For many entrepreneurs, venture capital is like oxygen. They need it to kick start and sustain their business during those early days. Many are keen to seek tips on how to pitch, attract more dollars and be noticed by the right investor.
Yet entrepreneurs invest little effort in sourcing the one venture capital they own – the name of their business. They often pick the first name that catches their fancy. Or names that sound cool, are different or meaningful only to them.
The brand can be the most valuable asset any business can possess. What’s more, it appreciates in value as your business grows. Remember, it is the only asset that stays with you from day one until you decide to sell off or cease the business.
Having said that, I must admit naming is a tricky business. The possibilities are many. You can use any number of approaches – proper names, descriptive names (what your product or service does), coined names, metaphorical names, trendy names, playful names, and so on. Each approach can generate scores of options. However, the choices are usually limited: the business name may have already been taken, a related domain name may not be available, and the name itself could be disliked by those who matter and don’t matter (after all, everyone has an opinion about a brand) or it may have an undesirable meaning in another language or culture.
It is important to distinguish between a brand and a name. In my view, a brand is not a function of marketing but the very foundation of a business. I believe brand strategy is business strategy. Brand perception is all based on how the business behaves. And, brand value is what accrues to the consumer and the business. A brand is thus more than a name, logo, tagline, or color scheme. Even so, a brand name must be able to leverage the full potential of a business.
Many consider branding (i.e. naming) as a creative task, not a strategic exercise. Strategy is seen as a clinical, almost boring discipline involving research and analysis while creativity is something that is exciting and glamorous. Yet strategy that is not creative cannot differentiate and will fail to create a competitive advantage. Similarly, creativity that is not strategic cannot deliver lasting business results.
How do you find a name that is both creative and strategic and why is that important?
Increasingly, I notice that brand names are becoming more and more bizarre – trying to be different but not necessarily differentiated. This is because it is no longer possible to find a name that is readily available. If you are a large corporation with significant resources, you have the dollars to establish a new brand name even if that doesn’t mean anything.
But if you are an entrepreneur, it is important that your brand name stands for something, or else you end up working harder and longer without ever building much equity. There is another reason why a brand name should convey meaning. Every time a customer, an employee, a supplier, a business partner or the community connects with your brand, it presents an opportunity to rediscover what you stand for, your core brand property or your value proposition.
Let’s take nudie for example. It is a clever brand name not just because it has some shock value, or was something unique in its category when it was first launched. All this, but more importantly, nudie represented a ‘natural state’ with no artificial trappings. It communicated the core property of the brand – 100% juice, no preservatives, no colourings, no added sugar, not from concentrate, a simple thirst quencher. Nudie thus became a metaphor for natural. Apple is also a metaphorical name but I forbid myself to indulge in any brand overkill.
iSelect on the other hand is a descriptive brand name which does the job of conveying several things all at once. It says that brand offers choice, it reinforces the power of the consumer (I select not you) and it suggests insurance in a subtle way. Thankfully, it is not another of those “i-hyped” new products. By being strategic and creative, a brand can imbue meaning and be different at the same time.
On the other hand, choosi uses the same principles although not as well — and importantly is unable to differentiate operating in a similar space.
I once did some qual research on the use of cycleways in Western Sydney. An important insight was the fact that cyclists and walkers are strange bedfellows. Neither likes the other to share their territory while recognising the inevitability of it. It was important to signal the fact that the pathway belonged to both pedestrians and cyclists and was intended to be a shared space. However, the cycleway brand didn’t help much. I suggested that they rebrand the paths as pedways as short for pedestrian way and pedal way tied to an emotive message about sharing the facility. I am yet to see that happen but I hope you can see how a little bit of extra thought can make any brand meaningful.
I could cite scores of other (more high profile) examples from my strategy consulting work or my creative naming business that use opposites, compound words, metaphors, playful words ….but all I want to leave you with is the thought that your brand name is your hidden venture capital. Invest some serious time in it before you launch your next business, product, service or feature.
Fingerprint reveals currency photo from Shutterstock.
Mahesh Enjeti is the Managing Director of SAI Marketing Counsel, a unique strategy practice that takes a business led approach to marketing and innovation. He also owns Naming Right Solutions, a boutique naming agency. During a 37-year journey in the discipline, Mahesh has built path breaking brands in diverse sectors – services, technology and consumer products. He has an honours degree in Physics, an MBA with marketing and finance as majors and is a Certified Practising Marketer. He has won several national and international awards for excellence in Marketing and continues to be involved in writing, speaking, and mentoring.