Posted: February 1, 2016 |  AUTHOR: KEN FOX | CONTACT ME


Standard Oil of New Jersey in the 1970’s was on the hunt for a new global brand name they could use to go grow their businesses. The company owned at least three retail branded gas station chains in the U.S. and Canada: Esso, Enco and Humble, and none of these names were acceptable. For example, Enco meant “stalled car” in Japanese, not a good fit for a fuel company. Their search process started by generating many names internally, but none were deemed suitable. They generated many more names by hiring a brand naming consultant, and had a computer generate 10,000 words of four or five letters. Consumer research and testing reduced that number to 234, and the naming team cut the list to 16 for further testing. Six names were then tested in 56 languages and several of those names were rejected because of “negative” associations or translation problems in one or more languages. Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 2.52.51 PMFinally, someone recommended a name with a double “xx” which would have no translation problems, be easy to pronounce and not have any negative associations. The Exxon name was adopted as the new name in 1972. The company’s name changed again in November 1999 to ExxonMobil, after the two companies merged.

Hopefully, companies or organizations seeking a global brand name will not have to go through the tedious exercise of Standard Oil of New Jersey in finding a new name. Any new company, a start up, newly merged or otherwise with a website is theoretically “global.” Anyone can search and find the company’s name on the Internet. The guidelines used and conveyed in any good marketing text for creating a brand name are:

  • Easy to pronounce
  • Be easy to remember or recognize
  • No negative connotations

As more new companies appear, including small or start-up companies, more names are needed. One major barrier to brand name adoption is legal registration. Most obvious or first choice names are already registered and protected. One of the reasons more new names are starting with vowels or unexpected letters are they are easier to register and protect. Some examples include: iPhone, Uber, Alpahabet, Xiaomi, and AbbVie because they are more easier to register and protect.

One category which needs continuous name generation is pharmaceuticals. Large pharmaceutical companies often hire brand naming agencies to generate and legally “clear” names for use. Some of the past year’s new pharmaceutical brand names include, those beginning with vowels or unusual letters to facilitate the registration process,

-AlecensaScreen Shot 2016-02-17 at 2.52.57 PM


The 2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4.

Car manufacturers also need brand names for new models. The following is a sampling of brand names which start with a vowel, including the Aventador shown above.
-Buick Encore
-Hyundai Elantra
-Ford Edge
-Hyundai Aero
-Honda Element
-Kia Optima
-Honda Insight
-Toyota Avalon
-Hyundai Accent -Volkswagen EOS
Note: Some of the above car models may no longer be available for sale new

Opinions on how to generate a brand name vary widely, and it is more an art than science. Here are some guidelines:
Study the competition.
Confirm the marketing strategy and target audience.
Create and gain agreement on a list of brand name objectives as a guideline..
Plan a multiple attack on brand name generation:
a. Solicit from multiple people and multiple sources
b. Gather a diverse group and brainstorm a list of potential names using your objectives. This group may include people within and outside the company. External participants can include consultants, representatives from the sales force, advertising agency, public relations or graphic design firms.
c. Generate many names without immediate judgments. Do not immediately discount, or eliminate names.
5. Meet with the team leader, and judgmentally reduce the number of name candidates to 4- Further eliminate names which may have a negative or undesired implications, not fit the category, be too long or hard to pronounce. Possibly build or add to a name chosen.
6. Consider using market research to evaluate these names among the desired target group,
7. Have your legal department or a lawyer specializing in brand identity do an initial scan to determine if the names are available.
8. Have a graphic designer super impose the brand name onto a print advertisement or storyboard with your product or service shown to initially evaluate fit and appearance.
9. Once legally cleared and accepted, have a graphic designer create an appropriate logo and font type to visually display the brand name.
10. Consider using a generic descriptor. See below for the definition and usage.
11. Register the brand name, using a lawyer or contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark office directly.

Many inexperienced brand name seekers, and especially small companies, fail to recognize the benefits of using a generic descriptor. A generic descriptor is a short phase or a few words which ALWAYS appear with the brand name. It is used to help explain, clarify or otherwise strengthen the meaning of the brand name. Some examples include:
Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 2.53.12 PM– Orville Redenbacher Gourmet Popping Corn
– Band-Aid Adhesive Bandage
– Intel Inside
– CHEEZ-IT Baked Snack Crackers
– Terminix No Bugs No Hassles

Generic descriptors should not be confused with brand slogans, which are typically longer than a generic descriptor, change often or are located elsewhere on a package, advertisement or display. Using generic descriptors consistently, over time, also helps brand equity or the strength and value of a brand.

The following are two examples of a brand name and their logos, and use of a generic descriptor.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 2.53.19 PM

As choosing brand names become more challenging we observe more numbers are being used in word combinations to make them unique and also easier to register. This is clearly seen in the new models of smart phones being introduced (e.g., iPhone 6S, Galaxy S6 and Nexus 6P). Separately, some brand names need to be changed because of unforeseen circumstances before a product or service introduction. Tata Motors’ (India) recently decided to postpone launching their “Zica” Hatchback in India due to the spread and danger of the Zika virus. They want to avoid any association with the new car to the disease. They will rebrand the car in the near future.

Nissan should be praised for bringing the successful Datsun name out of retirement. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan-Renault, launched the Datsun “Go” in India and Indonesia. Pharmaceutical brand names are often difficult for some people to pronounce let alone remember. Pharmaceutical company objectives may only strive to be distinct and different. The use of generic descriptors should be part of any new brand name exploration. However, as some brand names become very well known, such as Nike and Starbucks’, the descriptors may no longer be needed as the brands are perceived to be “iconic,” or very easily recognizable.

Another challenge stems from international usage where culture, language and inherent meanings may represent potential barriers to using a brand name in a specific country. Marketers need to do their home work before they select brand names for global use.

Strategies for Distinctive Brands, paper by Judith Lynne Zaichkowsky, May 2010.
Tata Motors to Rename Zica Hatchback Following Zika Virus Outbreak, Mark Miller, brand channel, February 3, 2016

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©2017, The Global Galaxy blog is produced by The Soundings Group, LLC, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, The company is an international business consulting firm, specializing in new market assessments, market entry strategies and marketing guidance. The scope of Global Galaxy is to cover timely international trends, issues and business building ideas. Its purpose is to educate, inform and stimulate thinking for business opportunity analyses.