What's in a name? As it turns out, everything! According to Jeremy Miller, founder of brand strategic branding and business development consultancy Sticky Branding, "the name is the piece that holds the customer experience all together. The name is the thing you know [the product or brand] by."
"Take Coca-Cola," Miller elaborates. "Every ad, every childhood memory, every time you've experienced the brand—good or bad: the time it came out your nose, when they went to new Coke, all that stuff. All those experiences are contained within the name. The name is a vessel."
I invited Jeremy to Marketing Smarts to discuss his new book, Brand New Name: A Proven, Step-by-Step Process to Create an Unforgettable Brand Name. We'll discuss his process for generating name ideas, narrowing the field, and testing until you hit upon the perfect name for your company, product, or service.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation:
We're running out of names for brands (seriously) (05:26): "The hard part isn't coming up with good names. The hard part is finding available names. For the first time in human history, we are actually running out of brand names. You can see this most specifically in domain names. Trying to buy a domain is just a nightmare right now. All the three-character dot-coms disappeared in the late nineties. All the four-character dot-coms got registered in 2013. It's not going to be long until all the five-character dot-coms are taken.
"The challenge we face is, if we wanted to go get a domain name today, chances are you're going to have to go buy it from somebody else. And what's happening in domains is also happening in trademarks. The problem is only getting worse.
"In the United States alone there's over 543,000 new small businesses started every single month. And the first thing anyone does when they start a new business is they go and get a domain name.... There's this constant pressure to get names for your product, your company, your service, and the trademarks that go with it... Naming is becoming a diminishing resource."
You can invent a new word to name your brand, but then you've got an uphill battle educating people about what it means (07:40): "The easiest way to overcome the trademark issue is to invent a word, but strategically, inventing a word means an empty vessel. It has no meaning. So what does 'Hulu' or 'Uber' or 'Verizon' mean? Maybe you want a descriptive name and you can't invent a word."
What makes a brand name memorable (08:00): "Two key things: the first one is [the name] just fits the brand. There's something strategic about it. It gives you an indication of what you're going to get. 'Twitter' is one of my favorite names because it immediately positions the social network compared to all the other options. It was very much a suggestive name that articulated the platform. So a name just seems to fit. There's a strategy part of it.
"The other thing that really makes names stand out is quirky names. There's a risk in it that causes people to take notice of it. One of my favorites is a firm called 'Big Ass Fans.' They make big-ass fans. They make these nine-foot diameter giant fans. If you go into an industrial place, like a warehouse, you'll often see them now in terms of Disney or the World of Coca-Cola. In public areas where they need to cool it down and there's no air conditioning, they will have these big-ass fans.
"And the funny thing is this company started its life out as 'HVLS Fan Company,' which stood for high-volume, low-speed fans. And customers kept calling up and saying, 'Hey, are you the guys that sell those big-ass fans?' And after a while the management team took notice of it and leaned into it. And this name has totally elevated this company."
To learn more, visit StickyBranding.com. You can also follow Jeremy on Twitter at @stickybranding, and be sure to get your copy of Brand New Name: A Proven, Step-by-Step Process to Create an Unforgettable Brand Name.
Jeremy and I talked about much more, including the process for brainstorming names and how this process can work (and work quickly) whether you're a big brand or a small shop, so listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Jeremy Miller, brand strategist and founder of Sticky Branding. Jeremy is the author of Brand New Name: A Proven, Step-by-Step Process to Create an Unforgettable Brand Name. Follow him on Twitter: @stickybranding.