Top tips on how to name a new brand or rename an existing company
Names are important. They can define us. It is the same with companies – a brand name is often our first point of contact. The word, or combination of words, the typeface and design can form a powerful first impression. Spinach is an independent creative agency specialising in branding and design. From the London studio, the specialist team create new brands and work with existing companies from around the world to enhance their identities. This can sometimes involve a name change. We asked Spinach copywriter Owain Thomas to guide us through the process.
Spinach Journal: Can a name change help enhance an existing brand?
Owain Thomas: Changing the name of an existing business is a huge undertaking. It needs to be done for the right reasons. If they are established, with a reputation and a certain amount of brand recall among consumers, then the name is extremely valuable to a brand. So, changing it for the sake of it is risky. However, if there is a strong case for a name change – a merger, acquisition or change in the core business as was the case with two of our clients Enotria&Coe and Unilode – then it can be an incredibly powerful move. It can lead to renewed energy, positivity and purpose across the business.
SJ: How does Spinach prepare for the process of naming a company?
OT: Before we do anything, we conduct research around names and naming conventions in the given industry. Our objective is to firstly familiarise ourselves with the terminology, messaging and tone used by other brands in the same space. Then we find out if there is room to create something unique.
SJ: What is your role as a copywriter?
OT: The copywriter is involved with every step of the process, assessing the words that come up in the workshops and internally, then seeing how they fit with the brand and within the wider world. As a writer, I have a natural love for linguistics which, in my case, also extends to foreign languages. Even if the client doesn’t have an aspiration for their business to go global, the internet makes it so by default. It is also simply respectful to other cultures to ensure the word isn’t rude in other languages.
SJ: What happens next?
OT: We try not to go too far before involving the client. They are, after all, experts on their business and their experience, the information they give us, is a vital foundation for any new brand name. In my experience, our client needs to be part of the process from as near to the start as possible. Otherwise, they are likely to have little connection with the names we present.
SJ: You then conduct workshops with the client, which can be hugely engaging. How does the process typically work?
OT: Following the initial research, we conduct a naming workshop with the client’s key stakeholders to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the potential name. We explore likes and dislikes, subjective thought, and mood-board different styles and types of names. Typically, most will have strong personal and professional opinions – so it is good to get these aired as soon as possible. We then spend time discussing the brand, their vision and aspirations. We work on their brand values, find out what they mean to the team. We discover the personality of the brand.
SJ: Once you have completed the discovery stage and undertaken the brand-naming workshop, what happens next?
OT: We summarise the main findings into a name positioning platform document. This confirms brand positioning, naming styles, approaches and industry clichés to avoid. It also includes the style of name that would best reflect the brand values, personality and positioning. Then, having created, confirmed and signed off the positioning document, we set about developing the new name.
SJ: It feels like meticulously well-considered process. Have you had some challenging scenarios?
OT: Recently we created a new name for an aviation solutions business which had been purchased by a specialist private equity firm from a much larger global logistics business. A long story short, we needed to create an entirely new and unique name in only 100 days for a global brand, one that everyone would love, understand, and get behind. It had to be a unique name and crucially, not registered.
SJ: How did you tackle the obstacles?
OT: The aviation industry is full of similar-sounding names – jet, air, cargo – with the global logistics industry using up almost every Latin word with even a loose connection to travel, carriage, flight, trust, speed. So, we had to think of something completely new. We brainstormed a long list of names to meet our criteria, based on: appearance (how does the name look and read?), recall (how easy is it to look at the name and remember it?), pronounceability (how will it be understood globally?), as well as factors specific to the client’s brief. We shortlisted six names, interrogated each internally at Spinach and then with the client. There was only one clear winner: Unilode.
SJ: Can you explain this unusual, hugely catchy, yet universal name?
OT: Unilode is constructed from the first letters of ‘unit load device’, the key piece of aviation equipment around which the client’s business revolves. The name is so unique to them and their business. Crucially, it is easy to pronounce globally.
SJ: Which companies in recent years have been the most exciting to rename?
OT: Unilode was the most challenging and rewarding naming project. The company is a global leader in their sector, and the name-change certainly played a big part in setting this course. It gave the brand confidence. We helped create a name that marks Unilode as being positively different, a global business with progressive values.
SJ: So, a name change can impact positively on the brand.
OT: The Unilode project shows that changing an existing brand name can help a company undergoing transformational change emerge stronger and more focussed. Much credit has to be given to the Unilode team, as they really got involved with the process. Yet, the real hero of the story is the name, because it has since taken on a life of its own. It fits the business, it fits the industry, and it fit the brief to be international, unique and meaningful.
Read about the Unilode naming project here