September 28, 2021
Brand naming has come a long way since the age of hard r’s as suffixes and lowercase-i prefixes, and in recent years has leaned heavily into personified characters (Hi Oscar, Harry’s, Warby Parker… need we go on?). But now, naming—even in DTC—is circling back to a more descriptive-dominant marketplace, and we are here for it.
Consumers’ attention spans are short. In the age of living and working from home, everything is online, and tabs with websites that take too long to get to the point are closed ruthlessly (as they should be).
Long gone are the days of fanciful for the sake of fanciful and friendly for the sake of feeling familiar. Brand names today are moving back to the descriptive, going only lightly suggestive if and as needed. The end result? More memorable, meaningful brands that bring the benefit for the end-user to the forefront. It’s about time.
Naming trends come and go. Now, I realize I might be alone in saying this, but I am relieved that we’re past the point of giving brands “human” names—at least for now.
What exactly do I mean by a human name? We’ll get into that. What could be so wrong with that? Perhaps nothing from a nuts-and-bolts perspective, but perhaps everything from a cultural relevance perspective.
It’s been a few years since brands like Harry’s, Warby Parker, and Oscar totally upended their respective industries with friendly, familiar brand names—names with a backstory, either based on a friend of a friend, a fictional character, or a blend of a few in Warby Parker’s case.
But these disruptors also kicked off a whole wave of copycats: smaller, lesser-known brands seeking to create that same familiar appeal, who would soon saturate the market with “human” brand names and identities to match. A carefully curated, character-driven persona delivered by a brand name wasn’t a differentiator—it was a bar of entry.
For the past few years, if your brand name was descriptive, you were deemed a dinosaur. The more suggestive and lofty your brand name was, the better. It’s almost as though the distance between your brand name and your industry was an indication of how modern you were as a brand and company.
But things, thankfully, are changing.
Enter Misfits Market. As you may have guessed, a marketplace of misfit, slightly less-than-perfect food. Enter Luncher. The perfect lunch-carrying case for adults. Enter ClassPass. An app for finding and signing up for workout classes (or their digital equivalent). Enter DuoLingo. Do I even need to explain that one?
While not in the majority yet, some brands are moving toward more descriptive names, finding other vehicles like voice and messaging to bring approachability into their brand experience. But why depart from “humanity” on the brand name or highest level? The most seen and heard element of the brand? I have a theory.
In the age of living and working from home, our attention spans, and our patience thresholds, have gotten shorter. Online shopping can be as simple as speaking something near your phone microphone and waiting a few days to get served a targeted ad. But when that ad makes its way to you, it had better get to the point, or risk losing an interested consumer lickety-split. No one has time for, or interest in, in long-winded brand backstories—or worse, fictional ones. Studies indicate that today’s consumers value authenticity, and they aren’t wrong. But what they might not tell you is that your brand name is part of that.
There’s something to be said for brands whose names can balance function with emotion. Logic with likability. Especially in 12 letters or less. That’s the needle I’d like to see threaded more often. That’s the mark of intelligence I’m looking for. The standard I’m holding brands to. Not the brands I’ve heard of already, of course; the ship has sailed for them. But for the new brands looking to win me and young consumers over, I hope you’re thinking about naming. Literally.