A professional naming consultant reveals proven strategies for creating brand calibre names for companies, products and processes

Roger_GrantJust weeks before his presentation to Calgary Marketing Association members, naming and brand Strategist Roger Grant spoke with Sue Blanchard, MBA, about his April 22 luncheon presentation for the Calgary Marketing Association. In an interview, Grant reveals his expertise in naming nouns ranging from products and companies to processes and events.

Tell me about your upcoming presentation for the Calgary Marketing Association?

Names play a surprisingly pivotal role in the success of companies, products, and processes. A name is the most repeated marketing message ever attached to a brand. Even in the case of small companies, their names are seen, heard, and read millions of times.
A great message repeated a million times will lead to much better sales results than a weak or problematic message repeated a million times. The success of a name comes down to the name’s quality.

What are some of the problems companies encounter when naming products, processes and companies?

Some names are way too long, easy to forget and hard to take in. They don’t engage the customer’s mind. Companies with poor or lackluster names don’t get talked about or tweeted.

Names can position products at the commodity level. If nothing special about a company or its products is presented to the customer, then the customer is more price conscious. If the name comes across as higher level, as representing something of value, then it will support a higher price point and customers are less apt to grind away at the price.

A lot of names suffer from a lack of distinctiveness, where it’s easy to confuse one product with the name of another.

How did you become a naming or branding expert?

My career has been all about story telling. It started when I was a broadcast journalist in radio.

My involvement in naming started 20 plus years ago when a client had a product that needed a name. Based on that experience I decided to specialize in naming. So I started devouring all the books and articles I could find and then developed and refined a strategy for the naming process.

Part of my educational background is extremely helpful in naming. During university I studied both French and ancient Greek. Understanding word structure and how vocal sounds fit together is very important in creating product and company names.

Naming has a creative process different than the strategic process for a creating a website, brochures and other marketing communication projects. The thought process for naming is different.

There’s a lot more involved in naming than what people expect. When I walk a client through the steps involved in a project, the client will often remark, “I had no idea there were so many factors in the process.

I suspect there will be lots of light bulbs going on at the CMA event, since naming is an area of huge opportunity. Names can help or hurt. Plus I’ll give examples of lots of names.

How important are slogans?

Slogans are one of the most important branding tools. After the name, the slogan is the most repeated brand message. Slogans are especially important when launching a new product name that has a low level of direct meaning.

Lexus is a good example. When it was unveiled back in the 80s it sounded great, but it didn’t mean anything. No one knew what a Lexus was. The original tagline for the brand, “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection” gave the name a context of excellence.

Please describe your career path.

I worked for several years in the radio newsroom covering municipal, provincial and federal politics. My degree in Canadian History from the University of Toronto was a helpful background for those assignments.

Eventually, I moved into special event management. I joined the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance as General Manager of Interski, which is an international ski congress that takes place every 4 years and attracts the world’s best ski instructors.

After Interski, I joined Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts as Director of Sales at Chateau Lake Louise and later moved to the Palliser in Calgary. I’ve worked as a marketing consultant since the early 90s.

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