The Brand Naming Process (Create A Great Brand Name)

Naming a brand is one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of building a strategic brand.

There are specialists who dedicate their lives to the craft and Rob Meyerson is one such specialist.

In this episode of the Brand Master Podcast we dive into the brand naming process and how to create a great brand name We’ll cover topics such as…

The Importance Of Language

Key Attributes Of A Great Brand Name

Brand Naming Mistakes

Brand Naming In The Brand Strategy Timeline 

And much more…

So if you want to learn how to create a great brand name from scratch from someone who’s been there and done it right at the top, then stick around for this article.

The Brand Naming Process (Create A Great Brand Name) with Rob Meyerson

[The Video Breakdown]

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Question #1
Why Is The Brand Name So Important? 

Stephen Houraghan

We talk so much about the logo and the visual identity, the strategy and, all of these statements are all important within the brand strategy development, but really brand naming kind of seems to get overlooked in terms of just how important it is. 

Can you talk to me a little bit about how you see the importance of brand naming?  

Rob Meyerson (Summarized)

I guess a lot of times our clients come to us with a name, and maybe they’ve just named the business staff for themselves or taking it upon themselves.

But in instances where a name is needed or renaming is needed, I think it’s really important.

I usually outline three reasons how important brand naming is:

1. Language Is Powerful
We use language everyday, to explain our thoughts and the more articulate we are, the better we can communicate those thoughts.
But we’ve all had experiences with reading something or listening to the lyrics of a song or listening to a really inspirational speech and feeling not only the explanatory power of language, but the emotional resonance that that language can have as well.

2. Naming A Brand Is Difficult
Look no further than, Boaty McBoatface and all these other horror stories that we hear brands that mean something terrible in another language. Companies that have had to rebrand because they got sued by another company for using a similar name it’s just hard to get right and if you’ve tried it yourself, you probably have experienced that.

3. A Good Name Is A Good Investment
It’s the one brand asset that I can think of that really should not change and there’s often good reason for a logo to at least be evolved and updated or redesigned every five to seven years, or websites, even more often, but if it’s the name of the company or the name of a product, hopefully just stays the same for the life of that company or product.

Question #2
What Are The Key Attributes Of A Great Brand Name?

Stephen Houraghan

What would you say would be the kind of attributes that are most important within a brand name or, put it in another way, what would you say would be the main job of the brand name?

Rob Meyerson (summarised)

The main job or key attribute for a brand name is to make the name memorable, especially if you’re at the company level. So that may only be one of several goals or a name, but, but memorability is a key goal and I think there are a number of different ways you can achieve that sometimes though, if you’re just naming.

We are called upon sometimes to name the features of a piece of software to help, this is another sort of, part of verbal identity its like a naming taxonomy.

So we’ve got a hundred features and we just want to make sure that they all have names that people can understand and data, we don’t over reuse the same words and in that scenario, it’s not about memorability as much as it is just clear communication.

So sometimes that’s more of the goal. So it kind of depends on what level you’re doing the naming at, but yeah,

memorability is one of the most important jobs of the brand name.

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Question #3
The Greatest Brand Naming Mistakes?

Stephen Houraghan

Within brand naming is the biggest mistake I see on how most brand names are created in the small business space and usually professionals, whether it’s designers or strategists, probably don’t get enough opportunity to work on brands because the business owner has come to the table with, with a brand name already.

Now usually, for the most part, they won’t have done this in any kind of strategic way.

They might have sat down with their spouse or their family or their kids and come up with something that’s important to them or that they’re emotionally attached to.

What would you say are some of the biggest mistakes? Is that your experience as well?

Rob Meyerson (Summarised)

That’s one of them. I mean, one of the first and sort of easiest things to do is check whether they’ve gone through any kind of legal vetting process, oftentimes they haven’t.

And so you may find clients that have a name that they like, but it turns out that they didn’t know, they needed to try to trademark it.

And when you look at trying to do that, they can’t use it because somebody else is using it which is one of the toughest things about naming is that a lot of the good names are taken already.

I do think going through a strategic process, just like everything else with branding, you’ve got to put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

And so just because of the name is meaningful to you, that doesn’t mean that they get it, even much less than it resonates with why they would want to do business with you, so I do think that’s a mistake.

Another thing I see a lot is overly restrictive names.

So, if you use a name that really speaks to exactly what your business does, which a lot of people seem to be tempted to do that. if you name your butcher shop, the butcher shop that might not work when you want to expand into a full-service grocery store or something like that.

if you’re really successful, but you’re then hindered by this name, the butcher shop and people are not stopping at your store because they think that’s all you do.

