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What’s in a Name? Everything!

Updated: May 15, 2023

By Vrishali Kekre Deshmukh

Branding & Strategy
Barasā: A traditional naming ceremony in India

Anyone who’s had a child will relate to the emotional pressures of naming their new-born. No sooner is the baby born, parents and family members go through a mixed bag of emotions; excitement, and apprehension, concerning the name to be given. After all, a name is a tag that lasts a lifetime, often, even outliving the individual.

Entrepreneurs go through something similar when choosing a name for their brand/s!

In India, faith; religious or spiritual, often serves as the guiding force for choosing a baby’s name. This context is largely missing in business and entrepreneurship. More often than not, brand-naming decisions tend to be governed by personal likes and dislikes, rather than logic, deductions, or research. And, thus begins a merry trip of discussions back and forth, delays and speculations!

To many, naming can be a daunting task. But, really, all it takes is clarity of thought and a fair idea of the brand’s journey into the future. You may choose to refresh your brand, every few decades. But, changing a brand name… highly unlikely! That’s why it’s important to get the name right in the first instance.

I often tell our clients that a brand name should be short, easy to remember, and must tell a story. Clearly, easier said than done!

So, what is it that controls the fortunes of a brand name? What makes a name tick and ensure the brand is a roaring success?

To answer this, we need to go back to a few basics. Here’s a simple checklist that is good to have, when naming your brand.

1. Understand the types of names

Brand names are of different kinds. Some carry forward the legacy of the founder’s family name, such as Ford, Honda, Armani, Baskin Robbins, etc. Closer home, we have Bajaj, Tata, Godrej… the list is endless. Then, there are names that are evocative. These are more metaphoric, less literal, and tap into a vast shared cultural resource of the fine arts, legends, myths, geography, etc. Case in point being, larger-than-life brands such as Nike, Virgin, Apple, and Amazon. Invented names are a third category, and often very distinctive such as Xerox, Google, and Ikea. Oftentimes, these words have the power to control buyer/ user behaviour – ‘Google it’ being a phrase born out of an apparently meaningless name. Brand names also fall into the categories of descriptive, lexical, acronymic, geographical, and historical, to mention a few. So, you need to be sure of where yours fits!

2. Stick to your brand’s positioning

Whatever type of brand name you choose to go with, always ensure that it supports your brand’s positioning. The brand name needs to reflect the promises your brand makes, such that it is then permanently etched in the minds of the consumers. A good way to start would be to define your brand’s values and tell its story. A name without a story, is after all just a word. ‘What’ is your brand about, ‘how’ is it better, ‘why’ should someone buy it? Try answering these questions yourself in light of your brand name. You’ll be quite surprised with the outcome!

3. Respect regional and cultural contexts

Somewhere in the course of your brand naming journey, take a step back to evaluate your name options. Ask yourself and others around you, does the name imply something nasty or negative in any language, local dialect, or slag? Is your chosen name culturally appropriate, or is it likely to offend somebody? Unless you’re internationally trying to be cheeky, it’s best to do a thorough check for your name, across the languages and dialects of the lands you plan to launch in. Do this even if you do not have any short-term plans of launching in certain geographical regions; it’s always good to do your homework. You never know when and how your brand might just take flight and travel far and long, and that’s when you don’t want to be floundering for alternatives.

4. Decide who your target audience is

When you are a brand owner or marketer, it’s not enough to say ‘anyone’ can be your brand’s target audience. You need to define clearly who your audience is and who your brand is speaking to. Get to know their preferences, age groups, lifestyles, hobbies, etc. Only then, choose a name that sits in well with the audience. As a rule of thumb, it’s always wise to keep the brand name short, simple, and unique – words that have higher chances of resonating with your audience.

5. Get sound legal advice

Always remember, your brand name is your intellectual property (IP), and no one has the right to infringe upon it. Likewise, you need to ensure that you do not infringe upon someone else’s IP either. Hence, it’s wise to hire the services of an IP lawyer or a consultant, who can guide you through the legal labyrinths. This person will do an IP check to ascertain the availability of your chosen name. Once you’ve done that, and created your brand logo, it’s imperative to also register and trademark the name and all the IPs associated with your brand. A trademark is especially important if you plan to have your own shopfront on an e-commerce portal. Acquiring a trademark certificate can take anywhere between 6 months to 1 year. So, you need to plan and begin this process well ahead of time!

6. Book a URL

When it comes to your brand, always be ahead of the game and plan for the future. Creating an entire ecosystem around your brand is very vital, for your brand to sustain itself in the marketplace. One way to do this is to create or plan for your website. Along with an IP check for your brand name, checking for an appropriate URL and booking it, is a good practice. While it’s not an absolute must, booking a .com domain is always the ideal scenario. Just remember, if your brand name is simple and easy to remember, the chances of your URL boosting your future marketing activities are always higher!

In conclusion, always ensure that your brand name is unique and has a captivating story to tell. You never know, sometimes even mixing up very unassuming and seemingly disparate words like Monkey and Shoulder can give you a brilliant whiskey that is cherished the world over. And, if you read about why they named their whiskey Monkey Shoulder, you’ll realise the incredible potential and power that lies in a brand name!

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