Updated: Aug 25, 2018
by Phil Davis
Branding & Naming Expert President of Tungsten Branding
Establish Your Company Naming Criteria by Determining Your “Brand Recipe”
The key to any successful company naming process hinges on having the right objectives in mind, in the right order. That sounds obvious enough, but business naming and branding assignments often lose focus and direction because they lack a clear, prioritized list of brand criteria. I often compare this company naming process to creating a recipe. Many dishes contain the exact same ingredients, but they differ in amounts. By changing the quantity (emphasis) you change the dish itself.
Every entree has a primary ingredient and a secondary ingredient, etc. Yet it’s amazing the number of companies who do not have a firm idea of just what their company ingredients are, and in what order. Is it mainly cheese and pasta? Or beans and tofu? In an effort to be all things to all people, the temptation is to not commit to any recipe. But that would be the equivalent of having a restaurant that says “We serve food.” Sure, it would theoretically apply to 100% of the population, but in actuality, few diners would venture in.
That’s because each customer is craving something unique, something specific. It could be Mediterranean, Mexican, seafood, fast food, sit down, take out, etc. If your brand was a restaurant, what would you be serving? How would you be serving it? To answer these important questions you need to know what’s in your pantry! What ingredients does your company possess and in what quantities? How do you like to serve it up?
Starting Your Company Naming Process – Create Your Recipe
Begin by first taking stock of what it is your company, product or service does well. Are you known for quality, innovation, service, creativity, efficiency, responsiveness, customization, selection, style? Feel free to list as many things as possible and then begin to prioritize that list. Just like the recipe, you need to focus on key ingredients. What is your key ingredient? Knowing this is vital to creating a compelling, congruent brand name. You must lead with something or your brand will be tasteless.
Avoid the temptation to include your products and services in this list as they may change over time. Instead focus on the the attribute and benefits your services provide. What will your customers receive as a result of doing business with you? Reassurance? Savings? Confidence? Prestige? Insight?
One way to determine your main ingredient is fill in this statement. “We are in the ___________ business.”
In our case, we could say the naming business. But that’s the service we provide. Tungsten is really in the clarity business. We provide insight for our clients that lead to brilliant brand names. Our key ingredient is clarity, followed by creativity, etc. This knowledge helped when creating our own name, Tungsten… the wire in a light bulb. Without this knowledge about our core attributes, our biggest benefit, we would have resorted to naming ourselves BrandNamers or NamesUnlimited. See the difference? You are not your products and services, you are the benefits behind them.
Know the benefits you provide, and in what order of importance, and it will provide the clarity you need to succeed in naming your company. Here’s an example of having a clear set of naming/branding criteria.
We need a name that communicates strength above all else
We need a name that speaks to our reliability
We need a name that is unique and memorable
If you were to flip flop this order, then you would end up with a unique name that’s memorable but has little connection to the business or to any company attribute. By using this guide, it helps to lead the process and keep it objective and on track. Using the above company naming process criteria you might end up with a naming list that includes…
If the second criteria was changed from “reliability” to “speed,” the names might subtly change to ones like these…
This underscores the importance of having the attributes you most want to convey, in the proper order. You might find during the process that you are in a different business than you first thought. The company naming process is often a self discovery process, where previous assumptions are questioned and you come away with a new awareness of your true value proposition. So this list is not case in stone. Make the brand criteria list and create names based on the list. If they don’t seem to fit, then question the list and the priorities. Are we really an innovation company? Do we really put customers first above even quality? Ask the tough questions and drill down until the brand criteria list could double as a guiding document for company decision making. We are committed to _______ first and foremost, followed by ____________ and then ___________.
By having the right list in the right order, you will keep your company naming process on track and on schedule. Be prepared to adjust and adapt. And most of all, have fun discovering new insights about what you clearly do well. It will make all the difference!
About the author: With over twenty five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.