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7 brand name constructions & the companies that make them work

Developing an effective name for a corporate or product brand is an exciting process. It is an endeavor that often requires exploring many different paths in order to arrive at a solution that is unique and memorable.

Here are seven brand name constructions that stand out and why we love them:

1. The descriptive yet simple

  • Square
  • Redbox
  • Convoy

Each of the above brand names makes perfect sense with the services or products they offer. It’s as if there was one golden name and the creatives behind the naming process were clever enough to find it. However, this solution is often harder to come to than one would think.

For example, it is said that the Square cash app, is named after the shape of their product (a square card reader). What’s especially clever is how the word can also refer to “squaring up,” an idiom used to denote settling one’s debts.

2. The misspells and merges

  • Airbnb
  • WeWork
  • Reddit
  • Tumblr

Now we’re not suggesting you go and take any word, spell it wrong and combine it with another word mundanely. For the most part, these companies had a strategy behind their choice to break rules. These brand names are clever and give the company personality.

Airbnb was originally named Air Bed and Breakfast but was shortened to the simple brand name it is today. Reddit is similarly literal—the founders wanted people to first find articles on Reddit and then say something along the lines of “I read it on Reddit.”

3. The made-up words and languages

Though it’s not always obvious, most of the names above stem from a real word that was then changed to become memorable and one that founders could trademark.

The online shopping site, Etsy was named by founder Robert Kalin when he was jotting down random words he heard. In an interview with Reader’s Digest, it is reported he wanted something handcrafted as that’s what the site is all about. Kalin admits he was watching a film and heard the Italian word for “a lot” (etsi) and it stuck.

Similarly, according to Rewind and Capture, Spotify’s founders were ideating on names, shouting words back and forth, when one of the founders misheard the other. They later reasoned it was a combination of “spot” and “identify”—which is essentially what listeners do when scrolling through the music on the app.

4.  The hidden meanings

  • Tesla
  • Siri
  • Nike
  • Pandora

With the meaning behind these brand names, there’s so much potential for the development of a brand story. Several of these brand names have mythical ties, sparking inspiration for designers, marketers and advertisers who get to work with the brand.

For example, Siri is derived from a Norse name for “beautiful woman who leads you to victory” and in Swahili means “secret.” Tesla, as reported by Business Insider, was named after Nicola Tesla—the creator of both the alternating-current power transmission and the induction motor. Likewise, it has a Slavic origin translating to “of the axe” or “harvester;” not a bad name for an innovative car company.

5.  The endearing and authentic

  • Ollie
  • Rover
  • Burt’s Bees

If your brand needs to set a trustworthy tone, this is the way to go. All of the above names feel familiar and accessible. Interestingly enough, they all deal with consumer goods—whether that be pet foods or skin products. If you’re going to feed your beloved pet or put chemicals on your skin, you want to know they’re safe.

Little did you know, Burt’s Bees is actually a subsidiary of Clorox, but who wants to buy all-natural products from a company that sells one of the harshest chemical cleaners? The brand is set apart through being named by the product’s original honey harvester, Burt Shavitz.

6. The partnerships

  • Crate & Barrel
  • Room & Board
  • Loom & Leaf
  • Franke+Fiorella

Although there’s not one consensus on why this construction is successful, there’s something about the “and” or ampersand that feels approachable. According to Quartz, this naming convention is derived from tradition: in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, companies were often named after their principals. Knowing that the ampersand often combines two people’s names, Quartz argues it could also be this gives off the idea the product is handcrafted or more human-centric. Lastly, it’s notable that the ampersand has been used by startup companies to help with brand recall and the ability to trademark.

7. The verb that says it all.

  • Wag
  • Hopper
  • Dunkin’ Donuts

This is one of our favorite types of brand name: they’re straightforward and fun. By simply using a verb that is related to what they do, it brings up a visual for the company while also concisely describing their work.

As you can see, there’s no perfect formula for creating an impactful brand name. However, there are plenty of constructions that can provide inspiration.

If you’re looking for professional naming services, reach out to to start the conversation with the Franke+Fiorella team. You can also learn more about the science behind naming in identityWise Issue No. 42, Naming: What Makes a Brand Name Great.

Featured image credit: Adam Cai on Unsplash