Learn how to choose a brand name. Are you naming a new product? A start-up? A new podcast? Dr. Andrea Wojnicki takes you through the 5 steps, from strategy to name generation, to evaluation, to searching availability and trademarking, to launching the brand! See the shownotes for a useful printable summary.
Printable shownotes here: https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/#shownotes/
- Creating your TEAM
- Common CHALLENGES
- The 5 Step PROCESS
- The Brand STRATEGY & Identity Document
- Name GENERATION
- TYPES of Names
- EVALUATION Criteria
- PROTECTION – Search & Trademark
- APPLICATION – Launching the Brand
Creating Your Brand Naming TEAM
- 4-6 highly invested folks is probably ideal. People who know the firm, know the brand, and care about its future. It helps to include 1-2 folks from outside your firm. It could be someone from your marketing agency or another supplier or partner.
- Veto power should be given to all team members. Team members must trust each other!
- Including customers or a broader team can help with engagement. While involving a bigger group may seem democratic, it often results in a safe, comfortable, and BORING outcome. Instead, use trusted customers and others to help you with the disaster check on the final name contenders.
- Who makes the final decision depends on your culture. Typically it’s the one person with the most seniority. That person needs to be open to all team members’ input.
Overcoming Common Brand Name CHALLENGES
- Think long term. The brand name should be permanent. It’s not what you ARE, it’s what you WANT to be. It’s the IDEAL brand image. Consider too that the brand might extend or grow geographically and/or into other product categories. Don’t choose a brand name that limits opportunities.
- Many great brand names are taken! It’s very common that your top choice is not available. But don’t give up. Use this process to identify something even better!
- You probably won’t feel “thrilled” with your top name contenders. This is common, but not surprising, since there’s no brand equity associated with it – yet. It’s like a blank slate!
- This 5-stage process is not a perfect sequence. You can go through the stages step-by-step, but don’t worry if you need to go back or skip ahead. The stages are often recursive and even concurrent. For example you might want to secure a URL before you’ve formally generated and evaluated other names, or you might have to go back to evaluation if your top contenders aren’t available.
- Don’t ask people whether they “like” the name contenders you are considering! Instead, use the objective evaluation criteria. Use others’ input for the disaster check. How does the name translate into other languages? Are there any inappropriate connotations?
5 STEPS in the Brand Name Development Process
- Definition – Formally articulate the brand strategy and identity. Create a document that will be shared with the brand-naming team.
- Generation – Generate potential names through “blank slate” brainstorming, by focusing on the Brand Strategy & Identity document, by probing with Qs, and by considering the various types of names.
- Evaluation – Rank and choose the best name contenders based on 6 objective evaluation criteria.
- Protection – Register the URL and the trademark
- Application – Launch the brand.
The BRAND STRATEGY & IDENTITY DOCUMENT
Elements to include:
- Product Category – What is the “space” where the brand will compete? What are customers looking for? What substitutes are available?
- Competition – Identify direct and indirect competitors. What is their point of difference? Strength? Weakness? What types of names do they have?
- Target Market – demographics, psychographics
- Brand Benefit – What is your brand’s point of difference ? What does it do better than its direct competitors? How do you prove this to customers? What is the evidence of this benefit?
- Brand Identity (see relevant Talk About Talk podcasts and blogs listed in references)
- brand values
- mood & tone
Brand Name GENERATION Session(s)
3 things that the brand-naming team members should bring to the meetings:
- The Brand Strategy & Identity document
- A laptop or a paper and pen
- A thesaurus – online or a book
Rules & Guidelines
- No bad ideas!
- No interrupting, but don’t forget what you were going to say. Write it down just in case.
- Nominate one person to create a massive list of terms that will be generate and shared in real time (on a screen or on flip chart pages)
- One person will moderate or lead the discussion.
- BLANK SLATE – describe the brand
- THE BRAND STRATEGY & IDENTITY DOCUMENT
- Which of our values might be incorporated in the name?
- How would you describe the personality of this brand?
- Which archetype does this brand fit with? WHY?
