Have you entered a room, called out “Jason” and had more than one person turned towards you? Have you ever wished your name is one of its kind and rightfully identifies you to others? Relating this to the business context, brands are also developing brand names that are not only catchy and memorable, but also ownable. Fivrr, Tumblr, Flickr, Uber, Lyft, UGG and GoJek are brand names that have either dropped a vowel, replaced an alphabet or are simply a mix-mesh of made-up words. Doing so not only increases the uniqueness of the brand, but also makes it easier to register as trademark.
When developing a new brand name, most evaluations focus on criteria like relevance to offerings, alignment with brand attributes, trademark availability, memorability, and linguistic suitability. However, an often overlooked aspect is the brand’s search-ability. In a world where approximately 5.4 billion Google searches occur daily, users actively seek brands for various purposes, from locating the nearest retail store to learning more about a brand they’ve heard of. Striking a balance between uniqueness and search-ability is crucial for a brand name.
Online searches have become the go-to method for obtaining quick answers, with “Google” even becoming a verb. Google indexes hundreds of billions of web pages, and users’ average search sessions last less than a minute. For brands with established names, the focus shifts to leveraging SEO to enhance search-ability. However, for those starting from scratch, it’s essential to consider how easily consumers can find your brand online.
With consumers increasingly favoring authentic brands, we see a trend of brand names using simple, easily recognizable words or expressions. Yet, using overly common expressions can diminish memorability and lead to confusion. Consider “The Good Chocolate” and “The Good Chocolate Company” – both describe their category. A Google search for “Good Chocolate” yields over 600 million results. Slight alterations to these common words can increase uniqueness, such as “Chocz.” However, it’s crucial to note that consumers may misspell these unique names, leading to irrelevant search results. Testing the brand name’s spelling with a voice assistant like Siri can help ensure search-ability.
Another trend is using people’s names, particularly in the beauty cosmetic category with celebrity-launched brands. When common first or last names are employed as brand names, the category is often added as a descriptor to ease search and differentiate from other offerings, e.g., Kardashian Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics.
2. Audio Search
“Hey, Google, where is the nearest Samsung customer service centre?”
With Siri, Google Alexa and all other smart home living devices, searches are increasingly being performed by these AI Assistants via voice commands. As of January 2018, there were about 1 billion voice searches per month and in 2021, approximately 50% of people are researching products via voice search. With voice searches, the very first step is to get the pronunciation of your brand name right. Imagine the frustration of users when these AI Assistants reply with more questions in hope of narrowing the search, or users simply giving up on searching for your brands when they cannot get the right pronunciation.
With 12.4 million trademark applications, it is becoming more difficult to have a brand name that is short, memorable, cool-sounding, unique and ownable. One common trick is the replacement of alphabet while still keeping the pronunciation of the word in the likes of brands like Lyft, Wii, Krispy Kreme and Froot Loops. However, having unusual spelling of common words runs the risk of users not being able to remember the actual spelling of your brand.
Brand naming strategy: Sound-Alike Misspelling
The human brain is a code-breaking machine. Wihle yuor barin can raed jubmled wrdos, it deos not maen taht we souhld gvie ohtres pulzezr to slvoe. Similar to jumbled alphabets, overdoing the dropping of too many vowels would make it hard to read. Flickr and Tumblr, both dropped an ‘e’ out of a 7-alphabet word, are still able to retain much of integrity of the original word. However, with brand name like “Mdrn”, dropping 2 vowels out of the 6-alphabet word makes it much harder for instant recognition.
Brand naming strategy: Missing Vowels
Brands using initials are another common type of brand names that might cause confusion over the pronunciation of the brand name, especially when it is a new brand in the market. Do you pronounce it as initials, in the case of A.C.E, or do you pronounce it like an acronym like ACE? Take the famous Australian fur boots brand, UGG, as example. Did you pronounce UGG as “U-G-G” or “ugh” when you first come to know of this brand? With a new brand, what you want to do is to make it easy for others to remember and build up associations in the intended direction; it is never a good idea to cause confusion over what it is being called.
