I always think of the brand as a big open door into your business. And the role of a brand name is to make that door as wide as possible so that customers can see clearly what your business has to offer.
Good brand names can do this and will help enormously in telling your story.
However, if you don’t let your brand grow with your business, encourage it to adapt to changing tastes and keep it in touch with your culture, it ends up being something your customers have to navigate around.
In this two part series I’m going to share with you how you can gauge how effective your current brand name is, and then in the second part, explore the role different types of names can play in supporting your brand.
A good name will cue up your brand, it will be relevant to your product or service, relevant to the issue you are solving but also ensure you are distinct from others in your sector. It won’t tell the whole story but it will be a great place to start - after all, your name is probably the first thing a customer will see or hear about your brand.
Google is an example of a good brand name and a good story as it happens. Back in 1997, a young company named BackRub was brainstorming a new name, and its founder, Larry Page liked the name Googol (the term to describe a number that is equal to 1 followed by 100 zeroes) as it alluded to the huge amount of data available to be searched online (1) However, and somewhat ironically for a search engine company, the name Google and not Googol was mistakenly checked and Google.com was presented to the founders. Despite the error, it was liked and so the name stood. It has, of course, become an extremely successful brand name, even entering the Oxford English Dictionary in the June 2016 edition as the verb used to denote using the Google search engine to find information on the internet (2). If you don’t believe me, you can google it!
A good name is an asset that needs to be used, so make sure you have your brand name front and centre of all you do. A bad name though is a liability, it actively pulls against the brand strategy, taking customers away from the intended direction of the brand. It’s like placing a huge granite boulder in front of the door to your business and making customers squeeze past it to get to you, or worse and more likely, they fail to notice you in the first place. If you do have a bad name, then a Brand Strategy can help you create a new one that will make sure the door to the brand remains wide open.
There’s a third category, and I feel very mean calling it ugly, but as a homage to Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Western classic, I think it's a price worth paying. Ugly, or indifferent names are ones that are neutral, not really damaging the brand but not supporting it either. This type of name needs to be helped along because your name is the most widely used part of your brand. It’s the first word in the story of your brand, it will be the most spoken - ‘I work for’, ‘have you heard of’, ‘can I have’ and it will be the most widely presented - on business cards, social media, web sites, and products. So it has to work for you because it’s everywhere!!
So how do you know what type of name you have? Here are 5 key questions that when answered will help you understand how aligned your brand name is to your brand strategy.
1. Does the name amplify your brand strategy?
2. Is it applicable across all your products or services?
3. Does the name help your customer know what you do?
4. Does it communicate your relevance to their needs?
5. Does it differentiate you from your competitors?
If by doing this process you end up answering mostly yes, then your brand name is a good one and the task is, therefore, to make sure you are using it as effectively as possible. If your answers are predominantly no, then your brand name is fighting against the direction the brand strategy is taking you and it needs to be changed. If you are somewhere in the middle then your name is not pulling its weight and you need to enhance it by adding a further word before or after it or redeveloping your logo so that it clearly describes what your brand purpose it.
In the next blog, we’ll look at the different roles a brand name can play.
Bruce M McKinnon is a Brand Strategist and author of the award-winning book ‘What’s Your Point?’ that can be purchased from Amazon. The book explores how brand strategy can fuel business growth, referencing some of the world’s most successful brands as well as sharing case studies from his own global consulting practice. You can work with Bruce in a number of ways, from mentoring to one-day workshops to consultancy, to find out more click here
 Redd W. Where Did The Google Name Come From?” 2018. Available at: https://allthatsinteresting.com/google-name (Accessed: 16 July 2019)
 Definition of “google” in English. Lexico. Available at: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/google (Accessed: 16 July 2019)