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Unlocking Confidence Through Naming Strategy
June 13, 2024

Unlocking Confidence Through Naming Strategy

So, you need a new name. Actually, you might need a new name, but you might not. And there are those new names and legacy names in your portfolio that you could use or could not use. How do you choose? After you decide, what do you do next?

Your company goes by all the names in your portfolio, including parent brand names, sub-brand names, product and platform names, and names for specific features and solutions. Naming decisions often arise because of a major strategic shift. You’re launching a new business. You’re rebranding. You’ve been acquired. You’ve acquired someone else. You’re expanding into new regions. Because any number of important reasons spark naming decisions, the choice isn’t always straightforward. In fact, it usually isn’t straightforward. That’s where a strong naming strategy can help you decide confidently.

A naming strategy grounds naming decisions, whether it be your parent company name or the name of an offering, in the business and brand objectives a name can help achieve. It defines two elements: the job of a name, and the type and style of a name that can support the job.


The job of a name:

The job of the name refers to the role a name plays in helping a company accomplish something. Before creating a name or deciding to keep an existing name, it’s important to determine what the name needs to do most for the business and the brand. Here are a few examples of the jobs a name could have:

Disrupt a Category: Robinhood

In the confusing, exclusive-feeling world of investing, a brand name like “Robinhood” disrupted the investing and fintech world by inviting a new audience with a name that signaled the democratization of wealth. A disruptive name that evokes your brand’s story can set you apart if you want to to stand out in a saturated category.

Clarify Product Benefits: QuickBooks

For small and mid-sized businesses, tasks like time tracking and payroll are some of the most intimidating aspects of the job. A name like “QuickBooks” signals accounting, while cueing the speed and simplicity of QuickBooks products. If you want to communicate your value proposition immediately, a clear and functional name can help you succeed.

Gain Instant Credibility: WatsonX

In the rapidly evolving world of artificial intelligence and machine learning, IBM planted a flag as a leader with a name for its AI and data management platform that signaled superior intelligence and innovation. If you want to gain credibility in a saturated category, a name that pulls from known cultural signals can help you.

Because a name can only do a few things well, defining a job helps your team align on what’s most important, pressure test an existing name, and create a framework for developing and evaluating any new names.


Type and Style of a Name

Understanding how to leverage meaning and sound can help you land the right name or validate an existing name against the job you’ve determined it needs to do.

If you’re creating a new name, we consider semantics to determine the type of name you need based on what it might mean. There’s a big difference between a name like Twilio, a made-up word that only loosely evokes the brand, and a name like Dropbox, a real word that signals what the brand does functionally. We recommend different types of names based on the job the name needs to do and functional guardrails like trademark classes and marketing budget. We consider phonetics, or the style of the name, to determine what the name should sound like based on the job it needs to do. Names use soft or hard sounds, or simple or complex sounds to give people mental shortcuts – to help them intuit associations with the name based on what it sounds like.

If you are keeping an existing name, we use its semantic and phonetic implications to make sure we’re telling the strongest story about the name through other elements of brand identity and communications.

At Superhuman, we believe in the power of naming strategy to help our clients make critical decisions around one of their brand’s most valuable assets. To develop your naming strategy, we start by understanding your value proposition, business and brand objectives, and current and future customers. If you’re considering a new name, we also get a sense of types and styles of names that resonate with your team, and any that don’t resonate. Next, we use that information to define strategic naming directions, each of which includes a job your name could have and recommend types and styles you could leverage. After aligning with you on a naming direction, we either make a recommendation for ways to make the most of an existing name or begin developing a naming brief for landing a new name.

Whether you choose to keep and make the most of an existing name, or create a new name, we can help you build a naming strategy that leads to a decision you feel confident in, and tell a powerful story around your name through storytelling, design, and marketing.

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