Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Brain Burning Brand Names Boost Business

A while ago, I wrote a blog post on the power of names. I won't repeat it here, except for the fact that, while branding may not be a priority for you, choosing a name for your business or product (even your domain name) is often the single, most important business decision you will ever make.

In this blog post I submit five characteristics of great brand names, which I call the five "S's." They are characteristics I encourage you to follow when coming up with a solid, long-lasting, and highly profitable name.

For starters, let me point out that the best names are names that are short, easy to pronounce, and easy to remember. They have considerable mnemonic value, which often translates into financial value.

A mnemonic is a device - such as a word, symbol, or sound - intended to assist in recall. If a name carries some mnemonic value, it will improve traffic, sales, and value to your business on its own. The more mnemonic a name is, the more valuable it is.

There are various reasons for this.

First, due to the growing overload of information on the web, people no longer have the time to search the Internet let alone pages upon pages of search engine results in order to find exactly what they want.

Sure, search engines will always have a place.

But more and more people would love to skip irrelevant search engine results. Many will in fact attempt to reach websites directly by guessing and typing plausible domains into their browsers.

(How often have you done this? I do all the time.)

Either that or, when do they use the search engines, they will search for specific names, especially those they remember or deduce, first - and do so before they try to search for something too generic or general, which might force them to wade through pages of search engine results to no avail.

Think about it. How easier would it be if they knew of a name beforehand and typed it into a search engine? How much more relevant would search engine results be?

You guessed it, a lot more.

Take, for instance, search engine trends, even trends that appear on the front page of social networking sites. When a current news item, hot topic, major event, or popular controversy crops up, the Internet becomes inundated with people looking those terms up. Search trends often include brand names, too.

Your objective, therefore, is to choose not only a good brand name but also one that burns itself into the mind of the marketplace. The brains of the people in your market. That's the power of being "hooked on mnemonics.

Nevertheless, while the availability of good brand names is shrinking, here are five basic guidelines to follow. Try to follow these as much as you can. I call them the "5 S's of Naming" (and yes, using the letter "S" is a mnemonic), which are:

1. Suggestiveness
2. Spelling
3. Size
4. Singsong
5. Scalability

1. Suggestiveness

First, choose a suggestive name, one that communicates the main benefit if not at least the nature of the product, business, or website. Benefit-based names have a multitude of advantages beyond ease-of-recall, including credibility.

Studies show suggestive names that instantly communicate what the product or business is all about, what's their purpose or benefit, in one fell swoop, can rapidly improve desirability, believability, sales, and of course, brand equity.

Look at some of the strongest brand names out there. You will notice that most of them tend to have a name in which the main purpose or benefit is suggested.

For example, "Jiffy Lube" means a fast oil change. "Band-Aid" means a bandage that comes to your aid. "Duracell" means a battery cell that's durable and longlasting.

Benefit-based suggestiveness applies particularly well to domain names. Why? Because if a brand name is already taken, you can resort to its core benefit or purpose instead.

For example, if you sought a financial planner and were given a bunch of URLs, would you choose (which is an actual name, by the way)? Or

2. Spelling

Second, make it easy to pronounce and hard to misspell. If you must spell it, then scrap it. The moment you're forced to spell your business, product, or domain name when asking people to look you up, you've lost them already.

Think of the people trying to find your business, your product, or your website - whether they use a search engine or not. Make it easy for them to do so and avoid anything that impedes the proper spelling of the brand name.

For instance, avoid numbers, hard-to-pronounce words, or acronyms. Unless you are IBM, AOL, CNN, BMW, or some other, already well-known brand, avoid acronyms or initials at all costs - they are probably the worst of the bunch.

In short, make the name intuitive. I'm not just talking about unique names, either. Avoid generic words that are easily or commonly misspelled, which may impede traffic.

For example, if you have a wedding planner site, would you call your business "Marriages Made Easy"? Or "Weddings Well Done"? The two are good, but "marriage" can often be misspelled with one "R" instead of two.

(If you already have one and it's too late, hopefully it's not too late to register the misspelled domain to capture additional traffic - lest they go to a competitor, much less a site that might be less favorable, like some ├Ądult site.)

On the other hand, if an acronym makes a name easy to pronounce, easy to remember, and shorter, then go for it. In fact, this is the third guideline.

3. Size

The shorter it is, the better it will be. For example, which one would you remember the most and have the least amount of trouble (or potential for error) in typing into your browser: Or

Long names can be counterproductive as it diminishes its mnemonic value. "Federal Express" is now FedEx. "FedEx" means a courier that express-ships your packages, federally. But since they now ship internationally, FedEx makes better sense.

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