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Tom Marin

Building Brands

By Tom Marin

About Tom

Tom Marin is the managing partner of and provides corporate and brand strategy to organizations of all sizes. He has an extensive background in the graphic arts, printing, publishing and media industries. Marin is an accredited member of the national and international chapters of the Business Marketing Assn., is a (CBC) certified business communicator and a past marketing chair of the Chicago chapter.


What’s in a Name?

Naming your product may be one of the toughest things you ever do. It will certainly be a complex undertaking and if there are more than a few people involved it will probably be challenging. Done right though, a strong brand name can pay huge dividends for years to come.
The printing, publishing and media industries have been challenged for some time with the proliferation of brand names that sound the same. The same holds true for corporate and nonprofit organizations seeking a unique name. Perhaps that’s because choosing a unique name has become increasingly more difficult. Just try and find a decent URL (domain name) and you will soon see how difficult choosing a new name can be. Go to and you will find a simple registry tool that allows you to search endlessly for a new name.

This means, as never before, choosing the correct name for a product is essential. Simply placing a model number after a company’s initials—like “Spectrum 2000”—although easy, may not be an effective way to introduce a new product given how many other names with 2000 already exist.

Knowing these difficulties, here are five suggestions for how to approach brand naming:
Step #1: Your name should reflect true “market realities”
Of all the steps, this first one is probably the most critical because if you start out in the wrong direction you will never get to your final destination! A brand new product with little or no competition in its market needs a name that immediately takes leadership, whereas a crowded market demands an innovative name. iPod is a good example of a new name for a new market. Can you imagine Apple introducing the iPod as its new “MP3 Music Player?” Good grief! Rather, it needed a name that would define a new brand category so selecting a name that was completely unique was a terrific solution.

And Apple has wisely chosen to name its other branded products with this same architecture, iMac, iPhone, iPad, etc., which has eliminated the need to come up with brand new thinking. And every new “iproduct” adds value back to its “ibrand" line.

Step #2: Choose a name that reflects the brand’s core customer benefit
This is often the fun part: coming up with a large number of names that may or may not be used, but allow you to express all of the thoughts you’ve had about naming the product. Because there are millions of commercially used names, and since many are legally protected, you need a long list to choose from that meets your specific strategic criteria.

Hint: The more unique your product and/or service, the easier it is to name.

Step #3: Be unique
Although tempting, it is rarely advisable to use “borrowed interest” when naming your brand. Making associations with famous people or leading brand names often promotes those people or concepts but not your brand. And if you’re not careful, you may end up in court trying to defend your use of someone else’s name! Instead, create names according to what makes the brand unique.

Hint: The more unique your product’s brand name, the easier it is to keep it differentiated.

Step #4: Make sure it’s available
This next step may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked. Why register your name? The biggest reason is to protect what may become a very successful enterprise from worry that its ownership will end up as some other company’s property that registered the name before you did! Unfortunately, this happens more than you may think and the legal process of litigation is never enjoyable and always expensive.

Step #5: Review Board
The last step, The Review Board, can take many forms. The most often is to conduct qualitative research using a series of small groups controlled by a researcher, where the name and image impressions are presented and discussed. This evaluation provides an objective approach of review.

So when looking for a new name, keep in mind that your end-goal is to select a name that either sums up who your organization is or what your organization does. The name can be challenging, logical, inspiring or industry-specific, but most of all it needs to be one that your customers will understand and ultimately feel good about using.
Tom Wants to Hear Your Branding Issues:
If you are a printing company, or product/services company serving the industry, and would like to be considered for a feature in this blog, please contact Tom Marin for an interview.

Follow MarketCues on Twitter for branding and social media tips, as well as the latest trends. Tom also welcomes emails, new LinkedIn connections, calls to 407.330.7708 or visit How can he help solve your branding issues?

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Most Recent Comments:
Caitlin - Randolph - Posted on August 27, 2010
Love love love your iPod example. You need a catchy name to catch on. Notice Zune or whatever it is called didn't catch on?
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Archived Comments:
Caitlin - Randolph - Posted on August 27, 2010
Love love love your iPod example. You need a catchy name to catch on. Notice Zune or whatever it is called didn't catch on?