How To Create A Brand Name For Your Company

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Marketing Podcast with Rob Meyerson

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Rob Meyerson. Rob is a namer, brand consultant, and principal and founder of Heirloom, an independent brand strategy, and identity firm. He also has a new book: Brand Naming: The Complete Guide to Creating a Name for Your Company, Product, or Service.

Key Takeaway:

A name is one of the first, longest-lasting, and most important decisions in defining the identity of your company, your product, or your service. Rob Meyerson is a professional namer and brand consultant. In this episode, Rob is sharing what makes a good (and bad) name, his process for identifying a name, and his best-practice methodologies.

Questions I ask Rob Meyerson:

  • [1:13] Was there a special process for coming up with your company name – Heirloom?
  • [3:52] You’ve worked with a lot of pretty big names in your career – would you say that this idea is equally as important for a small business as it might be for a division of a Fortune 500 company?
  • [5:20] Are there attributes from a general perspective that your brand name should have?
  • [6:55] How important do you feel it is for a name to evoke some sort of emotion?
  • [7:50] How do you measure if a brand re-name or re-focus is successful?
  • [9:41] Do you have any kind of favorite brand success stories?
  • [14:42] Is the risk versus reward worth it with made-up names or is it simpler to define what you do in your name?
  • [17:21] How does your brand naming process work?
  • [20:15] Given the fact that you mentioned that time will tell whether or not you chose a good name – is there a gut-wrenching moment where you all decide to move forward with a brand name?
  • [21:20] How important is it that the dot com name is available?
  • [22:46] Where can people find out more about your work and get a copy of your book?

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John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the duct tape marketing podcast is brought to you by the Salesman Podcast, hosted by Will Barron brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. Look, if you work in sales, wanna learn how to sell or just peek at the latest sales news. Check out the sales podcast where host will Barron helps sales professionals learn how to find buyers and win big business in effective and ethical ways. One of my favorite episodes lately, how to personalize your sales outreach at massive scale, who doesn't want to do that? Listen to the Salesman Podcast, wherever you get your podcast.

John Jantsch (00:47): Hello, welcome to another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Rob Meyerson. He's a name brand consultant and principal and founder of heirloom an independent brand strategy and identity firm. He's also the author of brand naming the complete guide to creating a name for your company, product or service. So welcome to show

Rob Meyerson (01:10): Rob. Thanks so much happy to

John Jantsch (01:12): Be here. Okay. So when you're in the naming business, you put a target on your back for the name of your company. So I wonder if you'd, uh, kind of go through, was there, was there a special process for coming up with heirloom?

Rob Meyerson (01:26): Yeah, of course. I went through, um, my recommended naming process and took a little bit of my own medicine. And I'll tell you, it was a really good learning experience because after doing that, I felt like I was that much more in touch with what my clients feel, the, the pain that they feel, frankly, in making that decision. So I, I knew early on, I didn't want to just call it Myerson consulting or Rob Myerson branding. That is something that makes sense for a lot of people yeah. That go out on their own. But I, I liked the, the sort of sense of scale that a brand name could imply. And, and I had aspirations at the time at least of kind of growing into that. Yeah. Um, and I also just felt like as a namer, I should probably go through the process. So yeah.

Rob Meyerson (02:07): I developed hundreds of ideas. I put them through legal pre-screening hundreds of them were not available. there were a ton of agencies out there and almost every word or phrase, right. Or combination of words that you can imagine is some agency somewhere and so wanting to do it. Right. I, I, I killed a lot of great ideas, but I really liked heirloom because, uh, it, it speaks to how I think of brands, you know, an heirloom is something that has value for, for intangible reasons, right? It's your father's watch or something like that. So even though the watch might only be worth a hundred bucks, it's priceless to you because of the story behind it. And I think that it's a nice analogy for, for brands. It, it sort of adds intangible value to a product or a company.

John Jantsch (02:50): So the original name of my company I started 30 years ago was to your point, Jan communications, you know, very, uh, sexy sounding people thought I sold, uh, phones or long distance service or, and so in 2002 back when you could actually still get URLs, I came up with duct tape marketing, and I will tell you that the brand name has served me extremely well. I gave it about 10 minutes of thought. So I'm not going to be very good subject for you. I, I say that, but kiddingly, but I , it just struck me as the perfect metaphor for the clients I was serving and I'd served them for 10 years. So in a lot of ways, I'd probably been thinking about that idea, you know, for 10 years, which is probably, probably not giving myself credit for .

