So, you’re about to launch a new product or service. Now you just need a name for it.
That’s the easy part, you think, until you get stuck in the throes of brand name ideation. Then you find yourself going down linguistic rabbit holes and darting off on wild conceptual tangents. Before long, you’re lost in a quagmire of words – your heart pulling you in one direction, your mind in another, and your gut telling you that you might actually need some professional help to figure this out.
Indeed, one of the most common barriers to selecting a good brand name (besides those pesky trademarks) is personal bias and subjective opinion – you will naturally veer towards names that reflect your own personality/style and the things you like.
So how do you take ‘yourself’ out of the name selection process?
If you’re a company founder or the leading visionary behind a new product or service, a brand name that gives you the right ‘feels’ is definitely a great start. However, it’s important to apply some objective criteria to make sure you land on a brand name that’s not only right for you, but right for your market.
The name you choose should be easy to pronounce. You don’t want the first interaction with your brand to create confusion: ‘Do I say it like this or do I say it like this?’
Even if the name is unfamiliar or in another language, its pronounciation should be obvious, which generally means that the name obeys the phonetic rules of the English language.
For example, Klarna, the brand name of a popular ‘buy now, pay later’ service, is actually a Swedish verb meaning ‘to brighten’ or ‘clear up’. Most people outside of Sweden would be unfamiliar with this word yet its pronounciation is indisputable. (As an aside, Klarna also stands out among the more literal brand names adopted by competitors in this category like AfterPay and Latitude Pay.)
A sure-fire way to end up with a generic, unmemorable brand name is to try and appeal to everyone.
During product development, you will have put a lot of thought into who your product or service is designed for. It’s important to keep this person top of mind when thinking about brand names.
For example, a modern, trendy name may resonate with a younger, progressive audience but may alienate older, conservative customers. So be crystal clear about the type of person your brand is for – and who it’s not for – then decide on a name accordingly.
In some cases, you can even use your brand name to help cue your target audience. A great example of this is ‘Mahmee’, a US telehealth service offering health advice and care coordination to mothers, from pregnancy through to early childhood. When you say this name aloud, it sounds like a child calling out for their mummy – literally calling out who the service is for – but the modified spelling makes it both interesting and memorable.
While your brand name doesn’t have to spell out your brand positioning or be a literal description of what you offer, the right name can help send an important message about your product or service.
A classic example is Nike. As the mythical goddess of strength, speed and victory, the name ‘Nike’ implies that the brand’s products share these attributes. And it’s far more interesting than calling the company ‘Speedy Shoes’. However, creating this brand association does rely on either the audience knowing the meaning behind ‘Nike’ or the company taking the time to explain the connection in its brand communications.
As a rule, try to avoid names that sound similar to existing brands in your category or follow the same naming convention. Where possible, choose a name that will help you stand out from competitors – this will help you get noticed as a new entry to the market but will also support unaided recall in the long term.
A great example of this is The Smile Space, a dentist and orthodontist in Seattle. Rather than naming their service by its location or the surnames of the attending doctors like many other healthcare providers, they chose a brand name that speaks directly to their brand promise – a place that will make you smile by giving you great teeth and a pleasant experience along the way. It’s also a friendly, approachable name for a health service that is often feared by consumers.
As part of your feasibility testing, consider how the name will work across a range of different contexts and formats.
For example, how does it sound when it’s spoken aloud versus printed in text? If you’re launching into more than one region or even globally, it’s also important to explore how the name translates in different languages and what other meanings it might take on in other cultures.
And finally, think about how flexible the name will be over time if you think there’s a possibility you’ll expand into new products, categories or regions in the future. A classic brand example here is ‘Virgin’ ,which has since expanded into multiple categories beyond music.
Asking yourself these five questions will inject some clear, objective criteria into the name selection process.
There are a number of techniques you can employ during the name ideation process:
Use literal descriptors that help to explain the product or service. Self-Pay Surgery literally means ‘pay for your own surgical treatment’, an accurate descriptor for a service that enables patients without private health insurance to self-fund surgical care in the Australian private hospital setting.
