Your Name Is the First Word of Your Story

This post began with an observation: humans have an extraordinary tendency to name the things around us. We start with ourselves, naming our loved ones. Then, we move on to the rest of our world naming pets, plants, and a wide array of inanimate objects.

The list is endless.

What we have found striking is the fact that, even though we name things that lack personality, names are not at all trivial. Names serve as introductions for the people encountering something for the first time; they have a way of enlivening something that would otherwise lack personality.

In the branding industry, we work extensively to develop names for the brands we create. Whether it’s a company or a product, we spend a lot of time making sure a name is the right fit.

When you introduce yourself to someone, you tell them your name. Brands work in the same way. A brand’s name is its introduction to the world. It is the first word of their story.

At a small studio, naming is a reflective practice. We walk our clients through a process of discovery before we even attempt to come up with the right name for them.

We do this because we believe a brand’s name should embody the thing(s) it represents. A brand name with nothing to back it up is an empty shell. The name shouldn’t be solely descriptive or simply sound good. It has to have meaning.

"Don’t pick a name that makes you one of the trees in the forest and then spend the rest of your marketing budget trying to stand out." —Danny Altman: Founder and Director, A Hundred Monkeys

Our individual identities are what give our lives meaning. They tell us who we are and why we do the things we do. Our identities embody our passions and give us our dreams. Without them, we too would be empty shells- devoid of life and energy.

It may seem unnecessary to think about a brand identity in the same way as a person. After all, a brand isn’t actually a person. Obviously, that’s true in that Nike or Nissan aren’t living, breathing people.

Brands are representations of a particular entity be it a company, service, or a product. At their simplest, they are the manifestation of an idea. They are intangible thoughts made manifest by the colors, shapes, and words on a sign.

But then the brands speak. Nike wants to tell us about a new idea for a shoe. Nissan wants to introduce us to a new car model. We only get excited about these things when the brands introduce us to them in personal and relatable ways.

Humans are best at understanding other humans, so giving a brand a human-like identity that’s based off of something real is an excellent way to set the stage for strong brand-audience interactions.

On the other hand, having an artificial brand identity can lead to dissatisfaction and disillusionment. People will look for the substance behind the identity; if there is none, then they will be disappointed.

Every brand identity starts with a name.

Who are they? How will they speak? How will they make me feel?

We need to know who the brand is before we can name it, because its name is an indicator of its identity. Its name is a sign pointing to its heart.