When naming, companies often make a fundamental mistake about the nature of risk. The faulty assumption is that a company needs a descriptive name in order to “describe what it does,” or what its product does. Or an experiential name to refer as closely as possible to the experience that the company, product, or service wants you to have. This is often because leadership says they “don’t have a huge marketing budget” to do this describing. In other words, an “edgy,” evocative name that doesn’t describe what they do is considered too “risky.”
This kind of thinking is prevalent across all industries. It’s also completely wrong.
Right the wrong!
It may seem counterintuitive, but, in terms of the bottom line, “safe” (descriptive) names are risky. Whereas, “edgy” (evocative) names are actually a much safer choice. This is because of what they can do for your brand, and the value they’ll create.
The real risk with a “safe” name is that it will drown in a sea of sound-alike clones. You’ll also end up paying a lot more money for advertising. It becomes a vain attempt to get a brand noticed by your glazed-over audience. This is the risky business of risking business.
Understand the value 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. Why? Because contrary to many management consultants, real people make purchasing decisions that are at least influenced, if not governed, by emotion rather than logic.
An evocative name will do several things:
- create brand awareness
- get the press to write about it
- generate word-of-mouth buzz
- engage with your audience
- convert your audience to fanatic devotees of your brand
A great example: Quilt
Our client, Quilt, is a great example of a home electrification tech company that understood the value of an evocative name. Instead of blending into the crowded landscape of descriptive tech-world names, Quilt demonstrates the ease and comfort that this technology provides.
Quilt co-founder and CEO, Paul Lambert, says it best:
People have very high expectations for the products in their lives. After a million years, fire-based solutions are finely tuned. It’s not realistic—or fair—to ask people to give them up for something worse. And the new thing can’t just be a little better. A little improvement isn’t enough to overcome the inertia of the status quo…
The core technology has matured to the point where it is possible to create a great consumer product out of heat pumps, but no one has done it yet. EVs were at this point in the early 2000s. Lightbulbs were here in 1850.
Quilt was founded to close this gap. We are a group of people who have spent our careers learning to make consumer products out of technology. We wanted to find an opportunity to use these skills in a way that would most benefit future generations.
Our hope is to help humanity finally kick the combustion habit and move past fire. That’s a species-level transition. And we would love your help to make it happen.
We love the idea of overcoming the inertia of the status quo. And we believe a great name can help a brand on that path! We also love how Quilt paired their (more traditional-sounding) name with a modern logo treatment and website design for a strong and memorable brand identity.
A brief look at brand positioning
The name Zinzin created, Quilt, is an evocative, “warm and fuzzy,” human-centric, homey name that exemplifies a merger of form (design/aesthetics), function (warmth, comfort, ease of use), and science (baffles, insulation, layers).
It also maps metaphorically to the networked home, where individual heat pumps and other devices are “stitched together” to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a beautiful and sustaining “big picture” piece of “functional art.”
For a deeper dive into Zinzin’s naming work with this cool company, check out our Quilt case study.
FOSO: Fear of Standing Out
There’s another culprit behind companies that have an irrational fear of choosing “edgy,” evocative names. That culprit’s name is FOSO, or a fear of standing out.
When it’s time to name (or rename) a company, product, or service, FOSO is all too common. That’s ironic, because naming and branding should be considered among a company’s most important marketing efforts. And marketing is all about getting your brand to stand out from the crowd. It should be noticed, talked about, recommended, and remembered.
Yet, for some reason, when it comes to naming, many companies become blinded by an irrational fear of standing out. Consciously or subconsciously, these companies choose to blend in with their competition rather than stand apart.
To help combat this particular culprit, Zinzin offers these top naming tips to topple your company’s “Fear of Standing Out.”
Never settle on a mediocre, “safe” name. No amount of expensive marketing or advertising will win over potential customers if they don’t even notice you to begin with.
Remember, in terms of the bottom line, “safe” names are risky. Whereas, “edgy” names are actually a much safer choice. This is because of what they can do for your brand, and the value they’ll create.
The goal should always be to stand out in this noisy world. But not just for the sake of being different — 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.