Creating a good brand name isn’t easy. Pick a name you can spend years adding qualities, values and personality to, a name that can take on new dimensions as you create a brand and a culture around it.

A good rule of thumb: a good name is like a paper bag: it should be full enough to stand up on its own, yet empty enough for you to fill it with meaning. Resist the temptation to be too descriptive, it will make it harder to create an original personality. At the same time, names that are overly emotional can be confusing and time spent explaining what you do, is time that is taken away from building a brand. Here are some tips:

Look at the bigger picture

Where do you want to take your name and where do you want the name to take you? Look at your business plan, marketing plan or brief. Decide where you want to go with your business or product.

The stretch factor – how different can you be.

This is not as facetious as it sounds. For every product or service there is span of differentiation – it has to be different enough to stand out, but not so different that people won’t understand what you’re selling. (Toothpaste in a tin name “Hot Red Lube” will probably not be well-received…) Determining how different to be means finding where the boundaries are. Stretching boundaries is great, breaking them is not. You have to know just how far to go. In a market dominated by names of people and places – Hilton, Marriot, Hyatt and Radisson – W had the nerve to sound young, different and stand out for a new type of customer with energy and style.

Think about your brand’s story, present and future.

There’s an old saying that a brand is a story that’s still being told. A good name will grow rich in nuance over time. Pick something that can evolve with your business by letting the name stand more for the spirit of what you are selling than the actual nuts and bolts. Virgin, began as pioneering music brand, but has come to stand for a provocative attitude that can sell anything from vacations to mobiles.

Don’t expect to fall in love with the name immediately.

Be wary of names you fall in love with too easily. These names are often too descriptive. Let the decision take a bit of time; the best names are those that you have to live with for a while. Let’s not forget that ProMail was the early candidate for Blackberry.

Break a few rules

New names take time to become part of our vocabulary. Over time they evolve into names that we no longer challenge. Be courageous and break some rules. Imagine today presenting a candidate name for a chocolate assortment box called “Quality Street”.

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