We love/hate/love the Guardian newspaper for all the reasons that aren't worth going into here and now. At Berliner Benson we have an especially soft spot their Sleeve Notes music email on a Friday.
And this week we were even more excited to see an item titled 'From Kanye West to The 1975, the dos and don'ts of naming your album'. We're very happy to see the grammatically correct 'dos' as well! Apostrophe, why?
As part of our brand storytelling offer, we do a fair bit of naming work for brands, products, services, job titles and places. And in a parallel universe, we also write, record and perform music and spoken word, name albums, track titles and even one or two record labels. More than anything else, we have a deep affection for the old UK TV game show, Name that Tune. So this article was right up our metaphorical street.
Naming anything can be a lot of fun or mind-bendingly frustrating. If you've ever had to name a pet / club / kid / company / website / twitter handle, you'll have been through it and hopefully lived to tell the tale. Inventing or selecting names for corporations and voluntary organizations often goes a bit like this. 'We need a new website or logo. How much will it cost? And by the way we think we might want to change our name too.' We love these challenges. The truth is that it's all part of telling the brand's story. And if you stick to that principle and convince your partner / client to stick to it too, everything should be fine.
The tricky bit is subjectivity. Whether your client has a special love for David Bowie (RIP) track titles or won't choose a name because it sounds like her auntie's hamster, personal preferences can be a dreaded distraction. So the more structure and science you can put round the process, the better.
Here's a rough guide to your brand / product naming process
First place to start is by checking if we all agree on changing / coming up with a new name. Sometimes it's only a question, which is well worth exploring before you dive into the deep and ponderous ocean of 'who are we, why we're here and what's our true spirit animal name?'. Changing your brand / product name means replacing that sign above the door, your logo, some company registrations, all your packaging, securing a new URL and many more fun and pricey activities. And then if the answer is still yes, it's worth having a process and explaining it clearly to the whole team.
BRIEF – What's the brand story? What's the personality? What kind of names do you love / hate / know are illegal and sound too much like your competitors? What types of names should we explore? (eg Names of provenance / where you come from, Abstract words, Metaphorical, etc.)
GENERATE – Based on your brief, get your team and your client's team to come up with hundreds of names. Yours should be better as you're professional, but they know their business way better than you. In fact, if the name comes from your client everyone will be happy. Especially if the person who comes up with the name gets a nice treat for their efforts.
VISUALIZE – And speaking of shiny, it's even better if you're involved in creating the visual identity around the new name. Plaster it on every relevant piece of communication, from signage and packaging, to digital and print advertising, business cards, brochures, fly posters and anywhere you're allowed to spray paint and stencil.
VERBALIZE – Put the name into paragraphs, talk about it, roll it around your refined palate and see how it trips off your tongue. And if it's an international brand, try to avoid names that translate badly - famously Chevrolet tried launching their Nova model in Latin America, where 'no va' means don't go...
SELECT – Narrow it down to your top ten or dirty dozen and get the team in charge to pick their perfect 6 names to go into a knockout legal search. This is cheap, quick and super helpful.
DECIDE – If one or two of these names clears the first legal hurdle, you can either spend a bit more time generating a few more candidates or get the legal team to go for full trademark clearance. (The more territories your client needs to cover, the pricier this gets...)
REWIND – If there are any hiccups, trip-ups, changes of heart or legal blocks, just go back a step and start again.
TELL THE STORY – Make sure everyone feels good about this name. Make sure they understand why the name works for their brand. Hopefully as you've stuck close to the brand and brief, the name will have a really close connection either to the soul of their company or at least to what they stand for. If it ties to their legacy and beliefs even better. Then they can go out with pride and explain their shiny new name.
Of course, you should always be prepared for the unexpected. Sometimes you can walk in the room with one name and it gets approved, cleared and we all go home early. It can go many other ways too. And often the whole process gets shelved because the merger doesn't happen, the product doesn't get launched or the client remembers why they love their old name and thanks you for helping them to rediscover their true self.
It's all swings and roundabouts. And when it comes to naming your own album...read The Guardian article and see if you agree with them. As for us, we're ready to name that tune in 3...
Berliner Benson is a creative brand studio telling brand stories for world-class clients in the UK and USA. Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Berliner Benson
Albums like Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo and The 1975’s I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It suggest our stars need some direction with the names of their records. Luckily, help is on hand... DO GO YOUR OWN WAY Naming your new record is a tricky business, like trying to throw a dart at the bullseye of posterity while blindfolded. Kanye West recently seemed to have outsourced the task, getting his wife to gauge interest in possible album titles with an internet-breaking Twitter poll. In the end, Kanye went his own way and opted for, er, The Life Of Pablo over the actually-quite-good Swish. Perhaps he remembered the cautionary tale of ska washouts Smash Mouth, who asked fans to pick the name of their third album. They chose Smash Mouth.