Rob Meyerson (03:31): Well, no, I mean, so many of the best creative ideas, not just names come from that sort of in the back of your mind population. That's a lot in the book when I talk about how to, how to do this, how to have creative ideas, how to do that generation phase. So much of it is about how to stop focusing on this specific challenge and let it pop into your mind while you're doing something

John Jantsch (03:52): Else. So you have in your career, worked with some pretty big names and certainly in consulting have worked with some pretty big names. What would you say that? So, so, so I, most of my listeners, many of my listeners are small business owners. Would you say that this idea is equally as important for a small business as it might be for, you know, a division of a fortune 500 company?

Rob Meyerson (04:13): Yes, I think so. The name is really your, your first and I think best opportunity to, to harness the power of language, which if you think about it for a few minutes is quite powerful. It impacts us in our person lives on a daily basis. It impacts our perceptions judge books by their covers, so to speak. And so, uh, if you want people to have certain impressions of your business or your product from the very get code, the first time they hear about it, then you should put a lot of thought into the name. There are aspects of the process that are more applicable to those big fortune 500 or big, you know, whether it's B2B or B2C. I think there are things that maybe are weighted a little bit differently, but the overall importance and process is very

John Jantsch (04:54): Similar. Yeah. They may have a family of brands or they may have some, you know, some standards that they need to kind of adhere to. So yeah, the obviously, but it is amazing how often I will run across companies and they they've just kind of picked it maybe because they saw other people doing it or using it in their industry. And, and when you really start trying to do some positioning around their marketing and things, it's like, people don't even know what you do, you know, based on the name. So let me ask you that. I mean, are there attributes that, that while every case is unique, are there attributes that you say, well, generally speaking, it should have, you know, this or, or should feel like this.

Rob Meyerson (05:32): Yes. Uh, although I really like the way you phrased the question, because I think one of the, the big mistakes people make, uh, is thinking that there is some checklist that they need in order to have a perfect, the brand name. And there really is no such thing because it's so context dependent, the way I like to frame it is to think about names through three different lenses, creative, which is pretty clear, you know, you want a name that's memorable or distinctive catchy in some way, but also strategic. And this is where I think a lot of small businesses miss the mark. So think about what your competitors are named, think about what kind of meaning you're trying to convey through the names. So it's not just about being funky and creative. It's also about yeah. What it means or doesn't mean. And then lastly, technical, which is sort of the logistics, another place that people often make a mistake, is it gonna be legally available? Is it gonna cause you linguistic problems in other, you know, not just other countries, but even locally, if you have a Spanish speaking community in your, uh, city yeah.

John Jantsch (06:31): In your name means goat, dun some other language,

Rob Meyerson (06:35): Right? Yeah. Yeah. So checking and doing all, you know, checking all of those things is, is critical. So in the book I do list nine different things, three in each of those three categories, but I think it's, it's more important to sort of think just about those three areas, creative, strategic, and technical, and, and make sure that you're doing your homework and considering all three, how important

John Jantsch (06:56): Do you feel it is for a name to evoke some sort of emotion?

Rob Meyerson (07:02): I think again, it depends. I know it's a boring answer, but it can be extremely powerful. I mean, what, one of the most important things I think about for, for any name and almost any scenario is memorability. That's a pretty universal trait of a good brand name. There, there are occasions where it matter as much, but generally if you're naming a company or product, you just want it to stick in people's mind minds like duct tape marketing. And, and one of the, I mean, one of the most powerful ways to make something memorable is to have people attach an emotion to it and it makes them laugh. It makes them smile. And it's nostalgic. Those things really creates sort of hooks in into your memory, that, to do it another, you know, there are more superficial ways to do it, make it rhyme, right. Um, you know, use alliteration and any of those things could, could be a big help

John Jantsch (07:49): As you do this. You have, you know, you, you help a brand maybe re rename or refocus. Um, how do you measure if it was successful? You know, obviously there be the gut feeling like, oh, that sounds good. Or people seem to like it, you know, all our stakeholders are in, but, but ultimately what may successful.

Rob Meyerson (08:07): Well, yeah, that's one of the hardest things about, about it, a naming project and about so many creative services. Yeah. I think one of the reasons it's hard is because you have to give it time. And so I often go back to clients, you know, they, they may be ecstatic when it launches or frankly, sometimes they'll have real doubts in reservations and they'll push ahead, um, bravely, but either way, I like to go back six months or a year later and ask what the experience has been. And if it's been successful and nine times outta 10, or even more than that, especially in those cases where people have the, those doubts, they'll say, you know what? The doubts were unfounded a year later, we can't imagine this having been called anything else. And that's a pretty that that's not necessarily me touting my, my brilliance. It's, it's sort of human nature. Yeah. That as you use a name for something day after day for a year, it just starts to feel so natural. And sometimes it's really, really hard to see that on day one.

