Types of Brand Names: The Anatomy of a Name

Aug 1, 2017 | Brand Naming

Unique Brand Names

What are they, and how to create one

Unique 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 Unique 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 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 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.

  • Twitter
  • Buffer
  • OpenTable

Suggestive names are the most popular category. These are often both functional and unique brand names. 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 that 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 correct word or phrase to represent your brand.

Family Names

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


  • IBM
  • 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


  • Flickr
  • Tumblr


  • Onesies
  • Spotify
  • Pampers


  • World of Woolcraft
  • Wok This Way
  • Tequila Mockingbird

Luxury Brand Names

Luxury brand names are a category in and of themselves. They can contain descriptive, suggestive, or empty vessel names. One of the main attributes is that they effectively communicate the quality, status, and luxury of the brand. According to the SO Boutique Design Agency, there are certain ‘must-have’ features for luxury brands. Once you have these concepts defined, finding the perfect name to showcase it all is easier.

The qualities needed are superb craftsmanship, a rich heritage, an element of scarcity, a strong brand identity, the use of public figures, and a superlative store experience. A brand name, for example, could work to convey heritage and culture or brand identity. Some examples of this are Coco Chanel, Cartier, Bulgari, Rolls Royce, and Tiffany. For more info on the history of these brands and how they got their names, visit this blog on luxury brand names and their origins.

Get Creative in Unique Brand Names

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.

Curious about our strategy and approach? Learn more about our Slingshot Strategy and more here.


We’re here and always happy to chat. Feel free to Contact Us with any questions, comments or ideas.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Get weekly email with ideas, stories, and best practices to grow a Sticky Brand!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Follow Us on Social Media!

Jeremy Miller

Top 30 Brand Guru

Download our Latest Guide


Our Slingshot Strategy is an expert-guided process designed to lead your business into a phase of growth.