A brand is like a book
I like to compare brands with books (you can also compare brands with films if you want). You see, your brand name is just like the title of a book: it is important because it will often be the first contact customers will have with your brand. During this first contact phase it is important to get customers interested; and if you give them a title/brand name that is interesting enough they will be likely to get a closer look because they will want to know more. We, human beings, are a very curious species. We like to get to the bottom of things to find answers and to give meaning to our world. So make the most of this characteristic! Intrigue customers and get them curious about your brand and what you do. Kodak, for instance, is much more intriguing and interesting as a name than “Photographic Materials and Equipment Inc”. I took Kodak as an example but I could as well have chosen Oreo, Adidas, Ubuntu, Kijiji, Aegis, Häagen-Dazs, etc. What do Kodak and the rest have to do with brands being like books? Well; the title might be great but a title alone doesn’t make a good book.
A good book (or film) has a good story to tell
Original/unusual names have the particularity of not being very straightforward (if they were they wouldn’t be that original or unusual anymore). For this reason and because – as I have mentioned before – the human being is naturally curious, those types of names need a content to be added to them to “justify” their reason for being. A lot of the time it doesn’t really matter that your brand name doesn’t say straight away what your offer is about. It doesn’t even really matter if your brand name isn’t completely understood or understood at all; let’s take Kodak again: the name doesn’t mean anything and yet the brand has been doing well for over a century (and same thing really with two other famous brands: Häagen-Dazs and Oreo). This is why you shouldn’t be put off by this name style: at the risk of repeating myself all you would need to do is add content and have a clear positioning, and your brand name would suddenly make more sense. What makes a great snowman is not just the shape you give it. It is the personality that you choose to give it by adding what can look like some tiny details, but actually make a huge difference.
I think that this is one of the reasons why I like original/unusual names so much: there are so many things that you can do with them. Not only do they stand out from the crowd, catch the attention and intrigue – which often makes them easy to remember – but they also give your brand a unique personality and the possibility to unleash people’s imagination. Original/unusual names allow your brand to tell a story and this story, in return, can make your brand appear more authentic and true.
The story can be anything from the values you stand for; a fruit/vegetable variety (Macintosh is the name of an apple variety which itself takes its name from the Scottish surname “MacIntosh”, meaning “son of the chieftain”); or the evocations and/or associations that come directly from your brand name (Nike is the goddess of victory); to a tribute to someone or to another company (the real origin of the name is debatable but Apple is said to have come from the Beatles’ label Apple Corps.) to name but a few. To me, original/unusual names have the faculty of seeking and encouraging customers’ imagination that straightforward names don’t have as much; and by encouraging customers to use their imagination you allow them to enter your world and make it theirs (if I ask you to imagine a castle, chances are that yours will be different from mine and from the castle imagined by your friends and yet, we will be in the same “world of imagery”: that of a castle), and by doing so you facilitate engagement and bonding with your brand.
There is one other important thing to keep in mind though: a good brand name and a good story alone aren’t enough to guarantee your success. You also have to put yours words into actions (this is true for any types of names). If you don’t, it won’t be long before customers realise it and they might make you pay a hard price for it. This sounds obvious, I know, but a lot of companies still make this simple mistake with their brand.
- Your brand name doesn’t need to be completely understood (if understood at all) to work well.
- Intrigue customers. Get them curious. Get them to want to know more.
- Back up your brand name with a good story.
- Make customers use their imagination when they think about your brand.
- Don’t ju
st say it, do it! Do what you say you do… and more.