Written by Igor founders Jay Jurisich & Steve Manning, the Brand Naming Guide brings clarity & uncommon sense to the naming process.
It’s an essential framework, giving your team a shared set of criteria and a strategy for evaluating names.
This guidebook provides the clear principles & actionable insights necessary for you to create the most powerful name in your space, like a brand naming expert.
This Guidebook is taken with respect from here: https://www.igorinternational.com/process/brand-naming-expert.php
The Igor Naming Guide
An Essential Framework for Creating the Most Powerful Name in Your Space
The key is to find a fresh way into the hearts and minds of your audience, redefine and own the conversation in your space, and engage people on as many levels as possible.
As you begin, it is essential to decide what you want your new name to do for you.
A name can:
- Achieve separation from your competitors
- Demonstrate to the world that you are different
- Reinforce a unique positioning platform
- Create positive and lasting engagement with your audience
- Be unforgettable
- Propel itself through the world on its own, becoming a no-cost, self-sustaining PR vehicle
- Provide a deep well of marketing and advertising images
- Be the genesis of a brand that rises above the goods and services you provide
- Completely dominate a category
Name / Brand Development
The relative strengths and weakness of the four major categories of names are discussed in this section:
- Functional / Descriptive Product & Company Names
When descriptive names work: When a company names products and their brand strategy is to direct the bulk of brand equity to the company name. Examples of companies that follow this name strategy are BMW, Martha Stewart and Subway.
When descriptive names don’t work: When they are company names. Company names that are descriptive are asked to perform only one task: explaining to the world the business that you are in. This is an unnecessary and counterproductive choice.
The downside here is many-fold. This naming strategy creates a situation that needlessly taxes a marketing and advertising budget because descriptive company names are drawn from a small pool of relevant keywords, causing them to blend together and fade into the background, indistinguishable from the bulk of their competitors – the antithesis of marketing, branding and advertising. .
These kinds of company names are easily avoided if a thorough competitive analysis is performed and if the people doing the naming understand the following basic concept:
The notion of describing a business in the name assumes that company names will exist at some point without contextual support, which is impossible. Company names will appear on websites, store fronts, in news articles or press releases, on business cards, in advertisements, or, at their most naked, in conversations.
There are simply no imaginable circumstances in which company names can exist without contextual, explanatory support, which means they are free to perform more productive tasks.
- Invented Product & Corporation Names
There are basically two types of invented names for products or corporations:
1) Names built upon Greek and Latin roots. Examples: Acquient, Agilent, Alliant, Aquent.
- These names breeze through the trademark process because they are unique, eliminating the potential for trademark conflict.
- For companies looking for a hassle-free way to secure a domain name without a modifier, this is a fairly painless route to go.
- They are free of negative connotations.
- Because these names are built upon Greek and Latin morphemes, they are felt to be serious sounding.
- For the above reasons, these are the easiest names to push through the approval process at gigantic global corporations.
- Because these types of names are built on Greek and Latin morphemes, you need the advertising budget of a gigantic global corporation to imbue them with meaning and get people to remember them.
- While they don’t carry any direct negative messages, such names do cast a cold, sanitized persona.
- These are names with no potential marketing energy — they are image-free and emotionally void.
2) Poetically constructed names that are based on rhythm and the experience of saying them. Examples: Snapple, Oreo, Google, Kleenex.
- They breeze through the trademark process.
- Easy domain name acquisition.
- By design, the target audience likes saying these names, which helps propel and saturate them throughout the target audience.
- Highly memorable.
- Emotionally engaging.
- They are rich with potential marketing energy.
- Tougher for a marketing department to get corporate approval for. When making a case for a name based on things like “fun to say, memorable, viral, and emotionally engaging,” you need to present a solid, quantifiable case. Igor can show you how.
- Experiential Product & Corporate Names
Experiential names offer a direct connection to something real, to a part of direct human experience. They rise above descriptive names because their message is more about the experience than the task.
