Brand naming for the global market
- Chris W. Hubbard
- Communications Strategist
Of all the Chinese superstitions - naming, whether applied to a person or a product, is extremely important; it is often considered to be closely related to fate. When companies in Taiwan and China decide to take their brand global, they look for optimal ways to introduce international consumers to their brand. A brand introduction often starts with a name, which means that many of these companies will need to adapt their brand names. Should they follow the same cultural rules when they go abroad? DDG Communication Strategist, Chris W. Hubbard shares his views on brand naming for the global market.
1. Why have clients approached DDG for naming help?
Taiwanese and Chinese consumers are much more brand savvy than they were in the past, while brands here—in Taiwan—are still struggling to catch up and remain competitive. They’re going through the painful process of realizing it’s no longer good enough to slap any old English word on their products or services and call it good. DDG is one of the only brand agencies in this region with a unique and strategic approach to naming.
2. Many companies choose to abbreviate (e.g. TSMC) or use a literal pinyin translation (e.g. Huawei) as their primary approach to naming. What do you think about that?
Acronym and pinyin names have always been popular corporate naming solutions because they are easy to do. But I wouldn’t say they result in “good” names because, for the most part, people don’t understand what they mean.
Older companies feel stuck with what they’ve got and are apprehensive to make changes, but for newer companies, I would say there are better options.
3. What are some other approaches to naming? Could you share an example of a brand name you created?
One thing very few companies understand is that different types of names exist and that each type of name has its own pros and cons. Many businesses, especially new ones, jump into naming without giving it much thought. They are unaware that creating a powerful brand name is about more than just having good ideas.
When we did product naming for Cooler Master—a tech hardware company that targets gamers and makers—they were shocked when we presented a seemingly boring set of descriptive names, like MasterCase and MasterKeys. They were expecting “exciting” names like Cosmos and Storm—experiential names that mimic most other gaming product names.
But we had discovered that some of Cooler Master’s biggest fans felt those names meant nothing to them. They said the names were often confusing and too similar to what other brands were using—making it difficult to distinguish one brand from another. What did mean a lot to them was the Cooler Master brand name—they would specifically look for it when choosing products.
This insight led us to take the most powerful part of that name—Master—which we applied across their entire product line. This resulted in the names MasterCase and MasterAir—highlighting the brand while identifying specific products.
While the client was initially apprehensive to take such an uncommon approach, the naming system has since been praised by for its simplicity and strong branding.
4. What are some considerations to take into account with brand naming?
When naming, one of the most important things for a brand to consider is their competitive name-scape (the names and types of names used by their competitors).
This is a form of competitor benchmarking for brand names.
Creating a name-scape can be a powerful tool to help brands identify naming trends in their industry as well as locating opportunities for differentiation when creating names. If you don’t know what’s already out there then it’s hard to differentiate.
5. What is a “good” name?
There’s no easy answer to that. There are a few ways to evaluate name quality, but one thing I like to ask is whether a name is suggestive or meaningful.
If your name has no meaning and doesn’t suggest anything about your product or service, you likely have a name that is doing very little for your brand and needs to be changed.
Compare the names “Borders bookstore” and “Amazon books.” Amazon is a highly suggestive and meaningful name for a bookstore, and it’s easy to understand how the name has helped boost their brand perception with customers. It’s not that “Borders” is a bad name, but Amazon is clearly better.
6. What do you think is in the future of brand naming?
As the value of a good name rises and more competitors enter the market, good names will become harder to find and more expensive to own.
The biggest challenge in naming today is simply the dwindling number of options and the difficulty in mining new ones. Look at website domain name registrations. In the year 2000, there were about 90 million registered domain names. By 2017 that number was 330 million and growing. Now, everyone is on the hunt for a good name, which is causing the cost of owning one to skyrocket.
Brands with better names are generally more successful, so we will continue to see brands investing more time and money in brand naming, as well as seeking out those who have experience in brand naming.