- QUESTIONS TO ASK
- Metaphors – If this brand was ____ what would it be? WHY? (A food? A Car? A colour? A flower? A fabric? An animal?)
- Competition – Who are our main competitors and what we you think about their names? Compared to our main competitors, this brand is what?
- TYPES OF NAMES (see printable next page)
- Alliteration, rhyming and acronyms
TYPES of Brand Names
- real word with direct or explicit meaning
- as in Home Depot, Talk About Talk
- real word with implicit meaning
- as in Yahoo!, Amazon, Nike, Visa
- combine 2+ words with relevant meaning
- as in Microsoft, Facebook, FedEx
- modified word with relevant meaning
- as in Intel, Lucent
- person’s name
- as in Walmart, Disney, McDonald’s
- real random word
- as in Apple, Shell
- nonsense word
- as in Exxon, Kodak
Objective EVALUATION Criteria for Brand Names
Ideal brand names are:
- The name is not taken by direct or indirect competitors
- Consider the URL, the trademark, social media accounts
- Communicates/describes the brand
- The name doesn’t have to describe the brand, but all else equal, the name is a good opportunity to communicate something to the customer.
- Memorable & brief
- Ideal brand names are unique and memorable
- Shorter names are preferable. They are easier to recall and easier to type!
- Flexible, scalable
- The name should not limit the brand in terms of geographical or product expansion
- Easily pronounced and spelled
- Two tests: if you write the name, is it easily pronounced? If you say the name, is it easily spelled?
- Consistent global meaning – “the disaster check”
- How does the name translate into other languages?
- What does the name rhyme with?
- Are there any inappropriate connotations?
- How might your competitor poke fun of this name?
PROTECTION – Search & Trademark
Searching for availability
- Online search – Do any direct or indirect competitors use the same name?
- Is the URL available?
- Is the name already trademarked?
- Are social media accounts with that name taken?
3 ways to conduct your search and trademark your brand name
- Do-it-yourself (see links to USPTO and Canadian TM office)
- Hire a freelancer (e.g. Fiverr.com, freelancer.com, upwork.com)
- Hire a reputable lawyer
APPLICATION – Launching the Brand
**Keep all your notes from this process to help guide your copy (sentences and paragraphs on your website, social media, etc.)
Depending on the context, some suggestions for launching the brand:
- Secure the URL
- Secure a new email address (e.g. [email protected], [email protected])
- Update your email signature
- Create accounts in social media platforms
- Design a logo, identify fonts,…
- Communicate name change to your existing customers
- S. Patent & TM Office – https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics
- Canadian TM database – https://www.ic.gc.ca/app/opic-cipo/trdmrks/srch/home?lang=eng
- Chevy Nova naming story: (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/chevrolet-nova-name-spanish/)
- ARCHETYPES podcast episode – com/54-archetypes/
- ARCHETYPES blog – https://talkabouttalk.com/archetype-blog/
- PERSONALITY blog – https://talkabouttalk.com/personality-blog/
Talk About Talk & Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
- Email – [email protected]
- Subscribe to the Podcast – https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/#subscribe
- Free Communication Coaching via the weekly Email Blog – https://talkabouttalk.com/blog/#newsletter-signup
- Website – https://talkabouttalk.com
TRANSCRIPT – How to choose a brand name
Hey there – I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!) Welcome to Talk About Talk.
Q for you: are you a life-long learner, always looking for research-based self-improvement advice?
Or maybe you’re in a rut, trying to get noticed and advance your career. Well, in either case, or maybe both cases, this is the place for you.
Talk About Talk is a learning platform – an online resource where you’ll learn how to boost your communication skills.
We talk about things like Networking, Storytelling, and communicating with confidence. These are just a few of the critically important communication-related topics that they typically don’t teach you at school.
So.. you can think of Talk About Talk as your secret weapon to propel your professional development to the next level.