John Jantsch (09:01): Yeah. Sometimes maybe if the immediate reaction is like, I love it. It can be bad. It can fade. Right. as opposed to becoming

Rob Meyerson (09:10): Stronger. Yes. And often the, that reaction can be the result of it sounding like something else that's already out there. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, it sounds like apple. And so I like it, but you know, really, should you sound like apple or should you, should you be something, uh, else

John Jantsch (09:26): I, I always, this is a silly analogy, but I was, I always used to love, you know, I'd get an album from an artist that I really liked and it was like that first song and I just loved it. I loved it of it, you know, like first play and then like, I couldn't stand it a couple months later. And it was like the deep tracks that lasted with me, you know? And I think this a little bit of that. Do you have any, I know you have lots of, uh, stories in the book about brands and, and the process. Do you have any kind of favorite success stories? That's, that's part a of the question. And then of course these won't be any of your clients, but do you have any bombs too?

Rob Meyerson (09:56): Yes. Uh, yes. And yes. Well, I'll, I'll go sort of historical, I guess. Cause, cause I have favorite brand names from, uh, literally centuries ago and, and some, um, more recent Kodak I think is just a great brand name. It's one of these strange things where, and I'm, this is not necessarily the way to do it these days, but George Eastman liked the sound of K. He liked that strong K sound and he just wanted to make up a word that contained that and came up with Kodak and it's, it works so well because it it's lack of meaning is partly its strength in that it could work for just about anything. And adaptability is, is one of those factors that I mentioned in the book of a strong brand and, and, you know, it's, it's survived as much as that brand has addeds up and downs.

Rob Meyerson (10:40): That's a name that is, is still very much a household name and they've done a good job protecting it as well. You know, a lot of names that old have become what's called genericized, you know, zipper and escalator used to be brand names, but they became just everyday words. People lost couple Kool-Aid. Yes. Kleenex is, is at risk of that and bandaid. So that's a great one. Uh, you know, more recently there's a carbonated CBD beverage called recess. Mm-hmm and I just love that band. So that's the opposite of Kodak and that it's a real English word and I love the associations talk about out an emotional, uh, trigger there. You know, it just makes me think of the playground in third and fourth grade and the sort of fun of that. And I think the beverage is positioning itself as fun and, and relaxing and things like that.

John Jantsch (11:30): I actually kinda like those words that have, um, multiple meanings, you know, it's like, they it's like, okay, yeah, this is re recess, but it also, this might not be what they were after, but it's, it's kinda like the recesses of your mind or something, you know? I mean, so that may not have been what they're after, but you know, I love, well,

Rob Meyerson (11:48): Well, it's also, it's, it's also the break, whether it's a break from school or a break, like court court goes to recess as well. Right. Yeah. And so that idea of just taking a little break is, is nice. Yeah. Yeah. Some of the horror stories out there, the one that I pick on the most honestly is, uh, trunk, which was a somewhat short-lived abbreviation, although it was the official name for Tribune online content. So the T R O N C . And I think the worst thing about it, and this is subjective, but it just sounds like something gross or best silly, you know, it's unlike Kodak, it's meaninglessness. I think it, it doesn't work well for it. They took something that did have meaning Tribu online content a bit boring and, and just erase them meaning by coming up with this esoteric abbreviation. So I just think the combination of ugliness and, and lack of meaning is, is a real failure. A lot of the, the naming kind of failures, you may not even see because the issue with them is the legal aspect. Oh yeah. Occasionally you do see this where companies have to change their name because of a legal problem. And that's, that's one of the worst case scenarios and, and it's, you know, the names may be great. Otherwise you may think, oh, that's a, that's a really cool creative name, but if they end up having to change it, that's probably a lot worse than if they just had a sort of board.

John Jantsch (13:11): Yeah. That's I know that's happened to a few franchises, you know, where they, they were just a local mom and pop thing that wanted to go nationwide and all of a sudden it's like, oops.

Rob Meyerson (13:19): yes, yes, yes. Back to your question about whether it's important for local businesses.

John Jantsch (13:24): I think so.

