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Brand Naming: The Right-Brain Approach


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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Franklin Grippe
Twitter: Grippe_LLC
on June 02nd, 2012 said

I think you guys have touched on a huge subject that is much more than naming and hyper-important. It’s about differentiation. And developing and maintaining a brand holistically, which is a big topic. Still, not rocket science.

And while I really appreciate what you are saying, I wonder if talking about naming in a silo, tends to lead us down a circular path. One that I have seen many times.

See http://37signals.com/enormicom/. This was created almost 10 years ago, but is just as hilarious today. Hope you get a chuckle if you have not seen it. “But I digress”…LOL…

Differentiation is, by definition, contextual activity. It’s meaning is determined by the position of others in a given market space.

A position is determined by a collection of activities that establish a clear pattern. This is why I believe differentiation to be pattern-based.

And while a name may be conceptually aligned with the brand values of a given company, it is really about the meaning that is amplifies by the surrounding story. A story that is as relevant to the product being sold as it is to the market it is being sold to because the story itself is differentiated.

The reason Nike and Starbucks became popular brands is not only because of relevant naming, but because of “investment and caring” in a well-designed story for a well-designed product, in a holistic way, that clearly differentiated pattern from its competitors.

And perhaps one of the most important parts of establishing a differentiated pattern is that the story be visualized in a compelling way. In a differentiated way.

This is where the thinking usually drops off. And what I am most interested in. Because with all the great thinking that often goes on about a business, the visualization decisions are often based on personal aesthetic preferences or an incredibly dumbed down rational for what a brand should look or sound like. Its brand pattern becomes fragmented at the point of visualization.

Nike and Starbucks would have never become the brands that they are without this booster rocket to take them to a different level. The booster rocket of a differentiated brand pattern. Simplified, a good story, told in a well designed, highly creative way.

Maybe this is the part that can’t be taught or clearly analyzed. I disagree. But I would love to hear your opinion on this.

VincentWright on June 02nd, 2012 said

1.) Each of the many times I’ve been to brandingstrategyinsider.com I’ve enjoyed learning something worthwhile about branding from you

2.)With respect to this particular article on “Brand Naming: The Right-Brain Approach”, I’m curious as to how you might have used right brain, left brain usage in your own naming convention to name brandingstrategyinsider.com

3.) My curiosity stems from how often I’ve confused your site’s name when I tried to recall it from memory to share during business phone calls (primarily with members of my own site)

4.) Part of the confusion comes from remembering whether to type into the search bar “brandstrategy” or “brandingstrategy”. (And THAT confusion comes from brandingstrategyinsider.com having workshop titles like “Brand Strategy Workshop For Startups” (not blaming….just sharing what I experience as a reader who wants to point others to your site for branding articles I enjoy)

5.) To clarify: When I’m ON brandingstrategyinsider.com, I LOVE being here but, when I’m NOT on brandingstrategyinsider.com, bookmarking alone doesn’t help solve the matter of helping me get back here. (I may allot a Google Chrome tab to brandingstrategyinsider.com)

(NOTE: I say this as owner of Brandergy.com, a site which can get confused with BrandEnergy.com and Brandery.com. FYI: I created the term “Brandergy” to serve as a conflation term for Branding + Energy + Strategy)

Derrick Daye on June 04th, 2012 said


Thanks for reading Branding Strategy Insider and for your comment. We do appreciate it. Since we (The Blake Project) launched this blog in 2006 our goal has been to create a valuable brand management resource for marketing oriented leaders and professionals. In naming Branding Strategy Insider we put a great deal of weight on the name’s alignment to what our target audiences were looking for.

Beyond this, we wanted to ‘own’ at least two keywords that were aligned with our purpose in search. Those words being Brand and Strategy. By selecting Branding as opposed to just Brand, we were able to gain a second valuable keyword in the confines of one word. Next we added a ‘human connector’ word – Insider. Branding Strategy Insider was ‘dot-com-able’, thus clearing a last, important hurdle.

As brand consultants, we focus of brand strategy rather than ‘branding strategy’ and understand how this can create confusion. However, the first driver of any strong brand is awareness and felt this naming strategy would create the most opportunity for marketers to find us while supporting our reason for being.

We’ve been very happy with the results.

Just to emphasize, in naming web properties, words that your target audience is most likely to search for should be strongly considered in crafting the name. Coined names like The Blake Project take longer to gain traction in search.

I should also add, we wanted to create a brand arms length from our corporate brand. This created a place for an authentic conversation first with sales messaging a very distant second. One of the benefits of doing this has been the creation of a second valuable web asset.

I hope this answered your question Vincent. And I hope those that find Branding Strategy Insider take something away that will help them strengthen their brand.



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