Naming a brand is part of an overall identity development. But because it’s hard to move forwards without having a proper name, it’s usually presented first. I have my thoughts about how this should be done (which I will mention below), but point is they end up taking 80% of the spotlight together with the logo, and leave a mere 20% of headspace for all that’s behind it.
This is wrong for a myriad reasons.
WHERE TO START
When we take on brand identity projects, with naming, logos, concept and such (together with amazing designers and content experts I’m lucky to work with) we research, interview and benchmark to come up with the brand positioning.
Before even starting to think (at least formally, one has many parallel trails of thought) about the name, we create the set where everything will happen.
What makes the brand different? What does it make people feel? What do the people behind it feel? What do we feel? Is there anything similar in the market? Does it remind us of something else (from any industry)?
I’ve seen creative processes where names are brainstormed, worked on, linked to mood boards and color palettes, with only a kick off meeting. That completely falls apart if any of the previous questions aren’t considered. It’s empty.
Some lucky times, there will be a play on words, a wink or a shot in the dark that hits the spot. And the chosen name and logo are the very reflection of the brand spirit. And everyone involved is overjoyed.
Most times, they are the tip of the iceberg. It’s the first thing you see, it is absolutely necessary, but it doesn’t have to woo everyone. Mostly, it has to:
So once we have context, we propose concepts. It could be just one main concept with alternatives. Or a few possible paths to pick from and to adjust from there.
The best advice I can give is to choose the name in relation to what you can build around it. Do you trust the underlying concept? The references? The color palette? The mood board? Tone and voice? Widen the scope and consider the pillars that actually make out the brand and avoid the downward spiral of saying the name out loud so many times the letters stop making sense.
The big brands are so many times the names of the founders. Popular brands when examined carefully seem quite random. This is not always the case. Again, sometimes you find the perfect match and it’s incredibly satisfying. But most times, the brand makes the name big and not the other way around.
That being said, identity is a two way street. It’s what you decide it is, and what people make with it. You don’t really get to choose for your audience. For example, the Spanish Cultural Cooperation Center in México used to be called exactly that. But people, because it’s an incredibly long and impractical name, started calling it “El España” which would translate to something like “The Spanish”. They decided to change all the banners to that name, because it’s how people perceived, talked about and refer to them as. That’s exemplary behavior.
If you’re not 100% convinced about the name, don’t let it be something that prevents you from launching. You need to be ready to defend everything that goes on around it, the name itself can mutate. Launch and see what people do with it. Focus on the details, microcopy, community building. Be permeable, and co-create your way to the spotlight.