For instance, in the web portal space, descriptive product names once included Infoseek, GoTo, FindWhat, AllTheWeb, etc. Experiential names of web portals include such product names as Explorer, Magellan, Navigator, and Safari.
- These names make sense to the consumer.
- They map to the consumer’s experience with the company or product.
- Because they require little explanation, experiential names are easily approved in a corporate process.
- They work best for products within a brand strategy designed to accumulate brand equity for both the company and the product.
- Experiential company and product names are most effective for the early entrants in a business sector, becoming less effective for later adopters.
- Because they are so intuitive, experiential names are embraced across many industries with high frequency, making them harder to trademark.
- These are names that tend to be historically common in the branding world.
- Their over-usage makes them less effective in the long run. For instance, while Explorer, Navigator and Safari are web portal names, they are also the names of SUVs.
- The similarity in tone of these names across an industry is indicative of similarities in positioning. As web portal names, Explorer, Navigator, Safari and Magellan are all saying exactly the same things in exactly the same ways to exactly the same people. Consequently, they aren’t pulling any weight when it comes to differentiating a brand.
- Evocative Product & Company Names
One important way that evocative names differ from others is that they evoke the positioning of a company or product, rather than describing a function or a direct experience.
Continuing with more examples of web portal company names:
InfoSeek, LookSmart = functional Explorer, Navigator = experiential Yahoo / Bing / Google = positioning (Evocative)
From the ride share sector:
RideCharge= functional Lyft / Curb = experiential Uber = positioning (Evocative)
From the airline sector:
Trans World Airlines = functional United = experiential Virgin = positioning (Evocative)
and finally, from the computer industry:
Digital Equipment = functional Gateway = experiential Apple = positioning (Evocative)
- A rare type of name, making it a powerful differentiator.
- Nonlinear and multidimensional, making it deeply engaging.
- Helps create a brand image that is bigger than the goods and services a company offers.
- Trademark process is better than average.
- When created in sync with positioning, it is a branding force that can dominate an industry.
- When created out of sync with brand positioning, it’s an ugly mess.
- Because evocative product and company names are created to compliment positioning rather than goods and services, they are the toughest type of names to get corporate approval for, being a bit of an abstraction for those outside the marketing department.
A competitive analysis is an essential early step in any naming process. How are your competitors positioning themselves? What types of names are common among them? Are their names projecting a similar attitude? Do their similarities offer you a huge opportunity to stand out from the crowd? How does your business or product differ from the competition? How can a name help you define or redefine your brand? Can you change and own the conversation in your industry? Should you?
Quantifying the tone and strength of competitive company names or product names is an empowering foundation for any naming project. Creating such a document helps your naming team decide where they need to go with the positioning, branding and naming of your company or product. It also keeps the naming process focused on creating a name that is a powerful marketing asset, one that works overtime for your brand and against your competitors.
We display the results of a given sector of names in the form of taxonomy charts.
Name Taxonomy Charts
We developed the name taxonomy format to bring an elegant simplicity to a complex set of intertwined naming elements. It keeps the process focused on the competitive aspect, allows you to quantify both the negative and positive attributes of each name under consideration, sets a high standard for you to meet, and gives everyone involved a clean and easy framework in which navigate the process.
Airline Competitive Taxonomy
Project Management (most names contain Work, Project, Desk or Team)
SUV Competitive Taxonomy
This chart of SUV names reveals a singular positioning strategy that permeates most of the brand names in this industry, resulting in the bulk of these names
being assigned low marks on this scale. It’s not that the names themselves are
poor. Rather, it’s because the names don’t help to differentiate one vehicle from
another; many of them are variations on the same theme (rugged, outdoorsy)
and not pulling any marketing weight. Why does Suburban rate an elevated
position? Because it’s the most refreshingly different and honest name in the
Naming Process Filters – Evocative Names
One of the keys to successful company and product naming is
understanding exactly how your audience will interact with a new
name. Creating a filter that evaluates names in the same way that
your target market will is essential to both creating the best name
possible and to getting that name approved and implemented by your
company. Since an evocative name is one of the toughest to develop
and obtain buy-in for, we’ve detailed one of the necessary filters here.
