Brand Names 101: The Most Popular Types of Brand Names

Welcome to my short series on brand marketing! They say good writers borrow, great writers steal…Well, I wanted to steal some Wikipedia content to share with you (actually it isn’t stealing; Wikipedia posts are, by default, available for use thanks to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License). So without ado, here’s my annotated post on The Most Popular Types of Brand Names!

So when it comes to brands and branding, let’s start with the easiest name types:

Acronyms and Abbreviations Brand Names
AFLAC, IBM, M&M (for Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie).

Pretty much a no-brainer, eh? Just take the first letters of your existing brand name? I dunno; seems like lazy brand marketing to me, but it works for some!

Amalgam Brand Names
Names created by taking parts of words and putting them together: Nabisco (National Biscuit Company).

I don’t usually like amalgams…they tend to sound very old fashioned…

Alliteration and Rhyme Brand Names
Fun to say, and particularly memorable: FAT BAT, YouTube, Piggly Wiggly.

Ah, Piggly Wiggly! Who remembers that chain? These types of names are whimsical and have their place. They’re certainly very sticky and memorable…but use with caution; if everybody used a rhyming name, there’d be chaos in the branding world!

Appropriation Brand Names
Use the idea for one thing and apply it to another: Caterpillar, Reebok.

These work, but are very random in a lot of cases. What the heck does a caterpillar have to do with this brand?

Descriptive Brand Names
Descriptive brand names ascribe to the product a characteristic: Toys R Us, General Motors.

Direct, to the point. Often dull, though…

Clever Statement Brand Names
Brand names don’t have to be just a word or two: Seven for All Mankind, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, The Boring Company.

Works if it is truly clever, but can backfire if people don’t get the joke (or it is just lame).

Evocative Brand Names
Invoke a vivid image that alludes to a brand benefit: London Fog, Amazon.

Love me some evocative brand names! But there’s a time and place for them, and many brands should avoid…

Founders’ Names (Eponyms) Brand Names
Use the name of a founder or founder family member: Barneys, Hewlett-Packard, and Wendy’s.

I’m a fan of founders’ names. It shows pride in the business or product, and it is easy to go with… “Hey, Mr. Ford, what should we call the company?” “How about Ford?”

Geography Brand Names
Chose a brand name associated with company/product location: eBay for Echo Bay (a fictional place as well as the shortened form of “Echo Bay Technology Group,” the name of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s consulting company, according to the List of company name etymologies), Fuji for the tallest mountain in Japan, Cisco for San Francisco.

I’m a fan of these. They show pride in the local area and link your name to something which already has a history and legacy… Branding at its more organic!

Ingredients Brand Names
Base the brand name on ingredients: Clorox for chlorine plus sodium hydroxide, Pepsi for the digestive enzyme pepsin.

Wouldn’t work in most cases, and anyways kind of boring…

Merged Brand Names
When two companies merge into one, sometimes both names are kept: ExxonMobil, Cadbury Schweppes.

Meh. Unoriginal and not interesting in most cases… We can do better!

Mimetics Brand Names
Use alternative spellings for common sounds: 2(x)ist, Krispy Kreme.

I like mimetic names, but sometimes it can get carried away… Use with caution, especially if adding a Z or X! I’m tired of X’s…

Nickname Brand Names
Use a founder’s nickname: Adidas aka Adolf Dassler, Haribo Hans Riegel Bonn, Kinkos.

Works if you have a cool nickname…

Neologism Brand Names
A completely new made-up word: Kodak, Verizon, Mimex.

I’m not huge on neologisms but if it is memorable enough, it can work wonders… That’s a big if, though…

Onomatopoeia Brand Names
Use a sound associated with a product function or other brand idea: Twitter, Meow Mix.

Great brand names, these. You don’t see them a lot, so there’s lots of room to explore onomatopeia name concepts! 

Personification Brand Names
Create a character or adopt an existing personage: Green Giant, Midas Mufflers.

Brilliant, again because it ties your name into an existing character with a legacy… Doesn’t even have to be a character that people are super familiar with, but that is a nice bonus…

Portmanteau Brand Names
Brand name is a combination of two (or more) words or morphemes, and their definitions, into one new word: Travelocity, Pinterest.

These aren’t bad, but I have had mixed feedback when submitted such names to my own clients. They are easy to generate, though; just tack two synonyms are keywords together and BAM! 

Examples of brand name types

Alliteration: Coca-Cola
Matt Cates content and copywriting
Oxymoron: Krispy Kreme
Combination: Walkman
Tautology: Crown Royal
Theronym: Mustang
Mimetics: Google
Matt Cates content and copywriting
Eponym: Trump Tower
Description: Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Synecdoche: Staples
Poetics: USA Today
Metonymy: Starbucks
Matt Cates content and copywriting
Allusion: London Fog
Haplology: Land O’Lakes
Clipping: FedEx
Morphological borrowing: Nikon
Omission: RAZR
Acronym adaptation: BMW
Matt Cates content and copywriting
Acronym: KFC
Founder’s name: Ferrari
Classical roots: Pentium
Arbitrary: Apple
Matt Cates content and copywriting

Reduplication: Spic and Span

So these were some types and examples which branding marketing gurus turn to when doing their, er, branding of brands. Which of these types of brand names appeal to you?

Published by Matt Cates

Retired USAF Veteran. Freelance writer. Author of 'Haveck: The First Transhuman.'

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: