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How to name a brand, product or service

Author: Issy Cheung  | 10-minute read

There’s a reason why you score points for the best name at a pub quiz – coming up with a name is really hard! Is it original and unique? Does it reflect who you are and what you want to be known for? Will people relate to it? 

Whether naming a business, product, or service, many organisations struggle with this initial step of branding and it’s one of the most important decisions you will make.

A well-chosen name is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from competitors, connect with your target audience, and tell your story. It’s a core part of your identity that should, ideally never change, as it will build equity over time. Although many people say there’s no such thing as a bad name, getting it wrong can have significant consequences, leading to confusion, a lack of distinction, or even legal issues if it conflicts with other businesses or charities.

Our latest blog explores the opportunities and challenges naming creates, and outlines the techniques and strategies you can use to help navigate one of the first steps of branding.

The challenge of naming in a saturated market

With over 900,000 new businesses created in the UK last year, 359 million registered domains, and the last four-letter domain name registered in 2013, it’s a very crowded market out there.

With this in mind, establishing a unique identity through your name is crucial. It is one of the first experiences your audience has of your organisation, setting the tone for the rest of your identity. Words are a powerful tool; clear language will help you to communicate your thoughts and messages, evoking emotions and even actions. Creating your name is your first opportunity to harness this power.

Rin from RH&Co., a strategic brand copywriting agency, emphasises the complexity of naming: “There are many things to consider when naming a brand, a lot of which are purely practical. If it’s a common word, will it be hard for people to find in a Google search? If it’s unusual, will people be able to spell or pronounce it? Is it unintentionally a rude word in a different language? There’s a lot to think about and the process shouldn’t be rushed.” This highlights the importance of considering various factors that could impact the effectiveness of a brand name.

More than simply choosing a catchy word; it’s about aligning with your mission, vision, and values to create a name that resonates with your target audience and stands out from the competition. Having a clear strategy of how you are going to achieve this is key.

We fully understand how challenging this process can be. Last year our agency underwent a rebrand and rename, transitioning from Garrett Creative to The Discourse. For us, it was crucial that our new name wasn’t limited to what we do, but also encompassed our broader vision and mission – to enable changemakers through the power of design and communication. We considered many options, but “The Discourse” stood out because it represented the larger conversation that our clients, people and organisations are part of, and how we are working together to shift the narrative, whether that be for social or environmental change.

To develop an effective naming strategy, consider the following questions:

  • What are your objectives for your name? Should it describe your organisation, services, or products?
  • Does your name align with your brand strategy? Some of the best names reflect key aspects of an identity, allowing the audience to connect on a deeper level.
  • Is it future proof? Avoid names that limit your brand to solely your current offerings, as this may evolve over time.

Naming and brand strategy go hand in hand, so if you haven’t gone through the process of defining your brand yet, you should seriously consider doing this first. A name should last forever, so it’s important that you understand who you are and where you are going before you take these next steps.

Different approaches to naming

There are various approaches to naming, each with its own benefits. Here are three common methods to consider:

Descriptive Naming: This approach uses straightforward language to describe your business, products, services, or mission. The aim of this approach is for audiences to quickly understand who you are and what you do – “It does exactly what it says on the tin.”

For example, we supported our client WECIL, a Disabled Persons’s Organisation, in naming their business services division Disability.Inc. They work to make employers and workplaces more accessible and inclusive for everyone. It was crucial to retain the brand equity that WECIL has established as a social impact charity, but also position Disability.Inc. within a more corporate space. The “Inc.” in the name connects to both “inclusive” and “incorporated,” simple, yet effective in communicating their mission.

Abstract Naming: Abstract names are often invented or constructed, offering flexibility and uniqueness. Unlike the other approaches, this ‘made-up’ name acts as a blank canvas, allowing you to construct your own meaning.

One creative example comes from Paul Kelly of PANDEK Group, a B2B consultancy specialising in facilitation, training and coaching. The name “PANDEK” was playfully formed when building an island out of sand with his son Elliott, combining their initials to craft a unique and memorable brand name. Paul emphasised that like Kodak, which was inspired by the sound of the camera’s shutter, PANDEK is distinctive and easy to remember because it doesn’t already exist in common language. The company was formed pre-covid and despite initial concerns about its similarity to the word ‘pandemic,’ the name has remained unique and an integral part of their identity.

Evocative Naming: Evocative names suggest emotions or associations related to the brand, product, or service. This can be a powerful approach to connect with people on a human level. By using words that evoke certain feelings, you can capitalise on these established connotations, giving your name a head start. 

We spoke to Jon Gibbins, from the digital accessibility and sustainability consultancy “As It Should Be,” who shared his journey of naming his business. He explained, “In the middle of 2021, I stumbled across the phrase ‘as it should be’ while reading a book one evening before bed. I’d been reading a lot of books about business and sustainability during pandemic lockdowns while considering a career change. The phrase just jumped out at me. ‘That’s it!’, my brain shouted. A proper eureka moment. It perfectly captured what I wanted for the work I do, why I do it, and how it gets done.”

