There does not need to be an optimal name for a product or brand

It is the first impression we have of a product or a brand and, whether we like it or not, it will determine our opinion about it to a great extent. Its is something as basic and apparently simple as the name, but its right or wrong choice will partly decide the operation’s success or failure. Today we talk to somebody who, with his company, devotes his work to giving names to things.

The fact that your job consists in thinking the best name for a product or a new company seems kind of curious.
Yes, it could be summarized like that, and that is the initial goal, but it should be kept in mind that there are many phases in the process: it is always necessary to know what it is that the client wants, have clues about the final product and its development, so a few meetings are necessary.

Is it something similar to creating a slogan for an advertising campaign?
Yes, but it should be kept in mind that a campaign has an expiry date, whereas a company’s name is supposed to be forever. It is also important to note that the name of a product is what you perceive first, the first feeling you get, so it should give us hints about how it must be and transmit the maximum information.

And what makes you different from, for example, advertising agencies or companies’ managers, who sit and think of a name for a product?
Well, we devote our work to doing that, the name, to what may define it and delimit it. We do not consider the campaign that may come afterwards, or the distribution, or the marketing … we are creatives who present a list of alternatives to our client and we outline the first, the second and the third.

And does it take you a long time to come up with a product’s or a brand’s name?
We carry out the process thoroughly. The creative team analyze the product’s and the company’s values and we transmit them to a group of about twenty external consultants.

Do you need such a big amount of people?
They are people we have enrolled due to their ability with words, their skill to find the exact concept. It is a group in which we find all sorts: philologists, publicists, architects, doctors, chemists … a quite heterogeneous group, as you may see. And in each process, they end up putting around 150 names on the table, which together with other factors, means that we have a bunch at the beginning of the selection process.

Well, you must feel dizzy when you start the selection …
Keep in mind that is only the very beginning. Taking into account the repetitions, the names that are already registered, and the evaluating tests that are carried out afterwards by the creative team, the list is very much reduced, to around 30 or 40 names.

Fine. You have spent many hours choosing the best names. The moment to present a list to your client arrives. Do they usually chose the first name?
No, not always. Sometimes the client likes the second one or the third one better. Or even one that comes later on in the list presented. Keep in mind there are many factors at stake, and not only the ones I have already mentioned: there is also the phonetics, that is, how the name sounds, what it may inspire … these are not objective criteria.

And how many proposals do you provide?
We normally give the client two, or three at the most. Some have asked us for a longer list, but then the conditions are different and no, it is not the usual.

I imagine the issue gets more complex when a client wants a name for a product that is going to be distributed internationally.
It does, actually. Just in Spain, for example, there are over 2.5 million registered names, so just figure at an international level, with the globalised current market, in which names that are understandable in languages different from English are becoming a requirement. And I do not mean just western languages, but also emerging ones, such as Chinese, Russian or Arabic. We need to keep in mind how the name sounds in the corresponding language, for it may happen to have a harmful effect on its commercial impact.

You probably also get assignments from companies wishing to change their name.  
Or simply newly-born companies. An added complexity in the last few years is that now it is not only about the name and its correspondence in other languages, as I said, but also about the availability of Internet domains with all the endings: the .com, the .org, the .info, the .eu, and that makes the choice far more complex.

And what is usually the dominating factor when it comes to choosing a name? Being more original, more groundbreaking, or being conventional?
There is all sorts, but in general in many cases, clients end up being quite conservative in their choice. But it depends. Sometimes, we find examples of successful names which a priori did not seem the most adequate. Think of Apple, for example, and the relationship that a word such as “apple” may have to computer technology to begin with.

It must be that there is something else behind an original name …
Yes, of course, in this case the strength of the brand. We have dozens of examples, both of names that communicate something and of names that are simply attractive in themselves. I recall the proposal of Free for Damm, for their alcohol-free beer, this is a good example of what is often sought, associating certain values to a product.

A value that represents something else?
Of course. The free does not only represent the lack of alcohol, but also something free of complexes, free of stereotypes, something that defines the word freedom in several aspects. And there are many other examples of that kind.

Please mention some you have created
Well then,Vocento, Avanzit, Alaris, Bocadelia, Horizonia, Densia…

And were they all first options?
Not necessarily. The last one, for example, was not.

Really? What was the first option then?
Well, we do not usually reveal discarded names, but the truth is that in this case, the name we suggested in the first place made a clear reference to osteoporosis, the disease this product fights against. The chosen name made a reference to the concept of bone density and it finally succeeded. And there are others, like Sanex 0%, for which we achieved international registration.

A territory which usually calls the attention is that of names for car models …
We have been working for Seat for some time, for example. After naming the Altea and the Arosa, we started to move away from strict place names, which were trendy at a certain time. The last step has been to break that dynamics and start a new stage in which Seat may reach an audience with a different target… The Exeo came from that idea, for example, a model we associate to excellence, executive, extra …

It is incredible how a name may determine a whole brand and even an attitude towards a particular product.
Yes, it is. Even we, after so many years and with an excellent group of professionals, cannot guarantee the name we finally propose to be the best. After this time, I have reached the conclusion that there does not need to be just one optimal name. Each of the choices, very carefully made, may determine the product’s or even the brand’s future strategy.

Francesc Arquimbau.
Manager of Nombra (Coleman CBX)

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