What’s in a brand name?

Christina Tarigan
Christina Tarigan

“Hi, my name is Christina.” That’s how I typically introduce myself. If I were to tell you I’m “Smiling-Woman-Christina”, you’d probably look at me strangely (at best) or think I’m insulting you (duh, you mean I can’t tell with my own eyes that you are a woman smiling at me?).

Which is why I struggle when companies insist on having their brand names do the multitasking job of describing what their business do and their brand personality. There’s a reason why we no longer have Apple Computer and McDonald’s Fast Food Restaurant; their customers know what they are about from the other communications.

How then should we approach the naming process? Start with your brand strategy. (Have you read our free eBook “8 steps to building your brand on the right foundation”? It outlines the critical first steps to build a rock solid brand.) With your developed strategy to guide your naming process, you can then think about whether it needs to work with your current (and future) businesses, products or services.

There are a few options to creating a brand name. You can either:

  • Use the founder or inventor’s name (Louis Vuitton)
  • Describe what you do (Singapore Airlines)
  • Describe an experience or image (Yahoo!)
  • Take a word out of context (Apple)
  • Make up a word (Google)

With the list of potential names, check them against a set of evaluation criteria. While creating names is a creative process, you need to objectively decide on a name that meets your criteria.


The checklist

  1. Business vision and objectives: Does it reflect or hint at your vision? Does the name support your brand positioning? How do they relate to the brand compared to alternatives in the market? Does the brand name reinforce that experience?
  2. Target Audience: Does your name appeal to your target audience? Will they get the context? Does it conjure positive and favourable images with your brand? Will your TA find the name unique? Is the name memorable?
  3. Country sensitivity: Are there any negative connotations in your target country’s native language? Or culture?
  4. Ease of use: Is the name easy to pronounce and remember? Easy to spell?
  5. Flexibility/potential for growth: Would the name still fit if your company entered a new market or launched a new service?


Cover all bases

Before finalising your name, there’s 2 more aspects to consider:

  1. Legal: Do a trademark search to ensure your name is not registered by another company or strongly associated with another company in a similar trade in your target markets. Protect your name so that you can prevent future competitors from using it.
  2. Digital: Are the online assets still available? You can use a tool like to check availability for a web domain and popular social media sites.

That said, remember that a brand name is not the be-all and end-all of a brand. Just like a person’s clothes and the way he or she speaks showcases who they are as a person, a brand still have its different touchpoints that make up the brand experience.

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