Gaining competitive advantage by crafting a compelling brand name

Were you ever been caught in a situation where you have a great business idea but you’re clueless on where to start? You have a great product or service, and you firmly believe that this will be the next big thing. But then you ask yourself, “How shall I name my product?”
These are hurdles that hinder aspiring entrepreneurs to transform their ideas to reality. Branding can be daunting task. And if not done right, it can significantly tarnish your brand image. Creating a name with the perfect fit is a challenge for most us. Choosing a name requires an exhaustive research and usually consumes a lot of time. A brand name is one of the most powerful piece of messaging. It’s also one of the most ubiquitous components of any branding program.
A research conducted by the Japan Economic Times reveals that out of 139 marketing professionals, majority said that the brand name is the most important element in branding. More important than the slogan and the logo. Moreover, According to Al Ries , a world renowned author and a marketing strategist:
“Your name stands alone on the internet, so you better have a good one.”
– Al Ries, The Law of Proper Name
Due to the complexity of the branding process, people come up with their own strange ideas to cut the chase.
In Egypt, a couple named their first born daughter “Facebook”. They were inspired by the role Social Media in the Jan 25 2011 revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The father, Jamal Ibrahim, was so happy with Facebooks’s role in organizing protests in Tahrir Square and the nearby cities. He named his daughter “Facebook Jamal Ibrahim”.
Filipinos on the other hand, are such creative lads. They never run out of ideas. They can come up with a plethora of permutations combining their children’s first names. They always show off an uncanny output. Examples are Rubylyn Bakeshop (names Ruby and Lyn combined) and Lilyma Enterprises (Lily and Mario combined), just to name a few. In the eyes of the owners, that’s the best brand name ever created. Though they were relieved from going through the tedious branding process and avoided paying off the Branding expert’s hefty fees, this tactic is ephemeral. This may work locally, but will eventually falter when the product reaches the international scene. So if you want to build a great brand, don’t name your dog Blackie. Don’t just be creative, be smart. Always anticipate that overtime, your brand will go global. It pays to be ready.
OK, let’s get into it.
Here are the 3 characteristics of a great product name:
1. Limit your name to under 10 characters.
Using about 6-7 chars to a name is ideal. Of course, there will be exceptions. This is not carved in stone. There are some great brands that are longer that 10 chars. Like National Geographic, Harley- Davidson, and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL). However, overtime these long brand names discovered the benefits of using a shorter version of their names via abbreviation or the use of acronyms. Network Solutions eventually bought for ease of use. Ergo, if you can create a short name early on, the better. Shorter names are ideal for so many reasons:
  • It’s easy to remember,
  • Easy to type when people search in Google.
  • Easy logo placement in advertising mediums.
2. Remember “USSR” – Unique, Easy to Say, Spell, and Remember
It’s a noisy world. We are bombarded with more than 300 messages a day. How will you stand out from the sea of advertisements? One way to be distinct is by combining root words like Facebook, Scotch Tape, Band-Aid, Post-it, etc.
Portmanteau defined:
“Portmanteau is the combination of two or more words into one word. “
Some well-known brand name portmanteaus are Microsoft, Groupon, and Amtrak. You can tweak and blend words like Netflix, Pinterest, Kleenex, Tweeter, and Krispy Kreme. Use abstract names. The likes of Xerox, Zipper, Jacuzzi, Velcro, Taser, and Kraft, these became big brand names. Avoid using hyphens or prefixes like “my”, ”super” or “the” then attaching the company name. Stick with root words whenever possible. Cut the prepositions.
Easy to Say
It is easier to ask for a product, when you’re at the shops, if the name is easy to pronounce. For example, take Façonnable (fa-SON-ah-bluh), the French apparel brand. This is challenge to pronounce and difficult to remember.
Easy to Spell
You don’t want to use the color Fuchsia as part your brand name. No matter what i do, I can’t spell this right. This will also complicate your optimization efforts in Search Engines (SEO). More of this in another article.
Easy to Remember
The most memorable way to name a brand is by using alliterations.
Alliteration defined:
“Alliteration is the repetition of a sound in multiple words.”
Great examples are Johnson & Johnson, Gumgum. And we have our share on this. Our very own Nognog – a famous brand of deep fried crunchy corn during the 80’s and 90’s that’s loved by everyone. This became a staple in every drinking parties. Another of course is Tira-Tira. An elastic, chewable candy made from sugar and coconut milk. This candy became every kid’s favorites because of its sweet taste and chewable nature. The Pinoy ingenuity never fails to impress.
3. No negative connotations.
Here are some words, when translated to another language or used in other forms, may connote a different meaning. So make sure you choose a name that’s not offensive to others.
Ex. P&G launched a new soap in the US named “Dreck”. “Dreck” sounded like a German word for dirt, garbage, body waste and a four-letter expletive that cannot be published elsewhere.
In Japan, automakers have marketed the Mazda Laputa. Unfortunately, these brand name will not sell to Spanish-speaking countries where “laputa” means “the prostitute”.
Similarly, during the 1950s, there was a Swedish car magazine named “Fart.” “Fart” is a Swedish word meaning “speed.” Though is ok in Sweden, this would cause considerable embarrassment when the magazine goes international.
You should also consider all possible translations. Coca-Cola was first phonetically written in Chinese as ke-kou-ke-la, which means “bite the wax tadpole.”
Pen Island, when used as a domain name (, is not acceptable and will be obscene to others.
In other words, naming your product doesn’t have to be that onerous after all. Just follow these simple guidelines, know your product, do a little research and there you go. You can create a compelling brand name in a breeze.
Do you have a new product or business? How did you name your brand? Did you commit the same naming mistakes above? I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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