First impressions are pivotal. In one-tenth of a second, we decide how we feel about a person—we form a mental image to build on in the future. That image is unusually tough to change. It takes some doing to override millions of years of biological circuitry.
We use that same circuitry when we think about brands. Your first impression of a brand, whether it’s learning a company name at a cocktail party, spotting a logo on a billboard, or watching a commercial, creates the lens you view the brand through.
When we’re naming—whether it’s product naming, company naming, or whatever else—first impressions are a huge consideration. The idea is that a good name starts the right conversation. It creates the first impression that its owner wants to give, not just in that first tenth of a second, but also in the next minute, when the brand’s story is told.
Many companies find that they’re having the wrong conversation. Instead of creating conversations around what these people do, how they do it, or what they believe, these names:
Get no reaction at all. The worst curse on this list, this pattern says that the name is boring, and that the company should feel boring. People rarely want to talk about your company if the name gets no reaction unless they’re humoring you.
Don’t apply. The first story told is about a pivot. No one likes pivots. The past is the past, but every time the name is said, the old business focus pokes out of the grave.
Prompt a lame backstory. We’ve yet to meet anyone who can say, “It’s named after my boss’s daughter,” and smile at the same time.
Connect to nothing more than a sound. The story of this name is that there is no story. “It doesn’t mean anything. We just think it sounds cool.” Maybe—but it doesn’t take the conversation anywhere useful.
Lead into a story that no one can follow. If doing a name justice takes more a sentence or two, no one’s going to remember it. Even worse, no one’s going to want to know more.
So what’s ideal? First, you’ll need to get in the door. If the name makes them fall asleep, there is no story to follow up with. The best names connect logically to simple stories that let you talk about what you do and how you do it. They walk the middle ground between too-clever-to-follow and I-know-exactly-what-you-do. They get a reaction, whether it’s a smile or a raised eyebrow. They create the first impressions that brands so badly need.