How are we going to get everyone to like the new name?
How do we know we won’t pick the wrong name?
Does it really matter what we call ourselves?
These are some of the questions we hear almost every time we start a naming project. Naming is an exciting undertaking, but it can also be nervewracking for our clients: finding the right name is no simple task. Brand naming needs to start with a brand strategy and, importantly, the whole naming process should be steeped in and supported by a disciplined and strategic process, right up until the name is selected and approved for use.
First, we often ask our clients to honestly answer the question: Do you want a new name, or need one? Just because you might not like the current name doesn’t mean it isn’t already doing everything a good name should be doing. Needing a new name, on the other hand, might mean your current one has become outmoded: it no longer fits your brand strategy; it has outgrown your organization’s goals, offerings, or what it represents; new or additional offerings have been brought into the brand mix (e.g., a merger); or perhaps your brand is simply new. In all cases, you need to have clear, strategy-oriented reasons for embarking on the development of a new name.
But is it really just a brand name?
An organization or product’s name is one of the first cues and signifiers of its brand and its personality. It’s a verbal identifier that people can (and will) connect with emotionally. And before we get too wrapped up in language, we need to remember that as humans, we don’t connect to just what is being offered – we look to connect with why it matters to us.
This part requires a little biology lesson. Our limbic brain is responsible for our decision-making and therefore our behaviour – it’s where we “feel,” but it’s not capable of controlling language. It’s this part of our brain that will make the emotional connection to your brand (for better or for worse). People will use their lingual or rational brain – the neocortex – to come to their own conscious conclusions based on how their limbic brain feels about your brand. If the name can reflect the why of your brand, you will have enabled your organization to have a deeper connection with your audiences.
Working with the actual language is the artistic and creative side of naming. This also happens to be the subjective side. So, injecting as much objectivity into name selection as possible is important, because while “liking” a name counts for a little, what counts for a lot is ensuring the name aligns with your organization’s strategic goals and why they matter.
So what should our brand name say?
We have found that naming is both a science as well as an art, and sticking to a defined process allows us to get you to the best names fastest and ultimately informs and supports the final name’s selection.
Recently we worked with the City of Toronto to brand a new agency that would centralize real estate and facilities-management activities across the City. An important element of the brand development was the creation of a new name that would resonate with an incredibly wide range of audiences – from city employees to real estate development executives to the citizens of Toronto. Success meant creating a new name that expressed far more the function of the new agency – we needed to create a name that all of these stakeholders could connect with and support. We started by developing the brand promise, “We are a catalyst for city building in Toronto,” and build on that to arrive at the new name: CreateTO. The name captures both the agency’s strategy and its desire to be seen as a leading force for positive change in the city for years to come.
Components of successful brand naming process
1. Build the strategy
Take the time to define what your brand’s strategy is. Then you can determine how to best express why it matters – in the most intuitive way.
2. Conduct the research
Do the digging, review your competitors, check your tone. Make sure the name is appropriate and, even more importantly, available. The internet has made availability scarce, but it is absolutely critical to be “ownable” to avoid confusion in the market – and for legal reasons as well.
3. Host the workshops
Involve your internal stakeholders from the beginning to gain the important insights they can offer. Doing this will ensure their buy-in and support from the start, instead of trying to convince them after the fact. If a name can’t be championed from within, it will never gain traction with external audiences after launch.
4. Do it all over again
Try, if you can, not to get too attached to any one name. We always recommend having a Plan B name (and sometimes a Plan C). Naming can sometimes take a few rounds of development. We might get there with the first round, but going four or five rounds isn’t unheard of. Nor is that always bad thing. Sometimes – going back to our limbic brain – it doesn’t “feel right.” Other times, you may lose a great name to a trademark, common use or linguistic conflict. Remember: it’s a strategic process. Build in the time for it.
Finding a name that fits
Lastly, a name can’t do everything. That’s why a brand is made up of many other building blocks. But a good name should fit your strategy, your culture, and your audiences. And in that name, they must be able to connect to why they should care.
A name that can do all that? It’s the right name.