Who are you?

No-one would deny that corporate naming is of crucial importance. Your name is the first point of contact between your company’s message and your audiences’ minds.

And naming is easy, right? Think of something snappy and catchy and off you go. No. An approach based on serendipity will nearly always go wrong. Unravelling, or attempting to reverse a poor naming decision is extremely detrimental to brand reputation, confusing for customers and usually very expensive.

Corporate naming is something that you just have to get right first time. It is one of the most time consuming, frustrating and difficult components of the branding mix.

Why is this? Well, to put it simply, it gets harder and harder to come up with a name which meets client expectations. Every new company will, quite rightly, seek a name that begins the positioning process. A name that somehow captures a key benefit (what we do) or expresses a core attribute (how we do it). But, there are only 26 letters in the alphabet and a finite number of possible combinations. In any market there will be existing players who seek to project very similar messages to their audiences. So, unearthing a name that no-one has thought of before, that works and communicates something relevant, has become a very tall order. Add to that the complexities of trademark registers and the need to ensure that a new name does not risk a legal conflict with other similar names and the task gets even harder. And then, for anyone who trades internationally, there are the individual country trademark registers to check and the need to ensure that a name that may work in English does not have some awful pronunciation difficulty in other languages, or worse have some negative or inappropriate meaning. And all that before we start to think about the complexities of finding available internet domain names!


So, how on earth does one go about it?


Here are 4 helpful pointers.

First, be clear on the corporate brand/consumer brand relationship. Obviously, companies can be brands too but they don’t have to be. Never forget that people buy brands not companies. So, be clear on your relationships right from the outset. Someone will say “I’ve just bought a new BMW”. They will not say “I’ve just bought a new General Motors”. And remember, a Ford Mustang is still a Ford.

Second, many companies – especially those in B2B markets – do not have consumers to worry about and do not have the marketing and promotional budgets to build new name awareness. For these kinds of companies there is absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional type of name that may be the founder’s name or even a set of initials. The brand values that you want your company to be associated with can be built into the brand name over time by the delivery of exemplary product performance and customer service. Look first to how you can make your existing work better rather than throwing it away and starting again.

Third, if the creation of a new name is definitely the best or only way to go, focus on how your candidate new names sound. We all learn to speak before we learn to read yet so many naming projects end up with a list of typed names on a sheet of paper. Say them out loud. Try answering the phone. Explore how a new name could look. Some letter combinations offer far greater graphic potential than others. Logotype design can sometimes be the best way to select from a shortlist of candidate names.

Fourth, be bold. We are surrounded by company names which would probably have failed selection by committee. If you want to get noticed you have to stand out. Have the courage to support a challenging name. Such names are most likely to survive the trademark minefield and offer the best shot at getting you to the top rung of the awareness ladder.

In today’s world of brand and communication overload standing out from the crowd and getting noticed is harder than ever. A strong, innovative name can be a vital shortcut to competitive differentiation. Naming is hard work but of immense commercial value. And one final thing to remember – what worked in the past won’t necessarily work in the future.