• Brand Strategy
  • Naming

A Curious guide to naming

12.09.2023

  • Brand Strategy
  • Naming

We love a naming project. It takes a unique type of creativity to come up with a good one. Everyone in the Curious team has their own go-to process (some are closely guarded secrets).

What Romeo got wrong

You might think naming is easy or unimportant – and you wouldn’t be alone. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare ponders: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

Technically, he’s correct. But he’s simplifying. He hasn’t acknowledged the subconscious perceptions that names stir in customers’ minds. If roses were called average red weeds, we predicted a lot fewer of them would be sold – no matter how sweet they smelt.

A smart seller of average red weeds would probably recognise they needed to change something to make their flower shop a success.

When is a new name necessary?

Naming briefs come in all shapes and sizes: from new businesses, mergers, and new product ranges to good, old-fashioned rebrands (more on that here) we’ve worked on them all.

A key part of a brand, a strong name can solve a problem. It’s an anchoring point that gives context to the rest of the brand. It’s part of a good brand strategy – and an introduction to your business.

You could have the best product out there, but if it has a name that isn’t easy to pronounce or jars with the sentiment of what you’re offering, it can be a big blocker to business.

Aeria Apartments: A business change means a name change

When serviced apartment brand Q Apartments first came to us, they were in a period of transition: evolving and simplifying their offering. Creating a holding company, QIG, to sit above their other brands allowed Q Apartments to carve out its own place in the service apartment sector.

Their industry is crowded. So, it was imperative that their name could act as a clear differentiator in the cluttered space they operate in. What made Q Apartments unique was they really understood what it was like to be somewhere. To feel comfortable. To know what’s what. That’s what our name needed to convey.

For Q Apartments, the (award-winning) name was Aeria. It’s warm and inviting, has a tangible link to their business and, most importantly, connects to our brand idea: Join the neighbourhood.

Where does the inspiration come from?

You can’t look for names in a random fashion. It’s a waste of time and money and will more than likely result in a name that doesn’t resonate with the brand or the audience you are trying to attract.

Do you need an emotive name to tell a story or a descriptive name that explains your benefit? If you’re struggling to make a mark in your industry, a new word might stick in your customers’ minds – or, if your customers find it hard to understand what you do, a new name could be key to onboarding new customers.

As with all our branding work, we start with a period of discovery. Putting our curious minds to work, we aim to uncover:

  1. Business challenges – What does the name need to achieve for the business?
  2. Industry context – Are there any trends in competitor names, and what kind of names do customers respond to?
  3. Brand personality – Are they serious, confident, playful? How far will they want to challenge industry conventions?

All these factors influence the sorts of names that will make it onto our shortlist. The three types of names we then consider are:

  1. Descriptive – These are straightforward names that describe what the company does.
  2. Associative – These are linked, loosely, to what the company does – enough that they will create subconscious connections in the consumers’ minds.
  3. Abstract – These are unique, often made-up words that don’t directly relate to the company’s work.

The last stage in our preparation is developing thought starters. These are creative jumping-off points taken from our discovery and strategy that we use as a starting point to begin thinking of names. From there, we let our creativity flow.

Evero: A strategic starting point

From their name, you’d never be able to tell that the Bioenergy Infrastructure Group (or BIG for short) were pioneering, innovative and creative – but they are. They’re at the fore of new waste management techniques, devising ways to turn what we throw away back into something useful.

Discovering more about their work confirmed they needed a new name to change perceptions and elevate them to more than a waste company. It had to encompass the brand purpose we had uncovered: powering the potential.

Using clues from the discovery, we developed three creative starting points:

  1. Transformation: changing something to be better
  2. Propelling forwards: an exciting step into the future
  3. Making connections: seeing the hidden opportunities. Working collaboratively to figure it out

From these, a clear winner emerged: Evero. It captures their determination to transform perceptions and practices around waste as well as their commitment to never stop evolving.

The complete case study is available to read here.

