Because Nobody Would Wear Blue Ribbon Sports Air Maxes : Why Naming Your Brand is the Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Do


Besides the logo, a name is often the first thing a consumer learns about a brand.

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but would a brand by any other name connect as well? Daily, we are inundated with thousands of brand names: on advertisements, promotion items, and the products we know and love. While some are quickly forgotten, there are some that just stick. A name is the first thing anyone will ever know about a brand, so the right one is often tantamount to success.

Take Your Time

Naming a brand can be a bit like naming a child. It’s something that they will largely carry with them for the majority of their life. While changes are possible in the future, acceptance is usually hard-fought. Where brands were once able to seamlessly disappear and re-emerge fresh in the past, leaving behind a digital footprint makes matters trickier today.

It’s tempting to choose a trendy name, but consider whether it’s something you want your brand to always reflect. Even if you make a change down the road, evidence of your old brand name may take a longer time to shake thanks to social media, algorithms and digital archives.

The first important step is understanding what you want your brand to evoke from your past, present and future clients. This is something that will be conveyed through everything from your logo to the colours you use in your branding, and especially your brand name itself.

Naming Conventions

It goes without saying that a brand needs a name that resonates, it’s easier said than done. Depending on the kind of brand or business you have, there are types of names that will work better than others. There are several naming conventions, including descriptive, evocative, acronyms and being named after a founder.

Descriptive Names

Descriptive names offer a functional way to immediately convey what they have to offer (think PayPal or Whole Foods), so there is no confusion as to what the brand is all about. If your brand is one you don’t envision changing directions in the future, this is a great place to start. For startups and business that may change one day, you’re better off with something more flexible.

Evocative Names

Evocative names are more creative in nature, relying heavily on metaphor and double meanings. It offers a brand the chance to create a strong bond between the word and the emotion behind their business — redefining the word by positioning themselves as the first thing people think of when they hear it. Think Amazon, Nike or Apple — all things that exist outside the context of a business but in many cases, the brands have become as ubiquitous as the forest, Greek goddess or the fruit. Their simplicity not only makes them easy to remember, but easy to trademark. Invented words are a great option for brands that want complete control and the ability to build up your very own mythology about its origins. Though it can be tricky to connect a new and unfamiliar word with consumers, the payoff is tremendous.

Acronyms & Founder Names

Two of the simplest conventions are acronyms and naming a brand after its founder. Straightforward and relatively simple, it can still do plenty to tell your brand’s story in the marketplace. An acronym acknowledges that a longer name may be a mouthful but still relevant enough not to abandon entirely. Consider names like International Business Machines — better known as IBM — or the American Association of Retired Persons’ shortened AARP. A founder-based name can be distinctive and create strong brand loyalty among consumers, especially those connected to a family legacy back story — both real and imagined. Names like Abercrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren, and Levi Strauss & Co. are instantly recognizable and nearly impossible to mix up with anything else.

A New Name Can Signify Other Important Changes

Often times, a new name comes at the helm of other big changes. Whether it’s a new product or  new direction, a fresh moniker can do wonders in driving the point home. Consumers and clients can often associate a brand name with a specific messaging for long periods of time. This extends even after they are no longer in use.

Some names become inextricably linked to the brands they represent, making it hard to imagine with any other name. There are a handful of company’s, though, whose notoriety spiked after changing their name. Nike, for example, was called Blue Ribbon Sports before 1971, and Amazon was originally called “Relentless”. There’s something about Blue Ribbon Air Maxes and ordering from Relentless that just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Other more slight shifts have also taken place as brands have made changes both big and small. Kentucky Fried Chicken shifted to its acronym to shift away from the unhealthy perceptions associated with the word “fried”. Apple Computer Company streamlined its branding to its ubiquitous name — a perfect match for the innovative and minimalist product design and branding approach it would take in the 2000s.

What Have We Done?

Ranked the top naming agency in Canada, Zync has been instrumental in naming a number of brands. Some of them include AdvantAgeOntNextMappingIntellecturesHangar9 and more. Co-founder and lead strategist Brad Breininger offered excellent insight into what makes a functional and memorable name. “A great name has to have good mouth feel! It has to create a vision of something  the company is about ,” he explained. “It has to speak to aspects of what they’re trying to achieve, and be intriguing. People will want to know more.”

Zync is the brand agency for a digital world. We combine informed strategy and great design to create and power meaningful brands.