Countless articles have been written detailing the equity captured, cultivated,
or squandered in a brand's most visible communication - its name. As the pithiest
condensation of your brand's message, your name must rise above the uproar
in the marketplace and resonate with all the constituencies within your audience.
More important than how loudly your name shouts however, is whether it effectively
supports (whether it telegraphs or evokes) your brand's promise, story, and
spirit. When your brand can inspire, motivate or persuade the people who matter
to your business's success, you can compete. It's your brand's name that initiates
the critical relationship between your brand and audience. Name your brand
So how, linguistically, do you capture differentiation, target, and end
benefit and create your new brand name? Whether you're naming a new venture
or renaming as part of a strategic shift, there are several options available
to business leaders. You can brainstorm in house, contract with a freelancer,
use your current Ad agency or PR firm, engage a naming consultancy, or hire
a full-service brand management firm.
Each avenue has its advantages and disadvantages. Here's our analysis based
on 18 years of linguistic, naming, and business experience.
The greatest benefit of naming your own offering, is that your process will
be informed with the precision that comes from your extensive familiarity
with your brand. Another surety is that you and your in-house team will be
passionate about the process and outcome, because you're all deeply vested
in the success of your company. And sometimes you can save time and money.
If you offer the opportunity for everyone with a valuable opinion to give
creative input but ensure that a group of no more than four people makes the
final selection, it's entirely possible that you'll have a great experience
and come up with an ideal name.
The downside to internal naming projects is that your objectivity will be
compromised, since everyone involved is so involved with your project
and has intense interest in the outcome. While there is the possibility of
generating a great name, there is also a general business truth that experts
do things better (for a variety of reasons including special training and
experience). Without a talented expert (or team of experts) you may get lost
in the precarious maze of creativity and strategy, subjectivity and objectivity
- subverting criteria, objectives and structure to emotion or letting strategic
rigidity dampen the wildly creative aspect of naming. Another downside to
naming your own brand is that after days, weeks, or even months of brainstorming,
back-and-forth, frustration, and disappointments from your legal team over
trademark searches, there is a chance you will choose something simply because
you're tired, faced with a deadline, or needed in your primary business role
- not because the name is resounding, resonant, memorable, or appropriate.
The costs associated with draining company time, talent, and energy in self-naming
projects may exceed the cost of using professionals. In our experience, too,
companies fed up with internal naming processes will sometimes contract with
an outside resource after intense attempts yield no useful names. The time
frame by this point can be urgent and the experts you hire will likely charge
you for that added pressure. Another lamentable possibility: you go ahead
and launch a brand name only to be forced to re-launch a new name later for
unforeseen reasons such as linguistic, tactical or strategic deficits or foreign
translation disasters -- issues that experts know to avert - in which case
the toll and toil can be agonizing.
Freelancers are generally the least expensive and quickest option for a naming
project. They are ideal if you know the strategic criteria and creative standards
your name must fulfill, have your own legal team for the preliminary trademark
and URL searches, know a global linguistics expert for any foreign translation
issues, and are having a challenge only in generating naming candidates. A
freelancer may very quickly and cheaply coin the ideal naming solution for
Copywriters generally have a limited understanding of your company and little
or no knowledge of branding, name equity, or echoic memorability. Freelance
namers will likely generate a long list of names that have not been edited
with your business, customers, investors, employees, tone, personality, positioning,
competitors or strategy in mind. Poring over their long lists may be frustrating
and time consuming, and enough off-strategy naming candidates in a document
will obfuscate the excellent ones. They also rarely conduct a preliminary
trademark search, so you may fall in love with a naming candidate that is
unavailable, which wastes your time and resources. And, because independent
namers and wordsmiths generally work alone and have limited brand strategy
resources to inform their work, their solo efforts rarely strike a balance
between strategy and creativity.
Your Current Ad Agency or PR Firm
You'll get very bright, talented wordsmiths with marketing savvy, who will
be familiar with you, your way of thinking, your brand's positioning, and
your market. Based on your existing relationship and previous successes with
this firm, you may have a great experience and wind up with an ideal name.
Verbal identity work is not copywriting. Because an ad agency's expertise
lies in ad campaigns, media placement, and trends, the exact requirements
of a naming project -- the strategic objectives, creative standards (echoic
value to recall value), methods of metaphor creation, global translation issues,
trademark searches, and URL issues of a naming endeavor may be new to them.
Similarly, public relations professionals are more familiar with journalism
and fact-based communications than creative naming solutions. Both ad agencies
and PR firms tend to view naming as an interesting pursuit, but generally
aren't familiar with its nuances. In either case, your naming work may well
fall into the hands of people recruited to brainstorm over lunch, viewing
the naming challenge as a tactical issue rather than a strategic endeavor.
