What's in a name? Everything, and also not as much as you think.

Naming a newborn baby can be a daunting task. Do you go with the legacy pick and create a Junior? Or choose a noun no human has ever been called by before—a Blue, Rebel, or Scout? (Celebrities tend to always choose this option.)

Parents fret—how will this epic choice impact my child for the rest of their lives?

But as anyone who has raised or been around children can tell you, whether Bryan or Blue, the name isn’t the hardest part. It’s everything else that has to be built up around it. The child ends up making the name their own, breathing life into it with positive or negative associations dependent on their personalities.

You’re probably thinking, what does this have to do with building a brand?

Plenty. People can struggle to commit to a moniker for a brand, find it challenging to take risks and discover it’s difficult to envision a name’s future performance. This is especially true depending on the size and complexity of the brand, with internal teams slightly gun-shy as they try to avoid making an early mistake. Business has its own state of new parenthood.

It’s why the C-Suite often hires creative agencies to take on naming a brand—it's a big job. And since it is one of the toughest gigs in the world of branding, it’s important to take a few words of wisdom into the project. We asked our executive creative director and brand strategist, Anita Holman, what companies should keep in mind during a major rebrand or product introduction.

here are five tips to remember during the naming process

1. The right name is easier to find when you do your homework.

Before you start a naming project, you have to really understand your business. You should know the answer to a number of questions, including what makes you unique, what are your areas of differentiation, what’s the brand's personality and how are you going to market? Exploring and gaining an understanding of these things means you have a lot of material to pull from as inspiration and reasoning for a new brand name, helping you get to that moniker more efficiently.” (We help brands hone in on the identity of their new brand in our Brand DNA workshop.)

2. A name that’s easy to recognize might feel comfortable—but it’s probably also over-used.

“Companies often want something recognizable,” Holman said. “But the problem is if you recognize it as a safe and comfortable choice, it’s likely other people already have, too. What brands are now facing with recognizable names is that a hundred other businesses are also using that expected name, making you sound and look like a lot of these other companies. In today’s world anything that is remotely expected within a category is done and the URL is taken. You need to be ready to push harder and go to a new place if you want to stand out from your competition.”

3. Speaking of tech: this is one place the building industry really should follow their lead.

“When you go into naming, many times you have to be uncomfortable with some of the names because that means it is distinctive and not overdone by other people,” Holman says. “You’re looking for something you can own. Tech companies are brilliant at that—names like Uber, Apple and Meta are all super ownable monikers.”

4. Shakespeare was right: what’s in a name? Not as much as we think.

The well-worn line from Romeo & Juliet has some truth: “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” The name is one element of a much larger task, which is building a brand experience. “A name is a piece of a pie; it’s not meaningless, but it is not the be-all-and-end-all of your brand’s success,” Holman said. “It starts to define and lay the groundwork for your brand’s personality, but you still have to focus a lot of energy on executing the personality itself. It helps to have that perspective when you’re naming, so you understand the stakes accurately and spend your energy wisely.”

5. Prepare a strong “why,” and back it up with a solid communications plan.

Sometimes customers respond loudly—and negatively—to change. A smart strategy is prepared for the blowback. “A name change can be about establishing a vision going forward; you need to bring your customers into that vision,” Holman said. "If you stand strong and put the right story around it, you can minimize some of that pushback around a new name. The biggest fail is to go forward without a good communications plan. You start to waffle and people will lose trust in your brand.” (The renaming of Twitter to X, and the subsequent loss in the brand’s valuation, is a prime case study for this. The platform hasn’t been given much time to keep pace with Elon Musk’s vision for the company.)

Finding the right name is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Hopefully with these five elements in mind, you can right-size the stakes and enter a renaming project with an open and creative mind.

more stuff

There are plenty of great minds sounding off on rebranding and naming—here are a few we recommend:

More Good Reads

7 tips for successfully navigating a merger or acquisition

So you’re managing a new acquisition. How do you prepare to create one happy family? In our experience guiding c-suite leaders as they navigate the process, we've noticed there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But there are seven critical questions that make the difference between a graceful implementation or a floundering one. Learn how to answer them with confidence and ensure your newly expanded organization can thrive.

AI is here to stay. Are you ready to leverage it?

The building materials industry is at a unique crossroads: customers want more personalized service than ever before. And AI may lend itself best to the needs of the building materials industry to deliver that. Executive Creative Director and Brand Strategist Anita Holman explores how this game-changing tool could enhance every brand’s ability to develop personalized advice in ways that were never humanly possible before.

When the brand is you: two companies that made our individuality their success

The strength of your “fan following” is also the strength of your brand. And one powerful way to build that loyalty is to allow your customers’ creativity to shine through in your marketing. Associate creative director Erin Kunz explores the brands that shaped her adolescence and how embracing user-generated content helped them build an even stronger identity.