The Radiant Power of Brand Naming
Associate Creative Director
As a critical part of the brand identity system, a brand name interacts with brand strategy, visual identity, messaging communication, and other elements to create a unique and unified brand experience for people. Standing from the branding perspective, naming can always bring fresh ideas and new angles, which can be expanded to different facets of branding. In this article, we will look into several case studies where brands used naming to empower their brand building.
1. NEW ANGLES FOR BRAND CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT
Language is the mirror of culture. The rich connotations of names carry stories and possibilities, which can provide inspiration for brand concept development.
At the beginning of 2015, Fairmont and Golden Land Group planned to create a 4-star hotel brand targeting the upper-middle class in China. Considering the time pressure brought on by trademark registration and the planned hotel launch, the clients wanted to start from naming and then move on to precise brand positioning and visual identity design. This creates a big challenge for the verbal team: how to develop the name, how to evaluate the name without a brand positioning, without a functional and emotional benefit description, and even without knowing how the hotel will look.
NEQTA stood out from the 20 name proposals. It derives from the English word "nectar", the honey beverage for the gods in Greek and Roman mythologies; the twist of the letter Q conveys succinctness and intelligence. More importantly, it is the extendibility of the word towards a unique brand platform that makes NEQTA an irreplaceable name.
For brand concept development, NEQTA can be expressed with reference to the word “hive”, delivering warmth, passion and connectivity, and emphasizing the concept of community.
For extension of the brand concept development into the visual identity, honey can be expressed by the golden arc of the “Q”, and the hive can be designed into a hexagon pattern across touchpoints which feels modern, stylish and concise. For extension to the hospitality brand’s value proposition, there could be a bee’s spirit, standing for the passionate, considerate and energetic service.
NEQTA found its brand concept root through naming. By unifying the message across different touch points, the brand manages to leave strong impression in consumers’ minds.
NEQTA 诺阁雅 — 诺 [nuò]: Promise; 格 [gé]: Style; 雅 [yă]: Elegant
As more and more international brands enter China, “localization” becomes an important topic: based on the global positioning, how can a brand find a breakthrough point by adapting to the local context of culture and competition? Besides market research and analysis, an excellent Chinese name can also identify a cultural opportunity for the brand’s localization strategy.
In 2012, Labbrand was commissioned to develop the Chinese name for LinkedIn. At this point the brand hadn’t yet determined its local positioning, which became a crucial topic for LinkedIn — especially facing intensive competition from the China market.
In the qualitative and quantitative tests, the Chinese name 领英 received dominant acknowledgement and preference from Chinese consumers. The meaning of 领英 is "leading elite" — very different from the brand's global positioning "connect everyone". This provided precious market insights and sparked ideation for the LinkedIn brand team: in the chaotic category context crowded by small recruiting websites and grass-roots social platforms, Chinese professionals sought a platform with international vision and authority.
The name 领英 and the insights it brought to the fore laid a solid cultural foundation for LinkedIn to further develop its positioning for the Chinese market.
Linkedin 领英 — 领 [lǐng]: To lead; 英 [yĪng]: Elites
2. PERSONALITY AND BRAND VOICE DEVELOPMENT
For new customers, naming is the first touchpoint where they get to know the brand; hence the feeling and meaning of a name can be seen as representative of the brand’s personality.
氧气(O2) is an e-commerce platform that focuses on lingerie introductions and recommendations, helping people discover the most stylish and sexy lingerie from all over the world. All the recommendations come from real consumers who have experienced the products.
The copy on 氧气 (O2)’s website is commonly acknowledged as both beautiful and representative. The brand voice is deeply rooted in girls’ daily moments, with a style that is exquisite, playful and artistic. Even the seductive content can be tinted with a fresh touch of indie.
This kind of atmosphere in brand messaging copy is also in line with the style established by the brand name 氧气, which means "oxygen": fresh, light and joyful, bringing new air and perspective to the lingerie industry.
Different from the other cosmetic brands like Bobbi Brown 芭比波朗, M.A.C 魅可, and Max Factor 蜜丝佛陀, Benefit 贝玲妃 experiments with an approach that delivers a stronger orientation to Chinese culture. The character 玲 sounds like a girl from the neighborhood, and by combining it with the character 妃, which stands for the perfect make-up, the whole name conveys a vintage style.
The name is extrapolated to resonate with Benefit’s brand voice: “眉法眉天” (all about brows), “眉飞色舞” (dancing with brows), “改眉换面” (change your brows and face) — the adept use of 眉 (brow) in idioms, puns, and more is very frank and humorous to Chinese consumers.
In terms of product naming, the brand offers “蒲公英羞羞脸光影液” (Dandelion Shy Face Shine Liquid) and “无色不作眉膏” (All Color Brow Gel). Each name maintains the delicate personified approach, describing a lively picture of girls feeling bold, fun and lovely. The brand’s personality is expressed through its names.
* Benefit uses puns and pop phrases in its copywriting and product names. The translations above are rough translations.
Left: 氧气 [yăng] [qì]: Oxygen; Right: Benefit 贝玲妃 — 贝 [bèi]: Baby, precious shells; 玲 [líng]: Delicate, agile; 妃 [fēi]: Concubine, goddess
3. INSPIRATION FOR CREATIVITY IN VISUAL DESIGN
An excellent brand identity system needs to build differentiating points and make sure they are consistently conveyed across all touchpoints. Logo, graphics and brand name are among the first batch of touchpoints communicated to consumers, and can build a strong and memorable brand identity by sharing a unified brand element. This is one way brands leave an impression in consumers’ minds.
The orange fox is always mentioned when talking about the Firefox brand. By expressing the fiery fox in both brand name and visual language, the brand can make a connection in a competitive market.
In terms of the color system, the dominant orange stands out from the blue background and adds a visual element to amplify the verbal identity. The fox graphic is malleable, allowing verbal and visual to always be paired together. By owning a consistent and adaptable indicator, the brand delivers an image of passion and liveliness to consumers.
Firefox 火狐 — 火 [huǒ]: Fire; 狐 [hú]: Fox
As mentioned above, Benefit chose a special Chinese name 贝玲妃 that is playful and full of vintage. Correspondingly, Benefit’s visual language works the same way. The audacious usage of pop stripe and collage art narrates the nostalgic aesthetics from the 1970s – 1980s.
Models with the “girl next door” look appear comical with strong personalities, expressing Benefit’s brand spirit: no matter good girls or bad girls, being pretty is the first thing. Be myself, be sure I’m shining.
CONCLUSION: A GREAT RESOURCE FOR BRAND BUILDING EXPLORATION
Besides brand story & strategy, copy style & brand voice, and visual identity, naming can be radiated to other fields such as digital strategy, sound identity, olfactive identity, and more. A name carves out space in consumers’ perceptual maps, and owning that idea across brand building dimensions is what makes a brand successful.
Stay tuned for more possibilities on brand naming.