If companies have to undergo a re-branding because they merge, are spun off or the "old" brand name cannot be used internationally, it immediately comes up: the question of the name. It must sound unique, original, likeable, it has to be easy to pronounce. These are some of the more common requirements we encounter on naming projects. On the other hand, it is not at all known that there is much more behind finding a name than just a creative effort, which is often underestimated - but a well-thought-out process with comprehensive labeling and linguistic-cultural testing steps. Failure to work properly here can result in legal consequences or reputational damage. On the other hand, if developed correctly, a strong brand name is an essential brand asset, and on closer inspection it may even be the most important one, in which the entire brand energy resides.
Finding a name is a difficult birth
The number of trademark registrations is constantly high, and the trend is rising, and the trademark registers are becoming ever narrower. In addition, the result is sometimes quite questionable in nature. Almost legendary ambiguous name creations such as "Pajero" (Mitsubishi), "Pinto" (Ford) - both vulgar Spanish and Portuguese swear words - or "Nova" (Chevrolet), which simply means "doesn't work" in Spanish, attest to this.
The consequences can be far-reaching: from false associations with the target group to temporary injunctions in the event of infringed trademark rights of third parties. Nevertheless, despite the dangers known to the experts, naming projects are repeatedly set up carelessly, are blatantly under-budgeted or are offered naively by agencies. This is due to the following misconceptions that we encounter again and again.
Misconception # 1: Name development - a creative snap shot
"You open a bottle of red wine, start the creative machinery and then there will be a few ideas. That's how it works for you ...!" - Not quite right. Process plans, responsibilities and milestones - we all know and use the common cornerstones of successful project management. Regardless of whether it is a question of strategic initiatives, sales programs or restructuring: projects that are critical to success are usually set up with the necessary meticulousness and adequate resources. How difficult it is to develop the name, however! Naming projects - sometimes perceived as "by-catch" on the marketing side - are often tackled without a correct project plan and without a professionally set up project team. The timing? "Asap", please. In many cases, two indispensable process steps are ignored: the linguistic-cultural (see # 2) and the legal (# 3) test.
Misconception # 2: A good name is a good name - no matter where
"Sounds good. Should actually fit in the Spanish market" - Dangerous. Today every company is part of a globalized world - one click away. Even if your company and your products (so far) are only present regionally or nationally: Review portals are not tied to national borders. Perhaps you are also being talked about in France, Brazil or Japan. You may also have international stakeholders - investors, suppliers ... or simply fans on social media. Or your growth means that you have to internationalize. In addition, even the market-relevant part of the local population now speaks many languages. It is therefore essential that you have a linguistic and cultural test carried out by experienced native speakers (!) With a feeling for language (!) And experience (!). With this you exclude negative connotations of your favorite names in other languages. Behind supposedly harmless German or English brand names or a "fantasy name" that resonates to our ears can hide a rather filthy expression or an absolutely undesirable association in neighboring linguistic areas. This quickly means "PR" in social media, which you do not want for your company or product. The number of languages tested should also be kept generous. Maybe Morocco, Russia or China are not your target markets yet, but who knows which countries you might expand into in five years.
Misconception # 3: A legal check is unnecessary or quick
"According to Google, there’s no second time. Well then there’s nothing to prevent us from using the name." - Not a good idea. It is possible that your favorite name (or a similar and therefore confusable name) is already protected by third parties without you being able to find it in the search engine of your choice. For national registration of trademark protection, you have to consult the German Patent and Trademark Office in Germany, but it is now common practice to also register a trademark as an EU trademark (European Union trademark) or in the USA and China. Experience: It can hardly be ruled out that your favorite names will collide with existing identical or similar company names or third-party brands. Sometimes several hundred names have to be developed in order to be able to present a shortlist of 15-20 names that have a realistic chance of being registered in the commercial register and trademarks. And - provisionally register this as soon as possible - because the principle of seniority often applies in trademark registers - first come, first served. Also keep in mind that trademark owners have hired large law firms to monitor their trademark rights around the world and, if necessary, to take action against trademark infringers or applicants for similar marks. It can also hardly be ruled out that in certain markets in certain classes of goods so-called delimitation agreements ("non-aggression pacts") will have to be concluded. This requires time, possibly "straw men" in order not to reveal one's own identity (and financial strength) and - you already guessed it, of course - money, because brand owners are happy to have such concessions paid for.
Misconception # 4: A name can be developed regardless of strategy or identity
"Surely you still have a fancy name in the drawer, we'll just take it, okay?" - Not recommended. If you do not want to register the 29th Liegenschaftsverwaltung Stadtwald GmbH & Co KG, you should find the origin and aspiration of a company in a well thought-out, good name and brand strategy. One should not underestimate: A new name is always alien at first, which often leads to rejection or discomfort on the part of the client. You have to sleep on it at least once or twice, get used to the new names a little, in order to develop a preference or make a decision. A new name always needs a story. Origin, meaning, association - the new name must always be able to be told, because with company names, identification and a positive start into a new phase of company development always depend on a good and appropriate name.
Misconception # 5: A lot of feedback helps a lot
"I always think of my neighbor when I hear the name. Corrosive." - Not too helpful. The parents among the readers should know the problem: If the name of the unborn child is communicated before the birth, it is difficult to save yourself from well-intentioned feedback. Therefore at this point the note: Clarify right from the start who is involved in the project and when and who you are asking for feedback. And please ensure that the list of names is treated confidentially. Candidates are burned quickly if the press or competitors get wind of it. Brand names and associated rights are market accesses. Market access means profit opportunities. In this respect, brands are always a valuable competitive tool.
Myth # 6: A good name only matters in B2C markets
"You know, we are a B2B company. Quality and price - this is the only way to convince our customers. With such a name story, I don't even have to get involved in sales." - It doesn't have to be right. In many medium-sized B2B companies - especially with hidden champions - it is assumed that product excellence alone leads to a leading competitive position. Especially in companies that do not have high communication or marketing budgets (including startups), a memorable and monopoly name is worth its weight in gold. And regardless of whether B2C or B2B - the name as an identification anchor for the employees is always important!
Misconception # 7: name development - cheap bycatch
"Such a naming, it can't cost a lot?" - That's right - but only if the process is not professionally designed. A properly set up naming process includes an exploratory, often multi-level creative phase, a legal and linguistic-cultural test and various internal coordination rounds as well as a budget for database and register extracts and entries. This requires highly specialized experts: name developers, linguists, trademark lawyers, brand strategists, designers, because the name has to be designed later. That costs money. However, the smaller and more well-rehearsed the team, the more efficiently the process can be managed. And please consider: the new name will appear on the company building, under every email, it will be spoken on every phone call - in short: the name is the most frequently used element of every branding system. And last but not least: the presentation of the names, the introduction to the suggestions must also be done professionally if you want to bring such a complex undertaking to success in a (usually very) tight time frame and bring all decision-makers and of course the entire workforce into one (new ) Get boat!
Conclusion: A good name requires creativity and know-how
Strong name, strong brand, strong impact. Nevertheless, the development of the name is still partly unprofessional. The consequences: Target groups associate names with undesirable associations, legal problems, inadequate / insufficient trademark protection and time delays. A resilient naming process begins with an exploratory creative phase and includes both a linguistic-cultural and a legal preliminary examination in the development phase. Only promising candidates are presented, otherwise the potential for frustration increases exorbitantly. The strategic approach to avoiding or bypassing potential legal problems also requires creativity and know-how as well as negotiating skills. Then the name with good design becomes an attractive brand that can significantly support the start of the new era of corporate development.