Though enormously talented and well intended, these professionals may lack
the linguistic specialization, specific references, URL and translation savvy,
resources and commitment necessary for appropriate name creation. Another
likely possibility is that the firm will hire and supervise a freelance namer
and pass along marked-up costs to you.
A naming consultancy is dedicated exclusively to the art and science of naming.
The best consultancies generate extensive lists of naming candidates and pare
them down based on strategic criteria you've approved (including audience
relevance, competitive differentiation, sustainability, credibility, graphic
potential, echoic resonance, and brand personality). To save you heartache
and time, they present only the naming candidates that fulfill your strategic
objectives, their creative standards, and that have cleared a preliminary
trademark search. Naming consultancies may dedicate as many as 14 experienced
naming and strategy specialists on your project-teams who go beyond simply
describing your attributes and benefits to capture the spirit of your customer's
relationship with your brand. They generally have the resources to research
your brand, audit your competitive landscape, and create your naming strategy.
They likely have an extensive library, a codified strategic and creative process
to cover comprehensive literal and metaphorical territories, and a core understanding
that strategy must drive the naming process while emotion dominates name selection.
Naming consultancies often offer the additional resources of brand strategy
expertise, legal resources, global translations, and URL creation and registration.
Naming consultancies can be expensive. They're not as quick to deliver names
as freelancers or some internal contributors, since they're often coordinating
a team of talent and add multiple filters to the work before presenting it
to you. Some (definitely not all) naming companies ransack their own name
databases, searching for projects similar to yours so they can sell you work
done for other clients. Other naming companies mix and match syllables or
plug key words into formulae and software. Most of the names those companies
generate will be indecipherable, unpronounceable, forgettable jargon. Of the
few intelligible names, most will be unavailable for trademark, since they
are based on morphemic translations of your benefits and attributes, a list
many of your competitors have in common with your offering. The mathematical,
robotic generation of these names will unlikely result in a creative experience
for you. So you'll want to make sure legitimate and inspired wordsmiths bring
their passion and poetry to your process. And regardless of the quality and
caliber of the consultancy you choose, if you want a visual identity for your
name, you'll need to go through the rigors of finding and incorporating an
additional firm (although some naming consultancies will offer cooperative
alliances with graphic design and interactive marketing firms, so it's possible
that you will have the convenience of almost seamless service).
Brand Management or Corporate Identity Firm
Brand agencies with a dedicated naming department operate in much the same
way as the best naming consultancies - they well know the value and requirements
of a brand name. In addition, they may involve a broader spectrum of brand
experts and creative minds (graphic designers, architects, brand directors)
to work on your solution. Should you need a graphic execution of your new
name, retail architecture, consumer packaging, or a Web site, you can have
the convenience of a seamless, one-stop experience. Most large corporations
look to their brand management firm to help them generate names, so these
firms frequently have credentials that include respected, multinational names.
Identity firms are expensive (but often give discounts to companies willing
to engage them for the entire spectrum of branding services). In some cases,
firms view naming work as a bitter pill to swallow: a necessary piece of the
business accomplished to win clients for their more profitable core competencies
in design or strategy. Their naming fees are competitive, but they may charge
you a large, separate fee for the preliminary strategy work. As with naming
companies, some brand agencies collect names from their databases rather than
creating artful communications specifically for your brand. Many brand agencies
(but certainly not all) also use computer software and Web sites to generate
words based on attribute and benefit lists, leaving you with names devoid
of any creative or human energy. And, despite their company size, some branding
firms have shockingly small naming departments, meaning they dedicate precious
few minds to your solution. In fact, big firms may do the old bait and switch,
using senior people to win your business only to use junior people to execute
the actual work. Or they may bill you their high fees to recruit talented
people from other departments to brainstorm "in their free time" or over lunch.
Though these creative and strategic experts know the importance of names,
they are rarely experts from linguistic fields. And again, like PR firms and
ad agencies, they may hire a freelance namer and pass along marked-up costs
Should you decide to go with a new outside resource, research at least
3 different competitors. Ask them how they approach naming. What qualities
do they value in a brand name? How important will your brand strategy be to
their process? What is their position on subjectivity and objectivity, structure
and emotion throughout the process? What resources will they dedicate to your
solution - how many people will be involved and what are their qualifications?
And finally, how do they generate names? Do they use research, brainstorming,
linguistics, databases, software, blue sky, or proprietary creation tactics?
We recommend avoiding any company that takes a rigid or narrow approach, since
naming is a complex, creative, strategic, artistic, linguistic endeavor.
Good luck, and good naming.