Brand name selection

Selecting a brand name

One of the key decisions when bringing a new product to market, particularly if it is going to be under the umbrella of a new brand, is the brand name selection.

There are two approaches to brand name selection.

The first approach is to have a brand name that is somehow reflective of the benefits or unique features of the product. The second approach is to create an unusual or distinctive brand name, perhaps by even creating a new word, with the intent of building brand awareness and brand equity over time.

A brand name reflective of the benefits of the product

This approach is quite effective in the brand is relatively new, as it gives potential consumers an opportunity to gain some form of understanding of the product of its positioning relatively quickly, from making an inference about the brand name.

Simple examples of a brand name that is tied to the features or benefits of the product include:

  • Pizza Hut
  • Spray and wipe
  • Vitamin water
  • Raisin bran cereal
  • Toys “R" Us
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • Pepsi-Cola

As you can see, even without an understanding/memory of each of these brands, a consumer could have a pretty good guess about what the brand is all about.

Distinctive/unusual brand names

This is a common approach to stand out in the marketplace, particularly on the Internet, and is often pursued a larger companies who have the capacity and resources to build strong clear brands. One of the advantages of this approach is that the name is quite unusual, which may attract attention.

Examples of brand names that are not particularly tied to the product, or tied to the original ownership of the brand include:

  • McDonald’s
  • Apple
  • Google
  • Walmart
  • J.P. Morgan

In each of these cases, it has been necessary for brand equity to be built over time – until the consumer has a very clear understanding of what the brand is about.

Principles for brand name selection

Once the decision is made above – a descriptive or unusual name – then the following criteria should be used to screen potential candidates for the brand name.

Distinctive – brand names need to be clear and different to other brands on the market and be recognizable as a brand name, rather than a generic word

Easy to recall – brand name should be quite simple, recognizable and easy to remember. Making a brand name too complicated or vague or too long should be avoided.

Avoid confusion – think about how the brand name may be used. For example, “My Credit Union" is a cute name that has some interesting communication and slogan benefits. However, it probably has less impact for word-of-mouth benefits, as it creates confusion as to the actual name of the credit union when used in conversation.

Translatable – for large companies that operate in multiple markets, how the brand name can be translated and communicated needs to be considered. Legal protection – brand names need to be trademarked and registered (varies by country), but some generalized names probably cannot be registered – such as, “chocolate" candy bar as it is too generic.