Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and IBM— this is a sampling of brand names that top Interbrand’s Top 100 Global Brands list. But, while some marketers have a tendency to fixate on the name: “We want a name that’s going to succeed as well as Apple,” the name is just the beginning.
After all, what did Apple mean to consumers before Apple became an exceptional company and globally recognized brand?
As Brannon Cashion, of branding firm Addison Whitney, says: “The strength of a name is really the time it takes to go from a name to a brand. That’s the equation we run; what is going to be the time for this name to really stop being a name and start being a brand?”
What’s In a Name?
It’s an important question and one that is top of mind for many businesses. In truth, building a successful brand is dependent on a lot more than selecting a company name.
Even if you have an evocative, attention-grabbing company name, it takes extensive effort to avoid potential branding obstacles and transform a business name into a brand.
A name is the starting point of a brand. A confusing, bland or offensive name will make it harder, if not impossible, to build a complete brand. Moreover, if you do not consider practical limitations of a business name, you’ll run into various problems that might require a name change and rebrand down the road.
A recent naming and domain name study found that 41 percent of new venture funded startups have an invented type of name. While this trend could be just that–a trend–other reasons for the trend could be more practical.
Invented names are often easier to trademark, more likely to be available for a matching dot-com domain, and allow for more flexibility in building a unique brand apart from real word connotations.
For your company name, thus brand, to be successful consider potential barriers. For instance, the company name:
Should not infringe upon, or cause confusion related to, another already existing brand.
Should be unique enough that it can potentially be trademarked.
When used online, specifically in terms of the domain name, should be eligible for the exact-match dot-com domain or an alternate domain extension (.co, .us, etc.).
These are important naming considerations that will ultimately influence branding efforts. If a name clears these barriers, it will have more potential to transform into a successful brand.
With a company name being the backdrop of brand development, what do business owners and marketers need to know about establishing a successful brand?
Let’s assume you have selected a company name. Now, the question becomes what will you do with that name to build brand identity and value?
Here’s a look at five key areas to focus on when it comes to brand development:
1. Define your identity.
Give thought and consideration to the desired personality and voice of your brand. What core values need to be communicated? How will these values be reflected in the visual identity (i.e., name, logo, tagline, font type, etc.)? If you do not have the internal resources to properly develop key brand elements, there are many reputable branding agencies that can help you make the right first brand impression.
2. Write your brand story.
Successful brands are intriguing—they have strong backstories. Think Virgin America, Ben & Jerry’s or TOM’s. What makes your company unique? What’s your story and how does it resonate with your audience in ways that humanize the brand?
3. Create consistency.
Consistency is a big deal. Visual identity, brand story and your the voice behind your content marketing should be consistent. This applies to your company website, blog posts, guest blogging, social media, employee and customers interactions, etc.
Building a strong brand also requires consistency across the product and service experience itself. Zappo’s did not both become both “hugely successful—more than $2 billion in annual sales—and hugely high-spirited (Wired)” by failing to deliver a positive customer experience at all touch points. Neither can you.
4. Introduce personalization.
Personalization and customization can go a long way toward building a relationship with potential buyers (Hubspot).” Customers begin to feel they “know” you–they know what to expect, who you are, why you exist and how you serve them relative to other options they might have.
Today, personalization also includes engagement across a variety of different channels—certainly in brick and mortar experiences but, now more than ever, in online experiences. Personalization can help build brand value, customer loyalty and word-of-mouth which will ensure your brand stays top-of-mind and a preferred choice.
5. Turn employees into brand advocates.
Your employees are a critical part of the brand building process. They can either be groomed to serve as positive brand advocates and ambassadors—or doomed to serve as detractors.
Educating employees on company values, the brand story and how to share it with customers are important ongoing. Encourage participation and reward internal advocates.
Your company name means a lot. But, the name itself, is only as valuable as the activities related to it. A successful brand is built on the sum total of all of customer interactions, online and offline.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Amanda Soderlund is an Analyst at Clutch, a Washington, DC-based research firm that identifies top services and software firms that deliver results for their clients. She is a part of the marketing team at Clutch that provides relevant and useful research for businesses and consumers looking to procure IT services and software. Amanda frequently writes on topics of web design, digital marketing, and small business. Connect with @clutch_co on Twitter.