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There are many elements that make up an organisation’s brand identity including a logo, colours, fonts and messaging. But one part that often survives throughout a brand’s lifetime—even through multiple brand refreshes—is the name. When a company’s name is updated or refreshed, it’s certainly a much greater task to educate current and prospective customers about the change … more-so than a logo update that retains the same name.

The naming process normally occurs when founding a new business, or when a business is in its infanancy. Someone starts a company or wants to move from being a sole trader into something more substantial; they need a name to register either as a business name or as a proprietary company.

Sometimes things will happen during the lifetime of a business that will prompt the need for a new name. Mergers and acquisitions are a common event that can trigger a new brand design, with the new name allowing two or more existing businesses to present themselves to market as a new and more powerful player. Sometimes a new brand name is required to better align a business that has repositioned or is planning to reposition themselves in an evolving landscape. It sends a strong signal both internally and externally that a change has happened and can provide new focus and energy to an organisation.

Sometimes name changes are required for other reasons.

We recently worked with a client who wanted a brand design for a new product they were creating. They already had a distinctive name picked out … unfortunately it immediately caused confusion with us and others as it was the same as an already well-known organisation.

Jack—who’s a patent and trade mark attorney at IP Gateway—looked into the legal side of things for the client to see how much of a problem it was likely to be. It turned out the name was not only registered as a company name to the other organisation, but they had multiple trade marks filed in various categories both here in Australia and in the US. As the product being created was going to be sold into both these markets, the decision was made to create a new name before undertaking the rest of the brand design.

We asked Jack what his advice is for these types of situations and he said, ‘When adopting a name that is going to be used as a trade mark, it is important to do your homework and make sure that the name is available for use and registration as a trade mark in relation to the goods and/or services of interest. Unauthorised use of a name as a trade mark, which is deceptively similar to a registered trade mark, may amount to infringement and render the user liable to a claim for substantial damages or an account of profits.’

Another client we’re working with had a different issue, where the original name they had was extremely long and as such created the logo and URL from hell. During the course of their business journey they shortened the longer name to an initialism (i.e. just the abbreviated letters) which caused even more problems! It was often misunderstood over the phone, and customers had a difficult time trying to remember what it was when referring the business—not ideal for a business that relies predominantly on word-of-mouth referrals.

Ultimately a name should be memorable while providing meaning and context to a business

In all cases the naming process starts in synergy with the rest of the brand design process. First an interview or discovery session with the business owners, then research and wordmapping to find words and terms that relate to their purpose and story. Then a comprehensive and systematic process of creating name concepts while matching them to available company names via ASIC and IP Australia searches. As it’s the twenty-first century, we also check for all possible URL combinations that are available to register and use.

Ultimately a name should be memorable while providing meaning and context to a business; complementing the rest of the brand design. A brand’s name will be said and read literally millions of times throughout the company’s lifetime, so the brand design process is key to finding the best one!

Ben Johnston

A core belief of mine is that working with clients on their brand identity should be fun, challenging and meaningful. I work with business owners to realise their own passion and vision for the future—seeing their consequential success is a testament to the power of brand identity.  

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