The power of naming (another post from old thingummybob)

Why getting your brand name right matters

Why did Ian Fleming choose the deadly combination ‘James’ and ‘Bond’? It could have been anything: ‘Delroy Fugnuckle’, ‘Norman Higginbottom’, ‘Flash Dankworth’…

In a 1962 interview with the New Yorker, Fleming said, “…I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be the blunt instrument. One of the bibles of my youth was ‘Birds of the West Indies,’ by James Bond, a well-known ornithologist, and when I was casting about for a name for my protagonist I thought, My God, that’s the dullest name I’ve ever heard, so I appropriated it.”

You can read the whole article here.

In a later interview, Fleming said, “James Bond was much better than something more interesting, like Peregrine Carruthers.”

Of course, 60+ years of familiarisation builds up a whole heap of meaning, but my take on the name goes like this: James sounds educated, sexy (but not flouncy), groomed and properly British. Bond sounds rock solid, no nonsense, and built like a brick s*******e.

Two single syllables. Perfectly balanced.

Mind you, I am seriously considering writing a series of Flash Dankworth novels: ‘Flash Dankworth in Dr. Maybe / Single Use Plastic is Forever / The Labrador Puppy Who Loved Me…’. I digress.

The right name for the job

Your brand or product name has to sit right with everyone you deal with, especially your customers, but most importantly, it has to sit right with you. You’re looking for one or two words that conjure up the right associations. A few syllables that create a tingle in the tentacles.

It’s a tall order getting your name right, but it’s a challenge we love to bits at dollop. It’s the cornerstone of everything; the comfy chair your whole brand has to sit in. You’re going to have to live with it, stand by it and say it out loud for years to come. So once you have it, stick to it like a hungry leach.

Having said that – legal reasons, market forces, the times – sometimes change is inevitable. Before Michael Caine was Michael Caine, he was Maurice Micklewhite. Before Cardi B was Cardi B, she was Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar Cephus. Before Vin Diesel was Vin Diesel, he was Mark Sinclair.

Fair enough, but once you’ve established a name with all the right associations, be wary of change for the sake of change.

Twitter – X.
Prince – Ƭ̵̬̊.
And I still haven’t forgiven Marathon (Snickers PAH!).

Ever tried naming your own thing?

If you have, you’ll know it’s a flippin’ nightmare.

Nothing sounds right. Even when it does, it sounds stupid the next day. Everyone has an opinion. “Rabbytt, are you serious, it sounds like a sex toy”. “Rabbytt, nah, reminds me of Chas ‘n Dave.” “Rabbytt, sounds a bit like Rabid”.

It’s tough. You need a name that evokes or means something – The North Face, Snack A Jacks, Go Ape, Amy’s Kitchen, Nobby’s Nuts… Or a name that has the right kind of ring or bounce ­– Vim, Krispy Kreme, Häagen-Dazs, Tango, Slipknot…

It needs to be memorable, easy on the tongue and from a design perspective, the potential to be easy on the eye. Then we get down to the real grind of the pepper pot. It needs to be own-able.

Naming your own thing – where to start

We may be ever-so-slightly biased, but we reckon you should start by having a chat with us. But if you insist on a bit of naming DIY, here’s a starter for you:

1) What do you want your brand name to ‘say’: Start with logic. What are your brand values? What do you sell? What problems do you solve? A solid base is a great place to start before you get to the creative bit. It’ll give you something to measure your ideas against.

2) Cast your net wide: At this stage, everything’s up for grabs. Take your inspiration from anything and everything. If it sounds ridiculous, whack it down anyway. You never know where it might lead. Try evocative names, descriptive names, made up words, acronyms, foreign words, geographical names, portmanteaus (splicing words together) misspellings, abstract names… go for it.

3) Sift and categorise: Start putting your ideas into silos. This could be based on name type (abstract/descriptive etc.) or generic themes e.g. speed/strength/agility – these themes will come out of exercise one.

4) Forget about it: The best thing you can do now is walk away. Sleep on it and come back with a fresh brain in your head.

5) Sense check: Look at those silo titles. Which do you feel happiest about? Try and get it down to a maximum of six. Then work out if the names you have are actually in the right place or not.

