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The art of – and the science behind – Brand naming

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The art of – and the science behind – Brand naming

How do you go about brand naming?

Brand naming is a very challenging process that is borderline art and science. It is an unbelievably important task requiring creativity and a great dose of strategic thinking.


First and foremost, a brand naming exercise should deliver a brand name with 2+1 dimensions:

1) Promise: evoke and support the product/service benefits. A great example: ‘Intel.’

2) Personality/ character: is your brand a young and exuberant adult or a family friend in a moment of need? For example, the name says it all; for example, ‘Massimo Dutti’ stands for Italian style but does not sound super-premium. Classy but affordable.

3) (Performance): this is important for more functional brands, namely in consumer goods and services, where emotional appeal plays a role later. ‘Apple’ has no performance-related innuendos, whereas ‘Head and Shoulders,’ ‘Duracell,’ and ‘Energizer’ clearly do.

Delivering on the above dimensions requires a combination of semantics (e.g., Nike is the goddess of Victory in Greek mythology), phonetics (e.g., Pentium from Intel), and sound symbolism (e.g., Smirnoff, suggesting Russian origins). This is the part thatI call Brand Mixology: a great cocktail needs the right glass, the right color, and a perfect balance of taste. And, of course, the correct quantity of ice and maybe a garnish.

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The process of selecting a Brand Name is as analytical as it can get. First, it begins with defining a Long-term strategy by developing a compelling brand architecture (e.g., Sub-names and positioning). Then, you create a compelling and relevant story for your target group by defining brand values and benefits and what makes your proposition believable. This stage is about the ‘brand naming’ process and giving soul and flesh to your brand idea. An effective brand name is the first derivative of solid positioning and well-thought brand architecture. The second step is about generating Brand Name ideas: embrace creativity, go outside the box, go beyond the box, and make sure you define several routes. While the previous step is about narrowing down the scope, this part heavily increases your viable alternative, so the next step is validating the Customer/ Consumer promise. At this stage, validating the brand names’ ability to evoke a response is essential. The ones that do not should be screened out. Next is to validate for geographical boundaries. Once again, this step is about filtering out brand names that do not fit our geographical strategy. Furthermore, it would help if you validated for internet domain availability before finally checking whether it can be trademarked.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can small businesses or startups conduct effective brand naming with limited resources?

Small businesses or startups can conduct effective brand naming by leveraging internal creativity and following a structured, strategic approach. Begin with clearly understanding your brand’s identity, values, and target audience. Use brainstorming sessions with your team to generate a wide range of ideas, focusing on names that reflect your brand’s essence and appeal to your target demographic. Utilize free or low-cost online tools for brainstorming and name-checking to ensure the name isn’t already used or trademarked. Feedback from potential customers through surveys or social media can also provide valuable insights without significant expense. Finally, consider the domain availability for your chosen name early to ensure a cohesive online presence.

What are the common pitfalls to avoid during the brand naming process?

During the brand naming process, several common pitfalls should be avoided. These include choosing a name that is too generic or descriptive, which might not stand out in a crowded marketplace. Avoid names that are difficult to spell or pronounce, as they can hinder word-of-mouth marketing and online searchability. Be cautious of cultural implications and ensure the name doesn’t have unintended meanings in other languages, especially if you plan to operate globally. Ignoring trademark checks can lead to legal issues and the need for a costly rebrand. Lastly, overlooking the importance of a matching domain name can impact your online brand presence and recognition.

Can you provide case studies of successful brand naming projects and their impact on those brands?

While specific case studies weren’t mentioned in the post, successful brand naming examples include Google, which derives from the mathematical term’ googol,’ reflecting the company’s mission to organize a vast amount of information. Apple is another example where the simple, approachable name helped set the brand apart in the complex tech industry, symbolizing simplicity and innovation. Amazon, named after the largest river by volume, reflects the company’s ambition to become the largest and most comprehensive retailer. These brands illustrate how effective naming can convey a company’s essence and ambitions, contributing significantly to its brand identity and success in the market.

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