Jon’s story exemplifies the evocative naming approach. His reaction to “As It Should Be” was powerful, as it resonated deeply with his mission and values. He wanted a name that was conversational and positive, one that people could engage with. Despite initial challenges with domain names and social media accounts, the positive feedback from friends and advisors helped him settle on it. This insight highlights the importance of ensuring your name connects emotionally with your audience and aligns with your brand’s ethos.

Brand architecture and its impact on naming

If you’re looking to name a product or service you should consider your brand’s architecture. This refers to the way brands, products, and services are structured within an organisation. Choosing the right model depends on your business goals, target audience, and overall strategy. It impacts how you name your sub brands, products and services, and ensures clarity and consistency across your full offering. Here are a few examples:

  • Branded House: A single master brand that extends to multiple products or services. Example: BBC (BBC ONE, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport etc). This model helps create consistent recognition and trust across all offerings.
  • House of Brands: Multiple brands under one umbrella, each with its own identity. Example: Procter & Gamble (Tide, Gillette). This allows for distinct positioning and marketing strategies for each product line.
  • Endorsed Brands: Sub-brands that are endorsed by the master brand, creating a family of brands. Example: Marriott (Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott). This leverages the master brand’s reputation while allowing sub-brands to cater to specific segments.
  • Hybrid: A mix of the above models, tailored to the company’s needs. Example: Microsoft (Microsoft Office, Xbox). This provides flexibility in branding different products or services.

Our process for naming

We’ve created a comprehensive process for naming that aligns with our approach to brand strategy. It’s important that you have done extensive market research at this stage to understand where you sit in your competitor landscape. Here’s an overview of our process:

  • Create the naming brief: This brief should align with your brand strategy. Start by outlining your mission, vision, values, audience, and key objectives for the name. This brief guides the naming process and helps maintain focus.
  • Generate a large number of names: The project team generates as many names as possible through ideation. There are various activities you can try to get your creative juices flowing – don’t be afraid to suggest silly, obvious names – this all helps to find the unique and meaningful ones!
  • Create a shortlist: From the initial pool, create a shortlist of about 30 names that align with the brief’s criteria.
  • Screen the names: This involves internal discussions, market research, and basic legal checks to ensure the names are unique and appropriate.
  • Present the names: Present the shortlisted names to your stakeholders, colleagues, funders, audience, etc., to get their responses.
  • Full legal search: The next step is to complete a comprehensive legal search on the shortlisted names (3-5) to ensure there are no trademark or domain conflicts.
  • Select the name: Once all checks are completed, the final name can be selected and integrated into the overall strategy.

We recommend ideation activities like group discussions, mind mapping, and creative exercises to generate name ideas. Whilst group activities can be highly effective, doing your own research is extremely valuable. Look into the origin of the names you have generated; does this lead to other interesting research avenues?

We often explore metaphors that help us break outside of the box; these also help to create vivid imagery, exaggerate a characteristic or action, or express a complex idea. Another device that is useful is thinking of phrases, idioms, puns, or expressions that relate to your brand, product, or service—this gives you another angle to explore.

Lastly, and arguably the most importantly (yet the least exciting part) is have you done your homework? Legal screening is crucial to avoid potential conflicts and ensure a smooth registration process. We have heard many stories of established businesses who have been issued cease and desist orders due to name conflicts; don’t let this be you! Check, check, and then check again.

Checklist for Legal Checks:

  • Trademark search: Ensure your name is not already trademarked.
  • Domain availability: Check the availability of your desired domain name.
  • Business name registry: Verify that your name is not already registered by another business.
  • Social media handles: Ensure your name is available on key social media platforms.
  • International checks: If you plan to operate globally, check the name’s availability and meaning in other countries.

Conclusion

Naming is a critical aspect of building a successful brand, product or service line. A well-chosen name can define your organisation, differentiate you from competitors, and create lasting connections with your target audience. By following a structured process and considering different approaches, you can craft a unique and impactful name that aligns with your strategy and helps you to achieve your goals.

At The Discourse, we have been designing incredible brand identities, websites and content marketing campaigns for businesses and charities for well over 5 years. Our clients typically spend from £5k to £20k on brand strategy and design, website projects range from £5k to £20k depending on size and functionality.

Content strategy and production can vary heavily depending on the type of organisation and your internal resources. Typically speaking, we’d expect clients to spend in the region of £5k to £10k on their initial strategy and tool kit, with between £1k and £3k per month on ongoing support.

We’re passionate about this topic and we’re keen to help you along the way. If you’re ready to take your business or charity to the next level, you can get in contact today via our contact page or by emailing us at: [email protected]

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