Develop a Brand Name with Bark and Bite

Choosing a brand name or changing your existing brand name is challenging. I’m always looking to develop a name that has “Bark” — grabs attention and stands out from the crowd and also“Bite” — it grabs you with emotion or some other connection.

There is much speculation out there as to the connection between brand name choices and the ultimate success of a company. Take Amazon. Founder Jeff Bezos decided on the name Amazon, because he felt it was synonymous with enormous. I never made that connection. I don’t think many people did. But Amazon is a huge success.

Likewise, the name Google is a play on the word “googol,” a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros — reflecting the founders’ mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web. Only a few science geeks knew what googol meant and made the connection to Google.

Still, if you get the chance to develop a brand name, why not use that chance to stand out and connect with your target audience? Here’s how we go about developing a brand name with Bark and Bite.

Eight Questions

We always start with questions:

  1. Should the name clearly tell you what you do or suggest an idea?
  2. Should it romance the brand or evoke a value message?
  3. Do you want it to describe a benefit or leave you guessing?
  4. Does it have a broad scope or a narrow niche?
  5. Are you spending money making it mean something, or will it communicate on its own?
  6. How do you want your brand to be positioned in the marketplace?
  7. Who are the customers you want to reach?
  8. Who are your competitors?

Six Naming Styles

Decide which naming style will work best.

  1. Descriptive brand names describe the offering. Examples: Amtrak, Manpower, Kitchen Aid.
  2. Suggestive brand names suggest the positioning. Examples: Husky, Woolite, Brawny.
  3. Metaphorical brand names borrow equity and qualities of something else. Examples: Jaguar, Food Lion, Shell.
  4. Made-up brand names (neologisms) take longer to build awareness but stand out. Examples: Exxon, Xerox, Kodak.
  5. Historical brand names may be a family name or the place or origin, and can have long- lasting value. Examples: Hilton, Columbia, Southwest.
  6. Arbitrary brand names seem like they have no connection to your product or service, but they allow you to use advertising and marketing to define and position these brands from scratch. Examples: Apple, Viking, Lotus.

One of my favorite books on the subject is Hello My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick, by Alexandra Watkins, the owner of the San Francisco-based firm Eat My Words.

Watkins reveals the Five Qualities of a Super-Sticky Name:

  1. Suggestive — evokes something about your brand
  2. Meaningful — resonates with your audience
  3. Imagery — is visually evocative to aid in memory
  4. Legs — lends itself to a theme for extended mileage
  5. Emotional — moves people

And she lists the Seven Deadly Sins of Brand Names:

  1. Spelling-challenged — looks like a typo
  2. Copycat — is similar to competitors’ names
  3. Restrictive — limits future growth
  4. Annoying — is forced or frustrates customers
  5. Tame — is flat, descriptive, uninspired
  6. Curse of Knowledge — makes sense only to insiders
  7. Hard to pronounce — is not obvious or is unapproachable

Bottom Line

Your brand name selection will not ensure your company, product or service will make it big. However, you can give yourself a real head start by choosing a brand name with Bark AND Bite.


About The Author

  • Author | George Farris
George Farris is CEO and Senior Brand Coach at Farris Marketing. Email questions and comments to GFF@FarrisMarketing.com and connect with George on LinkedIn using the icons above.

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