And here’s the thing: Talk About Talk makes it so easy for you to become a skilled communicator. If you go to the Talk About Talk website, you’ll see a variety of resources, including FREE weekly communication coaching through the email blog, academic and white papers to read, one-on-one coaching, online courses, and, of course, an archive of over 50 podcasts. And I’m updating the website with new resources every single week.
In this episode, we’re tackling an important topic – brand names. So how do brand names fit in to our general topic of communication skills? Well, names are a significant element of identity, right? In our most recent Talk About Talk podcasts and blogs we covered the topics of archetypes and personality. These topics – archetype, personality and names – all relate to identity, and identity is a significant factor in communication.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this episode:
- The 5 main steps to choosing a brand name
- Types of brand names
- Some tricks I use for generating a list of contenders
- Evaluation criteria, so an objective list of what to consider when you’re making a decision about a brand name. This list will make your naming process so so so much easier. I promise. And even if you’re not a brand manager, you’ll find this interesting. For example, this evaluation criteria can help you critique brand names (& other marketing elements) in a more disciplined, objective way.
As always, you will find a summary and the transcript for this episode in the shownotes on the Talk About Talk website So don’t worry about taking notes! There’s even a summary of the steps and everything you need to remember in the naming process. So just sit back and listen, then check the shownotes later. Got it? OK – let’s do this.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of fun as a brand manager, then teaching students and guiding my consulting clients in how to choose a brand name. Sure you can hire an agency to come up with a name for you, but then you’d miss out on a process that encourages you to think deeply about your brand. What it is, what it is not, and importantly, what you want it to be.
I have a Quick story for you about naming. In the spring of 2018 I applied for SETH Godin’s 1st ever Podcasting Fellowship. In the online application form, —-
- Rather serendipitous. Not at all typical of a disciplined naming process, which is what I’m going to take you through in this episode. You’re going to learn the 5 disciplined steps you need to go through to come up with a new brand name.
BTW, when I say BRAND, the learnings here are relevant for all sorts of contexts.
- It could be a new brand or line extension that you’re managing
- or for a start-up or a new company if you’re an entrepreneur.
- or if you’re at a bigger company the name could apply to a department or a project.
- Or maybe you’re naming your podcast?
- Or maybe you need to change a firm or brand name because of:
- a merger or
- a new strategic direction or
- simply because your current name isn’t working.
- I remember years ago helping a client in the financial service space change their firm’s name because there was another firm that competed with them indirectly that had the same name. And that other firm got caught doing some shall-we-say dubious When the founders, my clients were asked a few times about their involvement in these dubious acts, they decided it was time to change their name.
- So you see, there are many reasons why you might need a new name. But the main application I’ll be referencing here is a new brand.
- What I’m NOT talking about is naming your pet or your new baby. There’s a different process there. At least usually. That reminds me, did you hear that Beyonce and Jay-Z trademarked their children’s names? Blue Ivy and Rumi Carter and Sir Carter. TM, TM & TM. But I digress.
That reminds me, there is one similarity I want to share with you upfront- between the process of naming your baby and choosing a brand name for a product. That’s to do with involving your customers in the naming process. Based on my professional AND PERSONAL experience, I strongly recommend that you don’t involve your customers or your friends in the process until you’ve narrowed it down to one or two options. And in that case it’s really a disaster check. That’s all you need. Stop asking people whether they “like” the name. That’s irrelevant. The brand has zero brand equity at this point, or, if you’re talking about a baby, the baby has yet to share his or her personality. so the name is going to be tough to “like.” What’s more important or relevant to ask is, can they pronounce the name? Spell the name? Does it have any inappropriate connotations? Will the kid get bullied at school? Did the name rhyme with a rude word? Does the brand name translate to something completely inappropriate in another language? That kinda thing. Otherwise, do not involve your customers or your F&F in the naming process. They don’t understand your objectives, and – furthermore – if you involve a big group in the naming process you will end up with something safe and boring. So – include your customer (or your friends and family) only at the very end, when you’ve narrowed it down to one or two contenders. And don’t ask then whether they like the name. Tell them you just need a disaster check. Got it?
