Types of Brand Names: The Anatomy of a Name

Types of Brand Names

Brand names are like poetry. In a word or two you are capturing the essence of a company, product, or service. It’s a simple phrase that contains so much meaning.

Naming is far from simple. It’s one of the most creative practices in marketing, because the palette is so large. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to construct words for your brand.

In this post I dissect the types of brand names and examine them from two perspectives: categories and construction.

Three Categories of Brand Names

Brand names fall into three fundamental categories: descriptive, suggestive, and empty vessel. The three categories are like archetypes. They guide you, and help you determine the kind of story you want to tell.

Descriptive

Descriptive names describe what is the product or service.

  • Whole Foods
  • Toys “R” Us
  • Shredded Wheat

Descriptive brand names are functional, and clearly position the brand. There’s no ambiguity in Shredded Wheat.

Suggestive

Suggestive brand names indicate what a product or service delivers. They can function as a metaphor, analogy, or an association. Twitter, for instance, is a communication platform that’s like a flock of birds tweeting at each other.

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  • Twitter
  • Buffer
  • OpenTable

Suggestive names are the most popular category of brand names, because they are unique and functional. They’re a creative way to position your brand by building upon an idea your customers already understand.

Empty Vessel

Empty vessel brand names have no connection to the product or service. They may be unrelated words like Apple or Caterpillar, or invented words like Verizon and Kodak. The name is unencumbered and the word becomes the brand.

  • Acura
  • Starbucks
  • Zappos

An empty vessel is infinitely flexible. It can mean anything. The challenge is it takes more time and marketing resources to infuse the name with meaning. Educating your customers on what the brand is or what it delivers has to become part of the ethos of the company.

The Construction of Brand Names

Within the three categories of brand names there are dozens of types of names that you can use to select the right word or phrase to represent your brand.

Family Names

  • H. J. Heinz Company
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Colgate

Acronyms

  • IBM
  • GEICO
  • KFC

Historical or Made-up Figures

  • Tesla Motors
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Sid Lee

Mythical Names

  • Nike
  • Pandora
  • Hermès

Real Words

  • Apple
  • Caterpillar
  • Staples

Compound Words

  • Facebook
  • Snapchat
  • BlackBerry

Constructed Words

  • Instagram
  • Microsoft
  • Aeroplan

Truncated Words

  • FedEx
  • MetLife
  • Cisco

Invented Words – Greek or Latin Roots

  • Accenture
  • Dasani
  • Viagra

Invented Words – Phonetic

  • Kodak
  • Acura
  • Clorox

Misspelled

  • Flickr
  • Tumblr
  • UNKNWN

Suffix

  • Onesies
  • Spotify
  • Pampers

Puns

  • World of Woolcraft
  • Wok This Way
  • Tequila Mockingbird

Get Creative in Brand Naming

Understanding the various types of brand names creates opportunities. It’s like giving an artist more colors to paint with.

Brand naming rewards creativity. In the name generation phase explore as many categories and types of names for your brand as possible. The objective should always be to leave no stone unturned.

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