The Name of the Game is…

brandmarks-brand-namingHow can you quickly create positive associations with your brand name and the benefits or functions your products or services offer? Through ‘sound symbolism’ – a term coined by linguists to mean a ‘suggestive name’. For example Swiffer for swift sweeping, or Jaguar for speed and grace.

Suggestive names use real words or parts of real words as these can be visualised immediately and effectively and can tell a much broader story. Suggestive names can also be very interesting when you have a particular brand personality, a particular way of talking.

Here are some other examples… PINTEREST, NETFLIX, YOUTUBE.

And suggestive names can become even more suggestive phrases 🙂 like ‘Netflix and Chill’. ‘Netflix and Chill’ means basically, “hooking up with someone.” But it’s a lot more complicated than that. “Netflix and chill” is now intertwined in social media semantics. It began as (“Can’t wait to leave work so I can watch Netflix and chill!”), and stayed that way for several years before acquiring a loose sexual connotation (“Wanna come over for Netflix and chill? ;)”) and, eventually becoming a known code phrase (“He said he loves me, but I know he just wants to Netflix and chill”). So think about how suggestive you want your brand name to be!

Interestingly, Dunkin’ Donuts plans to drop the “Donuts” from its name. Why? Because beverages make the most money for the company than the donuts. Another example of suggestive naming, we can dunk anything in our coffee?

In fact, there are 3 key types of naming strategies, descriptive, suggestive, and arbitrary. These three categories are like archetypes. They guide you, and help you determine the kind of story you want to tell.


Descriptive names describe what is the product or service – SHREDDED WHEAT allows us to imagine the product and how it will taste and feel in the mouth. There’s no ambiguity.

Shredded wheat. The name describes totally the offer.


Suggestive brand names indicate what a product or service delivers. They can function as a metaphor, analogy, or an association. TWITTER, for instance, is a communication platform that’s like a flock of birds tweeting at each other. TOSSED (below) is another example.

TOSSED is a good example of suggestive branding. We can already imagine the product we will eat – a freshly tossed salad.


These have no connection to the product or service. Think KODAK, OLD NAVY or OXO. They are memorable and International as they have no meaning, and therefore will not cause problems when translated.





Of course, there are many other things to take into consideration when naming your brand, so we run a half-day or full day workshop called Name your Game! – please contact Sue for more information at


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