We love a good codename: Maxwell. Gouda. Sirius. Dogwood. Fred. Sharknado.
Companies often use a codename (or codename systems) as a placeholder for a company or product(s) still in development. Typically, they’re developed in-house, chosen randomly, or sometimes have particular relevance to a company or product attribute. And in some cases, employees start to gain a fondness or strong attachment to them.
But time marches on, and, at some point, it becomes inevitable: the codename’s gotta go. It must make way for an even more awesome company or product name. In this post, we’ll cover some essential naming tips to help you transform your company Sharknado into a killer brand name. Roll camera!
Why is a name so important?
A company or product name is the first and most elemental point of audience contact with your brand. In many respects, the name IS the brand. It sets the tone for everything your brand is about. In short, everything you do or ever will do begins with your name. That’s why it’s vital to get the name right.
What makes a great company or product brand name?
A great name has the ability to demonstrate the ideas and qualities that you are 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
The power of an evocative name
Mediocre names are easily ignored because they “sound like everything else” in a given industry. On the other hand, great names evade this process of routine filtering, so the audience can engage and be receptive to the message your brand presents. This is the first step toward brand engagement and memorability. Many of the most powerful brand names have what we call evocative names. These are names that map to and support the positioning of a brand metaphorically, rather than literally and linearly. Evocative names, by definition, escape the attention filter and demand to be noticed.
Common pitfalls when choosing a brand name
A name that’s too descriptive
The biggest mistake companies typically make is to think that a name has to either describe what the company or product does, or describe some key experiential attribute of the brand, such as “speed” or “flexibility.” Such names only explain the brand. Yes, people may quickly get it, but they will also likely forget it. Pretty much every industry is saturated with these types of direct names.
Doing the monster-mashup
The next step companies often take is a trip to the thesaurus. This will inevitably offer synonyms for “speed,” “flexibility,” or whatever key brand attributes may be. When they realize those names are also all taken, they start to create mashups of word parts of these synonyms, until they have a name that they’re able to trademark. Or they borrow from ancient or foreign languages and often mash up those as well.
What the company is left with is a name that may be technically “unique” and trademarkable, but it may be ugly to look at, difficult to pronounce, impossible to remember, and has zero brand value.
So, how to find a great name?
Tackle it internally, with guidance
It is possible for companies of any size to create a name internally. For one, naming is fun! We encourage brainstorming in the most beneficial ways, and following core naming guidelines. Zinzin’s essential Naming Guide may be just the resource to help you with that.
Work with a naming agency
Another route companies take is to hire a naming agency. It may seem like a daunting task, so Zinzin has written a nifty blog post called A Guide to Evaluating Naming Agencies. Even if we don’t get the chance to work with you, we hope this guide helps you in your naming quest.
At Zinzin, our naming process begins with understanding everything about your brand: where it’s been and where it’s headed, your competition, and your entire industry. We also work with you to develop or transition your brand positioning into names. This means identifying the big picture brand narrative you want to communicate to the world. It’s the unique tone and personality of your brand. All great names support the positioning of the brand they speak for. They find a unique way to reinvigorate or change the conversation that an industry has with its customers.
Zinzin’s top naming advice
Analyze the competition
First, do a thorough analysis of the brand names of your competitors, like our Competitive Namescape. This is an opportunity to map out the territory of what’s already out there in your space. It will also reveal how most of your competitors are blending in with each other instead of standing out.
Choose an evocative name
Next, only consider names that stand out from the competition — because what value is there in disappearing? Of course, names should also look and sound good and be easy to pronounce, not just difruhnt for the sake of being different. As a powerful bonus, evocative names can give you deep layers of meaning and history behind the name. Such names will help you tell a compelling story and empower your brand marketing efforts for years to come.
Be sure it has legs
Finally, the name you choose should be extensible. It should work with sub-branded products, for instance. And it should most definitely work as a brand name for the fabulous work you may be doing in five or ten years down the road, not just today.