6) Start again: Just taking those silo headings, start from scratch. Write like a whirling dervish with chilblains, dancing on hot coals. Play word association with everything you come up with. Take a notepad wherever you go – name ideas can pop up out of nowhere. Aim for 100+ options minimum, in each silo.

7) Cross-check and filter: Slam your first and second efforts together into several, humongous long lists. Trust your gut and strike a line through anything that just doesn’t feel right. If it doesn’t feel right at this point, it won’t in a few years time. Be ruthless.

8) Get your shortlists sorted: Keep hacking away until you go from losing the names you don’t like, to having a list you’re starting to fall in love with. There should be much more on the cutting room floor than there is left to play with.

9) Make sure they’re available: Before you get too attached, you need to be sure your competitors aren’t already using any of these names (see below). Believe me, they will be, the little toe-rags. There’ll be a point where you think the search may be hopeless. It isn’t. Keep going.

10) Working your short list: At this point, you’ve either got a good handful of names that you love, or you need to go back to the beginning. Let’s be positive and assume the former. Now, start messing about with alternative spellings. Have a look at the names in different typefaces and colours. Start to imagine the names sitting at the top of your website. If you’ve got three or four left that still yank your doodle, either choose your favourite, or put it to the vote with people you trust. Bingo!

Your name, not someone else’s

There are two basic levels of name ‘ownership’. 1) Bagging your own unique domain name and 2) Registering your name as a trademark. Let’s talk about the first one first.

1) Bagging a domain name

This is pretty simple. You need to start with a domain research. Everything you need is there online. You could use domains.squarespace.com, godaddy.com, fasthosts.co.uk, domain.com… there’s loads out there, but it makes sense to start with the people you actually want to host your domain.

Wherever you search, start with yourbrandnamehere.com If the .com isn’t available (which 100 times out of 99, it probably won’t be), try alternative suffixes – .co.uk / .net/ . co etc.

If you still hit a brick wall, try adding other keywords to your name. But make sure whatever you add, it’s still relevant. We considered dollopjellywrestling and dolloppilecream, but once the hallucinogenics wore off, we plumped for dollopcreative.co.uk.

2) Registering a trademark

A trademark is the ultimate way of protecting your name. A trademark backs you up if you need to slap the wrist of anyone who uses your brand name without permission. It gives you a tangible name that you can sell or license to others. And you can legally put the ‘®’ symbol next to your brand name (a bit like a lion marking its territory).

Again, the process starts with research, which you can do yourself or entrust to a professional. When it comes to the final registration process, your best bet is to use a trademark attorney, but if you’re confident in your own abilities, you’ll get the full trademark gen on the government website.

As the government site says, ‘Do not apply without getting advice if you’re aware that there are any trade marks the same as, or similar to, what you want to register.’

If you want to dip your toe in the water, you can get free trade mark advice from:

• The Intellectual Property Office
• A UK-wide network of intellectual property clinics
• The British Library Business and IP Centre

This is serious business, so if in doubt, leave all the trademark stuff to the legal eagles (search for ‘trademark attorney’ or ‘copyright lawyer’).

One last thing on brand naming

Cooking up a name is difficult. Very difficult. Firstly, the availability odds are stacked against you. But there are other factors that’ll make your naming sessions even stickier, if you’re not aware of them.

Searching for the perfect name: There is no perfect name. You’ll love it. Others may hate it. Ultimately you’ll have to go with something that just feels right – and that can’t be measured.

Getting hung up too soon: If the first thing you think of sounds cool, great. Now forget it and come up with another thousand names. Just ‘cos it sounds cool now doesn’t mean it will tomorrow. And you’ve still got to do those dreaded searches.

Digging your heels in: You are literally the only person you know who likes, understands, or knows how to pronounce the name you’ve come up with. Let it go. Keep searching.

Painting yourself into a corner: OK, it’s a great name, but it gives you no room to flex your business. If you think that one day you may want to expand your offering, don’t call yourself ‘WeSmokeHaddock’, ‘Haddock R Us’ or ‘The Haddock Meister’ (other fish are available).

Your name counts. Not as much as your products or service levels, but if you’re gonna stick it on your front door, you may as well take the time to get it right. Have fun (if you don’t, you know where to find us).

Need a hand getting the right handle? Give us a bell on: 01273 458568 or drop us a line at: hello@dollopcreative.co.uk – it’d make our day.


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