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Understanding the Psychology Behind Effective Brand Names That Leave a Lasting Impression

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An astounding 81% of consumers say they need to trust a brand before they’ll consider becoming a customer.

That starts with a brand name that gets people’s attention for the right reasons and encompasses all that a business has to offer. Enter the psychology of branding, a field that has been around since 1895 when Harlow Gale used psychological theories and scientific methods to study advertising (as well as the art of persuasion).

There is a lot involved in building a brand — including choosing the perfect name. Effective brand-naming requires understanding the psychology that drives people’s perceptions of and preferences about that brand. As we’ve seen with brands like Amazon, Starbucks and Nike, sometimes it really is all in the name.

In choosing a brand name, business owners and entrepreneurs must consider emotions, the story behind the name and a few other factors.

The role of emotions in brand naming

Emotions play a huge role in consumer decision-making. People choose brands based on their emotions far more often than you might realize. Take a look at some of the biggest brands in the world. They’ve established a brand with a name that promotes trust, support and understanding.

One of the biggest success stories in branding comes from Amazon, initially dubbed “Cadabra” (yes, as in abracadabra). In 1994, Jeff Bezos decided that books were a good item to sell online and saw the growing commercial potential of the modern Internet. By 1995, the beta version of Amazon was available for his friends and former colleagues to explore

Why the name change? Well, after some were misunderstanding the company name as “cadaver,” Bezos decided something different was necessary. Since he was about to boldly claim to be the “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore,” Amazon seemed like a fitting name. This was also due in part to the fact that Bezos felt this name wouldn’t pigeonhole the company into offering just one product or service.

In just two years, Bezos had more than $15.7 million in revenue. By 1997, the company was going public, and by 1999, Amazon was selling CDs, toys, electronics and tools. Today, the company has so many different products and services that it truly lives up to the size of its namesake, the Amazon River in South America.

If you can create a brand name (and supporting brand) that evokes that kind of emotion, you’ll be on the right track.

Related: How to Build a Brand Story That Buyers Emotionally Connect With

What’s your story?

Every good brand has a story, and a major part of that comes in the naming of that brand. While people will be inclined to make their own assumptions, the best brands are those that guide the consumer’s impressions and perceptions to create the story they want you to hear.

People love stories. Therefore, individuals connect easier with brands that have a compelling story and brand identity.

The story, of course, should be real and factual. This is not the time for lying or creating fictional accounts of where the company name came from — remember, it all starts with trust. You cannot have trust without honesty.

Communicate the reasoning behind the name and you will be able to share your vision for what the brand represents with the world.

Related: You’re Not Just Selling a Product or Service — You’re Selling a Story. Here Are 3 Steps to Ensure It Sells

The role of cultural associations in choosing a brand name

This is as much a cautionary note as it is an important branding consideration. It’s critical to avoid any potential cultural associations, negative connotations or culturally insensitive terms when you are choosing a brand name.

We’ve seen plenty of examples of these come and go over the years, from sports teams to product names to mascots and beyond.

  • Aunt Jemima

  • Eskimo Pies

  • Cleveland Indians

  • Sambo’s

  • Washington Redskins

  • Uncle Ben’s (Logo)

  • Land O’Lakes (Logo)

The importance of simplicity and substance

While you need a good story, it must also be straightforward. A brand name shouldn’t be overly complicated. Keep it simple.

It’s human nature to avoid names that are difficult to pronounce or spell. Incorporating a shorter name into a logo and the rest of a brand’s identity is also easier. Plus, you can say a lot more with less when you find the perfect name.

It should be memorable for the right reasons

Everyone will tell you brand names need to be memorable. People already have trouble recalling brand names. Studies have shown that people are 81% more likely to remember your brand’s color(s) than your name.

Don’t choose a name that’s memorable because it’s misspelled in an attempt to be “creative.” Don’t pick a name that has any kind of negative connotations. Choose a brand name that people remember for the right reasons.

Alignment with mission and values

In addition to the emotional connection people make with a brand name, it should also align with the brand’s mission and values. This will further evoke positive emotions and help people make decisions based on more than just a name.

A brand name is your one chance to make a memorable impression, so it should reflect the essence of what you want the company to stand for. Since 64% of consumers are brand loyal based on shared values, this is an important message to convey.

Related: How to Choose a Strong Business Name and Amplify Your Brand

Psychology is a major part of the branding and naming of a business. It’s essential to understand the way that people process information and form emotional connections to craft the perfect brand name, which is the foundation for building a successful brand overall.

Taking the time to get the name right can pay off in the long run. While there are a lot of different people out there who will suggest many different ways to choose a brand name, you cannot forego the psychology behind it all.

When your brand name evokes emotion and creates that instant connection, you will have succeeded in understanding how to use the psychology of branding to your advantage.

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