Use new forms or spellings of existing words. Elektra Health, a US provider of menopausal care, derived its brand name from the word ‘electric’. Conceptually, it ties back to the idea that the service is helping women to reframe menopause as the beginning of a powerful and transformative new chapter.
Identify conceptual metaphors or analogies by making creative leaps that tie back to the brand’s function or purpose. Two new virtual care providers in Australia are called Rosemary Health and Juniper. They have both adopted well-known plants as their brand name to help support the premise that they take a fresh approach to primary care and menopausal care.
Find interesting words in other languages that have positive brand meaning. Latin and Greek words are commonly used for this purpose. For example, Estia Health, an Australian operator of residential aged care facilities, has taken the Greek word for ‘home’ (Estia) as its brand name to help convey the idea that its facilities feel like home. Medsana, a medical clinic in Brisbane, incorporates the Latin word ‘sana’, which means ‘to heal’.
Use personification. This technique involves giving a human name to your product, as a way to make it more ‘friendly’. Many oral contraceptive pills are named after girls’ names (e.g. Brenda, Evelyn, Eleanor, Madeline, Carolyn, Diane, Estelle, Juliet, Laila, Yasmin), as are the ovulation tracking devices, Mira and Ava. Note, this approach is different to naming your product/service after a specific person such as the company’s founder or product developer – e.g. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health is named after its founder, Jean Hailes.
Take on the geographic location as part of the name. While not the most creative approach to branding, naming your service after the region, suburb or street in which it is located can serve a highly practical role, aiding online search and local awareness. Hospital and other health services often use this approach, e.g. Royal Melbourne Hospital, Eastern Health, Northern Health, Bridge St Clinic.
Make up a new word. Believe it or not, fake words are a legitimate means of branding. They can be a great tactic for getting a new brand noticed because they are often highly distinctive, readily ownable (not trademarked) and very memorable. While these names may start out meaningless, they can gain meaning over time as a result of your brand’s actions (Google of course is a prime example of this).
Involving a creative agency is a great first step in brand development.
Creatives are used to thinking creatively – they will look at your brand name in a different light to you and your team. I am yet to meet a client who hasn’t been delighted after looking at a list of brand names we have prepared. Their typical response is: ‘We never would have come up with that. We hadn’t thought of it in that way before. That’s such a clever link to have made.’
An agency also won’t have any issues with personal attachment to the product or service. They will look at your name through a strategic lens, assessing names objectively and without prejudice.
Making up new words is a very common approach to brand name ideation, particularly when distinctiveness in the marketplace is key, so don’t dismiss a name just because it’s unknown.
As long as the new word you have come up with is easy to say (i.e. its pronunciation is obvious upon reading), employing a distinctive, memorable brand name that stands out in its category represents a very solid approach to naming.
Employing a name that you can build a strong brand narrative around can be very helpful when rolling out marketing communications.
For example, when we named Newlife IVF, a Melbourne-based provider of IVF and other fertility treatments, we chose this name because it spoke directly to the goal of fertility treatment and positive outcome achieved: ‘new life’.
When we named a new blood pressure monitoring device, we named it ‘Arma’, a wordplay on ‘armour’ to reference the role regular blood pressure monitoring plays in protecting an individual from hypertension (a disease often referred to as ‘the silent killer’). By changing the spelling of armour, we were also able to allude to where on the body the device is used, i.e. the arm.
From a PPC perspective, brand names with greater originality, which are less common, and are not widely used for products/services in other popular industries, will be less competitive keywords as they garner lower search volumes overall.
Therefore, these brand names should cost less to bid for (unless a competitor starts to bid on your brand name as an underhand tactic, which unfortunately is known to happen). By bidding on your own brand name, you will hold the most results on your SERP (search engine results page), effectively casting your competitors out when users search for your brand or service.
Developing and launching a new product or service can be a long, hard road – particularly in healthcare where there are so many regulatory barriers to market entry. Naming is one of the more fun parts of the process and can remind you why you’re going to the effort of bringing this amazing new product to market in the first place.
Wellmark is a combination of ‘well’ and ‘mark’ (as in brandmark or logo) – i.e. our brand name literally means healthy branding or branding done well.