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John Jantsch (14:21): So it seems like one of the riskiest plays is the made up word, you know, because it doesn't mean anything. You have to invest a lot of energy in making it mean something, but it seems like the rewards sometimes is really big too. I, I mean, even if you use apple, I mean, apple means so as a word, but it certainly doesn't mean anything to do with computers necessarily other than the bite that they tried to, uh, put into the logo. But, but talk to me a little bit about, you know, is the risk versus reward, you know, worth it there or should, is it really a lot, uh, simpler to just kind of say, everybody knows what we do now because the word marketing is in our name,

Rob Meyerson (14:57): Right? Yeah. Well, a couple of things to address there. One is you've pinpointed this distinction between what I call the naming approach, which is mostly like, how much does it have to do with the business or the brand or the, or the pro. So apple and Kodak as words have nothing to do with the underlying, uh, product. Right. But then there's also the construct. And so apple is a real word. Kodak is a Madoff word. I think that there are risks and rewards either way. I, I think that tying it too closely to exactly what you do in the, in most cases at the company and a level has more risks

John Jantsch (15:34): Than rewards international business machines, for example,

Rob Meyerson (15:38): Yes. Or international house of pancakes. And they ran this big ad, flipping the P to B for burgers. And as much as that campaign may have worked for them, I still think that name has kind of trapped them into people thinking it's just for breakfast.

John Jantsch (15:50): Yeah. Yeah. So, so let's talk about we've started. Oh, oh, first I had to share my horse, not horror story, but one that I don't like a lot of the utilities have renamed because they were true monopolistic utilities. And so they could call themselves Kansas city power and light. But now that they've joined forces and they're no longer sort of the monopolistic utility, Kansas city power and light now ever G a V E R G Y. And I think it's the worst name in the world.

Rob Meyerson (16:17): and, and it's because of how it feels in your mouth when you say it. Right. It just, those sounds, yeah, it's, it's hard to quantify, but those, that combination sounds kind of like trunk. Yeah. Just doesn't feel quite right. And, and I

John Jantsch (16:31): Feel like there's one sort of naming practice that people do is they try to squish words together and make up a word rather than like a Kodak, which is totally meaningless, ever energy probably had something to do with like evergreen energy or something like that, that they stuck together's

Rob Meyerson (16:44): Right. And what we talk about a lot in meaning is linguistic naturalness, which is a fancy way of saying, does it, does it feel like a real word? And I think Kodak it's similar to Kodiak and, and you know, if you said it to a kid, they'd say, what does it mean? Because it sounds like a real word, whereas, right. Yeah. AGY it feels concocted. Yeah. And there was a lot of that also in, you know, well, it's, it's been around forever with things like jello and Windex, these different suffixes that were popular, but it really was at its heyday in kind of the nineties and early two thousands around, you know, dot com boom. 1.0 with Alta Vista and things like this. Yeah.

John Jantsch (17:22): All right. Let's, let's talk a little bit about, because you have a process for how you go about doing this, right. So let's talk a little bit about the steps in kind of how brand naming works.

Rob Meyerson (17:31): Sure. So the first thing that we recommend doing is coming up with naming brief and anyone who's done any kind of creative work will be familiar with the concept of a creative brief, but getting down on paper, exactly what you want this name to do, what kinds of names are inbounds and out of bounds. And then critically making sure that everyone involved has seen that brief and agreed on it. And in some cases signed off, once that's done, then you, you get into kind of the quote fun part of just generating names and you come up with it may surprise people to hear that on a typical naming project will come up with hundreds or sometimes over a thousand ideas. Do you, do you use

John Jantsch (18:06): Any of these tools that are these AI generators that are there now to kind of start that process?

Rob Meyerson (18:10): I, I don't, I know other neighbors do. I have used there, there are crowdsourcing tools as well, which I, I have used once or twice, but generally I'll use a, a small team of professional neighbors who have a lot of experience and they'll put hours and hours into this. And the reason we come up with so many is, is so that we still have some left at, to the next few steps, which are shortlisting. So pulling the, the best out of that long, long list and putting those through preliminary trademark screening and linguistic screening, which is to avoid some of the pitfalls that we've already talked about. Like finding out somebody else is using the name or finding out it means something gross. And another language once we get that, that shorter them, that's gone through that. We present names. So this is in a consultant to client format, obviously, but even if you're doing this inside your company or for your own company, you might wanna present to your colleagues or, you know, to your friends or family, that's helping you make this decision. If that's the case. And that act of presenting names is something that's often really over the looked the, the gut way that people do. This is they'll just say, Hey, what do you think of this name? Or they'll email 10 ideas to their friend and say, pick the best one. Yeah. And that never works. right. You, you really have to put a lot of thought into providing the right context, priming your audience for this, the kind of decision that they're about to make and how they should evaluate these different options.

