Brand Naming: Learning from the Fastest-Growing World-Ready Startup Brands
First up, let’s be clear on one thing – a brand is about what you stand for, not just your name. But before people experience your brand, a well-chosen name does help to attract them.
Even so, early-stage startups busy developing the perfect product or service often forget how important it is to give it a good name.
A great name won’t guarantee the success of a startup — and a terrible name probably won’t stop a well thought-through business from succeeding. But it’s the bridge between your innovative business ideas and your target market. It makes it easier for people to talk about you – or sometimes even to trust you.
Finding a perfect name
When it comes to picking the right name to embody your brand, where do you start? One option is to learn from businesses already on the road to growth. Tech City UK has just announced the 33 businesses joining its Upscale program. That makes them some of the UK’s fastest-growing tech brands. The list reveals a few common naming techniques:
Expressive names. Take a simple and relevant word and turn it into a brand name, Like Bulb or Curve. Names like this have an infectious quality and buckets of personality.
Combinational names. Form a name by combining two words, for example, LivingLens and MoneyFarm. These names are often descriptive and instantly describe what the brands do. But they can cramp your style. If the company moves beyond its core business, the name could be an obstacle to growth.
Invented names. Create a name by morphing a word or combination. Examples include Poq, Grabyo, Pockit, or Chargifi. It can be hard to get a consensus on names like this. But they’re often quirky, and once people warm to them, they can become memorable and unique.
Supplemented names. Join a word with a descriptor, to create a name like everyLIFE Technologies, Firefly Learning, or Cambridge Intelligence. It’s a practical way to embody what you offer and be expressive at the same time.
There are no rules for coming up with a great name. But it’s usually best to keep it simple and memorable – and make sure it’s available as a domain name.
Change is the only constant
When startup brands grow or go through big changes, one of the first things they do is ask a branding agency to come up with a new name. But that can take up a lot of management time and tens of thousands in redesign and rebranding costs. Whether you rebrand or not, it’s worth looking at how other brands have gone through the startup phase and beyond.
In November 2016, Airbnb launched Trips. The evolution takes the parent brand beyond the name’s original definition, “bnb” (bed and breakfast). It puts “homes”, “experiences”, “places”, “flights” and “services” all on one app. But Airbnb is still Airbnb. Its strong brand story triumphs over the need to come up with a new name.
But sometimes, a name change is the only option. Especially when you need to reflect real changes in the company. You might be changing what you offer. You might be targeting different audiences. Or you might be growing globally into markets where your name either has the wrong cultural associations or is already taken.
In September 2016, when Snapchat launched Spectacles, the sunglasses that let users take 10-second videos and quickly share them with friends, it announced that Snapchat would become Snap Inc.
Co-founder Evan Spiegel said: “When we were just getting started it made sense to name our company Snapchat Inc., because Snapchat was our only product! Now that we are developing other products, like Spectacles, we need a name that goes beyond just one product – but doesn’t lose the familiarity and fun of our team and brand. We decided to drop the “chat” and go with Snap Inc!”
The repositioning, says the website, also changes the company from a social platform to a “camera company”:
“Snap Inc. is a camera company. We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate.”
Invent your own rules
Naming is one of the most talked-about elements in a brand strategy, but the “how to” guides often only say the most obvious things. What works for one brand may not work for another. So, based on our experience, here are some tips :
Don’t be too descriptive. It’s tempting to go for a name that says what the company does. Carphone Warehouse, PC World…sound familiar? But a name doesn’t have to tell people exactly what you do. It just shouldn’t mislead them. An overly descriptive name might be easier to understand at first glance, but it can wear out quickly. With a descriptive name, you also need a bigger marketing budget to project the brand’s personality.
Get personal. Stay true to your roots. Avoid anything “trendy”, as what’s in today is out tomorrow. Instead, trust your instinct. If a name has a personal value, it could well be the basis of your brand story. Brands like Huawai or Xiaomi defy the conventional rule to have a name that’s easy to pronounce, and they don’t intend to change their distinctly Chinese name. I think they’ve made a wise decision to stand out in the very crowded marketplace.
Don’t be afraid of ‘scary’. The best name might not seem terrific the first time you see or hear it. A name that defies your expectations or simply doesn’t fit in with what others are doing in a product category might be scary. But the element of surprise could be a sign that you’ve found a name that stands out. Give the names you’re considering a chance to grow on you. Be imaginative, and have a vision. And avoid endless brainstorming.
Think internationally. You need to think global from day one. Growing globally should be your ultimate goal, even though you’re only focusing on the local audience for now.
Own it first. It’s no good getting excited about a name you can’t trademark. And going through a legal battle after you’ve invested in launching your brand is exhausting and costly. So do your homework.
If your product is different, you want to sound different. Use your name to kick-start the brand story and signal something new.
If you want to craft a brilliant world-ready brand name for your startup, get in touch for a free consultation.