"What should we call it?"
It’s one of the biggest questions for every brand team—and for a social-first brand, it can often feel like the most important. Simply put, a name that grabs our attention, is memorable and can easily be found, is going to sell more.
Our parents chose products based largely on the ads they saw and what they found on local grocery store shelves. Today, we choose brands based on peer recommendation, online searches and perpetual Instagram scrolling (hashtags, anyone?).
OUAI became Sephora’s number one fastest-selling brand because women love the product. What helped them find it was the off-duty fashion model vibe of the brand, perfectly encapsulated by the simple Parisian slang word for "yes" or "yeah."
We all know names matter, but how do we get it right?
Four Core Questions to Ask When Naming a Brand
1. Have you looked beyond the obvious?
Start broad and narrow down.
Canary & King had a shortlist of 12 names across four categories: Young at Heart, Location-Inspired, Animal Kingdom, and a miscellaneous Potpourri bucket. There were more than 80 names in the appendix but presenting all of those would just be too overwhelming for the client. Instead, it’s important to look at how each of the 12 would work as a domain name, on social, and so on.
It’s this process of broadening out at first and then narrowing down based on what works and what the client likes that allows you to go beyond the obvious and find a name with genuine cut-through.
The best names come from the collaboration of a diverse team, with—and this is the really crucial part—the brand owner keeping an open mind.
2. Can people find it?
Try to find something distinctive, something you can own.
If you type your brand’s proposed name into Google or Instagram and 50 possibilities come up then you need to think again.
When singer-songwriter Thalia was looking for a name for her new beauty product range, there was a temptation to use her widely recognized first name, but the new brand would have become lost in the old one. Instead inspiration was taken from her middle name, Adrianna, and eventually, Adria by Thalia was born.
Word to the wise: Seek sound legal advice on just how ownable the name is. You don’t want to fall in love with a name, get halfway through creating all the visuals and then find it’s trademarked elsewhere in the world.
3. Will people remember it?
Some names stick in our minds, others don’t.
Your name should reflect your brand whether that’s the sun-drenched holiday feel of Summer Fridays, the buzzy anticipation of Canary & King, or the only-if-you’re-in-the-know pronunciation of OUAI.
You know memorable when you see it. Drunk Elephant, for example, is the sort of quirky, charming name that really sticks in your brain.
Beware an overly long name. Generally, if it’s more than one or two words it’s tough to recall. Keep it concise, tug at the heartstrings, tweak the synapses – make us remember it. “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” is, and “Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific” was, a successful brand — but they’re exceptions to the rule.
4. Does it work in context?
Whatever the name, it has to work in context.
You can’t choose it without seeing how it’ll play out typographically, how it will fit into the visuals, how you could use it on social media, and so on. The super-simple, four-letter OUAI not only looks great on the packaging but also lends itself to wordplay like “OUAI cool,” “OUAIsted” and “myOUAI.”
It’s easy to focus so much on the name that you forget that’s it’s just one element in the brand platform. No matter how good a name is, it won’t be the only thing conveying your brand to your customers.
Don’t Sweat It.
The most critical piece of advice we can offer around naming a brand: don’t sweat it too much.
Take your time choosing the name, but not too long. Seek guidance from the experts but have confidence that no one knows your customers better than you. And above all else remember your name is a big piece of the puzzle when building your brand, but it’s not the whole picture.