What does your name say about you?

Have you ever looked up what your own name means? If not, give it a look. It's an interesting exercise to see the literal meaning behind your name and reflect on what it says about you. Maybe it says something deep and dramatic, like "gift of God" (Theodore, Dorothy). Maybe it just says "olive" (Olivia, Oliver), but it sounds nice. Naming can be funny that way, whether it's for people or for brands.

Wrong Superhero

We think about names a lot at Northbound. Naming is one of those exercises that might seem arcane or whimsical -- for the "creative" types. But really it's an exercise in exploring, pattern-matching, and storytelling; things we're all naturally good at as humans, generally speaking. We've noticed that many of the most effective names in the market deliver on this idea of brand integrity. What we mean by brand integrity is, simply, you do what you say. "What you do is who you are," as Ben Horowitz likes to say. Everything a brand makes, says, and does should support its resonant purpose, its reason for being. When a brand follows through on its purpose with action, we call that brand integrity.

Naming can be a critical exercise in doing what you say. Or more accurately, in saying what you believe. Done well, naming is the act of putting a title to the story of your brand that is authentic to your purpose, whether it's a company name that needs to stand out in a sea of sameness, or a product name that has to live in a complex, interconnected portfolio. When your name aligns with your purpose (not always literally, mind you), it creates a memorable feedback loop further cementing the brand in people's minds.

Story time. Recently, Ergomotion, the world's largest producer of adjustable beds, had created a new product designed for the aging population that spanned across categories of aging, connectivity, wellness, and sleep tech, and they approached Northbound to help create this brand. In working with their team, in listening to older customers and their children, we found that "aging well" means living vibrantly and that building independence requires confidence. Optimism, long-term wellness, living a vibrant, autonomous life -- these became rallying points for this new brand. This is what they as a team believed in, and what they brought to the world. In a category where most think of sunsets or twilight, we created the name and identity Dawn House, a name that captures that inherent sense of positivity, of new possibilities; a vibrant, confident, independent life. Everything from the positioning to the name, logo, colors, visual language supports their fundamental resonant purpose.

Dawn House

Lots of brands do this well. Tesla, an eccentric genius who reimagined what was possible with electricity. Headspace, giving you the tools to live a happier, healthier life. Square's evolution into Block as a parent company, referencing "the neighborhood blocks where we find our sellers, a blockchain, block parties full of music, obstacles to overcome, a section of code, building blocks, and of course, “tungsten cubes" -- one of those simple but elegant names that just seems obvious in retrospect. Some could do better, like lululemon, whose founder simply wanted L's in a name to make it difficult to pronounce in some markets and he thought that was funny. In any case, it's not necessarily about saying what you do literally in a name (unless you're creating an ultra-descriptive name and you actually need to do that), but about exploring concepts that can align with and support your reason for being.


Whether it's to grab attention, communicate a benefit, or explain a function, naming as a practice can and ought to support what you or your product stands for. More and more, customers as well as employees are demanding that brands communicate authentically, sincerely, and consistently. At Northbound we are investigative journalists of the authentic. And our process is one that's imbued with empathy. It's not about forcing through some creative idea we have. We start by getting to know you, your business, your customers, who and what is important to you. We're eager to uncover what it is that makes you, you. And then put a name to it.

Ready to discuss your purpose and naming? Contact Northbound for a consultation.

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