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Choosing a Brand Name: Descriptive or Unique Coined Word?

A common question by startup entrepreneurs and established business owners goes something like this:

“Is it better to choose a descriptive name, or is it better to make up some unique word that never existed before?”

There are different schools of thought on this same question.  Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Descriptive Name for a Brand

A descriptive name is something like “Mary’s Bakery” or Akron Plumbing.  They clearly describe the type of businessNames like these have several advantages:

 But of course you have to weigh the advantages against the negatives. Here are two downsides of using a descriptive name or phrase, instead of something unique:

Unique Made-Up Name for a Brand

Now let’s take a look at using a newly-coined word or a unique word for your brand.  Using a unique, made-up word or phrase to name your business has its advantages: 

Of course, made-up names have their challenges, too.  Here are some disadvantages of unique or made-up words as brand names:

No matter which route you go – descriptive name or unique coined word – don’t stop with just the words.  Remember that the choice of fonts, colors and graphical elements can subtly change the impression you convey. 

Emotion is an important element in a brand.  Ask yourself this about a logo — how does it make you feel?  Happy?  Energetic?  Playful? Comforted?   Emotion can be conveyed through the use of colors and fonts and graphical images, in addition to the words used.

Some of the disadvantages of a descriptive brand can be overcome with fresh, exciting, interesting colors and graphics to go along with the words.  By the same token, drab colors or ponderous fonts can cause even the most catchy coined name to miss the mark.

And as pointed out above, the use of a tagline or slogan along with the name can add important meaning along with the name.  Think of some well known slogans, like that of the U. S. Marine Corps.  Actually, the Marines have had more than one phrase associated with them.  Semper Fi is one.  But the slogan that conveys in the minds of the public what we should think about the Marines is: “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.”  That phrase conveys so many things in six words.  It conveys that only the best have the qualities to become Marines (“The Few”).  It also conveys a tradition of excellence associated with the Marines (“The Proud”).  And it conveys that they need no other description or introduction because their reputation precedes them (“The Marines”).

Whichever route you choose, keep in mind the big picture.  You are creating an overall impression about your business in the minds of the public.  Think carefully about what you want people to  think about your business.  It’s easier to start with a good name than change it later.  But if your chosen brand name is not working out, don’t hesitate to re-brand into something better.