What’s In a Name?


There’s nothing I love more than the challenge and reward of naming.

Over the years I’ve come to specialize in naming exploration and have developed a process that consistently delights clients in its creativity and ability to start deeper conversations about brand meaning and point of view.

My goal is to arrive at a name that works hard for the brand. Ultimately, we have to decide up front what the name needs to do.

Should it be accessible and easy to understand for most people? This is explicit meaning.

Should it be poetic and perhaps a little mysterious? This is implied meaning.

Should it be really outside of the box and a bit of a curve ball? This is assigned meaning.

The difference between these three approaches matters in that we’re purposefully using a psychological device to interest the consumer. Which style to embrace depends on how we want to reach them, how we want them to feel, and what we want them to do.

With explicit meaning, we know right off the bat what the name means, or connotes. It either tells us exactly what the brand is or does, or it draws on associations we already have in our collective consciousness – usually positive ones. An example of this is The Brushies which quickly tells us that we’re dealing with a brush of some kind for kids.

With implied meaning, we pique curiosity – we don’t give it all away and thus aim to inspire the consumer to discovery. We might use evocative language to stir up consumer reaction, or deploy poetry as a way to establish an emotional state. The name might not even make a direct parallel to the brand’s offering, but it gives enough of an indication for the consumer to resonate subconsciously with it. An example of this is Above the Glass.

With assigned meaning, we’re using an unexpected choice and layering meaning onto it through further branding and positioning. Sometimes this means pushing against conventional thought to exploit points of tension and open up dialog about how we might think of the brand. An example of this is Prima  which could mean “female cousin” in Spanish or be short for prima ballerina, but instead we used creative license to connect their products with the intended result of wellbeing “Feel Prima”.

Naming is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. It can be the difference between getting lost in a crowded SEO space or standing out by being so different that it’s unforgettable. If you’re considering whether your brand name is doing enough for you, let’s talk about it!

Chances are there’s something waiting to be discovered.