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What’s in a name? When it comes to branding, a lot actually. We know how tricky it can be to find the right name for your new venture. At Gorilla we help companies to do just that on a daily basis. Big businesses invest significant time and resources when launching new brands. Often they have already learned the hard way that getting it wrong can have long term negative effects- not least that it can cost lots of money to put right. So to help you choose the right name for your business we have put together a list of the most common mistakes made by small businesses and explained the potential implications on your bank balance.

Branding: 5 expensive mistakes

Branding mistake 1- Ambiguous spelling:

There is a temptation with new businesses to try to be different when choosing a name by replacing letters with numbers and ‘S’s with ‘Z’z and so forth. While there is certainly a need to differentiate your business, this is definitely not a good way to do it. As well as making you look unprofessional, choosing a name that’s ambiguous or difficult to spell is only going to cause confusion among customers. Your new name needs to pass the ‘Sentence test’. Let’s imagine a scenario in which you are launching a new online cosmetics business called ‘Beauty 4 You’. A customer buys a product from your store and tells a friend “I’ve just got this great shampoo from Beauty 4 You”. This is the very best kind of advertising, a word of mouth recommendation. There’s just one small problem, her friend could interpret that sentence in a number of ways:

“I’ve just got this great shampoo from… Beauty 4 You / Beauty For You / Beauty For U / Beauty 4 U…”

When she goes online to buy the shampoo and searches for ‘Beauty for you’ several websites come up, all selling cosmetics, all with similar spellings. Now who gets the sale?
Of course this is a very specific example but the point is, a poor name choice could cost your business hard cash in the short term and possibly a loyal customers in the long term.

They could have avoided all of this by choosing a less literal brand name with an easier spelling, like ‘Lush’ for example. It still has connotations of beauty and when someone says “I bought it from Lush” there is no doubt in the customers mind as to the name and spelling of the company- Lush will undoubtedly get the sale!

Branding mistake 2- Copying the competition:

As humans we naturally imitate that which we admire but our eyes and our ears are drawn to that which is different. It’s a strange paradox which certainly applies to branding. Resist the urge to choose a name which is similar to the most successful competitor in your market. In fact try to be the exact opposite. Industry leaders are successful because they have already filled a market gap, trying to fill the same space means you will only ever achieve second best (which is certainly less profitable). Instead use your imagination and be different (wildly so, if you dare). Market leaders are born out of differentiation, not imitation.

A real life case in point, once upon a time Microsoft were the most financially successful company in the home computer market. They had a very ‘techy’ sounding name which was typical of the market at that time. Then along came a company with the motto ‘Think Different’ and a name to match, Apple.
Apple’s success has depended on a myriad of factors but their versatile and ‘unusual’ name has never let them down. It’s abstract nature has allowed it to adapt perfectly to a whole family of products and it sounds as fresh today as it did nearly 40 years ago. This is the power of a great brand name.

Branding mistake 3- Choosing a long name:

We’ve said it before, but simple branding is always better. We would define a long name not in the number of letters but the number of syllables as this is what counts when it comes to ‘word of mouth’ marketing. Ideally you should aim for a short, one word company name. Names that have more than four syllables are much harder to remember. Because of this, customers are likely to abbreviate long names- and trust us you want to avoid this at all costs. Why? Well let’s imagine you set up an engineering company called ‘North West Engineering’. Overtime your customers will no doubt know you as NWE, you may even decide to incorporate this into your logo rather than your full title. Despite the dull name you have built a reputation for delivering high quality products. Then along comes a rival, they see your success and decide to piggy back on it, they call themselves ‘North West Design’ or NWD for short, they even have a similar looking logo. This causes confusion among customers, NWD start to encroach on some of your business. You may even have to take costly legal action to protect yourself, at the very least you will have to work harder through marketing to differentiate your business which is also costly. This is an extreme example but you can easily avoid this trap by choosing a short snappy name which is guaranteed to serve you better than a long abbreviated one in the long run.

Branding mistake 4: Choosing a literal name:

While your brand name should be appropriate to the type of business your company specializes in (i.e you wouldn’t call a divorce law firm ‘happy days’) choosing a less obvious, more abstract name can actually set you apart from the competition.
The very best names are emotive, or have some ‘personality’ about them- ultimately we buy with or hearts not our heads. We often hear from new businesses that they want a name that “does what it says on the tin”. What should be pointed out here is that in 20 years time your metaphorical ‘tin’ might contain contain a completely different product altogether. What happens If you call yourself something very specific like the ‘Carphone Warehouse’ and 20 years later ‘Carphones’ become obsolete? Granted, this real life UK based company is very successful. However we would argue that it has achieved success in spite of it’s name and not because of it. Carphone Warehouse deals with very latest technology yet it’s own brand is looking increasingly dated. Only a very costly and well publicized rebrand could reposition it now.

To avoid this be imaginative when choosing your brand name, make sure you are appropriate but ‘abstract’ and you will avoid costly rebrands in the future. (Not convinced? Read this article about the power of ABSTRACT names)

Branding mistake number 5: A lack of imagination:

Although there are some companies out there who are successful despite their uninspiring they certainly have had to work harder to compensate and it doesn’t mean you should follow suit. Typically more formal businesses such as Accountancy, Insurance and Law firms opt for long traditional sounding names eg. ‘Parker, Benson, Barlow & Co.’ They will reason that they chose their name because it ‘sounds professional’ or so that ‘clients take them more seriously’- in truth, its because this is all they know.
Unfortunately they are missing a trick, if you want people to be excited about your company, you have to give them a reason. This again comes down to appealing to the heart and not the head. Companies with boring names blend in. They have to compensate with expensive advertising strategies in an attempt to stand out. Creative names naturally differentiate themselves- they don’t have to work quite so hard to be noticed.

An unusual case in point is a UK based Insurance comparison website that struck gold when it adapted it’s relatively boring name ‘Compare the Market’ to ‘Compare the Meerkat’. This seemingly very silly idea was actually a stroke of genius. By doing so they instantly injected their brand with personality- a cute and cuddly Meerkat to be precise. By appealing to their customers on an emotional level they made the whole business of buying insurance just a little less mind numbingly dull- What’s more they caught the publics imagination and their attention. Not only did sales sky rocket but they now earn a quarter of their income from the sale of Meerkat stuffed toys! Amazing but true, when choosing your brand name, be sure to give it some personality- We didn’t choose ‘Gorilla’ for nothing!

We hope we have given you something to think about when picking your brand name. If you follow theses simple tips you will certainly set your business on the right path- and maybe even save some money in the long term. If you’d like any more advice, or would like our team to help you with the naming process then simply get in touch here.

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