Before jumping into brand name development, it’s important to understand the different types of names. Why? Because without this knowledge, there is a tendency only consider certain types of names. In addition, mapping competitor’s name types supports positioning strategy.
IDeas BIG categorizes names into three (3) basic types:
Please note that hybrids or combinations of name types are not uncommon.
Most names fall into literal name types. Literal names describe a company or product with key words or terms common to the category. Another type of literal name is an acronym based on keywords or terms. Yet another type of literal name is when companies use the founder’s name. Examples of literal names include Computer Associates, IBM and (Michael) Dell respectively. In competitive analysis, most names uncovered will fall into literal name types. Positives of literal names include ease of understanding, and in the case of a founder’s name, trademark and domain name availability. Negatives are lack of differentiation (common keywords), and lack of depth or meaning.
The next naming type, synthesized names, are made-up words, most often the combination of two words or key words. Alternatively, synthesized names can be derived from Latin or Greek roots, prefixes or suffixes. Finally, synthesized names can be made-up words that are based on alliteration (repeated sounds) or rhyming. Examples of synthesized names include Microsoft (combo), Oracle (Greek) and Google (alliteration/rhyming).
Synthesized names can sound important or intelligent, and usually obtain trademark and domain name availability. Significant negatives include difficult understanding, and often a lack of meaning or emotion. As a result, synthesized names may require significant marketing spending to be successful. Pharmaceutical and technology companies are examples of synthesized names (abusers). Again, many are successful, but only after huge marketing expenditures.
The last naming type, metaphorical names, are ideal for many naming scenarios, but only when the name delivers a relevant and intuitive association. While literal names describe the company, product or service, effective metaphorical names relate to the desired positioning, and are aggressively different than most competitors in any given category.
When mapping competitive names for a given category, you will inevitably find that metaphorical names are rare. Therefore, by definition, metaphorical names are unique and differentiated, a key to effective positioning. Indeed, of the three name types, metaphorical names offer the opportunity to change whole business categories or industries, sometimes with the name itself generating publicity far greater than paid media exposure. The negatives of metaphorical names are when no perceived meaning or relation to positioning exists, the name can seem random or wacky.
Examples of effective metaphorical names include: Virgin Airlines, Apple computer and Yahoo.com. Considering these examples, metaphorical names can sometimes sound silly or have potential negative connotations. But with contextual support, these effective metaphorical names reinforce positioning, and are highly memorable, even industry-changing (examples: Virgin = new, Apple = different, Yahoo = exuberant).
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