Name generation proves a challenge when working with new brands, but consulting on brand names have become a large part of what we do. We take a look at what makes an effective brand name whilst identifying key brands who’ve got it spot on.

A brand’s name is a significant part of the brand’s identity. Historically, products have been identified by the name of the business owner such as John Lewis, Mr Kipling and Adidas. The name was a personal guarantee. Then came the logos, and suddenly brands needed a logo.

Logos became popular through the 1990s and the 2000s – and to a certain degree, they still are. The age of the logo involved unnecessary sub-branding within corporations and undecipherable monograms and squiggles for every small business.

For packaged goods and businesses with physical touchpoints, logos are important. However, in an age when shopping is done online, not from the shelf, and there are only 73 x 73 pixels to display an avatar in a timeline, they become irrelevant.

Re-brands commonly involve the simplification of brand marks. Take Airbnb, Uber and Google for example. In the interests of user experience, simple flat word marks with key-line symbols are prevalent for tech brands.

But what’s really interesting is naming. It’s become apparent that names are the new logos.

Justifiably, words are enjoying a renaissance in branding. Consumers want to know what brands stand for and the value of content is high, not just in digital media but on packaging too. Graphically, a brand has to be beautiful simply to take part, but to compete with today’s market, names and messages are where the creativity needs to be.

An effective brand name is the start of a story. If, as a business owner, you have to stand up and pitch your product or service to an investor – or have fractions of a second for the label to register with a consumer – you need a name that will draw the audience in and flow seamlessly into your story. A good name needs to work hard to support you.

The trick is in knowing what the brand ‘stands for’, not simply what it ‘is’. This will lead to names that are much more interesting and transcend clichéd category descriptors. Brands like Bounce, Pukka and Seedlip are great examples of this. All are satisfying visually and vocally, and hugely evocative too. A strong name should be central to the creative concept. Branding is most powerful when words and visual elements work together.

Brevity isn’t everything. Long names can be surprising and delightful too. Look Mum No Hands, the name of a retail space dedicated to the needs of cyclists in London stands out and sets the tone. With naming and branding by OPX, its memorable typographic fascia on Old Street has even become a landmark for black taxicab drivers doing The Knowledge.

It is important for brand names to be easy to say, easy to understand and firmly rooted in the purpose of the business. For start-up businesses, for charities – for any business I can think of, in fact – a strong name will directly determine levels of audience engagement. Brand owners must use the name as an opportunity to start a conversation and stand out. No amount of beautiful graphic design can compensate for a bad one.

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