Unlock the Magic in Your Story Now

Get the Free 20 questions to Ask Before Launching Your Idea workbook when you sign up for occasional updates.

Get the Free 20 questions to Ask Before Launching Your Idea workbook when you sign up for occasional updates.

Articles filed in: Brand Naming

Flipping The Focus Group

We’ve been using focus groups for eighty years in an attempt to understand how to create things people want to buy and messages they want to hear. And while we question what our customers like and what demographic they fit into, we rarely think about who they are beyond the choices they make. What if we flipped our usual pattern of trying to understand to be understood on its head?

Seven Customer-Focused Questions

1. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your customer?
2. What three words would you use to describe him?
3. What do you like best about him?
4. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
5. How does working with or creating for him make you feel?
6. If you could change one thing about him what would that be?
7. What else can you say about him?

When we change how we think about our customers everything we do changes too.

Image by Carol P

A Brand Is More Than A Label

We’ve been branding things from cattle, to jewellery and even people for thousands of years. We began by burning our mark into things to signal ownership. When technology and infrastructure gave us access to things beyond our villages branding began to signal a different type of belonging, one that said ‘you can trust this because it has my mark on it’.

When you think about a modern day brand like Dyson what words immediately spring to mind?
Innovative, reliable, trusted, cutting edge, best, leader and on and on.

Even if you don’t own a Dyson product or know the company’s backstory (5,000+ failed prototypes to multi-billion dollar business), you have a sense of the brand. The Dyson brand is more than just a label or an identifier of the products the company makes. It’s an emotional anchor to those products and while a label can be assigned or attached, an emotional anchor is earned.
A great brand is not a mark burned into a product, it’s something we want to belong to.

And so it goes for your brand too.

What words and emotions do you want people to associate with your brand? And what promises will you have to make and keep in order for that to happen?

Image by vanou.

Brand Names Are The Start Of A Story

From the moment the blue line appears on the pregnancy test and for the next 35 weeks, the one thing that obsesses most couples day and night while waiting for their new arrival is what they will call her. They compulsively leaf through baby name books, trawl websites and test out sound combinations and meanings. They poll friends, write list upon list, crossing off here, adding there, agonising about the legacy of this one decision. Since time began humans have instinctively understood that a name is the start of a story.

When we name our children we are writing the opening lines of their first chapter. We want to give them names they can grow into. Their names are part of our vision of what we hope they will one day be in the world and researchers have proven that names can have a lasting impact on outcomes for individuals in later life.

Names are not simply designed to identify, they really can take us in one direction or another. And so it goes with brand names, book titles and product names too. Companies know that names can make or break, that they build mystery, can form the basis of a movement or create cult status. That’s why ‘Purple Cow’ is a more compelling title than, ‘Marketing for Today’, and why Innocent was a genius way to begin the story of a juice and smoothie company.

A great name can take you places a good name can’t. A truly great brand name makes room for a new story in people’s hearts and minds and can position a good product beyond it’s utility.

Don’t set out to name a company or a product,
set out to name your vision of what you want to see in the world

Design your brand name to create lofty expectations, to make people believe something, not just notice it, and to signal your difference to the world.

Image by Kai Chan Vong.</a

How Not To Name A Startup Or Anything

A brand name is more than a word. It is the beginning of a conversation. ~ Lexicon

Everyone can agree that there’s nothing really objectionable about calling your business ‘Bargain World’. It’s an innocuous name and most people won’t hate it. And that’s the problem.

If you’re going to name your business, non-profit, product or service something that people won’t hate, then you’re giving yourself an identity that they will never be able to care about either.

Bunkum! I hear your cry what about Apple and Amazon, aren’t they just unobjectionable words too? Back in 1976 when Apple was Apple Computer, tech startups and corporations were called IBM (what does that stand for?) and Microsoft. I bet a few people were laughing behind their hands at the idea of branding an incorporated tech company with a stripey apple. When Jeff Bezos named Amazon after one of the biggest rivers in the world in 1994, other book stores were called Borders Books and Waldenbooks. It didn’t take people long to fall in love with Amazon, which of course aspired to be the biggest, fastest, get what you want bookstore, (that had room to grow not to be just a bookstore) in the world.

Your business or product name is the hook on which you hang your story and start the conversation with customers. It’s the mechanism you give people to identify you. And when you earn their trust and loyalty it’s the way they spread the news about you. Your brand and product names are some of the most priceless assets your business can own. They should make you stand out, not fit in.

If nobody can find an objection to the brand name you choose, then you’ve probably got the wrong name. This kind of brand naming architecture often happens by committee, which means you end up with something that will be forgotten. Your name should polarize people, spark their interest and make them want to get to know more about what you do.