Naming is a collaborative process

We apply the creativity of the whole agency to naming. In our kick-off meetings, thought starters are briefed, and initial ideas are sparked. And then, after some initial thinking, we come back together as a team to share our initial thoughts. Hearing others’ ideas gives everyone new avenues to explore.

After a few rounds of suggestions and some light copyright checks (no lawyers involved yet), we put together a shortlist of names we feel best fulfil our brief.

This always involves a bit of debate in the studio. Though there are often a few clear favourites, everyone has different opinions on which names should make it through (usually their own).

How do we know if a name is any good?

There are a few rules that we always have in mind when it comes to naming. Keep it simple, pronounceable, translatable, and trademarkable. And remember, naming is subjective – there is no one perfect name for every business.

When we present our shortlist, we show the origin of every name, how it relates to their business and give examples of how it might be used in headlines and social media handles – this helps bring each option to life.

We genuinely believe that every name on our list would make an excellent name for the brand. But it’s up to the client to choose their favourite. And it’s personal taste that ultimately influences which name is chosen.

What a name can’t do

It’s vital to bear in mind that a name can’t do everything by itself. It needs to work in tandem with the rest of the brand to create a coherent and authentic impression of a company.

Often, we use creative hints hidden in the name in other parts of the brand. It’s great when this happens because it means we can create a consistent message throughout every brand aspect.

TKF, Naming, design

The Kite Factory: How name and design work together

MC&C were a media company with a difference. Unlike their competition, they put equal importance on creativity and data to drive their work, which meant they produced was not only visually very cool but also had clear targets and results.

When we re-named MC&C to The Kite Factory, our strategy focused on their ability to take ideas, grounded in data, and make them take flight.

The Kite Factory is a gift of a name, and we had a lot of fun thinking of creative ways we could bring it to life. The charming twist in the design is that although it’s alluded to throughout the new brand, you never see the kite. See how we transformed the name into a brand here.

Don’t underestimate the power of naming

Your name is your first chance to make an impression and a connection with a customer. As naming veterans, we know that whilst naming can be a fun and creative exercise, it can also be frustrating. There’s a lot of pressure to find one (or a few) words that sum up your business.

If you’re struggling to make the connection, we can help. Get in touch to start your journey to a new name.

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    • Branding
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    Client spotlight: QIG

    13.04.2023

    • Branding
    • Naming

    To celebrate the launch of our latest project, QIG, we sat down with their head of Marketing, Sarah Foss, to speak about how we bought their brand to life.

    Read the full case study here.

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      • Curious
      • Awards
      • Naming

      Awards Alert: Curious wins sparkling silver at Transform

      24.03.2023

      • Curious
      • Awards
      • Naming

      What a lovely feeling it is when your hard work is recognised. We are extremely proud to have won two silver awards at this year’s Transform Awards Europe.

      The Transform Awards recognise excellence in rebranding, brand development and the journeys brands make. We’re honoured to be included in this year’s winners. Find out more about the awards here.

      About our winners:

      Best visual identity from the professional services sector:
      Pascoe + Tew

      In Pascoe + Tew’s world, the world of executive search, people often put their trust in a safe pair of hands. But, these firms don’t always have their client’s best intentions at heart. This doesn’t sit well with Pascoe + Tew, in fact, it goes against everything they stand for.

      They came to Curious for a brand refresh that rallies around their purpose and clearly shows their distinction from their competitors. We worked with them to create a new brand strategy, visual identity and tone of voice that we then applied to a new website and brand collateral.

      Our new brand is simple and bold. It’s professional but not cold, adding personality and tone to a rather dull world. It has none of the layers of complexity and corporate fluff that are all too common in the recruitment world; instead, the simple design and no-nonsense copy stand strong. Now Pascoe + Tew can be confident their brand tells clients and customers exactly what they stand for.

      Read the case study here

      Best naming strategy (rename):
      Aeria Apartments

      This brand is still making its way through the studio, so we can’t say too much yet… But, keep your eyes peeled for the brand later this year.

