What is it and why is it important? 

Naming is a creative process to generate names for brands and sub-brands, products, services and experiences. Whilst naming is a standalone process, we’ll often develop names as part of the brand positioning, brand architecture or innovation strategy.

When developing names, we need to consider:

  • Meaningful: for your audience in a way that reflects and drives the brand positioning and business that you’re in
  • Memorable: stands out, easy to remember and recall
  • Accessible: your audience can pronounce it, has cultural relevance
  • Available: for trademark registration, other business registration, for example ASIC in Australia and digital requirements (URLs, social media handles and hashtags)

There are four broad categories of name:

  • Descriptive
  • Acronym
  • Proper nouns
  • Associative

Descriptive names are easy to understand the meaning and easy to remember. As a result, they can be less distinctive and can be difficult to trademark. British Airways is one of the simplest names in this category. Duracell is another example and by combining two words, it is more trademarkable.

FitnessU. We worked with Australian Fitness Network on their brand strategy and architecture. They had an education course for becoming a fitness professional that they wanted to grow into a separate business, leaving their core business and brand to focus on professional development. Needing to stretch from an older to a younger audience, we developed the positioning for this brand that was focused on independent agents of change who are up for the challenge. We ran a naming workshop with the team to consider a number of options and developed FitnessU to clearly link the brand to the fitness industry and to the audience “you” whilst using the U to associate it to the high-quality education of a University without stating as such.

Acronyms develop from their long form, shortened over time with familiarity and for ease – not dissimilar to nicknames! Examples such as International Business Machines now known as IBM, and National Australia Bank now known as nab. The shortened version loses some of the meaning, whilst also providing the opportunity to associate new meaning and attract new customers, particularly as the brand evolves over time. The short form needs a separate trademark registration to the long form.

Proper nouns frequently stem from their heritage, such as Ford named after the founder Henry Ford and Evian from the water’s source in Evian-les-Bains. Being steeped in heritage is one of the key benefits of this type of name but without brand-building, the name has little inherent meaning. It does have uniqueness and as such is easier to trademark.

Associative names are distinctive and have unique meaning which, whilst not always obvious to start, when strongly connected to the brand positioning, make the brand and brand name a compelling package. The Dove personal care brand name has strong associations with the bird and feathers, meaning purity and softness. Nike comes from the goddess of victory. As these names are unique, and less likely to be used by traders within the industry to describe nominated services, they are potentially easier to register.

Larktale Chit Chat. The Larktale name had been created with the meaning of energy, fun and storytelling. We developed the brand positioning and value propositions for launching the brand and two products. Originally intended for the twin pram, Chit Chat references the unintelligible chitter chatter that goes on between siblings, as well as their latte-drinking northern beaches mums and links well with the fun, storytelling parent brand. It also sonically reminds me of the “click clack, front and back” wear your seatbelts safety campaign from when I was a kid. It has since been used for the single stroller, which still reflects the target audience and brand personality.  

Equilibrium. We developed the brand positioning and architecture for Raw Energy Coach’s services offering coaching in emotional, physical, social and financial wellbeing to individuals, teams and organisations. Our client was seeking a name for his quarterly publication. In our brainstorming session, we uncovered the key insight that people reach optimal wellbeing when all these aspects are in equilibrium, and the purpose of the publication being to help people find equilibrium. Raw Energy Coach has since expanded this name to be the umbrella brand for his service offering “Finding Equilibrium”.

Descriptors and straplines

Within the context of your brand architecture, we will look at names and descriptors or straplines at the same time as this will help determine the type of name and descriptor.

A more emotive, associative name may require a more rational descriptor. A more descriptive name may require a more emotive descriptor.

Often when a brand and its name are launched into a market, a more rational descriptor will help people understand what business you’re in. Over time, this can evolve to a more emotive descriptor, which is likely to be a representation of your brand positioning.

In a monolithic or branded house brand architecture, it is likely the more emotive descriptor that reflects your brand positioning sits at the parent brand level, and the sub-brands hold a more rational descriptor.

However, in a house of brands brand architecture, each of the brands may have emotive descriptors that reflect their positioning, potentially using rational descriptors for new product launches.

On the emotive end of the scale, Ford locks up their brand name with their emotive brand strapline “Go further”. On the rational end, Endeavour locks up their brand name with “College of Natural Health”. “Nimble” launched their financial services business with a descriptive strapline “smart little loans”. Whereas Youi launched their disruptive insurance brand with the emotive benefit that linked directly to their name “we get you”.

With Sumo Salad, we locked up the brand name with its positioning “fuelling greatness” to shift the brand from being thought of and compared at a rational level – fresh, filling, tasty salads – to more emotive, adding value and benefit to the consumer. 

For Xansa outsourcing and technology consultancy, they had been using “outsourcing & technology” as their rational strapline so with a new brand positioning and drive for thought leadership, we recommended they shift to the emotive strapline “power to do more” with a secondary communication of “outsourcing, technology & insight”.

Looking at sub-brands, when Sunsilk launched Co-creations, it was locked up with “Sunsilk for expert-touched hair” providing both rational and emotive benefits in the descriptor.

With the launch of Starburst Choozers, we developed the descriptive and experiential sub-line “the chews that ooze” to link the innovation to the brand, make sense of the name and evoke positive sensorial cues.

For the Transport NSW Cyber Security Advisory, we developed the strapline of “helping you navigate cyber security” as a rational descriptor whilst providing the emotive benefit of support and connecting to the concept of a journey – both for the Advisory and the Department of Transport!

There is no “one size fits all”, these are all aspects to take into consideration in developing your brand, portfolio strategy and brand architecture, name, descriptors and straplines.

How we go about it

We have worked on a number of naming projects from brands to bots, innovation and start-ups such as AB InBev, Nestle, Mars Sugar, William Grant & Sons, NSW Department of Transport Cyber Security Advisory as well as Larktale, Raw Energy Coach and Australian Fitness Network as per the examples above. Each one, slightly different. Sometimes clients ask us to develop the names and sometimes clients want to be involved, sometimes we bring prosumers into the workshops and sometimes we research names with consumers! It all depends on your objectives, timelines and personal preference.

Naming generally involves the following stages:

  • Briefing: Commercial objectives, Understand parameters including brand architecture, straplines, category of name and specific considerations across meaning, memorability, accessibility and availability, Defining criteria for selecting the names
  • Preparation: Competitor review, refine parameters and criteria, develop workshop including design, agenda and stimulus
  • Internal or Joint Client/Internal Workshop: Generate themes, directions and initial ideas for names
  • Strategy and creative development: Create long-list of names, initial availability search, consider how to inject meaning into less obvious names, may involve descriptor/strapline development, recommend short-list against criteria, obtain feedback from client for short-list
  • Checks: Each name checked against memorable, meaningful, accessible and available
    1. This may include consumer research
    2. Note that trademarks are the responsibility of the client’s legal representative and we transfer IP to client
  • Finalisation: Evolve names and repeat process until final name is selected, hone launch requirements for attributing meaning, develop straplines as required

How can we help you? 

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Please contact us to discuss further what we can do for you. 

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