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article imageOp-Ed: How do you choose a brand name?

By Alexander Baron     Nov 11, 2013 in Business
How do you choose a name for your brand or company? This is not as easy as you think, indeed like so many apparently simple subjects, books have been written about it.
On the off-chance you haven't heard the phrase "corporate identity", it is something you will certainly recognise. It can encompass everything from a logo, to a slogan, to a uniform, to...well, many things.
First things first, how about the company name? When Jack Cohen founded Tesco before any of you were born, he took the first three letters from T. E. Stockwell - a company from which he had purchased a shipment of tea - and appended the last two letters of his own name. His enterprise would eventually earn him a knighthood, and the company he founded is now not only the biggest supermarket in Britain but currently employs over half a million people in 14 countries.
Tesco is an invented name, and as such is a brand in itself, but more recently a plain speaking Yorkshireman founded a freezer food store. His name is Malcolm Walker, what would he call his business? Walk-In? Walk-Mart? Hmm...How about Iceland? Something entirely different. It remains to be seen what possessed Richard Branson to come up with the name Virgin, but surfers who are long in the tooth may remember a company called Ashton-Tate. This software house is no more. One of its founders was George Tate, but who was Ashton? In this case he was a mythical person, but Tate's co-founder was a Mr Lashley. Lashley-Tate? Nah!
How about Microsoft? That's easy, it's a combination of microcomputer and software. A microcomputer is the thing on the desktop in front of you, only no one calls it that now. Microsoft was originally Micro-Soft, but is probably best spelt Micro$oft.
Almost as important as a brand name is the company logo. You can see the Tesco logo above. Do you recognise this one? Of course you do!
Every large organisation has one, for countries it is usually the national flag. Chances are you have one, if only by the way you personalise your stationery or your Facebook homepage.
There are other important features of corporate identity, but the first and arguably the most important is the name. In the UK and at least one other country there is a company that calls itself Drain Surgeon. Yes, this is a plumbing company, cute, but...
A bad company name can be a disaster. There used to be a washing powder used in the UK called Omo. Unsurprisingly, it is no longer used, but there are far, far worse brand names. Here is a list of what someone called the 30 worst brand names of all time. This is probably a bit unkind to Mr Brain, who was making his delicacies long before the name was hijacked as a pejorative. Some "bad" names are clearly accidental; it is not uncommon for words in one language to mean something entirely different in another.
So how do you come up with a brand name or a company name? You could hire a PR agency to do it for you, or you could visit a dedicated website like NamePerfection which appears to live up to the hype.
The fees probably sound a bit on the high side but not for a large, medium or even not so medium sized company because all the work has been done for you. You may think that once you have chosen a company or brand name, that is it, but things are seldom that simple.
If for example your surname is Jackson and your parents called you Michael, do you think you could market your company as Michael Jackson? Think again! At present, Companies House lists a number of companies with that name including The Michael Jackson Literary Estate Limited, which was incorporated less than two months after Michael Jackson died. On the other hand, Michael Jackson Motors Limited is clearly no relation. And that's only in the UK. Every country has different legislation, and if you market internationally, there can be other considerations.
There can also be problems with company logos; if you think you have a good design, it may be that someone had the same or a strikingly similar idea before.
Ever heard of genericide? Not as sinister as it sounds, but here is a recent article about it and how to avoid it, or alternatively you could allow the professionals to do the donkey work for you.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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