What’s in a brand name? Everything, including your future logo

What’s in a brand name? Everything, including your future logo

Naming an organization is a challenging and crucial task

The key to creating a powerful name is knowing that it actually has two parts: the name itself and the descriptor. Sticking to this two-part system is key to good naming practice; it keeps your name short, memorable, and effective.

name discriptor graphic

One or two words can’t communicate exactly what you stand for so don’t give the name that job—leave it for the descriptor. The name is likely permanent, but the descriptor can and should evolve with you. Your organization and position will change over time; the descriptor allows you to reflect that evolution while maintaining brand familiarity with the name.

What’s in a name?

The first thing to understand is that a powerful name comes from a strong positioning strategy. The best names represent the ultimate process of boiling down these ideas into one or two words. Here is what a name can do:

  • separate you from your competitors
  • demonstrate to the world how you are different
  • reinforce a unique positioning platform
  • create positive and lasting engagement with your audience
  • be unforgettable
  • propel itself through the world on its own as a no-cost, self-sustaining PR vehicle
  • become a great logo—invaluable when you consider that the right (simple) logo is key when you are designing your brand’s recall mechanism

Depending on when, where, and how you use it, your logo and descriptor line are sometimes the sign-off to your brand, sometimes the lead message, and sometimes the entire message itself. Remember that your logo will be used on every piece of communication; it’s the hardest working element in your brand identity.

Acronyms are alienating

Acronyms create insiders and outsiders, and set you up for really bad logos. There’s no need to communicate complex thoughts in an acronym—use the descriptor line instead.

Names should be one or two words

Names should be short and sweet to better serve your logo because your logo is the hardest working element in your identity. It’s your recall mechanism and the entry to your brand.

Think of it this way: the logo has to be effective small or large; in one color, or two; on dark, light, and colored backgrounds; even on images. It is the ultimate distillation of your brand, and the toughest aspect to design. A one- or two-word name simplifies your brand enough to give a designer a fighting chance.

My advice? Spend a day looking at different logos and see which ones catch your eye. A well-designed logo is simple, bold, and an effective recall mechanism. Poke around a bit, and you’ll see that the point illustrates itself.

Here are a few logos without descriptor or tag lines to illustrate my point:

FedEx logo

The FedEx logo is a good example of how just type can create a strong logo—you don’t always have to have a mark. Not having a mark to deal with ensures your brand identity will be used correctly more often.

invisible children logo

Another great example of a strong logo created from just type—less is more.

Microsoft logo

This is a classic example of a simple mark with timeless type. You can also see that the green, red, and yellow of the Microsoft logo are very similar to the Stop&Shop logo below. However, with the change of one color and a different mark, they can look different.

stop & shop logo

This is another good example of a simple mark with timeless type.

target logo

This is one of the strongest methods for creating a brand—the name is the mark. Orange Square used this method when we branded ourselves.

united way logo

This mark is much more involved than the others but it still works. The type has distinctive characteristics; even though putting together a combination is generally ill advised, it works well here.

Your name should match your URL

Your name must match your URL exactly—no numbers or dashes. Of course, if your name is one or two words, this may be a difficult proposition. Like all rules, they can be broken, but I would recommend working with a pro if you want to break this rule. Oh, and put more money in your marketing budget – you may need it to make the connection to your name if someone else has your exact URL match.

Let’s say you are not breaking the rule

The process tends to go something like this: you start with a list of names you love and find that the URLs are not available. You then move on to a list of names you like and it turns out some URLs are available. Finally, you end up with a list of names you’re not as thrilled with and find more of those are available as URLs.

So what to do? If you want, you can buy your way out of this problem by purchasing the name from companies who own URLs. Start with Directnic, NameJet, and BrandBucket and see what’s available and for sale..

You can also get creative and come up with a name that is available. Either way, be prepared for the process to take time.

Simplicity first

Your name needs to be easy to spell and pronounce. Don’t get around the URL issue by focusing on complicated words. If you’re unsure if the name works, test it out on someone and see if they understand what you are saying and can easily spell it. Imagine answering the phone using the name. Remember that this is the entry point to your brand – you don’t want to create a barrier to entry.


A good name and descriptor work together to connect and reinforce a unique and clear position; they also form an entry point to your brand and create a simple, strong logo. In fact, there isn’t a more powerful way to make your mark.

Happy naming!