Recently, I devised a quiz to provide guidance on brand naming. And after a little number crunching, I created a league table of those who took part, and I’m able to reveal who came top.
The quiz was informed by my years of experience in brand name consultancy, working through pros and cons of name options with clients. Scores are based on my own rules of thumb. I promoted the quiz via my social networks and at a London food and drink event and 120 people took part.
The fifteen questions I asked covered everything from how easily the name is heard, spelled and pronounced, through to whether it makes people smile, has an interesting story to it, or is felt to be inspiring to the business owner. I decided not to ask about trademark status or trademark availability as the focus here was solely on the use of language.
28 businesses scored more than 80 out of 100, which put them in the ‘top tier’ which, by my standards, suggests they have a fine brand name. The Top 20 are the highest scoring of those.
Top 20 brand names
- Bread + Jam Creative
- Run Jump Fly
- Culinary Anthropologist
- The Business of Stories
- Little Barn Bakery
- Stories of Greek Origins
- Oh Lily!
- Little Tummy
- Gunpowder Consulting
- Savvy Conversations
- Think Doodle
- Honeycomb Consulting
- Momentum Marketing Bootcamp
- Urban Blackbird
- Bald Guy Greetings
Looking through my Top 20, the first thing to note is that every word used in these names is a real word that could be found in the dictionary. That may make trademarking a challenge in some cases, but it does mean that these names are easy to read, understand and remember. It’s something I strive for in most of my naming projects, although alternate spellings or compounded words are sometimes warranted for the sake of uniqueness.
I should point out that half of the businesses in my Top 20 happen to be in design or communications: Bread + Jam Creative, Run Jump Fly, Almighty, The Business of Stories, FreshSparks, Finally, Hopscotch, Think Doodle, Momentum Marketing Bootcamp, RedPocket. This is perhaps unsurprising – after all, they understand branding. And I’m pleased to find that two businesses I helped name – Hopscotch and Almighty – scored highly. At the very top, Bread + Jam beat Run Jump Fly by a whisker because the business owner told me it was always heard correctly on the phone. Not so for the latter. Bread + Jam has a fun rationale to it: bread is the foundation while jam is the fun. I think all these ten creative agency names perform well in that they are evocative without being either too generic (which can be bland) or too specific (which can be restrictive). But most of all, they each have a good sound and energy.
Making it tangible
There are three business consultants in the Top 20 – Gunpowder Consulting, Savvy Conversations and Honeycomb Consulting – and I think the interesting thing here is how well simple metaphors can work for consultants. Words alone can make a brand visual, giving form to an intangible service.
There are a number of small food brands – Little Barn Bakery, Stories of Greek Origins, Oh Lily!, Little Tummy – which use brand personality to good effect to express their positioning. Each has a personal feel to it, reflecting the independence and authenticity of these challengers brands. I particularly like Oh Lily! which has been inspired by the use of waterlily seeds in the product. Similarly, landscape garden business Urban Blackbird and greeting cards business Bald Guy Greetings make good use of evocative metaphor and humour. I would expect these names to be remembered.
So, what about some of the names that didn’t quite make the Top 20?
Telling a story
Fiftypointeight got a good score overall, but falls down on its use of numbers, which I think can be hard for people to remember. However, as an architectural practice, the name does have relevance in that it references the location of the practice, 50.8 degrees north of the equator. And that’s a story the founder likes to tell.
Similarly, acronyms can be hard to remember or understand. Amrap Coffee uses an unexpected acronym taken from weight training for its name. It stands for: As Many Reps As Possible. It’s interesting in itself that a coffee is aligning itself with fitness, and this could well be a genius stroke to express allegiance with a niche audience. I like it.
Mariposa Languages offers language courses. It is a pleasant name to say, but I fear may be elusive to many as it is based on the Spanish word for butterfly. It is however a lovely story when you know, and there is a clue in the visual identity which helps.
Sarah Sheldrake Photography and Rebecca Williams Ceramics use their own names. And as artists, this is fitting. It can be problematic if your name is difficult to spell or a name that many other people share, as it will impede people’s search for your business. And for businesses that want to foster the sense of a flat team, it may not the best route. It’s an age-old approach and as such can feel old fashioned in some sectors. It also comes with limitations. I have renamed several businesses whose names were derived from founders no longer involved in the business.
Financial services company Instarem scored quite low. The business told me that because this is a made up word, they often have to spell it out, plus it’s frequently misheard. They also have to explain its connection to ‘remittance’. And with that now being just one of many services, it hasn’t given them the flexibility they needed as they grew.
Renaming a brand
A decision to re-name a brand must be carefully assessed, mainly because there will be equity in the current brand name among existing customers. And re-naming can be seen as a sign of internal problems. But if business owners feel their name is holding back growth, it needs to be addressed.
Recently I helped name Life Size, an architectural practice, Kindling restaurant, and Good Science Beauty. The fifteen questions demonstrate some of the many factors I think about in finding a good name, and that’s before we get to the minefield of trademark availability, a topic in its own right.
The point of the quiz was to use criteria to assess brand names, rather than simply choosing a word based on whether you ‘like’ it. It’s an approach I encourage with clients to get them thinking about what gives a name real strength in the marketplace.
My advice is to focus on how a name sounds out loud – how easy it is to say on the telephone for example – and to think about the personality it evokes. Real words rooted in a core brand idea are always strong. They help you to start to tell your story. And they help customers remember and talk about your brand too.
To get a score for your brand name and feedback on its strengths and weaknesses, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to take the brand name quiz.