The Vigorous Process of Brand Naming: An Art and a Science

Brand Naming

“What’s in a name?” It’s not just William Shakespeare who wants to know. Brands have been pondering this question for years, trying to get the idea for the perfect brand name to gain recognition — and help their products sell. Naming a brand requires you to make a significant pivot without losing the momentum and equity of your original brand. That’s because a brand name carries real weight. With incredible creativity and a dose of strategic thinking, a brand name can reinvigorate a brand’s success from the start. Keeping in mind the analytical process, let’s peek into the challenging part of branding a company and decode it part by part.

  • Promise: evoke and support the product/service benefits. A great example: ‘Intel.’
  • Personality/ character: is your brand a young and exuberant adult or a family friend in a moment of need? The name says it all.
  • Performance: Emotion plays a vital role in more functional brands, namely in consumer goods and services. ‘Apple’ has no performance relates innuendos, whereas ‘Head and Shoulders’, ‘Duracell’, ‘Energizer’ clearly do.

Delivering on the above dimensions requires a combination of semantics, phonetics (e.g. Pentium from Intel) and sound symbolism (e.g. Smirnoff, suggesting Russian origins). This is called Brand Mixology. Just like a great cocktail, needs the right glass, the right color and a perfect balance of taste. And of course, the right quantity of ice and maybe a garnish.

An idea of a brand name is as analytical as it can get.  From a long term strategy to developing a compelling brand architecture, you need to create a relevant story for your target group. Define a set of brand values and benefits, and what makes your proposition believable. The ideation of brand naming is about giving the soul and flesh to your brand idea. It is the first derivative of secure positioning and well-thought brand architecture.

The Brand Name performance: The second step is about generating brand name ideas embracing creativity and defining several routes. While ideation is about narrowing down the scope, this part massively increases your viable alternative. A brand name’s performance is about validating the customer/ consumer promise. At this stage, brand names should evoke response fitting into the geographical boundaries. 

Before embarking on the brand naming journey, it’s essential to have an idea of the types of names you’re leaning towards. Familiarize yourself with the various categories a name can fit into, so you can decide which ones may be best for your organization.

The Brand Naming Bucket

Brand names fall into three distinctive categories: 1) descriptive; 2) suggestive (sometimes called evocative); and 3) abstract (sometimes called empty vessel).

Descriptive brand names are straightforward and functional — they clearly articulate what a product or company does using everyday language. Descriptive names allow customers to understand what a business is all about instantly — but this simplicity comes with a few downsides. Not only do these names tend to be lengthy and less than inspiring, but they can also be limiting. A brand name that describes the products or services you provide right now may not be flexible enough down the line, especially if you decide to expand that offering in the future.

Suggestive brand names imply a benefit or tell a story about a business. Unlike descriptive names, evocative brand names lean heavily on metaphors and analogies to help express the main idea behind a brand. Intel, for example, connotes intelligence and information — two key concepts that are supported by the tech company’s processors and other products every day. Twitter is another classic that falls into this category: evoking the image of a flock of birds tweeting at one another to symbolize a social platform where news and opinions are shared by businesses and individuals alike.

Abstract brand names don’t have a clear relationship to the brand or product they represent. Whether they’re real words, like Apple, or made-up words, like Adient (an automotive car seat manufacturer), these names function as blank slates — allowing businesses to infuse new meaning into them. Because they aren’t as generic as descriptive names, they may be easier to trademark and own. However, their originality is a double-edged sword: abstract names typically require significantly higher marketing spend to establish new connotations around them. Whereas descriptive names speak for themselves, obscure names need more work — but their distinctiveness can pay off for the businesses who invest in them correctly.

Brand Naming Construct 

At Strawberry Branding, we’ve worked throughout the process while embarking on the journey of brand naming with Entrepreneur 90- a startup consulting company and Bamboo and Biryani- a biryani restaurant. 

As the companies’ branding agency, we first conducted preliminary research to evaluate the equity of the brand names. Apart from the keen awareness they want to cultivate in their respective industries, E90 and Bamboo&Biryani served as a strong statement to the marketplace and a clear signal to the consumers that these brands are here to take the market by storm. 

From there, we embarked on two rounds of brainstorming, organizing name generation around four naming territories — thematic categories that highlighted critical areas of strength for E90 and B&B’s business, like “food” and “business consulting.” Establishing these lanes helped us narrow the field from 650 initially generated names, to 38 shortlisted names, to the one the clients finally selected.

In brand naming, every project follows its own path. However, solid knowledge of categories and constructs, and a greater understanding of the overall process can lead to a rewarding and successful naming outcome.

Looking for an out-of-the-box brand name for your brand? We’re here to help.

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I'm a writer and I do not simply pen down my thoughts. Rather, I'm someone who puts down the entire conversation between my inner mind and me. I make sure that my mind is jaded and tired but happy when I'm done for the day.

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