The Brand Name Development Process
Alright let me share with you the 5 steps in identifying the ideal brand name. When most people think of choosing a new name, they think of two steps: generation and evaluation. But I recommend you consider 5 stages:
- Definition – Define the strategy and mage of the brand
- Generation – list potential names
- Evaluation – rank and choose
- Protection – register the URL and the trademark – not a lawyer! Bu I have some experience here.
- Application – launch – as in get your name out there – develop a logo
There five stages are a general sequence, but it’s important to keep in mind that they are often recursive and sometimes even concurrent. For example you might want to secure a URL before you’ve formally generated and evaluated other names if you think the URL has significant potential, right?
I know it’s a cliché, but the more work you put into the first stage of your naming, the better the outcome. Your brand name is critically important since it is typically the first impression your brand will make. And unlike other marketing mix elements such as pricing or promotions, the brand name should be permanent, right?
I don’t want to make you nervous about his, but I do want you to take it seriously. It helps to think objectively at least at the beginning. What are the objectives for this new name? Generically, brand names achieve 4 things. They serve as an identifier (thy uniquely identify the brand), as a communicator (they can communicate something about the brand), they’re a protector (as in legally protecting your brand equity), and discivry – nowadays they can also help your product get found, as in a search term.
At this stage though, you’re articulating the image and strategy of the brand. You might have all of this stuff formally written out. Or it might be in flux. If you haven’t formalized these things, now’s the time. Because here’s the thing. You don’t want your name to inform your strategy. No no no. You want your strategy to inform your name.
Some examples of things you want to establish before you go any further:
- Your product category
- Direct competitors and indirect competitors – consider what types of names they have too
- Target market – demographics, psychographics
- brand benefit or point of difference – what do you do better than your direct competitors?
- Brand personality and archetype – As I said we covered these in detail recently in podcast episode #54 and a related blog on personality. I’ll leave links directly to those summaries in the shownotes. Is your brand a hero? The rebel? Is it a leader? Charismatic? Dependable? Funny? Go through the archetypes and the personality dimensions and decide what works best for your brand.
- Brand values, mood & tone.
So do you have that list of things you need? – – – – –
Two things to keep in mind as your finalizing this important input to the naming process:
- it’s not what you ARE, it’s what you WANT to be. It’s the IDEAL brand image. Remember, your name should be permanent. So the 2nd point is that
- It’s long term. That means your brand might extend. You might grow geographically and or you might go into other product categories. So if you’re a restaurant, you might not want to limit yourself by including your street name or your city. If your selling purses or maybe some other product, make sure PURSE isn’t in your name. You might want to extend into other fashion accessories. If you have software for online retailers, think before you say you’re an online retail developer, since your software might extend to schools or another context. Do you get it?
There’s a trade-off between being descriptive of what you are, and general enough that you can grow and expand.
This is just ONE of the trade-offs or tensions in the naming process. I should’ve warned you at the beginning, this aint easy. And it’s SO SUBJECTIVE!!!! There are many many tensions associated with naming. For example:
- First there’s the specificity versus extendibility or LT flexibility like I just mentioned.
- Then there’s relevance and semantics versus globality. If the name has resonance in one culture, it might be totally irrelevant in another.
- Here’s anther tension. We want our brand name to sound familiar, right? But then also unique and memorable. I always warn my clients about this tension in particular, before we get started. After we narrow down then names and select one, there’s sometimes a feeling of – let-down. Like “that’s it”? But here’s the thing. The name we’ve selected is unique and ownable by you. And it has no brand equity associated with it – yet. It’s not “Zoom” or “Coca-Cola” – yet. It’s like a blank slate.
I find that EXPECTING or anticipating these tensions help immensely in the process. If it feels uncomfortable, that’s completely normal. That ;probably means you’re doing it right! The alternative, safe and comfortable process is to have a focus group generate safe and comfortable names for you that you can then get your customers to vote on. I promise you – you’ll end up with something safe and comfortable. And probably boring too.