So that’s another thing that I think a lot of amateurs or just business people that don’t have this experience kind of end up falling into that.

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Question #4
What Are Seven-Step Brand Naming Process? 

Stephen Houraghan

So talk us through your structure process on how you go through these steps to come up with a great brand name?

Rob Meyerson (Summarised)

Sure first off. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I think a lot of people have the misconception that the right way to do brand naming, or just the way that it’s done is to get everybody in a room, a bunch of smart, creative people.

Talk about what you’re trying to do, and then maybe get out the post-it notes and start writing ideas down. And there’s a time and a place for that. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but that is certainly not the entirety of naming there’s a lot that needs to happen before and after it. So my process, I don’t think it’s different, significantly from that of other namers,

but the way I’ve outlined it, is seven steps are:

Step #1: Naming

Naming brief and that could pretty much just be your brand strategy because on that brief, you’re going to want to answer what kind of ideas should the name convey? What kind of personality?

We call it tonality when we’re talking about the name, but that’s basically what kind of personality should the name have or not have.

So you have to be clear on the naming brief.

Step #2: Generating Names

To some degree, it’s whatever you want it to be.

You really can’t necessarily systematize creativity, but I do think that there are things that you can do repeatedly, different techniques, approaches.

You can to try to get the most out of your name generation. A lot of times it starts with what you’re trying to express.

You might create mind maps out of that on a whiteboard, you might go into a room with post-it notes.

It can start as a group exercise, but I do find that a lot of times the best name development and has done individually.

Even if you have a team of six people, you could assign each person sort of a different territory to explore, or just put all six of them on it and have you have them kind of come back and compare notes.

Step #3: Shortlist

It is just looking at a really long list and sometimes printing that list and sitting in a room with the rest of the naming team and just circling the ones that you think work best.

That said it’s a really important step because this is a place to really where your sort of talent as a namer really shines because you need to be able to see something that is just a word on a page and imagine what that could be as a brand and it’s really hard to do.

To some degree, anybody can come up with the list of a thousand ideas.

You can crowdsource a thousand ideas and most of them will probably be junk, but to be able to find that sort of diamond in the rough, it is difficult.

So, I have a few kinds of pointers on what to do and what not to do, but ultimately it is just going through talking it through with other experienced namers having.

I think it’s really important to have other people look at the list with you to try to sort of open your eyes to some of the name ideas that maybe you would have given short shrift, or it just, you doing it by yourself.

But eventually, you get to that list of maybe 30, maybe 60 that you want to put into pre-screening.

Step #4: Screening

This step is the legal pre-screening and then linguistic screening sometimes, and then maybe also looking at domains.

Although we can talk about the importance or lack thereof domain availability but once you’ve got those names screened you’re ready to present some things that you think maybe legally available.

Step #5: Presenting

Presenting is not something that, I mean, even working at some of these big brand agencies there wasn’t a real training on how to present names.

It’s all just watch people who are good at it and sort of try to figure out what they’re doing.

I think the thing to realize here is you will not likely bowl somebody over with the brilliance and creativity of your tenant name ideas to the degree that they will instantly jump on one of them and say, â€śthat’s the name!” and then that’s the end of the project and everybody’s happy.

Presenting to a group of people and that you need to get them all to agree, which can be quite difficult, a lot of the project is not just creativity.

It’s sort of the psychology of driving consensus within a group. And so I’m thinking about. Well, what you share with people before you show them the names to kind of get their mind, ready to prime them, to be thinking about this in the right way.

Thinking about how you present the names and the order, even in which you present them, the way you ask them for feedback on those names, all these subtle little things you can say or not say or do or not do can really influence how that meeting goes.

I tend to think of this as a consultant presenting to clients, but this is true, even if you’re working inside of a company and coming up with a name and presenting it to your boss, the same sort of rules applies.

Step #6: Legal Search

Legal Search is sometimes called a knockout search.

It’s really looking for the obvious problems which it’s not just Googling around.

Usually, you would actually want to look at a trademark database like the USPTO’s it’s publicly available information or there are equivalents in other countries.

Typically, and just making sure that you’re not presenting a name to your client that is definitely not going to be easy for them to use from a legal standpoint, that really does nobody any favors and so you want to weed those out.

There’s typically no time or money required to really do a deep dive on each name.

If you’re going to be presenting 30 names, trust me you don’t want to pay a lawyer to look at 30 names for you at that level of depth nor do you probably have the time.

