When a name is deliberately designed, it can help make the right things happen for your business or offering. Things beyond messaging. Things tied to goals outside the realm of communications and consumer conversations.

We are the first to say that the story behind your name is of critical importance. No question – establishing that narrative should be a primary focus when approaching the task of naming your brand, business or offering. And it’s easy to think it should be the only focus. However, that singular lens may prevent you from capitalizing on a name’s ability to help you meet your broader commercial objectives.

A name is deliberately designed when it’s crafted in accordance with a carefully identified naming strategy.

Naming strategies help you achieve bigger intents.

Naming strategies are tactics used to create names in a way that allows them to contribute to a purpose beyond messaging. While a name’s message should always reflect an offering’s ownable and relevant points of value, those points of value can often be brought to life using a variety of different strategies. With each strategy possessing its own unique ability to further certain business ambitions.

To put it simply, a good naming strategy is one that helps achieve a bigger intent. Maybe that intent is related to encouraging behaviors. Or overcoming misconceptions. Or building relationships. Or carving out the right white space. Or creating the kind of perception necessary to drive sales. Whatever the objective, a good naming strategy will help ensure your name actually does something – vs. simply saying something.

Now, because business intentions are near-infinite in nature, it is near-impossible to capture an exhaustive list of naming strategies. However, examining some of the most commonly used paths can be both valuable and inspiring, as it helps make the concept of a productive naming strategy a bit more tangible. And just because a naming strategy is common doesn’t mean it’s worn out or overused. Quite the contrary, the strategies deployed most frequently tend to be the ones that make the most universally beneficial contributions to advancements in market share and revenue growth.

Here are some of the most powerful naming strategies.

Personification makes an offering feel more like a person. It’s used to humanize a brand, business or product – associating it with certain proficiencies, and creating a persona with which people can more easily bond. For example, the name Beauty Chef comes across as someone you can trust to be in the know about nutrition, nourishment and precision ingredients. These are the ideas this supplement-driven beauty brand strives to own as they tend to be synonymous with quality in the health and wellness space.
Other examples of names that employ this strategy include CityMapper, Dr. Pepper, Luggage Hero, ServiceTitan, and Mr. Clean.

Similar, but somewhat more playful than Personification, Mascoting assigns a non-human “mascot” or “figure” to an offering. It’s used to make a brand, business or product more memorable, and aid in long-term consistency by establishing a permanent fixture for all future messaging and communications. Like Personification, it also connects an offering to a desirable set of skills or characteristics. Take SoundHound, an audio and speech recognition company. In addition to the catchiness of its rhyming word pattern, SoundHound portrays a friendly creature known for its keen instincts and ability to help find what you seek – highly relevant and timeless ideas for a company with offerings in the music recognition and digital assistant spaces. Other examples of names that employ this strategy are The Laughing Cow, Red Bull, ABC Mouse, BitPanda, and Firefox.

Identity Reflection
Identity Reflection creatively mirrors an aspect of the target audiences’ perceived sense of self back to them. It’s used to demonstrate a deep understanding of people – their passions, their beliefs, and their perspectives – as well as build “tribal” pride in service of creating a community of brand loyalists. Look at InkHunter, an augmented reality tool for “trying on” virtual tattoos. By celebrating the skill, determination and patience that goes into pursing a meaningful tattoo, InkHunter signals they see and respect the significance their target audience attaches to searching for and selecting the right design. A brand behavior this user community is likely to appreciate and support through their own autonomous actions. Other examples of names that employ this strategy are Fanatics, Minor Characters, Misfits Market, and Asana Rebel.

Placeification creates the impression of a physical or centralized location for a certain item or activity. It’s used to establish an air of leadership by suggesting comprehensive and well-stocked “headquarters” for getting or accomplishing smoething – which can be particularly appealing in the case of more multi-dimensional need states. Consider the clothing rental platform Hire Street. Hire Street suggests aggregating all the dynamicism, optionality, and flexibility of browsing different shops along the boulevard, and delivering it via a singular, highly convenient digital hub. Making it an attractive choice for those looking to find the right clothes, for all different occasions, but without the hassle (or higher cost) of repeat, IRL shopping expeditions. Other examples of names that employ this strategy are Coinbase, Pottery Barn, AlphaPoint, CoachHub, and TalkDesk.

