When developing names for companies, products or programs, I’m frequently asked about what criteria define an effective and successful brand name.
Successful branding ultimately boils down to name recognition and the communication of positive associations around your brand. Your name is critical because it typically conveys the first impression of your brand. The best names make it easy for your customers to advertise your products and services on your behalf via word-of-mouth.
There are several approaches to naming, and several factors to consider when evaluating your name options. Ideally the naming exercise is driven by your brand positioning strategy. Name generation & selection should be informed by a thorough examination of your brand promise, specifically the most attractive customer benefits or qualities of your offering which are clearly distinct from competitors.
An effective and quality name is generally endowed with some combination of these characteristics:
Memorability - The name should be easy to remember to facilitate communication with others via word-of-mouth. My expression for this is that the name “sings” – spelling and pronunciation should ideally be intuitive.
Relevance - The name should articulate benefits or qualities that are meaningful to your audience.
Distinction - A unique name helps you stand out from your competitors, makes it easy to find you via search engines (including the iTunes App Store), and is also defensible from a trademark perspective.
Evocation - A great name conjures an emotional connection with your customers and ignites their passions about your brand.
Depth & Breadth - Ideally your name is not too specific or narrow in focus, and instead communicates a brand image that’s bigger than the goods and services that your company offers. A broad and deep name allows you to pivot your business or expand your product / service offering.
Availability - Unfortunately this is where the rubber meets the road. We can all brainstorm great names, but the trick is really identifying the best options where the domain is readily available, or obtainable at a price that doesn’t crush your marketing budget… and it doesn’t harbor risks for trademark conflicts.
Since the question focused on “the most important factors of a great name,” I’m going to wind it up here and not elaborate on various naming approaches. It’s rare to encounter name options which cover all of these desirable characteristics, and typically name options will be weighted towards one of these characteristics than the others, as a reflection of the naming approach.