What’s in a name?

23 May 2021 Adam Coutts

If you’ve ever tried to name something – a product, a brand or business – you no doubt thought the mission was to come up with something so clever that it says everything about your brand in one or two words. A name so spectacular that it will instantly resonate with the target market, will bring instant overnight success and change the category forever.

Fair ask, but when it all comes down to it can a name really do all that?

The simple answer is no. A name is what you make it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Let me expand. Spend the next 10 seconds jotting down the first 3 brands that come to mind in three different categories. Let’s go with technology, luxury cars and women’s handbags.

How did you go? What were they? In all likelihood your list looks something like this (especially if you live in Australia):

  • Technology – Apple, Samsung, Microsoft
  • Luxury cars, – Audi, BMW, Mercedes
  • Handbags – Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci

How did I do picking your list? Chances are yours and my list are pretty much the same.

Now think about those names. Really think about them. If you were charged with coming up with the ultimate name for, say, a luxury car brand, would you really strut into the boardroom feeling extremely clever  about coming up with a list of names like Audi, BMW, Mercedes? Or the ultimate name for a new technology company you desperately want to call Apple, Samsung or Microsoft? Seriously?!

Yet, every one of those names is listed in the 2019 Best Global Brands Top 100 – a definitive list of the world’s most valuable brands by global consultancy, Interbrand.

That’s just how great branding supported by great marketing works. But it has nothing to do with how clever the name is. Zero.

It’s not about sweating bullets pouring over potential names for days – or weeks – on end. It’s not about spending ridiculous amounts of money in research hoping your target market will give you the answer. And it’s certainly not about how clever it is.

Simply, a great brand name is what you make it.

In fact, the best names are more often than not those that have absolutely no meaning or connection to anything in their category.

Why? Because they’re clean, unencumbered by any preconceptions.

And that’s where brand strategy, brand identity and brand messaging steps in to mould the name that meant nothing, into a brand that’s loved.

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