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Phase 3

Phase 3 is an integrated marketing services company which provides solutions across the print and marketing spectrum. We were founded in Atlanta, GA in 2001 and have served corporate and enterprise clients across the country for over 20 years.

What's In A Name? How Company Names Build Brands

By Phase 3
June 08, 2023



What do the words Google, Xerox, Uber, and Photoshop have in common? They are all brand names that have become so ingrained into modern culture that they are also verbs. In other words, it's not uncommon for us to say, "If you don't know, why don’t you Google it." or "Let’s Uber to the concert." Google and Uber are not only the company names but also verbs describing how consumers use their unique solutions for common consumer problems. These companies have become leaders in Internet search and digital design through smart brand strategies that included the thoughtful creation and use of their brand name. Before these companies existed, “Google” and “Uber” weren’t even recognized English words.


We've mentioned in previous posts how important branding is to any company’s success. For instance, in Don’t Let Brand Be an Afterthought, we wrote, “Your brand is your starting point. It should inform your strategic plan, not the other way around. Think of your brand as the launching point for every other aspect of your business.” In Your Brand is Not Just Your Logo, we wrote, "Your company's brand is reflected in the feelings people experience when they hear your business name in conversation, see your social media posts, or read your emails. Your brand is present in your business mission, values, and messaging. It is the promise you make about what your customers can expect from you. In short, your brand is both your reputation and your DNA."


So, if your brand is your reputation and DNA, your company name sets the tone and drives the first impression people make about your brand. This post will explore the importance of a brand name, the strategic approaches our brand team has perfected to help clients discover their brand name, and some of the team’s recent case studies in the multi-family real estate field, which is one of our industries of expertise.


When A Name is More than a Name


Aside from being your first impression, the right name for your business is critical because it's a key step toward differentiation and a concise brand statement. The best brand names are short, memorable, and easy to pronounce. Your name should also be authentic to your specific brand mission and values and reflect what makes your brand unique. If your name is generic or could be mistaken for another business, it’s not strong enough. A classic example of mistaken identity is Vidal Sassoon, a personal hair care product company who sued the Sasson jeans company in the 1980s for brand confusion caused by their similar name, resulting in a $25 million settlement.


A good brand name will resonate with your target audience. It should be a name that remains top of mind and inspires trust and loyalty in your customers. Your brand name is the verbal trigger that conjures up your brand in customers' minds. The associations and reactions it sparks when seen or heard will define your brand, for better or worse.

What Can a Great Brand Name Do?


That "for better or worse" part is key. The wrong name can hurt your brand by creating confusion or an adverse reaction within your target audience. If your brand name inspires your company's first impression, you want that impression to be favorable. But a strong brand name can do so much more than that. Your brand name can build your company in several critical ways, including:


  • Separating your brand from your competitors
  • Demonstrating your brand differentiators
  • Reinforcing your unique positioning
  • Creating positive and lasting engagement with your target market
  • Becoming the framework for your company’s PR profile
  • Providing a basis for marketing and advertising strategies
  • Becoming an industry thought leader
  • Dominating a category (I.e., when your brand name becomes a verb)


Our Naming Approaches


The Phase 3 brand strategy team are experts at helping companies create names that build a brand, not hold it back. This is a unique craft where art meets science — and there's more to it than just brainstorming random ideas on a whiteboard.


First, we work with company leaders to identify the type of name that would work with their brand. These names could be:

  • Descriptive: The most straight forward approach ;describing the goods or services offered. Some examples include:
    • Quickbooks
    • The Dollar Store
    • com.
  • Expressive/Emotional: evoking a feeling that aligns with the spirit of the brand. These names fall into two general categories:
    • Arbitrary names using real words like Patagonia or Virgin
    • Fanciful names using made-up words like Kodak or Exxon
  • Suggestive: indirectly alluding to the features and benefits of the brand. These names are in the middle ground between descriptive and emotional/expressive names. Some examples include:
    • Target
    • Facebook
    • Kickstarter
  • Experiential: evoking the feeling or experience that the company's product or service delivers. Some examples include:
    • Outward Bound
    • Hootsuite
    • Sharper Image
  • Heritage: using some element or character from company history. Some examples include:
    • Hilton
    • JP Morgan
    • Dell
  • Language: which is derived from different languages. Non-English names can evoke intrigue or the unconventional for an English-speaking audience. Some examples include:
    • Rue La La
    • Absolut
    • Prego

There is no wrong approach to choosing a type of name for a brand. Your choice comes down to which one best highlights your brand's mission and values, and which would best engage your target audience. But this is just step one. The type of name you choose will give you a set of parameters to construct your brand name during the next steps in the process.


