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Every Brand Name Sucks: How To Choose A Great Brand Name Despite Its Flaws

by Grant Polachek, Director of Marketing at Squadhelp.com

As you chug through the arduous process of creating a brand name, you may experience frustration. Have you come up with some great ideas, but you keep rejecting them because you  are finding problems with every name? We’ll let you in on a little secret. You’re not alone. In fact, when you look close enough, you’ll see that virtually every brand name sucks.

Okay, okay. Perhaps that is a little harsh. However, there is no question that almost every brand name has some weakness. Of course, naming a business using a cringey or embarrassing name can slow your growth, but in reality, every name has some foreseeable problem with it.

If you have been working on a name and continue to find many things that are good about it, but then as you keep thinking – and overthinking – you find minor weaknesses with a name, this article is for you. We will show you that even the biggest brand have flawed names, but they still work great. We’ll help show you the difference between minor flaws and major problems so you can choose a brand name with confidence.

Nobody’s Perfect – Great Brand Names Have Flaws, Too.

Dissecting even the most successful brand names can reveal weaknesses.

Intel.

While Intel processors are in countless computers and they are one of the biggest names in tech, being picky about this name can of course reveal weaknesses. Intel can refer to spying, and people are already up in arms about digital privacy. What if people think Intel refers to a spy software? Doesn’t that mean Intel shouldn’t use that name?

Of course not!

Intel is a short, memorable name. It refers to intelligence, and it comes across as modern and futuristic. This supports Intel’s forward-focused brand.

Whole Foods.

Whole Foods is a great example of a pragmatic brand name. The name describes what the store offers. It provides a sense of assurance that the food is high quality and healthy, and it focuses on the company’s values that resonate with the customer base.

However, being overly-critical of this name can lead to doubt. What if the name Whole Foods is too boring? And of course, we cannot gloss over the fact that many people refer to Whole Foods as “Whole Paycheck,” a jab at the lofty prices.

Nonetheless, Whole Foods remains a great brand name because it resonates with wholesome values. It is memorable and universal. The name Whole Foods can speak to a broad customer base and describe what is different about the products in this store.

Caterpillar.

Caterpillar is one of the most prominent names in machinery. However, unlike most of its competitors, the name is not taken from a founder’s surname. If you critique it enough, you might say the name is too playful or childlike for a machinery company, especially for a company founded in 1925.

The name Caterpillar comes from a 1910 machine innovation. When one of the company founders was trying to improve the mobility of machinery across rough terrain, he replaced wheels with wooden tracks bolted to chains. A bystander remarked that the machine moved like a caterpillar with this technology, and the name was born.

Despite its playful appeal, a name like Caterpillar helps the machinery company stand out from competition and make an iconic name for themselves. Sometimes, the risk plays out.

Crate and Barrel.

Crate and Barrel is a classic name. It aligns itself with the housewares industry and conveys a sense of earthiness while remaining high-end.

When the first store opened up in Chicago in 1962, the Segals, the couple that owned the business, displayed the products they imported from Europe on the overturned barrels and crates that had been used to ship the items to the States. Thus, the name Crate and Barrel, and iconic brand, was born.

However, if the Segals had held back from using the name because it was not high-end enough or if they worried it might lead customers to believe the store sold only crates and barrels (seeking a more descriptive name), the brand might not be here today. Although a name like Crate and Barrel presents a minor weakness, it is overall a sound brand that has flourished, removing any doubt about the name.

Salesforce.

Salesforce is a cloud-based software company that helps businesses grow their sales and success. The name uses an emotional appeal–force–to communicate Salesforce’s drive and purpose. Some people might worry that using such a powerful word might come across as abrasive and bullying. “Force” is a strong word to use, and when associated with selling, some people might be put off by the name.

However, that does not change the fact that Salesforce is a great business name. It appeals to a strong emotion, sticks in people’s heads, and provides a sense of unity, support, and accomplishment by aligning itself with the term “workforce.”

Back to You.

There’s a lot of pressure to create a lasting, engaging brand name. In today’s competitive business realm, a name is an important factor that contributes to success. Great business names will boost your business.

If you think you’ve found a great name, but you keep finding things wrong with it, take a step back. You may be over-analyzing it. Focus on the positives of a name before you jump to critiquing every weakness.

How to tell if your brand name really does (or doesn’t!) suck.

Here are a few principles of a good name:

  • Easy to say, spell, and remember
  • Evocative and captivating
  • Makes sense in the context of your brand
  • Resonates with your audience’s values

Here are some things to avoid when picking your name:

  • Difficult – names that are too hard to say or hear will suppress referrals
  • Too boring – a great brand name should help you stand out, not be forgotten
  • Offensive – don’t risk upsetting your potential customer base with a name that is intentionally or unintentionally offensive
  • Taken – a business name that is already being used by another brand won’t help you succeed. You’ll only confuse your customers and run into legal issues.

When you’re stuck wondering how to name a business, this naming checklist can help you determine whether or not your business name is a good fit.

Overall, don’t be overly critical of minor flaws in a name. Rather, pay attention to what criteria a potential name does fill before you abandon a valid option.

At the end of the day, your brand name can’t do everything. If you’re creating a luxury brand, you need a high-end name. Therefore it will definitely not also be descriptive and funny.

Set realistic expectations about what you can get from a name.

There are only so many names out there in today’s competitive world of business – don’t lose a great name over a small issue that may not impact your business at all. Most brand names do have flaws. When it comes down to it, your name will likely help you business succeed, especially if you plan carefully, work hard, and keep building your brand.

Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company Squadhelp.com, the worlds #1 naming platform, with nearly 20,000 customers from the smallest startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation. Get inspired by exploring these winning brand name ideas.

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This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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