We are almost ready to start generating names. That’s the fun part. But before we do so, we should establish WHO is involved in this process, who’s is making the final decision, and the decision criteria. As I said before, I would not leave the final decision, or even the name generation – up to your customers. Or even to a large group. That’s’ when safe and boring happens.
How the process evolves, who participates and how the final decision is made are up to you and your firm. But I do have a few suggestions:
- A group of 3-6 highly invested folks is probably ideal. People who know the firm, know the brand, and care about its future.
- It helps to include 1-2 folks from outside your firm to join this team. It could be someone from your marketing agency, or maybe another supplier or partner.
- I usually recommend that each of the 3-6 team members be given veto power. So obviously the team members have to trust each other.
- As for who will make the final decision – it depends on your culture, but in my experience it should be up to the one person with the most seniority. But that person absolutely needs to be open to all team member’s input.
- As for the decision criteria – I’ll share those with you in a minute – stage 3.
OK – let’s start generating names.
(2) GENERATING NAMES
Like I said, you can hire an agency to come up with name contenders for you. Or you can even use software. But you can probably brainstorm and generate an amazing list of contenders yourself.
Here’s what I like to do with clients:
First, make sure everyone has access to 3 things:
- The “definition: work we just created in stage 1. Remember – the product category, competition, target market description, brand benefit or point of difference, brand identity (personality, archetype, values, and so on)
- A paper and pen or a laptop to write their ideas so they don’t forget them.
- Access to a thesaurus – online or in Microsoft Word, or even an old-school thesaurus book.
Here are the rules – no bad ideas! No interrupting, but don’t forget what you were going to say. Wrote it down just in case.
Nominate one person to create a massive list of terms that will be generated. Ideally that is all you’ll do in your first session together – just generate ideas. The list could be online in a shared document (sharing screens in zoom or projected onto a screen in the room) or it could be on flip charts that will be taped to the wall, in which case the person needs to have legible writing!
You also need someone to moderate the discussion- call on people as they raise their hand. That could be the person who is recording everything, who’s writing all the ideas, or it could be a second person. Let’s assume that person is YOU, since after you’re done listening to this podcast, you’ll be ready to lead your team through this process.
OK – Have you got all that? OK, you’re ready to start.
Simply ask someone to talk about the brand. To describe it. Just capture all the words – the descriptors.
This is brainstorming from a blank slate. No prompts other than the “DEFINITION” work that we created in stage 1.., Just talk about the brand.
So for example, with my business, I would say “communication, communicate, communication skills, talk, confidence, research-based, intellectually curious, ….” All of these words would be written down.
SO go around the table, asking people to describe the brand. Remember it is the IDEAL brand and the FUTURE brand. NOT what it IS, but what you want it to be.
After you start slowing down, encourage people to use their thesaurus. Choose a word that they like from the list, a word that seems highly relevant, and find some relevant synonyms.
For the example of Talk About Talk, if the word is “communication” you could look it up in the thesaurus and add words like “interaction” or “message” or “talk.”
Hopefully the list – whether on a screen or on flipchart pages – is getting long. Sometimes the silence is good – people are thinking. If you get stuck, here’s a list of Qs to prompt the team with:
- How would you describe the personality of this brand?
- Which archetype does this brand fit with? WHY?
- This is a fun one – If this brand was ____ what would it be? (a food? A Car? A colour? A flower? A fabric? An animal? – WHY?)
- You can also focus on competition – Who are our main competitors and what we you think about their names?
- Compared to our main competitors, our brand is what?
If you go through this blank-page brainstorming and answer these Qs and other Qs that come up , you should have pages and pages of adjectives and other relevant terms.
Before you move on to the next stage, evaluation, there’s one more thing to do with the generation stage. At this point it is helpful to consider the TYPES of names that you could choose. This will give you another lens for both generating new names plus evaluating what you’ve already got.
Generally, there are 7 different types of brand names. They vary in terms of whether they are real words r invented words, and in terms of whether they have relevant meaning for the brand or no meaning. (List the 7)
I’ve included a summary in the shownotes of these 7 types of names that you are welcome to print and give to your team members when you reach this stage in the naming process. This summary includes the definition, examples and pros and cons of each.
|TYPES OF BRAND NAMES||RELEVANT MEANING|| NO
Let me quickly define each of them so you have an idea of the classification of names.
