There Is No Such Thing as a Bad Brand Name

Bad Brand Names

Every marketing and branding consultant has brand naming advice — especially when it comes to talking about “bad names.” They showcase examples of naming no-no’s and bad brands.

I get the naming no-no question a lot too. With the launch of my book, Brand New Name — a graphically designed branding book that shows you how to name or rename anything — I have done a lot of interviews. On at least a third of them, the interviewer asks me for an example of a bad name.

I don’t think they exist! I tell them, “There is no such thing as bad names, just bad strategies.”

This always triggers a puzzled look, and some even share an example. I’ve heard some pretty funny brand names like Morning Wood Design Furniture or Pee Cola. They’re real brands, but I still don’t think they’re bad names.

Pee Cola, for instance, is a popular soft drink in Ghana. Supposedly that translates to “very good cola.”

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In Ghana the name works; in North America it does not. So the product isn’t marketed in Canada or the United States — for obvious reasons.

But let’s go back to the thesis of this article: there are no bad names, just bad strategies.

Take a name like “Purple Taco.” This could be a great name for a food truck, but you definitely wouldn’t choose it for an old folks home. That would be a bad strategy!

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(An important step when selecting a name is to check Urban Dictionary. You never want to choose a name with an unfortunate connotation. When I interviewed on Humble & Fred Radio, I used the Purple Taco example. Howard showed me Purple Taco has a lot more meaning than I originally bargained for.)

That said, the name isn’t bad, but it won’t fit all brands. And that’s the key. Your strategy will dictate if a name is a fit for your brand.

Brand names are strategic. By choosing a brand name, you are choosing the story you want to share.

That’s why the very first step in the Brand New Name process is to develop a naming strategy. You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, and you shouldn’t name a brand without a plan.

A clear and effective naming strategy may be the most important step in the naming process, because you are defining the criteria for success:

  • What are you naming and how should the name perform?
  • How will the name stand out in the competitive landscape?
  • Who is the target audience and what do they expect?

Defining what you are naming and how the name should work sets the stage for making good decisions.

So when you see an unfortunate name, chances are the company didn’t have a naming strategy. Don’t blame the name for sucking. Blame the company for allowing itself to make such a poor strategic choice.

Choosing a brand name is one of the most important business decisions you will make. A brilliant name defines your brand, and it can shape the future of your business. So take the time to get it right.

If you’re looking for how to name your brand, pickup a copy of Brand New Name. It’s a proven, step-by-step process to create an unforgettable name. You can download a sample chapter to see what it’s all about.

And if you have questions or want help naming your company, product, service — or really anything — let’s chat!