Here’s a simple test. If you can’t imagine someone wanting to wear your name on a t-shirt one day, then it’s probably not the right name for you now.

I know that choosing a name for your brand has caused you to waste valuable time and slowed down growth and momentum in your business, so I’m working on the brand naming white paper you asked for, which will be available to you soon. Hallelujah!

How did you choose your brand, blog or business name? Which brand names do you love and why? Which ones do you wish you’d thought of first?

Image by World of Good

How Does Your Business Sound?

“To handle a language skillfully is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.” Charles Baudelaire

Have you ever thought about what makes a good brand name? Is your business name evocative or interesting, fun or maybe just a bit boring?

Some of the best brand names evoke emotions and memories, eliciting feelings within us. The interesting ones make us curious. Fun, irreverent names make us smile, drawing us closer and even boring brand names have their place as long as they align with the brand story.

So what does evocative, interesting, fun and boring sound like?

Any of the product names from 37 signals. Campfire, Basecamp and Backpack.
Believe in, design and Branding agency. Innocent, juices. Upon A Fold, all things origami.
Some of my creations Tomorrow is, lifestyle design. Haven Lane, interior design for aged care.

Orange Boot Bakery. Mashable. Flickr. Twitter. Google.

Virgin. Tik Tok. Nudie. Art Does Good. Really Savvy, responsible tourism consultancy.

Toy World. Don’s Art Supplies. Jim’s Mowing. British Medical Journal.

What does your brand name sound like?
How does your business name make people feel?
Does your idea sound boring?
Will that product name make people stop and take notice?
Is the name aligned with your vision and values?
Is it the best it could be?
Could you make it better?

How does your business sound?

Image by Suzan Almond

What Makes A Good Tagline?

As entrepreneurs and brand builders we like to think that our tagline could be the thing that positions our brand uppermost in the minds of clients and customers.

We want something original and unique, a brilliant one liner that will make us unforgettable. I am asked what makes a great tagline a lot.

I could write a list and tell you that it needs to:

    • Be memorable.
    • Resonate with your idea and your mission.
    • Include a key benefit of your brand.
    • Appeal to the senses not to logic.
    • Help to recall the brand name. “Coke is it.”
    • Differentiate your brand.
    • Communicate positive feelings about your brand. “Love where you live.”
    • Convey the brand strategy.
    • Avoid current trends. Like the one word tagline which anyone could ‘own’.
    • Avoid corporate speak and jargon. Anything that sounds like a bank tagline.

I’d like to re-frame the question though by asking what does your tagline do?

Does it fill the white space on your business card and website header? Or does it communicate your intention to staff and customers? My friend Angela runs ‘Australia’s best cafe’.

Does your tagline stand for something customers can believe? Zappos’ really is, ‘powered by service’.

Does it tell and old story in a new way, ‘3 socks, 2 feet, 1 you’?

Is it easy to spread because it’s true, Moleskine, sells, ‘legendary notebooks’.

Does your tagline create meaning? Is this something your customers, clients or donors care about?

Are you making a promise you can keep, because that’s what really matters?

Image by Jamison Weiser.

10 Things To Think About Before Naming A Brand

I once watched a whole community of highly intelligent, creative entrepreneurs allow an idea to become undone, never to see the light of day. And all because they couldn’t agree on what it should be called.

I know your idea is ground breaking, it’s fresh and exciting and people are going to love it, once they know what it’s all about of course.

The thing is naming your idea is just a part of what will bring it to life. It’s an important piece of the puzzle that helps people to understand who you are, what you stand for and what you do.

“Brand names aren’t brands, not by a long shot.
But they are valuable clues to consumers,
as well as assets you own.”
~ Seth Godin

To communicate the value of something you’ve created you must first understand where the value in it lies. Here are some of the things you need to consider before you get to the fun of the naming part.

1. Mission
What are you doing right now, today? What happens because you exist?

2. Vision
What are or will be the results and effects of what you do in the future?

3. Core Values
What are the attitudes and beliefs that shape your business culture?

4. Difference.
What’s your edge, the thing that makes you stand out?

5. Emotional Selling Point
What’s the intangible that you are you selling? Think feelings not facts. Connection, freedom, ego, belonging….

6. Brand Essence
The core of what you do, the image it portrays and the signals it sends.

7. Tagline
One line that communicates everything.

8. Identity
How the consumer perceives the brand.

9. Name
The verbal hook on which all of the above hangs and is communicated, the icing on your cake. Comes in all the way down here at number nine!

10. Logo
Last but not least the visual hook that represents your brand, the cherry on the top.

How are you working out the value of your ideas?

Thanks to my friend Brendan Mitchell for helping me work this out many moons ago.
Image by Andrew Barclay.