Branding for Greatness

In reality a great brand name will never make a bad company good or a good company bad. A brand name does, however, help accelerate good companies to greatness. Here’s one of my favorite quotes for the task of naming:

"Most clients feel that they're going to know the perfect name as soon as they see it, but it doesn't happen that way. Even "BlackBerry" was not easy to sell. The client had been leaning toward more descriptive names such as "EasyMail." The same was true of past blockbuster names: Some at Intel had wanted to call the Pentium "ProChip," and some at P&G had wanted to call the Swiffer "EZMop." And no doubt someone wanted to call Budweiser "EZGut."  — Lexicon founder & CEO, David Placek

Basically, descriptive names (names based on a literal service, features, or benefit to the consumer) are too safe and a losing strategy. They no longer provide an interesting, ownable, or competitive moniker for a brand with any ambition.  We rarely see descriptive names as a successful strategy for iconic brands such as Nike, Target, Starbucks, & Apple.

Of course this hasn’t always been the case. In the past, the East India Trading Company (one of the first “brands”), formed in the 1600s, didn’t need to be super creative. They just needed a name that described the nature of its work. Trading. In the East. Done. Because the trade alone was unique. Another example is IBM, or International Business Machines. They were the only company in the business of making computers, thus a descriptive name worked.

Today, things have changed. We have to name brands for greatness and that comes from the courageous pursuit of the unknown. The safe, expected route is not the path any longer. Brands that will move the needle from good to greatness must have a name that is meaningful, memorable, and more so, different. If you are naming a product, service, or organization, push past the known and explore unconventional routes. Name for greatness.