Some thoughts on branding
At Mottis we get to work on very interesting projects that test our skills in different ways.
Occasionally we get asked to come up with names for things. Naming is a very specific task. What makes a good name?
Most of us can point to a product we like with a great name. Something that really captures the essence of the product, is unique, perhaps iconic, or maybe it defines the product category.
What goes into a name like that? The short answer in 2013 is: a lot.
Naming products used to be a lot easier. Companies could just abbreviate the product category (for example Clorox, short for Chlorine bleach) or choose one attribute of the product to call out, like Pine-Sol (named for its pine scent). Over the years, the sheer number of products and their associated trademarks has exhausted many of the obvious names.
Cars used to have iconic names taken from animals or mythical characters, like the Ford Mustang or the Dodge Ares. Now they have names like Yaris (Toyota) or Elantra (Hyundai). How did this shift occur? The simple answer is that many of the obvious names have already been used. There’s already a Mustang, Thunderbird and Charger. We have practically run out of real English words to call them.
A name is a vessel for the brand experience. When a name is taken from a real word, it brings associations and imagery from that meaning to the product. Over time, the name comes to be the brand experience. When the Mustang was first introduced, Americans were much more familiar with the word in its original context, thanks to the prevalence of Westerns. Today if you told someone you saw a Mustang on the way to the office, they would assume you meant a sports car, not a horse.
Other names have an involved history but very little meaning at all to the consumer. One of the most iconic brands of the post-millennial era is iPod, but what does it mean? According to Apple lore, the name was inspired by the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and its EVA pods. Few people draw any connection between the portable music player and Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking 1968 film. Yet the product is so strong that the name has come to mean the brand experience.
So what is important for a good brand name?
For starters, availability. The name must be a word you can own, not owned by someone else, particularly a competitor.
The name should be different enough from competing brands so that your product is not confused with a competitor’s. It’s great if you can occupy an unused namespace, a name that is not just different, but is not conceptually related to your competitors.
The name should be easy to say and spell. If you want people ask for your brand by name, they need to be able to say it. In the Internet age, they should be able to spell the URL when they hear someone say it.
The most important consideration is the product. As you search for the name of your next product, you may discover that the perfect name has already been registered to a product that no longer exists. If that happens, call us – we have experience dealing with exactly this sort of thing.