Once a type of name is identified, our team will work with company leaders on constructing a brand name. Your brand name can be structured in several different ways, including:

  • Real words: Cascade, Apple, Ivory
  • Coined words: Coca-Cola, Google, Zappos
  • Truncated words: Cisco, FedEx, MetLife
  • Compounded words: Allstate, ClickStart, DreamWorks
  • Acronyms: BMW, CVS, AT&T
  • Alphanumerics: 7-11, 7 For All Mankind, 3M


Once a list of potential names is created, our team will use the following criteria to evaluate each option. The winning brand name should:

  • Position your brand
  • Not limit your brand
  • Be memorable
  • Be easy to pronounce and spell
  • Be different from competitors
  • Be translatable into other languages


Along with this criteria framework, in the evaluation step, we ask a list of critical questions about each potential name. They are:

  • What is your first impression?
  • What does it sound like? What does it look like?
  • Does it connect to the benefit your company’s product or service offers?
  • Does it feel right when you use it in a sentence?
  • Are quick associations positive?
  • Does it have brand story appeal?
  • Is it easy to read and pronounce?
  • Does it sound credible?
  • Will it work in other cultures and languages?
  • Is it memorable?
  • Does it make you nervous?
  • Does it relate to your positioning or who you are?


Of course, we always check to see if a brand name is already in use, if a corresponding and easy to remember URL is available, and if it is available for trademark. In addition, it always helps to create some sample branded marketing materials with the new name to review with stakeholders for a gut check on authenticity and engagement quality.


Phase 3's brand team works with many types of businesses, but we are especially proud of our work with multi-family real estate companies. In fact, our team has worked with five of the largest multi-family real estate developers on building brands for new communities, including name selection. Let's look at two of our recent naming projects to illustrate the strategy and process behind naming a brand.


Case Study – Greystar/Marchon


In a historic urban pocket of Atlanta crowded with apartment communities, Greystar came to Phase 3 to help create a name and brand identity for a transit-oriented, mid-rise multi-family community in the historic neighborhood near King Memorial. They asked for a name that aligned with the unique energy and history of the area—and distinguished it from competitors.


Because the project was part of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authorities’ initiative to increase ridership, 1/3 of the apartment units were designated as workforce housing, making it ideal for a broad mix of the Atlanta population. Phase 3 tapped into the spirit of connection unique to the property with the positioning —“connection to your next stop, to interesting people, and to the history of the city you love.”


With that in mind, we wanted to choose a name that:

  • Conveyed connection, energy, and accessibility
  • Embraced the history and culture of the area
  • Felt authentic and progressive


The team came up with several options for the client to choose from, each with a specific purpose statement behind our thinking, as well as URL options. In the end, the client settled on the name Marchon, inspired by MLK's historic 1965 speech, "Our God is Marching On." The unique energy and momentum of the name became the foundation for a bold, colorful, and unique brand identity that stands out in a sea of sameness.


Case Study – Avril


Bell Partners engaged Phase 3 to brand their new multi-family development in Denver, North Carolina. One of few multi-family apartment options in the area, the community offers upscale living at an accessible price point to young professionals wanting to live outside of the city and empty nesters downsizing from a single-family home.


The client wanted the name to capture the up-and-coming nature of the developing area and signal a fresh beginning for the once-rural community of Denver. The name would position the property as a desirable and comfortable community with quick and easy access to outdoor recreation and to nearby, but much more congested, Charlotte.


Our criteria for the community’s name were:

  • Communicates a sense of community
  • Welcoming and peaceful
  • Taps into local history
  • Thoughtful and unique
  • Convenience/Proximity to useful things
  • Evokes natural surroundings


From a list of 11 options, the client chose the name Avril, the French word for April. The name evokes early spring, a time of new life and new beginnings, and is emphasized further by the brand's contemporary design and nature-inspired palette. This name positions the community as the place to be for residents looking for a beautiful new home full of new possibilities.


Industry domination may not be your goal, but nevertheless discovering a brand name should not be taken lightly or rushed. It is the essence of your brand and not something you can change easily. Having a branding team in your corner when making these critical decisions can be crucial to your success.


For more information about our brand strategy services, please contact us today.