Post reprinted with permission from the December, 2015 article in Business in Greater Gainesville Magazine entitled “Why the Heck Did They Name it THAT?”
To hear the stories about how some of the world’s most successful companies came up with their names, it all sounds so easy. Founder Ingvar Kamprad formed the IKEA name by combining his initials, I.K., with the initial letters E and A from the farm and village where he grew up. Internet giant Google took its name from “googol,” the mathematical term for the numeral one followed by 100 zeros. One of the more famous naming moments came about when a colleague of Sir Richard Branson remarked, “We’re complete virgins at business.” And Virgin Airlines was born. But, no matter how simple it all seems, that’s not quite the way it works. Naming and branding a business is a challenging process. Your name needs to attract attention. You need to stand for something.
Recently at Parisleaf, we’ve worked on three very different types of branding projects that included naming. We were charged with:
- Renaming an established restaurant
- Creating a name for a brand-new housing development
- Developing a new name for a high-tech startup business incubator.
Despite the businesses being completely unique to each other, we approach the brand naming process in the same systematic way. Our first step is to figure out what each business really does. Keep in mind that a company is not the products and services it offers but rather the benefits behind them. For example, our restaurant client serves natural food raised in a sustainable manner. What it offers is good healthy food, but the real benefit is that the team is creating a better world, one plate at a time.
Our next step entails defining various categories of things that are related to the business. The new housing development is being constructed in an older, historic part of the city. Therefore, we explored areas like local history, trees, vegetation, nature, culture, weather, bird species, early explorers and Native American tribes. If a word sounds like a good candidate for a name, it goes on the list. Our goal is to create as many names as possible. The more we have, the better shot at finding the right one.
As we narrow down our list of favorites, there are specific things we watch out for:
- By nature, people are more comfortable with things that are familiar. It’s important to be sure a name doesn’t stick simply because it reminds us of something else.
- When exposed to something new, it’s human nature to look for reasons not to like it. We never let the negative lead us to a predictable name solution away from a more interesting one.
- It’s important to get feedback, but it can’t be a democracy. Put a name on an axis that ranges from “boring” to “best ever,” and you’ll end up in the middle trying to please as many people as possible.
- We don’t let ourselves fall in love with one particular name we could lose later to a conflicting trademark or URL. Always pick three or four names to check out thoroughly in case some fall by the wayside in the process.
You also want to do a cursory search to see if the brand name has been trademarked. Start with free resources like Trademarkia.com or USPTO.gov to check and see. If the URL you want is already taken, get creative with your naming. When the electric car maker Tesla couldn’t get “tesla.com,” it went with “teslamotors.com.”
Deciding on a name for your brand or company can’t be a choice between rational and emotional — you always need both. People focus on rational things like, “It’s easy to pronounce,” or “We can get the URL and register the trademark.” But it’s the emotional aspects that will turn a functional name into one that inspires. The stronger the emotional connection, the stronger the belief your customers will have in you.
About Chad Paris
Chad desires to own one of the healthiest agencies in the world, and that goal fuels everything he does. Chad’s role is all about relationships and communication with clients and with the Parisleaf team. Chad’s passion lies in giving back to the community – some may call this networking.