It was a pleasure and a privilege to be invited onto the Simon Mayo Show (BBC Radio 2) to share some views on brand naming strategy. I remember watching Simon Mayo introduce Top of the Pops on BBC1 as a teenager, so it was something of a trip down memory lane.
The full interview (about six minutes) can be heard below.
If you’re pressed for time, here’s a summary of the key points discussed.
Do car manufacturers pick names at random?
- The simple answer is no.
- Brand naming isn’t a decision big brands take lightly.
- A lot of work goes into brand naming at big organisations.
- It’s a well-thought-through, rigorous and robust process.
The suggested brand naming process (high level):
- Understand your target customers and what your competitors are doing. This will help you develop a name that connects with customers and differentiates your brand from competitors.
- Develop a brand concept and clear brand positioning. This will focus your mind on what you want the brand name to do in practical terms.
- Test the brand name across markets via focus groups, surveys or neuroscientific tests (budget permitting). Testing should address factors such as name, appearance, length, distinctiveness, uniqueness, relevance and phonetics.
- Trademark your brand name to protect your intellectual property.
Brand naming: Meaning and words of warning
- Some brand names draw on deep meanings to generate associations
- Ford Fiesta: Fiesta means “party” in Spanish and fits with a compact fun car.
- VW Passat: Passat means trade wind in German. VW Jetta: Jetta means jet stream in German. Both intimate movement and this is a relevant brand association.
- Bentley Azure: Azure implies azure blue and cloudless skies. Perfect for a convertible car.
- Brand names don’t always travel well so they need to be developed then tested in key markets (home and abroad)
- Hyundai Pony. “Pony” can have quite negative connotations in the English language.
- Irish Mist is a golden whiskey liqueur produced in Dublin, Ireland. “Mist” is the German word for “manure”. It’s unlikely many people would like to drink to that on St. Patrick’s Day.
- Rolls-Royce didn’t make the same mistake with its “Silver Mist” model. It wisely changed the name to “Silver Shadow”.
The Nintendo Wii has connotations of a bodily function. What were they trying to achieve with this name?
- “Wii” isn’t a real Japanese word.
- Wii sounds like “we”. This emphasises the game console is for everyone.
- Wii has a distinctive “ii” spelling. This symbolises both the unique controllers and the image of people gathering to play the game.
Three take-away bits of advice
- Associate your brand name with a concept, not a category. The former is far less restrictive, with Virgin vs. BA providing an example. Similarly, Phones4U became a legacy brand once consumers had the confidence to select phones and tariffs for themselves. The market moved on but their brand name didn’t. As a result, the brand associations became outdated and the brand was no longer perceived as being relevant. Associating your brand name with a concept gives your brand longevity as it is not tied to a category. This creates brand stretch and extension opportunities.
- Conduct the “ugly baby test”. Don’t just ask family and friends for advice on your brand name. If you have an ugly baby, your family and friends won’t tell you so. The same applies to a bad brand name. Seek out objective and fair people for advice.
- Protect the name via intellectual The British Library has great resources, or else seek professional help.
If you’d like to learn more about the brand advice we provide, why not click here?