Literal, Lower-Frequency Language (LLFL)
LLFL highlights the benefits of using less commonly encountered language. It’s used to simultaneously establish credibility and capture attention by standing out within a category in way that feels both intelligent and original. In a way that feels simultaneously honest and original. Take Capacity, an AI-empowered, employee support automation platform. “Capacity” is an instantly understood yet elegant word suggestive of increased engagement, efficiency and bandwidth. However, “capacity” isn’t something most people say or hear in each of their day-to-day discussions, or even over the course of every day. The relative novelty of encountering this word is what gets it noticed in reading and conversation. Other examples of names that employ this strategy include Plenty, Envoy, Notion, Zilch, Cerebral, Autograph, Retool, Articulate, and Hinge Health.

Symbolism uses something seemingly unrelated to represent a core value proposition. It’s used to excite, inspire and heighten people’s curiosity through evocative and layered storytelling – something particularly powerful in more functional (vs. recreational) market segments. For example, Color is a technology company employing population-scale programs to advance public health. On the surface, the idea of “color” is fairly far removed from the healthcare landscape. However, it speaks to something universal and unifying, something simple yet striking, and an inclusive spectrum that is bold, expressive and actionable in a huge variety of ways. Concepts that appear to align with their focus on “delivering equitable, essential healthcare services anywhere care is needed” and promise of an “easy-to-use and comprehensive technology platform, with scalable infrastructure and personalized services, to meet any healthcare delivery need”. With one small piece of language, Color has laid the foundation for a rich and captivating narrative. Other names that employ this strategy include Hydrogen, Mural, Cushion AI, Funnel, Jar, Parsley Health, Bolt, Bicycle Health, Alchemy, Naked Poppy, and Chisel.

Benefits in Brief
Benefits in Brief instantly and concisely communicates a key outcome or performance aspect. It’s used to influence consumer decision making by indicating an obvious and efficient solve for a specific need. Look at Evernote, an application for taking and storing notes, project plans, and ideas. Evernote leaves nothing up for interpretation – clearly and succinctly suggesting a system to permanently organize and store notes. Other examples of names that employ this strategy are DoorDash, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Razorpay, Whole Foods, OpenAI, and FitBit.

Hyper-Simplification foregoes messaging around unique benefits in favor of clarifying the broad and basic nature of an offering. It’s used to counteract preconceived cynicism, skepticism or notions of complexity by instilling the belief something will be accessible, straightforward and transparent in how it operates. Take Wardrobe, an e-ecommerce application for borrowing, selling, and sharing ideas about luxury or custom fashion. While it doesn’t say much beyond “this is all about clothes”, Wardrobe feels grounded, “gimmick-free” and like something you’d want to “do business with”. Other examples of names that employ this strategy are Porch, Sketchbook, Toast, Digit, and Peloton.

High Science
High Science cues forward-thinking innovation, technologically prowess, or scientific advancement. Whether accomplished through tone, construct or vocabulary, it’s used to demonstrate a commitment to research, development, design and leadership. For instance, there is Four Sigmatic – a company that makes things like coffees, teas and creamers using foods statistically-proven to be the most nutrient dense. While the underlying offering is quite simple, Four Sigmatic has an academic rigor suggestive of calibrated and calculated product composition. Other examples of names that employ this strategy are Illumio, Splice, Quip and Thought Machine.

Call to Action
Call to Action provokes people to take part in an aspirational activity. Call to Action names almost always include a verb, giving them an inherent sense of energy, urgency and encouragement. Such is the case with Rally, a platform that facilitates the buying and selling of equity shares in rare, collectible assets. Rally prompts people to come together and support the vision of investment portfolios centered on passion-driven hobbies or interests (vs. more traditional financial market vehicles). An effective plea with the power to stimulate emotions and drive engagement. Other names that employ this strategy are GoCardless, Smarten Spaces, BetterUp, SumUp, BeZero, Glow Up, and Ramp.

Phrasal Statements
Phrasal Statements express a more fully formed idea through a more robust combination of words. They’re used to start relevant peer-to-peer conversations by acting and feeling like the precursor to a larger dialogue. Consider The Farmer’s Dog, a subscription business providing pet food made with human-grade ingredients. The Farmer’s Dog behaves like the opening statement to a more in-depth narrative, thereby inviting marketplace participants to engage, respond and continue learning about what the company has to say. Examples of other names that employ this strategy are Once Upon a Farm, Citizens of Humanity, Too Good to Go, United Colors of Benetton, Age of Learning, and Function of Beauty.

The right naming strategy for you depends on your business objectives.

You may be wondering – what’s the right naming strategy for me? It’s the one best suited to help you reach your broader business goals. And because different businesses have different objectives, the right naming strategy will also differ from one business to the next.

So, take the time to identify some high priority aims for your organization or offering, and think deeply about how a name could help you achieve them. This will make sure your name is working its absolute hardest to contribute to the longevity and success of your brand.

– By Tanya Gustafson