What’s In A Name?

6th April 2020/0/0

Name generation is a tricksy business. There is no right way to go about it. It’s hugely subjective. Sometimes it’s very personal to the founders of the brand or project and therefore they should lead. If they have a strong preference for something we let them run with that.

A branding project normally begins with the logo, and work on that can’t start until you have a name. So the all too common name generation procrastination is the enemy of branding design. We start the naming process with a briefing and research stage, to get as many possible lines of attack, no idea disregarded, to create a master longlist. This is then shortlisted and presented to the client with our 3 or 4 favourites highlighted.

There are lots of strategies we employ to help us, like using thesauruses, wordplay by mixing words or adding suffixes and prefixes, altering spelling or replacing words in other languages. And it’s distorted by cultural associations and perspectives, so we have to screen for that, as well as any similarities within their sector, and check if suitable URLs are available. Even simple pronunciation – can it be spoken easily by the audience? And check we haven’t invented something that actually already exists in Australia.

One project we were involved with had a working title which had been used for a couple of years during a very protracted pre-production phase before we were brought in to brand the project. The first stage of the branding was the Name Generation. No matter how many ideas we came up with, a number of which we visualised for the large group of stakeholders, they just couldn’t agree. Name Gen by committee just doesn’t work. They overthought it and eventually ran with the working title because they had all got used to it. They had become familiar with it and weren’t brave enough to move away from it.

A good branding company should be able to work with any good word combination (and some wordforms suit logo design better than others!). Spending months procrastinating over the name and then having to rush the actual design because you’ve run out of time. Don’t over think it. There are some huge brands out there with terrible names. Like Oasis. Or The Beatles (and, of course, my opinion in this is subjective). Eventually you can’t even see the name, when you hear it your head is just filled with images and sounds that those bands made, the name transcends and it becomes irrelevant how bad it actually is. The very short-sightedly named Carphone Warehouse. I don’t even give that terrible name a second thought when I see one on the high street, I just know it’s a place I can get a new mobile phone from.

Obviously it’s better to launch a brand with a great sounding name, but if the brand identity is on point and the product is good, and the name has passed our basic screening then don’t lose too much sleep over it.

By Chris Trotman,
Creative Director, Run For The Hills