Explicit – real word, yes has meaning, direct or explicit meaning, as in Home Depot, Talk About Talk
Implied – real word, yes has meaning, meaning is implicit, as in Yahoo!, Amazon, Nike, Visa
Combined – invented word, yes has meaning, combine 2+ words, as in Microsoft, Facebook, FedEx
Altered – invented word, yes has meaning, modified word, as in Intel, Lucent
Surname – real word, no meaning, person’s name, as in Walmart, Disney, McDonald’s
Random – real word, unrelated meaning, random word, as in Apple (but not really), Shell
Invented – invented word, no meaning, nonsense word, as in Exxon, Kodak
Once you’ve shared this list of name classifications, ask your team members to share their thoughts on whether these types pf names might be more or less effective for your brand. For example, a surname might be very effective for a local restaurant, but less so for a high-tech company.
You might get some clues and ideas by looking at your competition.
Combined and altered names can be effective, since they can implicitly communicate something about the brand. They are also fun to generate. Ask your team members to look at the list you’ve already generated, and play with some of the words. Cut syllables, add pre-fixes, combine them.
I’ve worked with clients where we combined words that describe their most significant corporate values onto an invented, combined word. Challenge yourself to identify the most important elements of the brand’s identity, and use words related to that identity to come up with more name contenders.
One last thing to consider before moving on to evaluation – take a look at some word play. Consider things like alliteration, rhyming and acronyms. These mnemonic devices can make a brand name more memorable.
For alliteration, think about brands like Value Village or American Apparel. Or Bed Bath & Beyond or Krispy Kreme or Coca-Cola. Do you see what I mean? So are there two words that start with the same letter that might work?
For rhyming, consider brands such as Lean Cuisine. Or Stub Hub. Or 7-Eleven. So again, take a look at your list. Are there two words you can think of that rhyme?
And acronyms. Consider IBM (Int’l Business Machines), AT&T is American Telephone and Telegraph, and 3M is Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing.
Alright so you’ve brainstormed from a blank slate, you’ve carefully gone over your image and strategy to highlight new ideas, you’ve learned about different types of names and come up with some of those, and you’ve done some word-play with mnemonic devices. What a list, right?
This probably took you at last one full brainstorming session. Probably two, or maybe more. Regardless, it’s time for a break. Print the list up with all the contenders and distribute it to all of the team members before moving on to the next stage – EVALUATION.
What I like to ask team members to do is to independently, privately identify their top 5 favourite ideas from the list – it could be a name or a word or part of a word.
Then come in to the first evaluation meting and share them. A new list is then created. At this point nothing is off the table, but a new list is created with top contenders.
Once the list is created, a discussion will naturally flow where people will start comparing and ranking the contenders.
Several years ago when I was on the Foundation board of a large hospital, the hospital decided it wanted a logo. You know, the visual branding for the hospital? They hired an agency that came up with a gorgeous logo. Looking at it from my marketing and communication lens. This logo was ideal. So I told management that in my professional opinion, I fully endorsed the new logo.
When it came time to present it to the entire board of directors though, management was a bit nervous. Logos, like brand names, can be very subjective things. People have their opinions, right?
So here’s what we did. The president of the hospital got up and took the board through a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted the process that was followed. He then unveiled the new logo.
Before the board members had a chance to say a thing, I stood up and said, “I’m sure you have some thoughts inside your head right now, opinions about what’s good or not so good about this logo. Before we get into that though, I’d like to share with you some OBJECTIVE EVALUATION CRITERIA that branding experts use to critically and objectively evaluate logos. I took them through a list of six criteria.
After I took them through the criteria, there were a few questions and positive comments. Then one of the board members said “I think we’re ready to vote on this. I for one support this new logo.” They took a vote and unanimously voted it in. We were THRILLED, partly because the logo was approved, of course, but also because we avoided a time-wasting conversation about everyone’s personal likes and dislikes. Can you image? I like the orange, but the blue could be a bit brighter. Aye aye aye….
