In The News

Tue 14 Mar 2017

What’s In A Brand Name?

Advertising & Marketing
brand name hand drawn

There is a desperate determination in the service based industry to have a brand name that explains what you do.

Yet so many, incredibly well recognised and respected brands, have names that have zero association with their service, in fact most of the best brand names are those you would never relate to the company at all.

  • Apple – a fruit or a phone?
  • Dominoes – a game or a pizza?
  • Puma – a ferocious beast or a sports shoe?

Most importantly, the name you select to brand yourself with is actually not about you.

Branding is about engaging and connecting with your ideal prospects and enabling them to know, like and trust you, from a simple interaction.

Your brand name can do that for you, if you are prepared to understand your target audience and build the subconscious triggers into your brand identity which ‘speak’ directly to their brain.

So how do you select the best brand name?

There are really only 3 formats for a successful brand name – 

Created, Abstract or Descriptive:


  • Google – a googol is a very large number – a ‘1’ followed by a hundred 000’s – the idea being that Google delivers the most search results
  • Xerox – which has become an eponym (the echelon of genericized brand names like Hoover, Kleenex, Frisbee and Band-Aid) where a proprietary name is used as a verb, or to describe a general use
  • Adidas – is Adolf ‘Adi’ Dasslers name joined together, interestingly his brother Rudolf’s brand is Puma, which belongs in the next category of abstract names.

You can certainly create a brand using your name like Adolf Dassler did, or play around with ancient languages or Greek mythology like Nike did – Nike is the goddess of victory, and this brand fits into the next category…


  • Apple – a fruit or tech company
  • Twitter – a social media platform or a noise a bird makes
  • Dominos – a pizza chain or a child’s game
  • Nike – the goddess of victory, who had wings, making her really fast. Hence the ‘Nike Swoosh’

These incredibly well known brands are easy to identify because they are simple, short, catchy and easy to pronounce so the brain loves them even though they theoretically used out of context.
I personally love abstract brandnames, because you can weave a brand story (like Nike) so easily.


  • The Cheesecake Shop
  • Jims Mowing (and many other variants including Jims Cleaning and Pet Washing Services).

Most service providers prefer the idea of a descriptive brandname over the other options. They feel they need a name that explains what they do, yet based on the popularity of Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola, it’s really not that important!

Did you notice that I have not included using your own name as a brand name option?

Using your own name saves you having to come up with something else, making branding a no-brainer, but the biggest risk you run when you brand with your name, is that every public and private move affects your brand.

Benjamin Franklin once said: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and just one bad one to lose it”.

You are better to invest in a brand as an asset.

Even McDonalds, which is the original founders surname, is worth millions more than the actual company (mostly based on its real estate value). Ray Croc kept the name, but grew it as an asset without the McDonalds brothers having anything to do with it.

Tempting as it may be to brand with your own name when you provide a service, because ‘you are your business’ and that can also be a problem if you want growth.

If you really still want to use your own name in your branding, one option is to use it as an endorsing brand – ONEactive by Michelle Bridges is a clear example of brand extension which enabled a celebrity brand to branch out into the apparel market.

It’s also untrue that your brand name needs to be descriptive in order to be SEO friendly. All the web developers and SEO experts I’ve talked to agree it’s more important to be consistent with keywords and focused content, than to have a brand name that includes a specific word.

Oh and by the way, you should avoid using an acronym for your brand name as well…

What’s wrong with using letters given IBM, ANZ, UPS and a host of others brands do exactly that?

The brain doesn’t think in words, it thinks in pictures and it’s just too difficult to instantly convey a brand essence with an acronym, especially when you are starting out in business, so avoid it if you can.

Brands help your prospects brain make unconscious choices and an engaging brandname does the work for you, generating an emotional connection that makes it instantly easy for your ideal client to choose you.

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