How to Name an App or Brand – a writer’s advice

When naming your product, app or business, we all know to go for something, short, snappy and concise. But where do you go from there? How do you narrow down your options to something that’s not just easy to say and iconise but something that gives the right feeling? Today, I’m going to give you some key tips on how to name an app (or anything you want!) with confidence.

1. Vowels and Consonants

A word’s unique “vibe” comes from much more than just its definition and connotations. It’s about the sounds of the individual letters within that word. If we’d named this site ‘ikoneko’ instead of ‘ironeko’, for example, the double ‘k’ would create a less friendly, yet more lively, effect as ‘k’ is much spikier than a soft ‘r’.

Generally, soft or breathy sounds have a friendly, approachable or luxurious feel (think of ‘TRESemm√©’), while harder sounds connote toughness or even authority. Simple enough, right?

Take the immensely popular UK brand ‘Boots’. The name starts with a ‘B’ – which is what’s called a plosive consonant (like the ‘G’ in ‘Google’) – and feels very robust. Technicalities aside, the ‘B’ in Boots is clearly stronger and sturdier than, let’s say, the ‘E’ in ‘Evian’. This makes the brand name feel reliable and strong.

What’s clever about the name ‘Boots’ is that the strong start is followed immediately by the long, soft vowel sound ‘oo’, which is much nicer to listen to than, say, a sharper vowel sound like the double ‘e’ in ‘Feet’. The ‘oo’ feels cozy and friendly, and is finished by a soft little ‘ts’ at the end. If they had ended on a simple ‘t’, the sound of the word would stop short, but the ‘s’ softens it and makes it a bit easier to say.

Coloured wooden alphabet blocks are stacked randomly displaying individual letters
Photo by Susan Holt on Unsplash

Thus, in one 5 letter word, ‘Boots’ have created reliability & strength as well as a sense of approachability & calm.

No matter what kind of effect you want to create – whether it be fast and exciting, or slow and relaxed – think of all the letters and how they relate to each other, and you’ll be much more likely to strike gold.

2. Connotations

Did I say connotations weren’t as important as sound? Yes, I guess I did. And this is true most of the time. However, considering not only the connotations of the words you’ve used but of words that sound like the words you’ve used will help you massively.

(A connotation differs from a definition in that it’s not what the word means but what it makes a person think of, as lightning connotes excitement and danger, or water connotes health and purity.)

For example, many companies will use the word ‘gold’ in their brand or app names because gold is associated with luxury, comfort and a reliable level of quality. Some will even use translations of the word (like Carte D’Or). But often, we need to think more subtly than that.

People will often simply like a brand name and not know why, but then agree when you explain the positive connotations they’re subconsciously getting from the word. Take the highly successful site and freelancing app ‘UpWork’ . The ‘Work’ part is simple, but why ‘Up’?

‘UpWork’ is for freelancers and clients. However, most of the users will be the huge pool of freelancers, wanting to move ‘Up’ in the professional world and their personal career path. We’ve all heard the phrases ‘climbing the corporate ladder’, and ‘moving up in the world’. ‘UpWork’ taps into this association between career success and upward motion.

This makes ‘UpWork’ the perfect example of how an app name can use both figurative means, through positive connotations and the power of suggestion, as well as more literal techniques.

a silhouetted figure stands before a dark wall illuminated by a series of English words in neon
Photo by PNG Design on Unsplash

3. Don’t limit yourself to English!

Last but not least, let’s globalise our perspective a little. When figuring out how to name an app, why not look into translations of the words you want to use?

Particularly in English-speaking countries, we love to make brands sound more sophisticated by handpicking words from other European languages. “Romance languages”, such as Italian or French, are used a lot for this.

Take the ice-cream brand ‘Carte D’Or’ – d’or, as I sai earlier, meaning gold – or the Italian sounding ice-cream make ‘Viennetta’ from British brand Unilever. The meaning of these words is, to an extent, unimportant. In fact, their ambiguity creates a sense of allure and mystique that makes the customer think they’re getting a special, bougie experience.

Romance languages are effective because they’re much softer and smoother than, for example, English or German. But as I said, don’t limit yourself! We just chose ‘ironeko’ (which is Japanese for ‘colourful cat’) because we thought it sounded cute… And it does!

So when you have your word cloud out in front of you, get out Google translate and have some fun with it. You never know what you’re going to find.

Conclusion

Figuring out how to name an app or brand can be tricky. In fact, some people say that it’s the hardest part of getting your product out there! But try to see it as a fun challenge rather than a brick wall in front of you.

If studying language taught me one thing, it’s that words are there to be played with.Language is a powerful tool, but it’s all the more powerful in the hands of someone who not only respects it but is willing to experiment.

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