John Jantsch (19:31): Maybe even like what's the brand promise. I mean, just a lot of like context that that is gonna make it relevant or not. Yeah.

Rob Meyerson (19:38): And if you, you may, may have experienced this, but if you just say like, what do you think of these three ideas? Right. Usually it'll be, uh, they'll suck. I could come up with something better. Or, or even if they like one of 'em, they may not like it for the rightly. And then after that, you still have to do a deeper legal search, usually that you've done in that preliminary stage. And once you have that, those deeper legal, that, that sort of official legal opinion from a trademark attorney, that's when you can make your final decision. And so that's the last step, uh, is just narrowing it down to one.

John Jantsch (20:11): So given the fact that that you've sort of admitted that time will tell whether or not it was a good name, you know, do you, is there a lot of, kind of gut-wrenching about like, okay, we're all in on this.

Rob Meyerson (20:22): Yeah. I mean, it depends on who's making the decision. I do feel that it's generally helpful to have one person who's has ultimate responsibility for making the,

John Jantsch (20:32): Or nobody decides,

Rob Meyerson (20:33): Right. Or at least have an odd number. So there's a tie breaker because what'll kill, this is the, you know, trying to get unanimity. Everybody loves it. That that just doesn't happen to your earlier

John Jantsch (20:43): Point. You get, you get energy out that

Rob Meyerson (20:45): Yeah, exactly. To your yes, exactly. Or you just get the most boring option on the list that doesn't offend anybody, but nobody really likes that much. And yeah, I do think you can then look at these factors that generally speaking, make some names better than others that we started the conversation with. I just would reiterate that it's not about checking every box and it's not even necessarily that the best name will check the most boxes. It's just a hand Andy way to compare names that otherwise seem good or like they could be great.

John Jantsch (21:17): Okay. Here's a check box that used to be on the list. And maybe it's not as important. I wanna ask you how, how important is it that the.com name is available? It used to be when we were all getting started in these URLs, it was really, really important, but now there's all these.info dot, you know, all these other variations. Plus we don't use the web. Like we used to. I mean, you know, it's like we don't need phone numbers. We Google it. Yeah. So, you know, how important is, is a match to the URL?

Rob Meyerson (21:44): Well, you said it it's less and less important and you know, I'll acknowledge that for some businesses. It it's maybe more important than others. The, the best example I can think of is I help name a streaming service. And I think if you're naming a streaming service, you want to be able to say it's maybe more important, you know, go to hulu.com or something like that. Yeah. But for most business, the easy answer is to add it a Scriptor after the name, so such and such consulting or the name plus, you know, just whatever it is, restaurant, but yeah, for the reasons you mentioned, there are so many more top level domains. Now you can get.marketing.agency.coffee.motorcycles. You people don't generally type in the exact domain they'll search for it. And so I would say take the money that you might spend on getting the exact domain and put that towards and content that's gonna drive people to your site. Yeah, yeah. For those reasons I would rather have people have a great name and a quote, unquote, imperfect domain than force the perfect domain and come up with a name that nobody can pronounce or something like. Right. Right.

John Jantsch (22:44): Well, Rob, thanks so much for stopping by the duct tape marketing podcast to talk about naming you and tell people where they can find a, up more about you and, and pick up a copy of brand naming.

Rob Meyerson (22:52): Sure. Well, brand naming is for sale on Amazon and elsewhere that books are sold. Um, if you just wanna learn more about it, you can go to brand naming book.com and, and you'll see reviews and testimonials, and you can also buy it from there. And just to learn more about me, it's Robmeyerson.com and EY E R. And so, and from there, you can find my agency heirloom. You can find out more about the book and some articles I've written about naming. If you wanna read those. So either of those sites will work well.

John Jantsch (23:20): Heirloom is the name of, uh, my favorite little tiny bakery in, in Kansas city, Missouri, a actually by the way. So I get a warm feeling every time I hear that. Yeah.

Rob Meyerson (23:28): An emotional, an emotional connection.

John Jantsch (23:30): That's right. Well, Rob, thanks again for stopping by. And hopefully we'll see you one of these days out there on the road.

Rob Meyerson (23:34): Thanks. I appreciate it.

John Jantsch (23:39): All right. That wraps up another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. I wanna thank you so much for tuning in, feel free to share this show. Feel free to give us reviews. You know, we love those things. Also, did you know that we had created training, marketing training for your team? If you've got employees, if you've got a staff member that wants to learn a marketing system, how to install that marketing system in your business, check it out. It's called the certified marketing manager program from duct tape marketing. You can find it at ducttapemarketing.com and just scroll down a little and find that tab that says training for your team.

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