, May 25, 2017

The names of the future

Square. Slack. Sea. These words could soon mean a lot more to you than their literal meaning.

They are all on Interbrand’s 2017 list of Breakthrough Brands, the companies that are rising head and shoulders above their peers and breaking through to the level where they are soon to become household names.

The 40 companies that have made it onto the list have some factors in common. Many are involved with empowering individuals to take control of their own lifestyle and working patterns, while a significant chunk are turning to Artificial Intelligence, and another swathe focus on healthcare issues.

The way to assess whether a brand has the power to break through, according to Interbrand, is to look at its differentiation, clarity, presence, relevance and engagement.

Those measures are also a good way to check that a firm’s name is doing its intended job. We here at Grain Creative work through a number of different routes to find the perfect name for our clients, including descriptive, historic, out-of-the-box, composite and evocative names.

On the Interbrand list, Lemonade – a firm providing renters’ and homeowners’ insurance – is an example of an out-of-the-box name. Lemonade relates to insurance as little as one of the iconic out-of-the-box names, Orange, had to do with mobile phones.

There are also descriptive names, where the firm’s name says what it does on the tin, including 30secondstofly, for corporate travel management, and Wealthsimple, “Professional investing made simple.”

Composite names such as Ellevest, which helps women invest their money, join two words or parts of two words together to make a new one, which may or may not hint at what the company does.

Square, slack and sea are all real words. But there is also a spate of made-up words: Noom, ofo, Unu and Glovo.

The type of name chosen is increasingly important when it comes to trademarking, especially across multiple territories and use classes, as well as finding available domain names and reflecting on the searchability of the name more generally. Companies using generic words like Square or Lemonade would usually struggle to come up high in Google rankings, but in these cases they actually come up first because they each have a .com domain, presumably bought at a steep price.

On the other hand, raising brand awareness of an unknown and difficult to remember company name like Thalmic Labs also requires its own investment. Either you spend money on a .com or even more on marketing – either way the amount of investment needed to launch and sustain a new brand should not be underestimated.

Calling a mobile payment company Square has many advantages: it’s memorable, suggests strength and dependability and evokes the idea of building blocks or a corner stone. But the fact that the word is generic, and that the name does not in any way define what the firm does, means that without careful research and detailed checks with lawyers, it may infringe on the trademark of a whole array of different companies across many different sectors.

The reason behind a firm’s name is not always as obvious as it might seem. Sea, an internet platform company which has just been through the process of renaming (formerly Garena) and rebranding, is actually an acronym for South East Asia, the market that it’s aiming to conquer.

Slack, meanwhile, sounds like an ironic choice for pioneers of productivity. Or maybe, paired with the strapline “Where work happens”, it’s meant to suggest that the firm has the ability to eradicate any slack. But did you know that it derives from the acronym “Searchable Log of all Conversation and Knowledge”? It seems that the business community’s love of acronyms is here to stay.

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