So now I’m going to share with you the objective evaluation criteria that you can consider to further narrow your name contenders. There are 6 criteria, and they are all very important:. The ideal brand names are:
- Communicates/describes the brand
- Memorable & brief
- Flexible, scalable
- Easily pronounced and spelled
- Consistent global meaning
We start with availability. Google the word. DO any companies come up? Then try the URL. This can be very frustrating. But be creative with the URL. Try a different suffix. Or a different version of the same word.
When I googled “Talk About Talk,” the 1986 pop song “Funkytown” by Pseudo Echo kept coming up. You know the one “talk about it talk about it Talk about it talk about it…” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE-itlGNap4
When I checked the URL, it was available. I secured it for myself right away. I’ve been in boardrooms with other companies that’ve done the same thing. If you have a name that you really like and the URL is available, just buy it immediately. I secured Talkabouttalk.com talkabouttalkpodcast, talkabouttalking, and a few others.
If your google searching and your URL search seem to indicate that the name is available, you can move on to other criteria. Don’t worry, we’ll get to securing your trademark in a few minutes.
Hopefully of your favourite contenders, several will be available. So move on to asking whether the names effectively communicates or describes the brand. Of course if you’ve decided you want a surname or a random name or an invented name, then you’ve already decided that this criterion is not important. But if you can communicate something about your brand through its name, that can be an advantage in communicating with your customers. And here’s an important consideration that I learned that hard way – brand names that include common search terms will obviously be found much more easily when your customers are online. DO you know how I learned that? I was in apple podcasts and I searched “communication skills podcasts”. Talk about talk never came up. But podcasts with smaller audiences that had “communication skills” in their title did! So I changed the name of the podcast to “Talk About Talk Communication Skills Training.” Duh, right?
Then continue through the list. Is the name memorable? Brevity is also good here. Shorter names are easier to remember and easier to type, right? IS it flexible? Could your brand grow in a new direction and not be too limited by the name? Is it pronounceable and spellable? If you wrote it out would someone know how to say it? If you said it would someone know how to spell it? This again is important especially when people might be looking for you online.
If your name contender gets through this list, the last thing to check is the consistent global meaning. If your brand is international, this is obviously critical. But even if it’s not, you don’t want to have a name that foreign speakers might snicker at. So seek out colleagues and whomever else you know who can help you determine if the name is appropriate in our languages. Not that it needs to be multi-lingual (although that might be a great advantage), but more that it doesn’t sound like or translate into something inappropriate.
That reminds me, have you ever heard of the CHEVY NOVA brand name story? Apparently when General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova, they forgot to do this global meaning check. NO VA loosely translates to “Won’t Go”, in which is obviously not good for a car! So sales slumped until they changed the name. (While this story aptly makes the point about global meaning checks, apparently it is not true. Sales of the Nova weren’t slow, And they did not change their name. (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/chevrolet-nova-name-spanish/)
But you get the point, right?
So I’m hoping at this point you might have created a list of 5-ish contenders. I’ve done things like given team members each ten red dot stickers that they can stick on flip charts next to their favourite names. Of course there’s always the guy who puts all 10 of his stickers next to the same name. But this can liven up the discussion. Why do you feel so strongly about that name? What would you chose if that name wasn’t available?
At this point, once your list is down to 3-5 names, you can do the DISASTER CHECK with your friends and family – remember what I said at the beginning. You’re not asking whether they like the name. This is the disaster check. You might start with what do you think of this name” and see what they say Then dig in to “does it remind you of anything? Does it rhyme with anything? If this was your main competitor, how would you make fun of this brand name?
Remember, you’d rather learn now that the name you were considering rhymes with poop and maybe isn’t such a good idea, rather than later, right?
So you’ve advanced from creating the Brand strategy and image background document, to generating the original long list of name contenders, to learning about the different types of names, to evaluating your top names against a list of objective decision criteria.
