When you first come into the world, you’re given a name. Likely chosen by your family, this name will, more often than not, have significance and meaning attached to it. Perhaps you were named after a relative, a historical or prominent figure, or they simply liked the way it sounded. Whatever the story behind it, your name is highly valuable, and shapes your personal identity.

This is the same when it comes to naming a brand. Names can be historical, refer to geographical location, be a family name, or an abstraction of an idea or message. Most importantly, a brand name, like your own name, establishes identity and uniqueness.

The best names are those that are more abstract and can make a promise. For example, the battery brand Eveready makes a promise in its name; it’s energy when you need it. Names like this can act as a mini advertisement and can help sell the brand or product. Names can also be used as a proxy for what the brand represents; a piece of attention-grabbing communication that connects consumers to the brand and promises more to come.

Names that have a story or meaning behind them can reinforce the unique advantages of the brand. Google, for instance, was originally intended to be named ‘Googol’, referring to the number that is 10 to the power of 100, however was misspelled and became what it is today.

Names can similarly create their own meaning. Where the word ‘puma’ was once only associated with large wild cats, it’s now more commonly applied to sportswear. Taking a name from one context and re-appropriating it to a new context can be very beneficial when thinking about brand names.

However, naming can be a formidable endeavour. To find a name is a complex and highly creative process that is underlied by marketing, research and trademark laws. Millions of names have already been registered by hundreds of thousands of companies, therefore creating and protecting a unique and recognisable name can be challenging. When naming, it’s important to establish criteria and objectives from the beginning, to ascertain what kind of name will suit the brand, and what associations will be attached to the name. It must align with the brand’s narrative and strategy.

When you first begin developing a name there are no stupid ideas. Don’t be afraid to think creatively. Throw all your ideas on the table, then examine the names in context — consider the sound, cadence and ease of pronunciation. Remember, meaning and association build over time. The carefully crafted combination of letters you develop now can become one of your most valuable assets in the future.

Eventually a name can become whatever you make it. Layers of meaning can be added to a name through the associations you put around it, the stories you tell, and the interactions people have with the brand.

Should we change our name if we aren’t happy with the one we have? Before you go about changing a name you need to have very good reasons for doing it. Will it improve brand engagement? Will it be more memorable and recognisable? One of the major challenges with this is that once a name is in someone’s mind it can be very difficult to change it.

An out-of-date brand name may need to be changed in order to better reflect the brand’s evolving identity. Apple was originally known as Apple Computers, but changed its name in 2007 to facilitate their move into a broader field of electronics that encompasses more than just computers. This change also made the name more streamlined and contemporary, while still being easily recognised.

But when you’ve found the right name? Coming up with a name is a start, giving it positive meaning and making it stand out in the crowd comes next.

Names that have a story or meaning behind them can reinforce the unique advantages of the brand.