Start With the Right Brand Name (734 words)
The name is the first public act of branding, internally and externally, according to Julie Cottineau, naming director at Interbrand, a New York-based branding consultancy "By choosing a name, you're not just saying something to the outside world about who you want to be, but also to your own people," Cottineau says.
With the explosion of new products and services over the past 10 years, all 6,000 "real" (not coined) words in the English language have already been trademarked, she says. This is where creativity and patience are needed—from a starting list of 100 names, various screens usually leave only two viable contenders. But it's worth the effort and frustration, she says, because a new name is key to establishing an aspirational target market, which facilitates the development of a full brand. It's also worth it on the bottom line: "intangible" assets of successful brands have real monetary value.
Who Do You Want to Be?
Going through the naming process helps companies determine more solidly what they want their brand to stand for. This goes by the name "destination branding": planning for growth by keeping the name elastic (Yahoo! is an example Cottineau cites).
Ted Leonhardt, founder and principal at brand messaging and design firm The Leonhardt Group in Seattle, actually sees "Yahoo!" as a great benefit statement. Yet, he offers this counter-example to elastic names: "Seattle's Best Coffee is a great one: It's very specific, so the person who encounters the name knows your claim."
For offline enterprises establishing an e-commerce presence, search engines dictate clarity in names. "What we do in every Internet naming project is pay special attention to spelling, pronunciation and length," Cottineau says.
Leonhardt cites Microsoft as an example of a rather poor name which has been belied by amazing performance. The name, he says, is very 1976, when there were a million 'micros', and is restrictive. "But what's the power of their brand? All those people working hard to build that company," he points out.