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        • Digital
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        Client Spotlight: Zyte

        10.06.2021

        • Digital
        • Branding
        • Naming

        For this month’s client spotlight, we caught up with Zyte’s Head of Marketing, Marie Moynihan to reflect on her experience of their recent rebrand from Scraping Hub, and what she enjoyed about the process.

        What prompted your decision to rebrand?

        We started to create our three-year strategic plan for the business and once that was complete, I started to ask whether the brand was strong enough to deliver on our vision. We went out to the market to find the right partner that could help us answer that question, rather than starting with “we want to rebrand”.

        What drove the desire to change your name as well as your identity?

        We were bringing a new product to market that would change how our customers would access data. The old name was very tied to the old solutions, so we wanted a new name that would support this new product and direction.

        What was the most challenging aspect of managing a rebrand for you?

        Probably bringing the whole organisation on the journey with us. It was clear to me why we needed to change the name but managing that change internally was challenging.

        What did you find most enjoyable/surprising?

        Once we had decided on the name, the most enjoyable part was seeing the brand come to life. The name is nothing without the brand. This was really fun as we got to build out the personality and look and feel of our new brand.

        How did you communicate the changes to your employees and customers?

        We did this with continuous updates along the journey. The rebrand had a regular slot in all of our town hall meetings, and we got Curious to hold a couple of sessions for staff, educating them on the process we were taking, findings etc. We also had a slack channel for any questions or comments anybody had.

        How do you think your new brand has impacted your business?

        It has really consolidated how we talk about ourself. One of our customers explaining extracting data from the web as ‘Zyting’ was really exciting for us. We also have solid brand guidelines that have helped give us one voice in the market. The rebrand was really well received internally as well which was super important for us.

        Read the full case study here.

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          • Digital
          • Branding
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          Client Spotlight: The Kite Factory

          11.05.2021

          • Digital
          • Branding
          • Naming

          In the first of our monthly client spotlight series, we caught up with Emily Underhill, Marketing Director at The Kite Factory on her experience of the media agency’s rebrand from MC&C, what she found challenging and what she enjoyed most throughout the Curious process.

          What prompted your decision to rebrand?

          There were multiple factors that led to our decision to rebrand but ultimately, we wanted to create a clean slate for the next leg of our growth journey. We’d spent a lot of time developing our offering and building a new senior leadership team to drive the business forward, but were struggling to agree and communicate what made us different.

          We also received VC investment for the first time, which allowed us to invest in creating a modern brand that captured the agency’s vision, personality & passion that could confidently go up against our competitors.

          What drove the desire to change your name as well as your identity?

          Our old name (MC&C) stood for Mike Colling & Company, after our Founder. The agency was founded in 2001 and given its evolution, we felt that the name no longer represented or championed our people and the collaborative nature of our business.

          MC&C also had a heritage in charity advertising – a specialism we are still proud to hold today – but we wanted to diversify our client base and knew a new name would give us the springboard to break out of that pigeonhole and have new conversations with different kinds of clients.

          TKF, Naming, design

          What was the most challenging aspect of managing a rebrand for you?

          Managing multiple stakeholders and their opinions is always challenging. Curious did some brilliant investigative work to combat this by getting under the skin of the business and understanding what our agency stood for from those that know it best (staff, clients, partners etc), which left little room for debate and gave us a clear direction.

          What did you find most enjoyable/surprising?

          I really enjoyed the naming process as it really felt like our brand was coming to life. Curious came up with some really clever options that all struck a chord, and we were pleasantly surprised at how aligned we were as a team – the ultimate decision was unanimous!

          I personally love the psychology behind branding so really enjoyed watching the process play out and learning the different considerations and how they all link together. On the surface, The Kite Factory seems a bit of a random name (which does a job in creating intrigue), but I love that it feels considered and links back to our story in a really smart way.

          How did you communicate the changes to your employees and customers?

          We knew how important it was to bring our staff on this journey with us and celebrate this new chapter with them and our existing clients. We timed the relaunch to coincide with our move to our beautiful new office which gave us a brilliant opportunity to bring the brand to life from day one.

