You have a company name, but do you have a brand story?
by Phil Davis
Branding & Naming Expert President of Tungsten Branding
Names provide identity, stories provide insight
In the quest for the “perfect” company name, much of the focus centers on creativity, originality, descriptiveness, cleverness, and even domain availability. In reality, very little of this matters if you cannot get past the initial introduction, the “hello” portion of your brand message. A clever name is great, but if you cannot follow that name with a natural segue into a deeper story, the conversation will falter or completely stop.
A clever name is great, but if you cannot follow that name with a natural segue into a deeper story, the conversation will falter or completely stop.
We all witnessed the .com naming fad of color + animal, or the “ster” suffix. Company naming has trends just like every other industry. And while it’s desirable to fit with the times, to sound current and relevant, it’s far better to create engagement that transcends the name. PurpleOtter and Wowzr would certainly make for interesting names, but once you have a client’s attention, then what? What comes next in the conversation?
And by what’s next in the conversation, I don’t mean a ten minute explanation of how you and your team came up with the name, how it’s roots are from the Latin for summiting the mountain of success or how the initials come from the first letters of the original owners last names. None of this matters to your potential client anymore than photobombing your Facebook page with vacation pics. The real objective lies is the proverbial “what’s in it for me?” (From the client’s perspective.) In other words, what is it about your name, your tagline, your logo, your photos, your copy, your tone, that speaks to my situation?
So what makes for a good brand story?
First of all, it doesn’t have to be literal. A brand story is not your company’s play by play history. It’s more of a platform that supports your name, a theme or set of themes that allows you to continually support and undergird your message. Those themes might be based on intelligence, innovation, effectiveness, or commitment.
A brand story is not your company’s play by play history. It’s more of a platform that supports your name, a theme or set of themes that allows you to continually support and undergird your message.
We chose the name Tungsten, the wire in the light bulb, to weave the story of curiosity, innovation, insight, imagination and discovery. We added a blurb about Edison, the inventor of the bulb, and we include mentions in our copy of “ah-ha!” moments, and “having the light go on.” We underscore the story by sending out pens that light up, cell phone chargers that instantly re-energize a device, and seasonal greeting cards that say “May all your Christmases be bright!”
Another client we named 1Rivet with the notion of the pivotal role they played in creating effective solutions in systems and data integration. Pretty heady stuff, but easy to understand when positioned as being a key player, a centerpiece, a central hub, in the creation of effective solutions. By creating a metaphor, a “rivet,” it allowed them to easily explain and expand on the position they serve.
How to create your own brand story
Just because you have a legacy name, all is not lost. AARP has repositioned away from “retired people” to “real possibilities” and created the story of opportunities vs. discounts and coupons. We took a literal plumbing company named St. Pete Plumbing in Florida and repositioned them with a friendly, but muscular angel named St. Pete that proclaimed “We work miracles!” The emphasis shifted from locality to ability.
BluePrince, a zoning and permitting software company, was often mistaken for “blueprints,” creating roadblocks to their own messaging. What’s more, they had just released an upscale version of their platform that was more robust and expensive. We tweaked the name to say BluePrince: Monarch Edition, to further clarify both the name and upscale positioning of their product offering.
If your company name is hopelessly outdated, misleading or meaningless (e.g. an acronym based name) then it might be time to consider rebranding with a name that lends itself to a story, your story. Having a compelling brand story creates depth, dimension and dynamics that can propel your company identity from simple recall to active engagement. If your company has a name worth remembering, then it must have a story worth retelling.
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.