Interview with Catchword’s Maria Cypher: How to create a great name for your business or product

By Kristina Mišić

July 17, 2019

As Catchword’s co-founder and creative lead, Maria Cypher oversees creative strategy for one of the world’s leading naming firms. She has created names for Starbucks, PwC, McDonald’s, Fitbit, Intel, Unilever, and hundreds of others over the course of over two decades. In this interview with MarkUpgrade, Maria shares current trends in brand naming, the secrets to a successful name, and absolute No’s in naming a business.

Why is picking the right brand name so critically important for a business?

A good name is the foundation for a great brand. It’s the first thing people see (or hear!) — and often leaves the very first taste or impression of an offering for consumers. In the case of a company name, it can also do double the work, setting the tone for the culture (think: Microsoft vs. Google) or even establishing an overarching philosophy or premise (a good example being The Honest Company). Finally, a brand name has to be able to flex with changing times and business strategies. Companies are a bit like people, constantly growing, pivoting, and evolving.

What are some of the trends in naming? Is there a naming trend that you have very strong feelings about?

Today, real-word names, and especially straightforward nouns, are highly desirable. Think of Nest, an iconic name quickly signaling home; Flow, a task-management tool; or Line, a messaging app allowing for direct “lines” of communication. These names remind us of older names like Word (Microsoft’s word processor) in their honesty and clarity and can do a lot of heavy lifting to communicate the brand’s value proposition to key audiences.

A second trend we are seeing, particularly in the retail and restaurant landscapes, is names constructed of two words that utilize the ampersand (for instance, Boll & Branch, a luxury bedding company, or Market & Spruce, a proprietary StitchFix brand). These names are popular because they allow for infinite combinations, and in increasingly crowded markets, they make it easier to register the mark. (In fact, this trend is so very hot right now, Catchworddeconstructed its many parts in a recent blog post.)

As for our own team, we generally avoid naming to trends. But what’s most important is that we build a brand that is aligned with our clients’ P.O.V. and that we have a deep understanding of the marketspace and the target audience, ultimately driving toward the best name given these factors. …

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