Naming as a strategic tool

Names are not solutions; they are expressions.

They are the start of a great experience. Over time, and through the power of the suggestion of the name itself, a name comes to represent a meaningful set of attributes and benefits and becomes short-hand for what you can expect from a product, service or experience bearing that name.

Most everything people interact with in your brand experience will need at the very least nomenclature to help define it – after all, unlike in quantum physics, defining separations and what-is-what helps a lot when it comes to navigating a product, a website, a stadium, or a series of interactions.

When to name?

When you’re working within a portfolio you want to build equity in the fewest number of things possible, so you have to pick and choose what gets a stand-out name and what just gets called what the dictionary calls it.

The idea is to expand the meaning of as few brand names, meaning suggestive, owned names and not just descriptive or generic names, which are not own-able, as possible to encompass everything you need to represent to maintain or even grow your portfolio or market share. Sometimes, it’s easier to expand the meaning of service or experience brands than tangible goods. For example, Amazon could stretch to mean books, clothes, even home repair. But, it couldn’t stretch to mean a TV, or a reader. So, new names that could build the unique equities required to win in the reader and TV markets were created.

But, what kind of name?

Sometimes, a generic name is what’s needed. These are names that don’t need – and are not qualified for - trademark registration or protection. More often, you can venture out into more descriptive territory to say, “yeah, we’re one of those, but we’re different or better because…” These are names that signal that you’re a little different, but not fully distinct from the category. For example, Holiday Inn got its start as a descriptive name of a place where people stayed when they were on holiday. Other well-known examples include International Business Machine (IBM), The Body Shop, British Petroleum, General Motors, Foot Locker, Burger King, and Best Buy.

The decision isn’t always clear. Naming a company that only has one product or service can be straightforward. Naming a new feature that looks like it could be industry changing is less so. Deep customer knowledge, consideration of the industry, planning and prediction for the future of the market and your company, as well as perspective to stay objective are all requirements for getting to game-changing names.



Samantha Temple Neukom | Co-Founder, Chief Brand Officer

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