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What’s in a name

As any parent can testify, naming your first child is a complicated process, relying on the agreement of both soon to be mum and dad. If you are keeping the sex of the child a surprise, two names need to be in the bag to ensure when the stork arrives, you are prepared to greet them by name.

It’s a tricky and subjective decision, but there are historic and current trends to help influence you, as well as an understanding that unless you are on the A list, naming your child after the most successful company on the planet is not a good idea.

This takes me on to the main focus of this thinking, naming as part of the branding process. This rockets you from two stakeholders to potentially millions. In this instance there is a need to be conscious of more than high school mockery, there needs to be a connection to the business, its products or service, personality and brand positioning. All of these things need to be completely understood before picking up your pencils and starting the creative process.

This understanding ensures the starting point for the naming process is in the right place. Defining a strong brand position and set of values that can help influence the direction and build a convincing back story to a name. The story should resonate with stakeholders and in turn help with the understanding of the brand. This can be supported further still with the logo. The company I touched on earlier is of course Apple, the world’s most successful company, producing products we don’t necessarily need but most definitely want. As a name, Apple means nothing without the logo. That bite taken out of the forbidden fruit suddenly provides an understanding of this brand, its identity, one that isn’t afraid to push boundaries and take innovation to a new level. Name and logo working together to create a compelling identity for the brand. Decades on, we rarely see the name Apple as brand recognition and understanding for the symbol is global.

Similar to naming your first born, there are sector specific trends and norms that can provide a guiding light to either follow or cast aside to find your own way. Back in the late nineties, there were a number of high profile mergers, acquisitions and demergers. With this activity came a trend for name invention. Carillion, formed from the demerger of Tarmac; Corus became the new name for the then merger of Koninklijke Hoogovens and British Steel and Diageo, created out of the merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan were three following this trend at the time.

In terms of their link to the business, some we know and others we can try and post-rationalise. Diageo was invented from the Latin word “dia”, meaning day, and Greek word “geo”, meaning world, referencing the company’s ambition to give pleasure every day, everywhere with their focus on the drinks industry. Carillion was created by adapting Carillon, a huge musical instrument made up of a number of bells. The link for the construction company is unclear, although we could be talking about working in unison to create a single entity. For a Carillon it is a unique sound and Carillion a successful project delivery made possible by that unity. Corus simply takes steel back to its origins in the earth – this is where it all begins for the steel industry.

There are other trends we can spot out there. The exponential growth of digital and app development has seen the rise of quirkier names touching our lives. Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder are just a few examples, but there are thousands out there and new ones being named daily – some more successful than others.

As an agency, we touched on the quirky whilst going through the naming process for a Smart City app. This would allow residents to organise their lives through the app, whether it be leisure time, shopping or ordering a plumber, it was designed to answer your every whim. Hang on, now there’s an idea! From this starting point we eventually arrived at Whimbl. A consumer focused and approachable name that touches on the function of the app. OK, naming is never that straightforward, but as I mentioned earlier, having a complete understanding gets you to the right starting point and the end quicker. Click to view our Whimbl project for more information.

There are also naming conventions common to certain sectors. Much of what we do as an agency touches on the luxury end of the markets. For the luxury retail sector, there is almost a tradition when it comes to naming. Luxury retail brands of note are founded by visionaries at the top of their game. The brands they create are driven single-mindedly by them. The brand pillars and values are formed around the individual and what they stand for and as such, they proudly put their name to the brand.

Naming is and will always be tricky, but there are different ways to approach it to help get there. That said, they all require one vital element – a creative mind and that spark of inspiration.

When it comes to naming your children, Confucius had it right when he said ‘don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you’! Unless you like the sentiment behind the Johnny Cash song ‘A Boy Named Sue’ of course!

Ian - Kingsland Linassi

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