Branding & Naming Expert President of Tungsten Branding
What’s in a name?
When Cingular decided to create a cellular phone for young children, they needed a name that would resonate with both them and their parents. The result was Firefly – a name that not only fits the product (it lights up when in use) but also one that has deep meaning. Many parents can fondly recall summer nights spent chasing the elusive lights as they danced across a fresh cut lawn or meadow.
When a technology company needed a name for their new PDA a few years ago, they could have used Pocket Link (the code name for the device while it was in development). Instead they went with a much more appetizing name… The Blackberry.
When United Parcel Service wanted to instill a deeper sense of their brand identity, they simply turned to their earthy corporate color…”What can Brown do for you?” Verizon named their newest phone Chocolate. And the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment shares its name with a friendly, wiggly little worm…Caterpillar.
What do these highly memorable names have in common? They are all richly grounded in human experience. As such they are much more anchored in our brains. They trigger the areas of sight, sound, taste and touch. These emotive names then provide a much bigger palette to paint a mental picture of our products and services. They allow us to borrow on the attributes inherit in the words themselves. That’s why Apple is much more approachable, consumable and human than Compaq. And that’s why we process Amazon on a whole different level than Books-A-Million.
Emotive names provide a much bigger palette to paint a mental picture of our products and services. They allow us to borrow on the attributes inherit in the words themselves.
So what keeps companies from using these great words to evoke deeper levels of meaning and greater connection with their brand? The answer usually comes down to fear. That fear may take many forms, such as “No one else in our industry is doing that!” and “No one will understand our product if we don’t explain it in the name.” On a more practical level the fear takes the form of trademark issues. Many car companies have simply given up on great names such as Cougar and Mustang in favor of alphanumeric solutions… i.e. Q45, E Class, XR7, etc. Rather than risk a fight, they take safe, coined, emotionless words and use massive marketing dollars in an attempt to instill the very attributes that a great name can instantly provide.
The fear also takes the form of limited thinking… that all the great names are taken and gone. But creativity knows no such limits. There are always new ways to create, invent and evoke. It may take time. It may take effort. But the rewards are worth it. In the end you will have a name and a brand that truly mean something. It will be a name rich in texture and ripe with meaning. Above all, it will be human.
There are always new ways to create, invent and evoke. It may take time. It may take effort. But the rewards are worth it. Above all, it will be human.
Is this the best and only way to name a business or product? Of course not. But it’s one naming strategy that deserves more priority and consideration in the light of so many artificial names. Do your customers crave meaning and experience in their lives? Do they want to connect at a deeper level? Then meet that need by creating names, tag lines and experiences that are great – great because they are genuine, grounded and organic. That way you’ll not only grow, you’ll thrive and prosper.
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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