One of the occupational hazards of being a professional namer--yes, there is such a job--is that no excursion is free from noting and analyzing the brand names I see while out and about. A simple errand becomes an exercise in mental gymnastics when passing billboards for food purveyors Soylent, Hampton Creek, Modern Meadows, NuTek, Solazyme, and Unreal, among others.
This obsession has no bounds. I recently found myself ruminating about the names of financial service companies, from "Vanguard" (pretty cool) to "TrustMe" (I don't think so) while in a titanic struggle with form 1040. Significant sums of money are at stake and I am lost in thought about the creative strengths and linguistic weaknesses of various financial brand names. Go figure.
And while ordinary consumers don't obsess about brands the way professional namers do, they are nonetheless influenced by names whether or not they are aware of it. That's because names are a powerful influence and the desire to label things is hardwired into our DNA. Given this, it makes sense to undertake the effort to create interesting, powerful and inventive names for virtually every part and sub-part of your company, product, feature, and service. Here's why:
1. To name things is to be human
We are compelled by our nature to attach labels to things and events both real and imagined. From biblical times when "man gave names to all the animals," to today when even current events (e.g. "Brexit") are named, names have given us brief, complete and convenient ways to communicate complex ideas.
2. A name is the most powerful and cost-effective communication tool there is
No marketing message will be used as widely or as frequently as the brand name. It is the single most profound form of business communication.
3. Like a diamond, names are forever
A brand's slogan, logo, message, tone and even its positioning can and usually will change over time, but the name is an indelible tattoo. By any measure, it pays to create a name and it pays handsomely to create an extraordinary one. People are going to call a part of your company or a feature of your product something so why not own it?
4. Names provide a narrative
With a single word, a name can communicate volumes about your values, your offering and your value proposition. It is an extraordinarily powerful piece of content. Just consider how effectively names are used in the political arena. The newspaper of record, the venerable New York Times, is the Failing New York Times. The Honorable Elizabeth Warren is Pocahontas. And the former FLOTUS, US Senator, US Secretary of State and Democratic Party presidential candidate has been called Crooked Hilary.
Here's what some of the best in the business do to brand name their features:
Chevrolet has some performance chops in its line-up and GM leverages this with the hip image created by Redline® accents. Redline works especially hard both as an emotive signal of pushing the automotive envelope as well as a descriptive moniker for the striking graphic adorning the cars and trucks.
MailChimp's abuse-prevention initiative, Omnivore, takes a proactive approach to spam. By sub-branding it, MailChimp tells its users and, importantly, regulators that it is taking email abuse seriously. It should, however, take a page from its own playbook and consider naming the other powerful tools and features of its service.
The cosmetics industry offers multiple compelling examples of the power of creating evocative names. Who would ever buy pedestrian pink lipstick when you can freshen your face with Plush Rush?
LinkedIn, the powerful networking tool used by entrepreneurs worldwide, does an exemplary job of attaching evocative yet intuitive names to its subset of tools. Its sales tool is given personality as Sales Navigator, as is its freelance service, ProFinder. Yet there is room for more names as LinkedIn offers many other services.
Creating a name for everything is not complicated but it is hard. It requires time, patience, an open and creative mind and more than a little resiliency. But given its significant strategic impact, it is an effort well worth pursuing.