Why Metaphors Make Great Company Brand Names

Phil Davis

Branding & Naming Expert President of Tungsten Branding

Picture the Perfect Business Name

If a picture is truly worth one thousand words, then what better way to convey your corporate brand than with a metaphor? The hyperinflation of news and information requires branding strategies that disrupt, “stick,” and convey more than the literal product or service a company offers. A great example of this type of name is the relatively new travel site named Kayak.

First off, the name is unexpected. It gives the listener reason to pause and ask for more. There is an element of intrigue in metaphorical names. Kayak? What type of company is that? And here’s where it gets good… the follow up answer fits the name — an on line travel booking site that can move you along, help things flow, streamline your travel plans, get you on your way, keep things afloat, stay above water, etc. etc. This type of naming strategy provides more than a mere moniker, it provides an entire marketing lexicon to build upon.

The same holds true for great brand names such as Amazon, an endless source of diverse products, and Monster, a huge job site with large numbers of listings. Jaguar highlights the luxury car’s speed, responsiveness and agility. The Ladders is all about attaining a higher position. And when I open my hand, there sits a Blackberry, (which says a mouthful.) John Deere, a legacy name, plays off the animal vs. the surname (“Nothing runs like a Deere.”) In our own case, Tungsten highlights our commitment to branding brilliance.

David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, said that the best ideas have “legs,” or continual staying power. Metaphors can provide that type of long haul brand endurance. Looking at the definition of metaphor explains why…

Metaphor: “A figure of speech that expresses an idea through the image of another object. Metaphors suggest the essence of the first object by identifying it with certain qualities of the second object.”

Imagine having your generic, or incoherent, acronym-ladened company name distilled to one simple word — a word that expressed an entire idea. Kayak, the travel site, works much better than Expedia, which has to be explained (express? expedite? pedestrian? encyclopedia?) or worse yet, heavily advertised.

If you are considering naming a company, then take a look at metaphors. If you can pick a good one, you just might have “the Midas touch!”

About the author: With over twenty five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.

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