Understand the psychology behind effective brand names

by Ana Lopez

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

No less than 81% of consumers say yes must trust a brand before they consider becoming a customer.

It starts with a brand name that grabs attention for all the right reasons and encompasses everything a company has to offer. Enter the psychology of branding, a field that has been around since 1895 back then Harlow Gale used psychological theories and scientific methods to study advertising (as well as the art of persuasion).

There’s a lot that goes into building a brand, including choosing the perfect name. Effective brand naming requires an understanding of the psychology that determines people’s perceptions and preferences about that brand. As we’ve seen with brands like Amazon, Starbucks, and Nike, sometimes it really is all in the name.

When choosing a brand name, business owners and entrepreneurs should consider emotions, the story behind the name, and a few other factors.

The role of emotions in brand naming

Emotions play a major role in this consumer decision-making. People choose brands based on their emotions much more often than you may realize. Check out some of the biggest brands in the world. They have established a brand with a name that promotes trust, support and understanding.

One of the biggest success stories in branding comes from Amazon, initially called “Cadabra” (yes, as in abracadabra). In 1994, Jeff Bezos decided that books were a good item to sell online and saw the growing commercial potential of the modern Internet. In 1995, Amazon’s beta version was available for his friends and former colleagues to explore

Why the name change? Well, after some misunderstood the company name as “corpse,” Bezos decided something different was needed. Since it was about to boldly claim to be the “world’s largest bookstore,” Amazon seemed an apt name. This was also partly due to the fact that Bezos felt that this name would not pigeonhole the company into offering only one product or service.

In just two years, Bezos had more than $15.7 million in revenue. In 1997 the company went public and in 1999 Amazon sold CDs, toys, electronics and tools. Today, the company has so many different products and services that it lives up to the size of its namesake, South America’s Amazon River.

If you can create a brand name (and supporting brand) that evokes those kinds of emotions, you’re on the right track.

Related: How to build a brand story that buyers emotionally connect with

What’s your story?

Every good brand has a story, and a big part of that is in the naming of that brand. While people tend to make their own assumptions, the best brands are those that drive consumer impressions and perceptions to create the story they want you to hear.

People like stories. Therefore, individuals connect more easily with brands that have a compelling story and brand identity.

Of course, the story must be real and factual. Now is not the time to lie or make up fictional stories about where the company name comes from – remember it all starts with trust. You cannot have trust without honesty.

Communicate the reasoning behind the name and you can share your vision of what the brand represents with the world.

Related: You’re not just selling a product or service – you’re selling a story. Here are 3 steps to make sure it sells

The role of cultural associations in choosing a brand name

This is as much a warning as it is an important brand consideration. It is critical to avoid possible cultural associations, negative connotations or culturally insensitive terms when choosing a brand name.

We’ve seen plenty of examples come and go over the years, from sports teams to product names to mascots and much more.

  • Aunt Jemima

  • Eskimo pies

  • Cleveland Indians

  • Sambos

  • Washington Redskins

  • Uncle Ben’s (Logo)

  • Land O’Lakes (Logo)

The importance of simplicity and content

While you need a good story, it should also be clear. A brand name should not be too complicated. Keep it simple.

It is human nature to avoid names that are difficult to pronounce or spell. Incorporating a shorter name into a logo and the rest of a brand’s identity is also easier. Plus, you can say a lot more with less when you find the perfect name.

It has to be memorable for all the right reasons

Everyone will tell you that brand names should be memorable. People already have trouble remembering brand names. Studies have shown that humans are 81% more likely to remember the color(s) of your brand than your name.

Don’t pick a name that’s easy to remember because it’s been misspelled in an effort to be “creative.” Do not choose a name that has any kind of negative connotation. Choose a brand name that people remember for the right reasons.

Alignment with mission and values

In addition to the emotional connection people make with a brand name, it must also align with the brand’s mission and values. This will further evoke positive emotions and help people make decisions based on more than just a name.

A brand name is your only chance to make a memorable impression, so it should capture the essence of what you want the company to stand for. Since 64% of consumers being brand loyal based on shared values, this is an important message to get across.

Related: How to Choose a Strong Business Name and Strengthen Your Brand

Psychology is an important part of a company’s branding and naming. It is essential to understand the way people process information and form emotional bonds in order to create the perfect brand name, which is the foundation for building a successful brand overall.

Taking the time to get the name right can pay off in the long run. While there are many different people out there who suggest many different ways to choose a brand name, you can’t ignore the psychology behind it all.

When your brand name evokes emotion and creates that instant connection, you’ve managed to understand how to use the psychology of branding to your advantage.

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