You should now have a list of 3-5 names that you’re happy with and you can move on to the last two stages: Protection and Application.
Oh – speaking of HAPPY. Don’t worry if you’re not thrilled with the name contenders at this point. It’s rare that you’d be thrilled with a name that has no brand equity. If you’ve followed the process and others are generally in concurrence, you can be confident that you’re on the right track.
Stage 4 is PROTECTION.
I have to tell you I am not a lawyer so I’m not going to give you legal advice about how to search and protect your name and eventually trademark it. I can tell you there are two main things to do here, and at last three ways to get it done.
The 2 things you need to do? First SEARCH for other trademarks in the space, in the category where you’re competing (& where you might compete in the future) and then secondly you need to legally secure or trademark the brand. I would conduct a legal search on your final 3-5 contenders, and THEN secure the one that you finally decide on.
The three ways to get this done? You can do it yourself. So for example the US patent and trademark office has a website that you can go to and do it all yourself. I have to warn you, they don’t make it easy. But it is FREE, other than the fee, which you pay no matter how you do this. You could do an online search and find a company that will do this at a low cost. I considered this. The cost was under a thousand dollars. But I was nervous about this. The third way you can do this is to hire a reputable lawyer at a reputable firm to do the search and the trademark.
I’ve included a few links in the shownotes to legal resources including the Canadian and US trademark offices.
The trademark process will take months. Once you’ve done the legal search, your list of 3-5 options will likely be narrowed down to 1-2. Let me just say this – if none of them are available, don’t fret! Go back to our notes and look for new ideas. I promise there’s something there. Remember I said this is iterative.
But if you’re lucky and 1-2 are available, you need to make your decision, and move on to APPLYING or launching the brand, while you’re concurrently securing the TM.
APPLICATION- launching the brand!
This is truly the fun part. Where to start? Well, like I said make sure you secured the URL. If this brand is a firm name, you might also change your email address to your name @ brand dot com. So I’m [email protected] – and I love getting your emails!
Make sure you change your email signature, maybe even with a link to your new website. But at least with your brand name.
What else? Well, you’ll need a logo. Kind of like securing your trademark, there are different ways you can do this. You can do it yourself, you can search online for cheap help, or you can go with a fancy design firm. If you’re a graphic designer or creative, you can design the logo yourself. Regardless, I recommend getting some ideas from other sources. I used Fiverr, but there are all sorts of other inexpensive options like upwork.com or freelancer.com, you get the idea. Take the main ideas from your Strategy & Identity document you carted in Stage one of this naming process, and use them to brief a designer. I hired two designers, each or under $100 to design my logo – that the Talk About Talk red and teal logo with the talking lips on the “K” of Talk. I recommend hiring two designers, and making sure that you OWN the design.
Of course your other next steps will depend on the context of this new brand. Is it replacing an old one? Well then you need to communicate the name change to your existing customers, right? This is a great opportunity to share some of the insights the values and identity that were covered in Stage one – with your customers.
No matter the content, keep all your notes from the naming process! The words you used can be used in copy development – paragraphs you use on your website and in social media when you’re talking about your brand.
Speaking of social media, you also need to secure your brand’s social media accounts. LinkedIn, Facebook, IG, Twitter, Pinterest, whichever platforms are relevant for your brand. If you’re not sure, it’s safer to create an account and have it secured before someone else takes it.
WHEW!!! I think that’s it! A lot to digest. But in case you cant tell by my enthusiasm, choosing a brand name really is fun. It’s very very important, in terms of identity, and it’s not easy. But it is fun. To make it a bit easier for you, I summarized everything I’ve gone thorough – plus some other resources – in the shownotes. There are even printable summaries that you can take with you to your meeting!
I sincerely hope this helps you. I’m always here to help you if you have any questions. Please connect with me at [email protected]. And I hope you’ll signup for free weekly communication coaching through my weekly blog. Just go to talkabouttalk.com to sign up.
THANKS for listening – and READING!
Stay safe. And TALK SOON!
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