Is it all in the name?

This well rounded article from Creative Review got me thinking about naming. It’s not something we do often but it is always a fun and intellectually challenging process.

It’s usually done at that crucial point for a business when the people involved are thinking deeply about the existence of the business. And so the importance of the name is magnified far beyond its real world importance. Proof to us comes in names such as CarPhone Warehouse and Virgin. The former don’t sell or fit car phones and for the latter, who would board a plane flown by a virgin pilot? To us this is proof that it is what, how and why you do what you do that matters and not so much what you are called.

If those needing the name can take this onboard the freedom that can be had in creating their name will only be beneficial for their business. It allows for a playfulness and open mindedness that opens up possibilities for long term marketing, diversification and the ability to ‘punch above weight’.

As Mike Read says you’ll never get to communicate everything your business or brand stands for in name. But what you can do is convey the spirit or feel of what you stand for through a name. A great example we think is Graze – the healthier snacks by post business. In the process of generating a name the answer is often under your nose. When it bubbles to the surface it may seem too obvious. So obvious in fact, that you can’t understand why you hadn’t thought of it earlier. Equally you may begin to wonder if it is so obvious – can it really be right?

If you get to this point – test the name. Don’t be distracted by the votes for and against it gets – rather look at any emotional response it gets. Something that jars people – interrupts the pattern – may look like it is rejected. But this may be precisely what the proposition needs. Think of FCUK.

Another phenomenon is finding a name that leaves the meaning open to interpretation which can be done with proper names, recognised words or made-up words. Examples of these are: Kodak, Snap-On, Facebook,

We believe the most important trick in naming is to start by being totally open minded. What may seem outlandish, crass, childish or unconnected could well be the trigger for the one word or name that strikes that all too crucial emotional chord.

Here are some names that have amused us over the years: “Shoot That Tiger” the name of an 80’s design agency that would no longer be acceptable. “Norfolk and Brakes” a now lapsed bicycle shop in Warwickshire. “Cistermiser” – water management systems. “Harper’s Bazaar” – my uncle’s (Richard Harper) valiant effort at running a convenience store on Anglesey. “The No Bull Burger” – vegetarian burger. The launch of the Rolls Royce “Silver Mist” in Germany where the word ‘mist’ means something untoward.

Article by Rob Harrison

Scroll to Top