The Five Levels of Brand Naming

" Rock n' roll is dream soup, what's your brand?" — Patti Smith

Startups and agencies, "What's your strategy for creating brand names?"

If sticky notes, brainstorming and domain search engines are your only tools right now, please consider this framework which can help guide your brand naming strategy.

In addition to considering the corporate, core, actual and augmented product branding opportunities; as well as public, registered and service mark strategies; Intellectual Property (IP) lawyers with whom I've worked have helped me to develop The Five Levels of Brand Naming framework that I use with clients:

1. Generic: common descriptive name
    - e.g. Plank, Copier, DataLoader, etc
    - cannot be registered

2. Descriptive: describes the qualities or characteristics of the goods/services
    - e.g. Soft Tissue, Park N Fly, HotCoffee, FastDRIL etc.
    - generally, cannot be registered; can only be registered if it becomes distinctive of the applicant’s goods/services in the marketplace through marketing spend (“secondary meaning”)

3. Suggestive: suggests some attribute or characteristic of the goods or services
    - e.g. Telus telephony; GreyHound bus lines; Gap clothing store; Facebook social networking site
    - once someone hears it and makes the connection, easy to remember association.

4. Arbitrary: mark has little or no relation to the goods/services
    - e.g. Starbucks for coffee; Talisman for oil company, Apple for computers

5. Fanciful: made-up word
    - e.g. Charmin for bath tissue; Exxon for oil company; Clarica for insurance

NOTE: Levels 4 & 5 are the most “desirable” for their uniqueness – but can be costly to establish. As a result, Level 3 is often the sweet spot for new startup brand names.