Name Style: Constructions to Consider

There are many things to consider when selecting a brand name for your product or company. One of the most important is to determine the construction or style of your name. And while the industry has yet to agree on taxonomy, name styles can broadly be grouped as follows:

  • Descriptive
  • Suggestive
  • Metaphoric
  • Neologic
  • Arbitrary

Let’s take a brief look at each.

Descriptive

These kinds of names directly convey a brand’s chief benefit. Examples of descriptive marks include BestBuy, Google Maps, Sports Illustrated, and Salesforce.com. And while these kinds of names can and do work–Salesforce is a particularly strong example–be aware that from a trademark perspective, they can be hardest to protect, if indeed they are protectable at all.

Suggestive

Suggestive names are positioned between descriptive and metaphorical names. But unlike descriptive names, they generally create more emotional feeling and imagery. The airliner JetBlue and salad eateries Tossed and Chop’t are all suggestive mark that make the grade. Another suggestive mark of merit is Tiecoon, a shop specializing in–what else? — men’s neckwear.

Metaphorical

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. Dove, for example, is an excellent metaphorical name for personal care products as a dove evokes peace, calm, purity, and softness.

Kindle, a name inspired by the Old Norse word kyndill or candle, as well as the twigs and paper used to begin a fire, also ranks high as a metaphorical name. Medtronic’s Octopus, a mark developed for a vacuum cardiac stabilizer device with lots of arms attached, and Skylark, a luxury travel service, also knock it out-of-the-park when it comes to metaphorical naming. The branding agency Pearlfishers is another great example of metaphoric naming as it evokes going below the surface to find and bring to light pearls of meaning.

Neologic

While there is little chance that any present of future naming consultant will reach the stratospheric heights of Shakespeare, who reputedly created seventeen hundred neologisms–includes such wonders as eyeball, moonbeam, and besmirch–naming specialists develop coinages in similar fashion: joining or blending existing words or morphemes, adding suffixes and prefixes, and using nouns, verbs, and adjective in bold and unusual ways.

A superior lexical blend is the mellifluous Lunesta, a sleeping pill whose name comes from “luna” for moon, and the last two syllables of the word “siesta”. Another neologic name that works well is Verizon, a mark created through combining “ver” from Latin “verum” for truth and the final syllable of the word “horizon”.

Arbitrary

An arbitrary name has no real or apparent connection to the product, company, or brand. Basically they are real words (dictionary words) used out of context. Three powerful examples of arbitrary names are Apple (technology), Birchbox (subscription beauty service), and Penguin (book/media publisher). Arbitrary names often require deep storytelling to get their point across. For this reason, they can require greater marketing budget, but when they are successful they can be very sticky. Like neologic names, they can be a slight bit easier to trademark—though not always.

There are other types of names to consider as well, among them historical or founder name (John Deere), acronyms (UPS—United Parcel Service), alphanumeric (Candles79), and phrase names (StumbleUpon).

Of course nothing is hard and fast–there are names that blur the boundaries between categories and names that completely defy categorization. But whatever kind of construction you ultimately choose, think through your options carefully because the style of your name can greatly add to your brand’s personality and appeal.

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