Renaming Your Business? Here’s the Low-Down on Emotive Naming

The first time a shopping buddy suggested I visit Pottery Barn, I declined – imagining a rustic space filled with hippies and rust-colored earthenware.

Why would my friend recommend such a place? I wondered. Pottery Barn – as if!

Pottery Barn is lucky. It succeeded with a name that’s disconnected from both the functional and emotional truths of its brand. The experience of the brand – beautiful stores, upscale products – dominates brand perceptions. Nobody even thinks about the name bespeaking a cow shed with a kiln in the corner.

For companies considering a name change today, few, if any, will be able to withstand that big of a miss. Unless your business model includes 1,000 mall stores to imbue your name with meaning, it’s critically important to get it right.

CEOs Lead Renaming

Because a company’s name is its single most important brand expression, naming decisions fall largely on the shoulders of the CEO. The stakes are high, and yet naming is not an area where CEOs typically have much expertise.

Whether a new name is in order because the company is changing, the marketplace is changing, or an evolving product architecture requires a different container, it’s important that a new name actively support the CEO’s vision for organizational transformation – in whatever direction she or he is leading.

The Opportunity of Emotive Naming

Many CEOs lean toward functional names that clearly state what their company does in the world. That’s a logical approach – but it’s rarely possible anymore. The fact is that nearly all of the straightforward names have been taken for years.

It’s no wonder, then, that companies today are liberally borrowing words that might be only very distantly related to what they do, like Tesla, Goop, or Bluetooth. Or they’re making up words, like Etsy, Spotify, Magoosh, or Zynga.

What made-up names lack in functionality, they can sometimes more than make up for in emotional impact – something we at Emotive Brand consider central to effective branding.

The dearth of functional names might seem like a business challenge, but we believe emotive naming is a great opportunity.

Zynga sounds zingy and lively ­– feelings that the company’s mobile games might create in a player’s otherwise mundane day. Etsy is reminiscent of Betsy, an old-fashioned woman’s name from hand crafting days. If someone had an Aunt Etsy, she would almost certainly be a knitter. And it’s easy to imagine Eddie Redmayne playing a bespectacled bookseller named Warby Parker in a movie set in 1930s London.

Emotive Naming Creates Emotional Impact

The great thing about emotive naming is that names like these create a distinctive feeling that can actually be more impactful than an obvious name like Handicraftsite.com or Mobile Gaming Inc. or Millennial Glasses Online.

People don’t need to think about what emotive names mean. People intuitively feel what they mean.

Creating or choosing the right emotive name starts with knowing how a brand should make people feel – what we at Emotive Brand call a brand’s emotional impact.

Emotional impact is a crucial part of brand strategy development at Emotive Brand and the foundation of our creative efforts.

Understanding how a brand needs to make its target audiences feel informs visual identity and other design, including critical touchpoints like the website. It also informs the logo and, of course, it informs naming.

If your company would benefit from a name that creates emotional impact, reach out to Emotive Brand to learn about emotive naming.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency in San Francisco.

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