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Brand names should stand out from competitors, as well as from other words in a sentence. This is sometimes called ‘speech-stream visibility’, the quality that lets the eye or the ear pick out the name as a proper (or capitalised) word instead of a common word.
Interestingly, brand names made from unusual pairings, like ‘face’ and ‘book’ (also Snapchat, Mastercard etc.,) are processed by the brain as novel words, for increased visibility.
As a rule, brand names should be kept to four syllables or less. More than four, and people start to abbreviate the name in ways that could be detrimental to the brand.
Your name should be easy to say and understand. Be sure to consider all the ways it might be mispronounced or misinterpreted wherever it may appear, including translation checks to avoid the blunders we’ve all heard about like Ford’s Fiera (meaning ugly old woman in Spanish) and the Swedish car magazine named Fart.
For New Zealand businesses it’s vitally important not to culturally appropriate Māori names to try and sell products. There have been many instances of this backfiring badly, such as Birkenhead Brewery’s backlash for depicting Te Arawa legends on beer bottles – despite claiming to have consulted iwi first.
When you turn your name into a spelling contest, you introduce more confusion among customers, and make your brand difficult to access in databases that require correct spelling. If you want people to actually find you – keep it simple.
A good name has “mouthfeel”, meaning that people like the way it sounds. The name Kodak was chosen after it was determined that the word had no negative meanings or connotations in the countries targeted. In fact, the name had no meaning at all, but it was easy to pronounce in every country tested.
The best names have creative ‘legs’— and readily lend themselves to great storytelling. They evoke positive associations and emotional connections with customers. In other words, they resonate. Depending on your brand strategy, this could mean fun or functionality, innovation or intimacy, high-tech or luxury. Metaphors are often used to accomplish this because they provide immediate, intuitive connections. And they’re memorable.
Last but certainly not least! It’s one of the most overlooked steps when naming brands, but a good name is one that keeps legal fees to a minimum. Taking proper steps to ensure that your brand name can be protected under national and international trademark laws, in your product category, is a crucial first step and will guard your investment for years to come.
WOODS is a brand culture agency who believe in partnering with purpose-driven companies to create authentic brands that matter to the world.