Naming lessons from a few of the world’s best-known brands

Naming conventions that stick

Naming your business is one of the most important steps you’ll take to launch your brand. And it’s not a cakewalk. It’s hard to come up with a word or phrase that defines who you are and what you do — a name that will stick in customers’ minds and stick out from the competition. Fortunately, there are plenty of success stories out there that you can mine for naming lessons when creating your own brand.

Naming and branding aren’t one-in-the-same

Sometimes, it’s easy to think that in order to create a successful business, you just need to come up with a kick-ass name and the rest will fall into place. While an awesome name is a must, don’t rely on it to be your entire branding strategy; you have to build something out of your name that warrants recognition on a global scale. Michael Rader, an entrepreneur who specializes in brand name establishment, uses Coca-Cola as a prime example:

“The truth is, Coca-Cola has come to represent a lifestyle. The brand epitomizes more than a just soft drink, it is a global influence — and oh yeah, it sells products. The invaluable role a brand can play in a consumer’s life is part of the reason why certain products or services take off and others do not.”

In other words, how is your product going to impact your consumers? If you’re not sure who your target market is, then take some time to outline the needs your product fills before even starting the naming process. You want to come up with a brandable name that falls in line with your potential customers.

Connect by evoking a reaction

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is a genius when it comes to naming conventions. When Amazon first hit the market, its purpose was to sell books online. So, why use the name “Amazon?” When you think of the Amazon, what comes to mind? The largest river in the world? What on earth does that have to do with books? Actually, the answer is quite simple.

As Miller Ingenuity CEO Steve Blue explains:

“The story is told that [Bezos] named it after the river, of course, because of its size…and the tagline was: ‘Earth’s biggest bookstore.’ Bezos’ ambitions were as large as the company name, and he eventually developed a business model that would include far more than books. Amazon continues to fit this e-commerce giant now, doesn’t it?”

I think the term “e-commerce giant” is bit of an understatement. As the largest Internet-based retailer in the United States, Bezos’ company is certainly worthy of the name, “Amazon.” While river and books don’t immediately equate to the same thing, the word “Amazon” evokes an image that sticks with every consumer.

What if Bezos had used a generic name, like “Millions of Books?” Would it have been as successful? Probably not. It’s boring, doesn’t elicit any emotion, and lacks any sense of ingenuity. As a consumer, I don’t want to connect with Millions of Books; I want to connect with Amazon, with options as vast as the river itself.

Trust your gut

Great names — like Amazon, Apple, Sprint and Infinity — often carry strong visual associations. Usually that’s by design … but gut instinct and luck do come into play. That’s a lesson to be learned from one of the most recognizable names in the business world, Virgin. As Virgin Group founder Richard Branson explained:

“There was no great plan or strategy. The name itself was thought up on the hoof. One night some friends and I were chatting over a few drinks and decided to call our group Virgin, as we were all new to business. The name stuck and had a certain ring to it.”

If you come up with a name that just feels right, test it out. Throw it out for feedback on your social media channels. Ask your friends and family members what they think … then wait a week and ask them to repeat the name back to you. If it stuck with them, you might be onto a great thing.

Start promoting your identity

“Remember, high-profile brands are high-profile because they are everywhere. That means integrating your marketing into all available resources, not just ‘silo marketing’ techniques where the focus is on one aspect alone.” ~ Michael Rader

After you’ve labored tirelessly to come up with a recognizable, memorable, creative name for your business, don’t stop there. You can’t just set up shop and wait for the magic to happen, no matter how cool your name is. You need a marketing plan that elevates your brand to the next level.

Think social media, testimonials, reviews, word of mouth, email marketing. Or even opt for the new trend on the market, influencer marketing. There are tons of ways to boost your business online, so now that you’ve got a name in your pocket, get out there and start branding!

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