          A personal note from our CEO explaining the changes went to our clients and partners, and we sent a branded box of goodies to industry friends and journalists to spread the word. Staff received a welcome box on their new desk with more information on the new ‘us’ and our new surroundings, and we did a big reveal around our gorgeous neon TKF sign in our reception. Launch week culminated with a very boozy party at the office to celebrate with industry friends.

          How do you think your new brand has impacted your business?

          The rebrand has been absolutely fundamental in our growth. Curious helped us to discover and develop an authentic proposition that truly represented our agency, along with a stunning new name and visual identity that has created huge interest with new clients, recruits and industry peers. This gave us the fresh start we needed and it’s gone from strength to strength ever since.

          You can find a case study of our work here.

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            From the team: Did you ever have a nickname?

            01.04.2021

            • Branding
            • Naming

            MD Nikki Cunningham writes about the value in brands’ names and how you just can’t force a nickname.

            Last week consumer goods giant RB – formerly Reckitt Benckiser and owner of brands such as Dettol and Cillit Bang – announced it was changing its name. Again. Back to Reckitt, in recognition of their founder, Isaac Reckitt. Why? Because nobody knew what RB meant or stood for. The nickname didn’t stick.

            So that got me thinking…where do nicknames even come from? And what makes them last (or not)?

            I’ve always wanted one, but the fact that my actual name was already viewed as a nickname made it a little hard. I suppose I wanted one to feel cooler. Obviously, I couldn’t pull that off and I accepted the fact that my surname was never going to reap the sort of street cred I was after. I moved on.

            But I’m fascinated with how nicknames even come about. One boy at my school somehow managed to get the nickname ‘Fish’. Even the teachers called him it. I don’t even recall his real name. There’s no logic as to how this guy got the name in the first place, but that was his label forever.

            And that’s the thing with nicknames. They sort of just…happen. You can’t force them even when you try, as I discovered. An episode of First Dates was on the TV the other night and a guest on it said she was desperate to be known as GiGi. Her name was Genevieve. But she so desperately wanted GiGi to be a thing. She introduced herself to her date stating her name was Genevieve but ‘you can call me GiGi’… *holds breath*

            “Hi Genevieve, nice to meet you”

            Oh, how disappointing.

            Why is it that sometimes, despite your best efforts, names just stick?

            The apparent need to get the ‘cool nickname’ doesn’t stop with myself or Genevieve. Companies too, seek out that gratification of being known in shorthand. A few years back there was definitely a trend going around for brands to do a ‘name drop’. Dunkin’ did it. So did HuffPost. Or should that be HuffPo?

            But the trouble with this tactic is that brands are still held accountable to the same rules as people. If it doesn’t feel right – if it’s not an acknowledgement of how they are perceived by their customers – it just won’t happen. KFC is KFC because that’s what we all called it anyway. Same goes for Apple (Apple Computers) and HP (Hewlett Packard). But name drops or adaptions can only really be a reaction to a widely held view of the brand before it changes. It can’t be forced.

            So going back to RB and the move to revert back to their old name. Why didn’t it stick? The reason is pretty much the same as why I never managed to get one. It was too forced. It wasn’t a natural evolution. The adoption of the initials was based purely on the fact that the original was “a bit of a mouthful”, according to former CEO Ranesh Kapoor. But that just isn’t a good enough reason. If the equity of the brand is in its heritage and you remove that label in the name, you’re removing value from your brand. And the fact that most people familiar with the company still referred to it as Reckitt after the change to RB, kind of solidifies the point. Just like GiGi, it wasn’t convincing enough.

            Names aren’t everything when it comes to brands, but they do hold a particular amount of power if you treat them right. Acknowledge what you’re known for and play into that. Don’t try and leap ahead because people won’t buy into it. Instead, listen to your customers, recognise when a change is needed and react.

            I am, however, still waiting for the day that McDonald’s changes its name to Maccy D’s.

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