What’s in a name?

04 November 2021
What’s in a name?

My own name can’t be considered in Shakespearian terms, but the rival positioning of brands is much more like the feuding Montagues and Capulets. So does brand naming really matter if a rose would smell as sweet by any other name?

I would argue it does.

Brands surround us, many punctuate our everyday speech. First and foremost, a successful brand has to be able to deliver a product or service its target audience wants to buy. It will need to stand out from the crowd in order to make the first sale, and be sufficiently memorable for the customer to repeat the purchase.

Brand names are just words, aren’t they?

By the age of ten, children know about 10,000 words and by adulthood usually double that. We learn positive and negative associations with some words and are neutral on others. Quite a few words have double-meanings.

So, when it comes to brand naming we can choose between words that are loaded with meaning or others where there are only a few, if any, pre-conceptions. We can also explore compounds, such as Facebook or Netflix, and neogolisms - which are newly made up words - like Spotify.

Everyone is capable of having fun with this, so creating a great brand name should be within anyone’s grasp. Or is it?

If only brand naming was that simple

In reality, much of our brand naming work starts when our clients have been doing some DIY and found a word they like, but then realise they can’t own or protect it. It might have already been registered as a trade mark by another company, or be too descriptive to be accepted as a trade mark, or the domain is unavailable or associated with an unsavoury service. Worse still, they may have committed to launching their new brand without the right checks and either unintentionally infringed someone else’s intellectual property rights, or found their new name means ‘penis’ in colloquial Portuguese, putting the Lisbon launch in doubt.

We avoid these issues by, first, really understanding the product or service offer, so we can pursue meaningful names as well as abstract words. Then we identify themes and associations and sources of inspiration. We might even include some AI-generated names in the mix if they are good enough (most are far too literal).This generates huge lists of words that are then finely filtered for pronounceability, phonetics, succinctness, distinctiveness, memorability, meaning, double-meanings, trade mark clearance in relevant classes and geographies, and domain and social media availability. Once a short-list of names has passed this challenging evaluation criteria, we feel we’re ready to present a shortlist of viable candidates.

We also consider how the words look. ‘Montague’ and ‘Capulet’ look entirely different from each other, as well as sounding poles apart, so the shape and visual rythm of a new brand name also intrigues us. As a brand agency, when we move into the brand design stage, we can use the shape of the word and its typography to carry further meaning, accentuate certain characteristics, or even or inspire a unique visual language.

What’s in a name? Well, perhaps a bit more than Juliet thought.

If you would like to know more about Nucleus' brand naming services, drop us a line and we will share more.


P.S. The painting 'The stolen kiss' is by Frank Bernard Dickinson and hangs in Southampton City Art Gallery.

Peter Matthews
Nucleus founder and CEO