The biggest challenge that evocative names face in surviving a
naming exercise is the fact that they portray the positioning of a
company or product rather than the goods and services or the
experience of those goods and services. Unless everyone
understands the positioning and the correlation between it and an
evocative name, this is the type of feedback that evocative names will
• In business, Slack means “characterized by a lack of work or
• A Slacker is someone who works as little as possible. A terrible
message for our target audience
• Slack means slow, sluggish, or indolent, not active or busy; dull;
not brisk. Moving very slowly, as the tide, wind, or water.
Neglect, reduce, tardy
• We are an upscale brand for women.
• lululemon sounds like a character from a 3-year olds’ picture
book: “lululemon and her best friends annabanana and
sallystrawberry were climbing Gumdrop Hill, when suddenly
from behind a rainbow the queen of the unicorns appeared…”
• Says “we’re new at this”
• Public wants airlines to be experienced, safe and professional
• Investors won’t take us seriously
• Religious people will be offended
• It has one meaning, “to steal a car!”
• Crime is the last thing we need to be associated with
• Yahoo!! It’s Mountain Dew!
• Yoohoo! It’s a chocolate drink in a can!
• Nobody will take stock quotes and world news seriously from a
bunch of “Yahoos”
• Only foretold death and destruction
• Only fools put their faith in an Oracle
• Sounds like “orifice” – people will make fun of us
Clearly, the public doesn’t think about names in this fashion, but
internal naming committees almost always do. Getting a committee to
acknowledge this difference and to interact as the public does is step
Having the naming committee evaluate evocative names based on
their positioning is the next step:
• Positioning: different, confident, exciting, alive, human,
provocative, fun. The innovative name forces people to create a
separate box in their head to put it in.
• Qualities: Self-propelling, Connects Emotionally, Personality,
• Positioning: different, confident, superhuman, evocative,
powerful, forward thinking.
• Qualities: Self-propelling, Connects Emotionally, Personality,
• Positioning: naming the problem we solve!
• Qualities: confident, different, focused on solving the target’s
• Positioning: a travel hack, exciting, fun. (Hotwiring a car is a hack, that’s why this name works)
• Qualities: Exciting, different, memorable, viral
When considering potential names for your company, product or
service, it is vital that the process be kept as objective as possible,
and that subjective personal responses to names, such as “I like it” or
I don’t like it” or “I don’t like it because it reminds me of an old
girlfriend/boyfriend” are exactly that – subjective and personal, and
have no bearing on whether or not a potential name will actually work
in the marketplace as a powerful brand that supports all your
All well and good, but clients often ask us to be more specific, to
explain objectively what makes a name work. We’ve created a
straightforward way to quantify the 8 characteristics that determine
the success of a name:
Appearance – Simply how the name looks as a visual signifier, in a
logo, an ad, on a billboard, etc. The name will always be seen in
context, but it will be seen, so looks are important.
Distinctive – How differentiated is a given name from its competition.
Being distinctive is only one element that goes into making a name
memorable, but it is a required element, since if a name is not distinct from a sea of similar names it will not be memorable. It’s important, when judging distinctiveness, to always consider the name in the context of the product it will serve, and among the competition it will spar with for the consumer’s attention.
Depth – Layer upon layer of meaning and association. Names with
great depth never reveal all they have to offer all at once, but keep
surprising you with new ideas.
Energy – How vital and full of life is the name? Does it have buzz?
Can it carry an ad campaign on its shoulders? Is it a force to be
reckoned with? These are all aspects of a name’s energy level.
Humanity – A measure of a name’s warmth, its “humanness,” as
opposed to names that are cold, clinical, unemotional. Another –
though not foolproof – way to think about this category is to imagine
each of the names as a nickname for one of your children.