And so at the end of a presentation, what you’re asking a client to do is not choose a name, but to narrow it down to maybe three, four or five names that have a lot of potential in from their point of view that you can then send to their lawyers and ask the lawyers to do a full legal search or more rigorous trademark search.

Lawyers won’t tell you which ones are safe and which ones are unsafe because lawyers don’t like to talk that way, but they’ll give you some kind of relative degree of this one would cause more problems than this one.

Step #7: Selecting

In selecting process of name it comes down to the culture of the organization and who’s making the decision.

But I would say that I try go on the side of really having the client make the decision because I want them to feel with this name.

As I’ve said before, I’m the last person to talk about fashion, but it feels a little bit like fashion to me in that some people can get away with wearing something and other people can’t.

It’s not about how nice the clothes look it’s about how confident they feel wearing it and how competent they seem.

And so I think similarly if this leadership team is going to be announcing this, and they’re going to be shaking hands with people and handing over a business card with this name on it, I want them to feel good about it and so I like it when, when they make that decision.

What I can do though, is help them make that decision in a few ways.

The easy way is to just present to them kind of a scorecard or some pros and cons that go through, you know, here’s what this name helps you achieve, maybe just looking at the legal and linguistics information and saying, well, all else being equal.

This one, the lawyers seem to feel more comfortable with this one and this one had fewer problems in China where I know you’re going to want to do business and it feels like people can pronounce it more easily there.

So you can just, look at all those factors and help make a decision that way.

Question #5
Top Three Tips For Offering Brand Naming Services? 

Stephen Houraghan

We have listeners who offer brand services.

They might offer brand strategy services, brand design services, and they offer brand naming in part, but they don’t splinter it off into its own service.

They don’t charge for it within its own services. It’s just part of what they do.

What would be a tip that you could give to those professionals to kind of look at brand naming from a more strategic point of view from a business point of view and splinter that off as a standalone service?

Rob Meyerson (Summarised)

Right. So, being able to talk about why names are important and making sure that your clients are not just glossing over that because they want to get straight to the logo or straight to the brand launch.

So being able to speak intelligently about the process a lot of people, even as you’ve said, even in the world of branding, don’t know how much rigor and process can, and typically should go into this.

So just being able to tell clients and prospects that there is a processing tier is being able to share some of the things that can go wrong.

I’m not a big fan of selling through fear, but you can point out, look, you know, this company or this other company in your space, maybe even had to rebrand three years after launching because they had a legal problem with their name.

it’s about gaining the

Getting The Experience

Getting The Confidence

Presenting It As A Deliverable

To have a standalone deliverable and bringing it to your clients and there will be interest out there.

I think that the thing you have going for you is, as I said, at the top of the conversation, how difficult naming is some of my first clients and some of my best clients have been people that tried to name their own company and saw exactly how terrible it can go without the right process.

And they, they came to me and, we’re very happy to be able to put it in into my hands. And while I agree with what you’re saying about every client that you want to get them involved.

You want to co-create this with them.

You want to make it a collaboration, but there are some things where I think they also just want to be able to hand it over to a consultant and they’re happy to pay them to go through an expert process.

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Question #6
Tell Us About Your Brand Naming Book?

Stephen Houraghan

You’ve got so much experience, so much global experience with client-side, with agency side that you’ve gone and written a book on the brand naming process.

Can you tell us a bit about your book?

Rob Meyerson (Summarised)

Sure. Yeah, it is. I mean, anyone who buys and reads the book, this conversation will sound familiar as you’re, as you’re turning the pages of the book after 15 years, over 15 years of doing naming work. Since that first assignment that I mentioned, I started seeing patterns and I’ve done this, like you said, in the intro at big companies, those small agencies I’ve done it in Asia.

I’ve done it for clients in Europe and in the US and there are definitely differences in process and approach, but I’ve really tried to capture what I think is, what are some best practices.

And also a lot of the different tips that I’ve learned from working with great namers, and from interviewing them as well and, and just directly asking them, you know…

How do you do this step?

What do you?

What tips do you have for that step?

I’ve captured all of that in the book. I’ve made an effort to make it the most complete and the most detailed book about naming so it goes through pretty methodically every step, and I don’t think anyone else has done this in a naming book.

I have a hypothetical naming project where I actually share here’s the idea for the brief.

Now here’s how I would generate names. I go through all 20 of those different techniques and say, here are a handful of names that I would have gotten out of that technique had I actually done it.

And then I take it through the prescreening and the presenting and everything.

And so hopefully that allows people to really get a feel for what it’s like to do this rather than just reading sort of a list of tips and tricks. It’s really kind of a step-by-step procedure.

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