Pick a Brand Name People Can Remember

Marc Barros
August 26, 2013

marc_barrosAbout the Author: Marc Barros is the co-founder and former CEO of Contour Cameras. He started the company, without any hardware experience, out of a garage as an undergraduate student and lead it to a multi-million dollar business with product sold in over 40 countries and at retailers such as Apple and Best Buy.

_This post is part of a series about How To Define and Create Your Hardware Brand. _

Picking the right brand name for your hardware startup is one of the most important decisions you are going to make. Regardless of your amazing technology or killer features, people will only remember one thing: the name.

Never great at naming we went from Twenty20 to VholdR to Contour. A painful process that took several years and resulted in lost market traction because with each change we had to start our branding efforts over. A loss in time we never made back against GoPro.

With your brand promise in hand, an understanding of what influences your customer, and a brand framework, you are ready to pick a name. Even if you aren’t a creative person the following outline can help you come up with a name people can remember and that you can own.

Create a Process
Everyone has their own process to discovering a name and based on my own experience I recommend trying everything you can think of to get to a short list of names you like.

Group sessions are great for generating energy, but terrible for refining your list. Solo brainstorming can work, but suck if you aren’t very creative. Hiring a firm is expensive, but potentially invaluable. Invoking friends who are creative with words can work if they are willing to help.

Regardless of the process be clear about what you are asking people to do and provide them with the materials you already created (promise, customer, and brand framework).

**Create Lists **
In retrospect it’s easy to point at a name and call it obvious. Especially if the company you are referencing did a fantastic job of telling a story with their brand.

To guide you in your process you can create lists based on some of the following:

  • What feelings, emotions, or status do you get from using the product. (i.e. Uber)?
  • What is the purpose of using your product or key words related to the benefit people receive with your product.(i.e. GoPro)?
  • Are there words in history that were once used in your category or symbolize something important. (i.e. Tesla)?
  • Are there any special shapes associated with your product. (i.e. Square or Sphero)?
  • Does your product symbolize something in the environment it will live in (i.e. Nest)?

Be careful in picking literal names for what your product does. Your product will evolve over time so if you create a brand name specific to how your product looks today you will have a hard time going beyond it. Remember you are going to create a story around your brand, so you want names that enable you to paint an emotional feeling.

Here is a greatFast Company article about how one of the best naming agencies in the world creates brands.

Narrow The List
Assuming you have less than 10 names you can check the internet and social channels to see if the word is own-able. If you pick a generic name, like Square, you better have a massive opportunity on your hands and be ready to spend a lot of money owning the brand both legally and in consumer’s minds.

Owning Contour was a lot harder than GoPro. Because Contour is both generic and used by large companies to describe their products, it is a very hard word to own around the world. Even though we were able to purchase the URL, we were going to need to spend a lot of money to own Contour in millions of consumers minds.

What you want to check for

  • Is the URL available?
  • Is the same name available on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.?
  • Can you trademark it?

The Bar Test
Down to your final few names, you are ready for the Bar Test. A straightforward test you want to know if people in a bar can remember the name of your company and understand what you do.

It works like this:

  • Hang out in a noisy bar.
  • When someone asks what you do, tell them the name of the company with a single sentence describing what the company does.

If they can’t pronounce the name, or keep asking you how it’s spelled, or don’t understand how it’s related to what you do, you failed.

We never did the bar test with VholdR and we should have because we would have realized that 9 out of 10 people couldn’t spell it and when they did see it spelled they mispronounced it.

What To Watch Out For
Picking a name is really hard. Here are a few traps you want to avoid:

  • Don’t use “technology” in your name. That screams 1980’s tech company, which you aren’t. It’s very hard to create an emotion around the word “technology.”
  • Be careful of the product versus company name. You get to brand one name so pick the right name and market the hell out of it. Don’t confuse people with a product name and then some random company name. People remembered Flip Video, not Pure Digital Technologies (the company name).
  • People struggle with weird spellings. If you have to correct them it means they will type it wrong when they search for it and tell their friends about it. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to figure out your cryptic spelling
  • If you are successful you will need to trademark your brand all over the world. If you pick a name that is already heavily trademarked around the world you will have a very expensive mess on your hands down the road.
  • Long names are hard to remember. Shorter is always better.

Image Credit: Capt Create via Creative Commons

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