Businesses, products, even cocktails – we’ve done our fair share of naming over the years, but regardless of your subject, there are some key elements you need to consider as part of the process to ensure that name hits the right spot and becomes something you, your audience and your stakeholders can all get behind. 

So allow me to break all the rules and share those secrets with you now:



Obvious stuff, right out the gate.
It might sound vanilla, but you’d be surprised how often this step gets left in the dust. Naming is objectively a fun process, so it attracts a fair bit of attention when you get to it. You’ll no doubt have a close friend, senior stakeholder or enthusiastic Aunt that wants to get involved and has some “incredible” ideas – but you have to ask yourself ‘what appeals to my audience?’. Will your brand name resonate with them? Take a look at the competition, and other brands your audience engages with. Are there any trends? Then turn the tables and review your brand personality (this is where having an established Brand Strategy really comes in handy). Are you a serious brand? Playful? Sarcastic?

Knowing the answers to these questions before you get started can really help you focus upfront thinking (and explain to that stakeholder why their idea is great, but maybe not for your audience).



What are you talking about Ted? Good question.
Beware of tongue twisters! And rhythm in general. Making sure your audience can pronounce the name you’ve chosen properly is essential for success. You’ve heard of word of mouth? Ain’t no words in that mouth if they can’t say it.

If you’re not sure, a good test is to write it down and ask a bunch of people to say it out loud. If they’re all pronouncing it the same way (and the way you want them to) then you’re on to a winner. If not, it might be time to adjust the spelling or rethink things.

Think about the common language or dominant accent of your audience, does that change how a word is said, or which sounds they can pronounce?



More nonsense. Yes, you’re getting to know me well.
Take a look at those weird shapes above. Which one is Kiki, and which is Bouba? Even without telling you, I bet you know which is which. Turns out we make subliminal associations all the time that link our senses. If you want to get really nerdy, it’s related to a study on cross-modal-adjectives – but in a nutshell, the way a word sounds conjures certain associations for us, even if we don’t know what that word means. This is especially useful if you want to create a name that doesn’t exist in the real world. Harsh sounds, like abrupt consonants make us think of quick, sharp or sour things, and softer, slower sounds make us think of more gentle, comfortable things.

There’s a whole science behind it (that we employ every time) but this might be the reason why your name just doesn’t sound quite right. So ask yourself, do you want to be more Kiki, or Bouba?



Creatives LOVE to talk about the importance of story, aaand as Story Director at Keane I’m afraid to say I’m one of them – it’s a package deal. How much, or how little story you tell with your name is up to you though. So long as you stay true to the original concept and keep that running through the rest of your comms, you should be good.

A straightforward name that describes the product you sell is very upfront, and there’s little story that needs to be told. A more of an abstract name, however, might need a story to help explain to your audience what the concept is, and why you chose that name - better yet, get the experience itself to tell that story for you.

Finding the consistent thread that flows from your brand strategy, into your brand name and across your visual identity, interior design and comms will certainly make your business feel more consistent, established and reliable - and a lot more engaging & memorable to boot.



Perhaps the most important rule when it comes to signing off your name. If you’ve ever named a child or a pet you’ll have heard something similar to:
“No we can’t name them Biff, he bullied me at school”

You’ll get exactly the same responses when trying to sign off your brand name with your stakeholders, colleagues (even that Aunt). Everyone will have a very specific and unique reference from their past, directly linked to whether they love or hate the name. The key word there is unique. Remember Tip #1 and focus back on your audience, and your personality – forget the bullies.

Biff, if you’re out there, I forgive you.


So it’s as easy as that! Well – not entirely, but it’s a great place to start. If you want more tips on effective brand naming, a review of your process to date, or even a focused workshop to get things started the right way – click below.