What's in a name?

Giggle-inducing or off-brand names can be the kiss of death.

True, many of us don’t think twice about many brand names, let alone mentally digesting its meanings and perhaps rightly so considering many are quite simply, dire.

A name can carry sentiments of luxury, performance, naturalness, attitude and price. A great name can arouse interest and tempt interaction. Now that we’ve moved from marketing ‘I want’ to ‘I am’, brand names are more important than ever.

New Zealand is home to some great brand names: Jucy Rentals, Orca, Icebreaker, Epic Beer and Mammoth Supply are all examples that carry meaning beyond that of just sounding cool.

Bad brand names typically fail to differentiate themselves from the competition, are off-brand, don’t fit the audience or even induce undesired giggles.

If a brand is to engage an international audience in today’s brand-savvy world then disaster checks are of high importance. If Mitsubishi had done such a check for its Pajero, then it might have discovered the true meaning in Spanish – ‘wanker’, which was anything but complementary, for the car and the people who drive it, well, most of them anyway.

When brainstorming names for your brand there are many types to consider. The following are but two examples.

Descriptive names describe the product or service, and whilst it’s great to attain an understanding of what it is you do, there is limited stretch into other areas and it can be hard to legally protect. Telecom and Just Juice are just two examples.

Associative names entail the feeling or quality associated with the brand.

The benefit is they carry emotion and allow greater stretch into other areas, though it’s not always clear just what they’re about.

Examples are [the] New World [of shopping], and 2 Degrees [of separation between you and any other New Zealander].

The product, service or company has to be more than decent of course, delivering on its brand promise; otherwise it’s like reading a dull book with a catchy title.

If the ‘content’ is great, then the best-fit name that can tell a story and project true values to staff and customers the brand will only thrive. 

Tom Warden is a strategy consultant for Interbrand, which has come up with names for the likes of Zespri, Prozac, Viagra and Xbox Kinect.

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