Think positive about 'negative' brand names
When working on naming projects over the past 20 years or so, we've lost count of the times someone has rejected a perfectly good name idea because of a worry over a perceived negative connotation in the name. And despite our best efforts to encourage them to focus on all the positive qualities of the name, all they see is the negative. Naturally, once any of us get something like this in our heads, it's hard to shift it.
But we all see countless brand names that, when we think about it, contain less than positive meanings.
Here are just a few examples from UK high streets:
- Funky cosmetics brand Benefit is never confused with social welfare payments
- Fossil watches and accessories are not muddy relics dug up by archaeologists
- Giraffe restaurants do not, as far as I know, offer giraffe on the menu
- Caffé Nero customers do not have a murderous dictator in mind as they sip their macchiatos
- You're unlikely to get soaked to the skin when you visit a Monsoon store
- Banana Republic was not founded in a dysfunctional totalitarian country
- Crocs footwear is not made of crocodile skin, and won't take your leg off
- Don't go to Superdrug if you're expecting a hallucinatory experience
- You won't find Diesel fashionwear at your local forecourt
- The Body Shop will not sort out that dent in your Ford Focus
- Footwear retailer Sole Trader is a national chain, not a sole trader
- Handmade cosmetics store Lush is not a magnet for alcoholics
- Pandora jewellery will not unleash all the evils of the world
- Jigsaw does not make clothes that you have to assemble yourself
...this list could go on and on. But we don't think about, or sometimes even notice, potentially negative meanings because we attach other thoughts, opinions and feelings to these brands. We think about things like products, stores, websites, price, ad campaigns, values, experience, behaviour, staff and attitude long before we think about what their name means, or could mean.
And sometimes a hint of negativity can give a brand a bit of attitude and edginess: effectively turning a potential negative into a positive. Take Sweaty Betty, for example; a name that might sound a bit grim when you think about it is actually all about confidence, attitude, and a focus on fitness.
Of course there are company naming territories that are best avoided (e.g. the names of terror groups, hideous diseases ...that sort of thing). And deliberately crazy/zany and 'Hey, like, we're a bit weird' names are gonna be a bad decision for someone looking to build a credible business.
Be brave, be creative
So while it would seem logical, on the face of it, to avoid any name that might potentially have an undesirable or less than positive meaning, the danger with starting a search with a completely risk-averse mindset is that it will probably lead to blandness.
By avoiding all possible negative characteristics you can end up with no character at all - which makes for a brand name that nobody will notice.