The Power of Branding starts with the Power of Naming.

If you took the time to listen to our short video about naming, you already know the difference between Function and Emotion. Let’s recap:

You can map any name according to two axes: Function and Emotion, and position the name to the degree that Function and Emotion are inherent or need to be acquired.

Function says what you do, and Emotion builds your image.
What you are not must be acquired over time to get a clear and engaging identity.

Names with both inner Function and Emotion offer the best trade-off, whereas names which are neither Emotional nor Functional need to both explain what they do, and acquire some Emotion to engage.

This brand name model calls for different investment levels: names with inherent Function are easy to understand from the very start but may be less ownable over time.

On the opposite side, names with inherent Emotion are less clear at the start (Apple needed to explain they sell computers not apples) but over time stand for something unique. This is why Steve Jobs made the decision to name his company after a fruit and not, International Business Machines (not available anyway).

Fruits inspire tech, by the way, if you simply think of the names born this way, like Blackberry, Orange or Lime. Apple is obviously in pole position in this naming race since it was the first company to make such a creative choice and since they pick up the best fruit, the “forbidden fruit,” and a myth on its own.


Naming at the speed of culture

So, the key insight when looking for an Emotion-driven name is that culture pays off – think of the ancient Greek name of victory that inspired Nike, or the Greek god Hermès for the French luxury brand. However, even if names are supposed to last, they are born in a specific period of time, and subject to the Zeitgeist. Naming at the speed of culture is a good mantra if we talk about sound culture, not fads. If we recognize the power of naming as the first native brand communication, then surely every entrepreneur should search for a unique, original name, remembering Salvador Dali’s quote: “The first man who has drawn a woman with a fish tail was a poet. The second one was an idiot.

So, the weakest choice for a new name (and a marketing mistake) is always to imitate. The law does not differ, as you cannot legally register a brand name if someone has already registered the same. That liberates creativity and enables entrepreneurs to disrupt their industry if they wish.

Off-White, the fashion brand mentioned in the video, is a good example of Zeitgeist, alongside Mama Shelter in the hospitality category.


One message may hide another

If the name is the first native brand communication, let’s keep in mind that a communication cannot work unless it has a meaning, even a subliminal one. By subliminal, we mean hidden in the word but not in the phonetics. One message may hide another.

If I am referring to the cosmetic brand Clinique, you understand the concept of a serious, “clinical” brand, but unconsciously, your brain also recognizes ‘clean’. So, you get two messages for the investment of one. What for? The second message comes to strengthen the first one. Clinique has indeed built its cosmetic reputation thanks to its 3-step routine (first Cleanse, then Exfoliate and last Moisturize). So yes, one message may hide another. The Body in The Body Shop Brand refers to three distinct concepts: the individual body, the collective body (the diplomatic corps) and the Earth body, Gaïa – what a great start for a brand platform. And last, if your brand name is a patronymic name such as Dior – made of Dieu and Or (God and Gold in French), then the doors of imagination are wide open…

The power of branding starts with the power of naming.
Entrepreneurs – mind the name!