Brand Naming: Both Sides of the Brain

Brand Naming Brand Strategy

When you engage in a naming initiative from the right side of the grey matter, the concern is less on structure and convention, and more on creating a clear mental image that serves the desired positioning of your company, product or service. A great name is just too important a business asset to come just from one side of the brain. The right brain approach is the one that connects verbal cues with clear mental pictures. This is very important because people think and remember in pictures! Before I go deeper, let me share a couple of stories from marketing folklore.

For many years, there was a small but growing athletic footwear company with a check-mark shwoosh logo called Blue Ribbon Sports. Not a terrible name, but not compelling enough to create a powerful mental image of winning foot races. Wisely, the company changed its name to a word that came from a Greek Olympic chant meaning “win, win, win! With this more evocative name, coupled with a more aspirational positioning and promise, Nike took off to the heights of greatness only a few companies will ascend to.

Then there was the Pequod Coffee Company, a name under serious consideration from a start-up company from Seattle. The owners had a fascination with all things Moby Dick. (Apparently one was an English professor). What useful and compelling mental images and associations does the name “Pequod” bring to your mind? Alas, someone said something to the effect “since you are so set on the Moby Dick theme, and you already have a mermaid as your symbol, why not use the name of the Pequod’s first mate, Starbuck? At least it easier to pronounce and it sounds better”. From there, another marketing legend is born!

For all you marketing communications executives working in a company with a three-letter acronym name that is not AT&T or IBM, this might cause you to think more about a name that will provide your company with more powerful visual imagery that will separates you from the slush pile of all the other companies with dull, boring and meaningless three-letter names.

In a cluttered brandscape, owning a name that sparks a clear mental image that communicates the promise you make to your customers can be the white hot center of your competitive advantage.

What mental images does your company name convey? Are these visual associations aligned with what makes your business matter to people?

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