous, ruggedly beautiful mountainous terrain in South America, this brand could’ve been more literal about its clothing with names like Rugged Mountains or Adventure Cloth.
Polestar | automotive brand / electric vehicle
The North Star, a bright guiding light connotes the forward-thinking and design of this vehicle. More inspiring than any number of more forgettable automobile names competing in this market.
Robinhood | commission-free stock trading & investing app
This investing app broke the mold in the financial world of naming. With a mission to democratize finance for all, they chose the name of a heroic outlaw from English folklore who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. They could’ve stayed the course and blended in with a name such as AllTrade.
Starbucks | multinational chain of coffeehouses
The short story goes – someone at the company plucked a character’s name from Moby Dick, added an “s” because it sounded more conversational, and it stuck. We like it a lot better than So-and-so coffee roasters or Fresh Grounds.
Tesla | automotive & clean energy company
Named after Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla. Great sound and future-forward feel. Much better than anything descriptive with electric or spark in the name.
Twitter | microblogging & social network service
A great name for short and sweet shared messages. The name lent itself to become a verb, as well…to tweet something. Brand name gold. And much better than a name akin to Microblog.
Virgin | multinational conglomerate (operating the airline Virgin Atlantic, for example)
We could go on and on about the foresight and creative friction behind this evocative name. It’s one of Zinzin’s favorites, and one we often use as an example when working with clients, especially to highlight the reasons stakeholders could’ve given for shooting it down. Instead, Richard Branson saw an opportunity to evoke feelings of exploring new worlds (when he and a friend were brand new to their fledgling record business).
14 evocative brand names created by Zinzin
You can peruse Zinzin’s complete portfolio of evocative names. Or check out the list below for a quick glance at some of them. Each name links to a case study that gives a brief project overview.
Highwire | The Partner Elevation Platform for Capital Projects & Operations
Antimatter | Company & Encryption Infrastructure for B2B SaaS
Limbo | Company / Technology Platform Transforming Health & Wellness
Canopy | Oncology “Intelligent Care Platform” and Company Name
Quantic | The Business School of the Future
Clutch | B2B Vendor Research And Reviews Service
Mojo | “Invisible Computing” AR Platform and Company Name
Yonder | Eco-Friendly Home Cleaning Products Brand
Alloy | Personal Fitness Training Brand Name
X-Factor | Premium Residential Home Subflooring Product
Ember | Temperature Adjustable Mug And Company Brand
Juno | Process to Convert Solid Waste to Recyclable Materials
Rebus | Life Science Technology Company
Bebop | A Deliciously Sweet Red Table Grape
Your company or product brand name is vitally important. Never settle on a mediocre name. Remember, no amount of expensive marketing or advertising will win over potential customers, if they don’t notice you. The goal should always be to stand out in this noisy world. But not just for the sake of “look at us” — the key is to stand out with purpose and connect with your audience. A great name, an evocative name, can be a powerful force for companies with the vision to embrace it.
A few years back we wrote about a 2005 academic research study that presents persuasive evidence that people react positively to evocative names. Nearly 20 years later, we think the findings hold significant relevance in today’s naming world: Academic research validates unusual and unexpected evocative names.