Positioning – How relevant the name is to the positioning of the
product or company being named, the service offered, or to the
industry served. Further, how many relevant messages does the
name map to?
Sound – Again, while always existing in a context of some sort or
another, the name WILL be heard, in radio or television commercials,
being presented at a trade show, or simply being discussed in a
cocktail party conversation. Sound is twofold – not only how a name
sounds, but how easily it is spoken by those who matter most: the
potential customer. Word of mouth is a big part of the marketing of a
company, product or service with a great name, but if people aren’t
comfortable saying the name, the word won’t get out.
“33” – The force of brand magic, and the word-of-mouth buzz that a
name is likely to generate. Refers to the mysterious “33” printed on
the back of Rolling Rock beer bottles from decades that everybody
talks about because nobody is really sure what it means. “33” is that
certain something that makes people lean forward and want to learn
more about a brand, and to want to share the brand with others. The
“33” angle is different for each name.
Here’s a blank chart you can use to evaluate names:
Studies in Naming
How to Create Compound Names Like Instagram, Snapchat & Airport
Instagram and Snapchat are identical constructions. Each simply substitutes new
words from an accepted utility name: Instant Message. Insta & Snap are
synonyms for Instant, and Gram & Chat are substitutes for Message.
Since Instant Message is already a universally adopted name, you know that
Instagram and Snapchat will be accepted as well. If what you’re naming doesn’t
map to a two-word generic, break it down into one first.
You can do this by re-purposing an unrelated, well-known compound word, as in
Apple’s Wi-Fi base station being called “Airport” – a port accessed through the
air. It’s easy to remember and readily embraced because everyone knows the
word Airport already.
Proposing a name like Airport to a committee will be met with immediate
pushback such as, “Everyone hates the experience of an airport” or, “Last time I
was there they cancelled my flight, I had to sleep on the floor and I missed my
child’s birthday” or “The first thing I think of is stress, long lines and bad service”-
as if any of this will make the name less successful, which of course it doesn’t.
As soon as the name Airport is applied to a Wi-Fi device the primary definition
disappears, your audience puts the clever double meaning together in their
heads in an “aha!” moment, and they smile at the warmth & humanity you’ve
brought to the game. Airport contains all of the ingredients of an unforgettable,
best of breed name.
Because this simple concept is inherently difficult for corporations, names like
Airport are rare indeed.
What makes “Hotwire” & “Pandora” Powerful Names?
To understand why they work so well, you have to get literal for a moment:
Hotwire = “to steal a car”
Pandora = “unleashed plagues, diseases & all the evils of mankind”
These types of meanings will get a name dismissed ASAP by a naming
committee – a committee that would have been wrong to dismiss these names,
Consumers don’t attribute these literal, negative qualities to the companies who
use Hotwire & Pandora as their company names (you don’t, do you?). But
naming committees will almost always believe they will. It’s essential to
understand that your target audience does not interpret names literally – if they
did names like Slack, Virgin, lululemon, Pandora, Hotwire, Yahoo, Google & Gap
would be D.O.A.
In each case the name is a metaphor for something about the company.
Hotwiring a car is a “hack”, Hotwire positions the site as a travel hack – a way
around high prices. Pandora Radio is a marketplace, positioned metaphorically
as a “box full of intrigue”.
When juxtaposed in line with the company’s positioning, the names simply
become interesting – they have personality. They demonstrate confidence and
uniqueness. Metaphorically re-purposing the negative is what makes them so
The names are provocative, differentiating and memorable.
Don’t fear the Negative – well executed, it’s a Positive.
Lost at sea
The most common mistake in naming is choosing a name that gets lost in the
sea of competitive sound-alikes. We’ve cobbled together a list of clothing brand
names that contain the word “Bay”, with a few “Harbor” names thrown in for
“Harbor Bay” wins the coveted Gold Ridicule for including both words.
This mistake is easily avoided by creating a Competitive Taxonomy prior to
This Guidebook is taken with respect from here: https://www.igorinternational.com/process/brand-naming-expert.php
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