gemma fowler creative director brick
Gemma Fowler
July 4, 2024
Hi, we're BRICK. A creative partner to UK startups, scaleups and innovators. We create brands and take new products to market.

What’s in a (brand) name?

Working with start-up brands means I do a lot of naming. And with around 90 companies being launched in the UK every hour, it’s harder and harder to stand out in the crowd. Of course, a brand is so much more than what you call it (more on that later). But what does the right name actually mean for your brand? The quick answer is: everything and nothing. 

Why everything and nothing?

Names are emotional things, especially to Founders who have put their blood, sweat and tears into their new business. Founders see their product in their sleep and have a deep emotional (and financial) investment with the hows, whys and wheres… It means so much. And so it should, but…

Consumers have none of this baggage, and they don’t want it either: thank you very much. 

Consumers will judge your brand instantly, not by what it says but by how it makes them feel

This is what I mean by everything and nothing. 

We tend to presume that big brand names harbour some deeper meaning, but the opposite is true in most cases. Look at Kodak (wanted something memorable, liked the letter K), IKEA (a snappy amalgamation of Founder Ingvar Kamprads initials, the farm on which he grew up, and the nearby village), and Etsy (inspired by an Italian movie where the protagonist kept exclaiming ‘Eh, Si!’).

There’s no hidden meaning, no logic (that the consumer cares about anyway), but we have made these brand names part of our lives without question because they feel right, and they have taken on their meaning over time. Which is the important part. 

The name you choose for your brand will ultimately adopt the meaning you give it, helped by a great logo, clever placement, a banging tone of voice, and, importantly, the ethos of the team and product that it represents (aka, you). 

Of course, meaning doesn’t have to be completely lost - for every Kodak, there is a Nike (named after the Greek goddess of victory) - but meaning isn’t necessary for your name to be a success.

There’s no such thing as ‘the perfect name’.

There are lots of reasons a name could be wrong. There are some rivals you cannot compete with (no one is calling their new startup ‘Apple’), a word might have bad social or cultural connotations, or be hard to say or spell. These become clear very quickly in the process as we do our due diligence checks - researching competitors, Companies House, trademarks, search difficulty, etc.  All relevant and all important for telling you a name is wrong, but not reason enough on their own that a name is right.

You can easily overengineer a name with logic. My Dad once drove a ‘Picnic’, a car named so because it was big and designed for family days out. Makes sense. My Dad liked the car, but the name was so terrible that he ended up changing it for one called a ‘Previa’—which meant ABSOLUTELY NOTHING (in fact, it means vase in Latin), but it just felt right. It felt like a car brand (in the nineties).

And look at us. We are called Brick. Which is a mad name for a marketing agency. Of course, we can justify it (that’s our job). We can say Brick ‘represents something solid and foundational, understated and uncomplicated, but whose purpose is to create something beautiful and remarkable, with endless scale and possibility.’ But truthfully, we just liked it. Right from the start. It felt right. It felt like us. 

Go with your gut

It’s that gut reaction that's so important before logic starts elbowing in, causing you and your team to umm and ahh and overcomplicate things. Which almost always leads to a fatal case of decision paralysis. 

A name can’t possibly tell your whole story, so don’t put pressure on it. It just has to sound good, look great on your product, give the right kind of people the right kind of feels, and make you proud.

Which comes back to the only question you must ask yourself: Does it feel right? 

(Which, when we break it down, also means: Does it feel like the right sector? Will it appeal to our audience? Is it memorable? And my personal favourite, are you happy to tell people that is where you work? Do you want to put it on a t-shirt and wear it?)

Does it make you proud?

Get the feel right, the rest will follow… Promise. 

Gemma x

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