The past two weeks have brought people from all over the world to Austin, Texas for SXSW. It is really a sight to behold and experience. At SXSW you will find a sea of brands, all competing to be noticed. Each brand more than eager to share their story with you.
This is when I realized the real power behind a well thought out brand name. A good example that comes to mind is a local favorite in Austin, Torchy’s Tacos. Torchy’s not only has good local appeal, but it also appears to have name recognition in the USA and quite possibly worldwide. For instance, there was the COO of Misfit, Inc. asking if I knew about Torchy’s Tacos. He asked if it was really as good as he heard from others and mentioned he was looking forward to dining there while at SXSW. Immediately, other people who overheard our conversation chimed in and began telling him all about Torchy’s. They mentioned a special menu that you could only find online. Another person recommended he try the Republican and Democrat tacos. It seemed like everyone was on board about Torchy’s and I have to admit I was ready to go eat there right then.
The name, Torchy’s was the hook upon which the business hung their story. It was the starting point of a conversation as well as a priceless asset.
In her book The Fortune Cook Principle, Bernadette Jiwa says, “A brand name should make you stand out, not blend in. The best brand names amplify what’s great about a company.” There is no doubt that a name can influence how a person feels about the service or product of that company. You and I are probably thinking about the same company right now that evokes almost a cult-like feeling. That company is Apple. It’s likely if you have an Apple product you feel strongly about being a part of its culture.
The name tells a story
A great name can take a business places that a good name can’t. A name tells a story. Seth Godin says your business needs a name because that name does two things: 1) Your name gets people in the mood to hear what you have to say before you say it. And, 2) when I’m looking for you the next time, you want me to find you, and not somebody else. A name that is unique and easy makes it more simple to find and remember.
It’s all in the name
Think for a moment about these three companies: Starbucks, Nike, and Amazon and what their names mean.
Starbucks is the name of a semi-minor character in an unreadable book from the 1800s called Moby Dick, and their logo was a half-naked mermaid.
Nike was the Greek goddess of the decathlon.
Amazon is the longest river in South America.
None of these names have anything to do with what these companies make and the same can be said for Torchy’s and countless others.
So what you want in a name, for the most part, is something that doesn’t mean a whole lot. If it doesn’t mean a whole lot then it allows you to set the stage to begin pouring meaning and vision into that name. There are many examples of this that come to mind such as Hopdoddy’s, GoDaddy, Google, Apple, ChickfilA, Gatorade, Twitter, and many more.
Starting with a blank canvas
The idea of starting with a blank canvas that you are going to fill meaning into, allows you to be freed up from using something like Associated Mortgage Broker of Come Lucky Texas. When you use that type of name people get what you are but what you have done is prevent the name from meaning more.
The purpose then is to choose a name that you can pour value into, where people say, of course, that’s what that name means. Of course, Starbucks means that place where you go for great coffee. It doesn’t have anything to do with Moby Dick. When you think about it, Starbucks did the same thing with it’s serving sizes using Grande, Venti, and now Trenta. Those names have nothing to do the actual beverage sizes. “Grande” is Italian for large, Venti means twenty, and Trenta means thirty. Then, of course, there is Hopdoddy’s, my favorite place for a burger, and the name has nothing to do with Hop or Doddy. Gatorade has nothing to do with gators, and GoDaddy, well you get it.
Remember, a brand name is way more than just a word. It is the hook upon which you hang a memorable story and begin a conversation.
Following are some thoughts regarding a brand name:
- Remember a brand name should make you stand out, not blend in.
- Your business or product name is the hook upon which you hang your story and start the conversation with your customers.
- A name can change how a customer feels about you, your product or service.
- Don’t set out to name your company, set out to name your vision of what you want to see.
- Check out Wordoid for inspiration to create a unique name. It is a very cool and creative tool to help you find a catchy name for your new venture. Thanks to Seth Godin for sharing this site. Remember, this naming exercise should open your eyes to just how much variety is available. Create a name that you can apply a cool story to. Another great tool brought to my attention by Axel DeAngelis who created NameBounce, a brand name generator that uses probability theory to generate high-quality names. Try it out. It's addictive.
- Check out NameBoy where you can search domain name availability based on a primary and/or secondary keyword. This is another tool I learned about from Seth Godin.
- Another great tool is Hover, where you can add a domain, email to match your domain, and Google Apps for your business. You can also use GoDaddy for a domain name and other services as well. Check out Hover’s website for how they want to be known for being unique.
- For those who are a little bolder and who don’t care about a dot com, try a top level domain name. Visit Name.com and check out the cool extensions that replace the “dot com” at the end of a domain name. This may eliminate making it difficult to find you online.
- You may want to consider the alphabet when making your name. “A” does come before “Z”, it just depends on where you feel you will be found better in your industry.
Resources and Acknowledgements
Bernadette Jiwa, The Fortune Cookie Principle: The 20 Keys To A Great Brand Story – The Story Of Telling Press (2013)
Seth Godin, The New Business Toolbox, Skillshare
Perry Chua and Dann Ilicic, Logo Savvy – Rockport Publishers (2008)
Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody – The Penguin Group (2009)