TYPES OF BRAND NAME: What's in a name?
In part one of our brand naming series, we look at the types of brand name and where they come from. Later posts will cover how to name a brand and what makes a great brand name.
One of the first key decisions business owners and entrepreneurs have to make is what to name their business, and why. We’ve written before about the importance of brand naming, and below we will summarise the various categories and types of brand names, together with name sources.
Brand names can be categorised into three distinct categories:
Descriptive names: The clue is in the name. Descriptive names describe the product or service, literally. Examples: Paypal, The Body Shop, Whole Foods. Descriptive names can be useful for positioning a brand very clearly, and for B2B brands where purchasers want to know exactly what the brand is selling.
Suggestive names: names that indicate what your product or service delivers either as a metaphor, analogy, or an association like Twitter or Buffer. These are the most popular and they are a creative way to position your brand by building upon an idea your customers already understand. Examples: Uber, Dove, Swordfish. Suggestive names already have some level of evocation in the mind of the consumer, and the brand name can then build upon this by tweaking them to their needs, like in our Dove example above, or for example with Pampers, which alludes to comfort and protection.
Abstract (Empty Vessel) names: Completely abstract names that give a blank canvas to brand builders to build associations with the name based on the fact that it is a completely new or unrelated word, or phrase, that the consumer will never have engaged with in this way. They can be either an existing word used in a new context (Apple) or a completely made up word (Zapier). Abstract words give a unique advantage to marketers, allowing them to paint a completely new set of associations in the consumers mind, untainted by prior conceptions of an existing word (as in descriptive and suggestive words). This, however, can be costly, either because the word is a complete blank canvas or because the word already has a different unrelated set of connotations associated with it.
Sources of names. Where do they come from?
Brand names can come from somewhere on a continuum between existing words and completely made up ones. In between, we’ve got tweaks, combinations and acronyms. Below are where they come from and some examples.
- Existing words from any language: Dove, Pret, Senetus, or Caboodle
- Tweaks to existing words / spelling: Flickr, Blu-Ray, Kellogg’s Froot Loops
- Combination of words: Snapchat, Facebook, FedEx, Salesforce, White Bear
- Invented words (abstract): Virgin, Orange, Zapier, Spotify
- Acronyms: BMW, H&M
In our next piece, we will look at how to come up with a brand name and what makes a great one.