Not all languages are created “equal”. With English being the “world language” with the largest number of speakers, alphabetical brand names are in better positions compared to those in other native languages like Mandarin and Thai language. While it could be easily understood by many, there might still exist small issues of pronunciation between different nationalities. For example, the French have a habit of rolling their “R” while Japanese have difficulties with their “R”. This makes brand names like “Always Rare” and “RightRice” difficult to pronounce for them. Businesses should plan ahead with foresight on future market expansion plan in mind and it helps to understand pronunciation difficulties of these countries to avoid having a brand name that consumers want to avoid pronouncing.
3. Social Media Search
In today’s digital era, besides considering domain name availability, social media profile availability is equally, if not more important. With social media, the brand’s identity extends beyond brand name to include hashtags. Unless your brand is already a renown aspirational brand that everyone wants to be associated with, brands need to have hashtags that are not a pure mention of the brand name. Leveraging on major campaign or brand values is a good way to create branded hashtags that netizens would use. CocaCola’s #ShareACoke, Lego’s #LEGOIdeas and Spotify’s #InstaSpotify are hashtags that incorporated the brand names into “engagement hashtags” that netizens will want to use in their posts.
Brand’s social media profile availability: Examples of Lego’s branded hashtags
Hashtags do not necessarily have to mention your brand name. Having #brandname is only good for people who already knew the brand. With increasing search-ability, a brand’s hashtags repertoire should include some generic terms that others will be using, but yet at the same time represent what the brand stands for, like Always’ #LikeAGirl. Take Singapore Tourism Board as an example, the two key official hashtags are #VisitSingapore and #PassionMadePossible instead of using “Singapore Tourism Board”. With a generic term made official, like #VisitSingapore, users are encouraged to share photos of their Singapore experiences.
Brand’s social media profile availability: Examples of Singapore Tourism Board’s hashtags.
Short and easy to remember rule still holds true for hashtags. Eye-catching emoji can also be used to keep the hashtag short, like #(emoji of pizza).
Brand’s social media profile availability: Extracts of users generated content with #shareacoke on social media
While it is known that a brand’s exposure can be improved by a whole gamut of brand activation and digital strategies upon roll-out, why not start with the brand name itself?
1. Make Your Official Pronunciation Known
VRBO started out as “Vacation Rentals by Owner” in 1995. With the research conducted by Labbrand, it revealed that the brand has already been pronounced as “ver-boh” by some of its users and it is also more catchy and memorable. Aligned with its business strategy to expand beyond owners to travelers, Vrbo underwent re-branding in March 2019, revealing a new visual identity, together with the official pronunciation of “ver-boh”. New series of advertisement and activation highlighted the way to pronounce Vrbo.
Brand’s social media profile availability: Social media posts on Vrbo’s rebranding
Brand’s social media profile availability: Social media posts on Vrbo’s rebranding
2. Overcome Language Barrier
When a key market of expansion does not have English as its native or official language, it is important to have a transliteration of the brand name in its native language. This makes it easier for consumers to remember the brand, and it also facilitates search in the language that they are comfortable with.
Labbrand developed 焙朗[bèi lǎng] as the Mandarin brand name for biscuit brand belVita to bring forth the brand attributes in a quick, succinct manner. While carrying a phonetic resemblance to its original Latin name, it also corresponds well to the unique AGR4 technique of slow baking and emotions of a cheerful start of the day.
Overcoming language barrier in brand naming: Labbrand developed 焙朗[bèi lǎng] as the Mandarin brand name for biscuit brand, belVita
3. Complement with Branded Hashtag
Twitter partners with brands to create custom emojis, called branded hashtags or “hashflags”, that pop up whenever someone uses a particular hashtag. With the custom emoji, it increases the brand’s Twitter presence by 420%.
Branded hashtag: #ShareaCoke
Labbrand worked with Maxi-Cosi on its digital strategy including communication guidelines across the various social media platforms. Other than communicating Maxi-Cosi’s scientific expertise and credibility, Maxi-Cosi is also about telling the stories of happy babies and parenting. With that, hashtags like #MaxiCosiMoments, #MaxiCosiTimes, #ParentLife, #NewParent and #TinyLove are some of the accompanying hashtags as the brand shares these parenting stories.
Branded hashtag: Extracts of Maxi-Cosi’s Instagram posts
If you have been playing hide-&-seek with your consumers unknowingly, maybe it is time for a switch to new game of engagement. Whether it is a new brand creation or an existing brand, it is never too late to engage users and deepen the understanding for your brand.
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