Strategic Services

Good names arise out of a deep, strategic understanding of a brand. Every time Catchword develops a new name, we start with strategy. We begin by reviewing the company or product positioning with the client, and refining it if needed. We analyze the competitive naming landscape and identify opportunities for differentiation. We determine whether the new name will fit into existing product families, naming protocols, or name styles.

Strategy is front and center to every Catchword naming project, but sometimes you need deeper or more focussed strategic guidance.

A clearer naming architecture for your portfolio will make it easier for customers to find the products they want, and easier for you to add new ones.

Creating a naming protocol is the key for naming product families, co-branded products, line extensions, and project code names, so you’re not reinventing the wheel each time you’re faced with a naming challenge.

We also offer other strategic naming services, including

  • assessing whether you even need a name for your new product!
  • identifying opportunities for brand consolidation
  • recommending a naming style (descriptive, proprietary, alphanumeric, etc.)
  • evaluating the viability of names developed in-house
  • determining linguistic and cultural implications for taking a brand global
  • maximizing internal buy-in and external interest in your name launch
Naming Architecture

Like a well-designed house, naming architecture should be welcoming and intuitive, so it’s easy for customers to find their way to the brands they want. Too often, though, when companies have lots of long-standing brands, their portfolio becomes a maze of names that’s off-putting to potential customers and confusing to internal audiences.

That’s where we come in. Our process includes discussions with stakeholders, an exhaustive review of the existing portfolio of brand names and those of key competitors, and an assessment of which areas need streamlining or clarifying. We then develop a range of architectural options for consideration. Once a model is chosen and refined, we’ll develop guidelines for determining when new names are warranted, and a naming protocol for how they’ll be developed.

The result is a flexible yet consistent structure for housing all of your brand names that clarifies the relationships between different brands, maximizes your budget (by eliminating unnecessary proprietary names that require expensive marketing), and simplifies future naming efforts.

Naming Protocol

Like their social counterparts, naming protocols make life simpler by providing decision trees so that you know exactly what to do when a particular naming challenge arises.

Some common challenges include

  • Name categorization: master brand versus sub-brand
  • Family naming conventions: use of words, alphanumerics, or numbers
  • In-house naming procedures: steps, checkpoints, and vetting
  • Name usage: consistency in use of company name, trademark symbols, and abbreviations
  • Co-branding: process for creating and implementing names
  • Code-naming: guidelines for choosing project names that won’t turn into real names

Having clear naming protocol in place will grease the wheels of your naming process, keep your naming portfolio orderly, and control the way your brand names are used in traditional and social media.

Name Audit  

If you want to get the most out of your existing brand names, or take advantage of weaknesses or gaps in the competitive landscape, it helps to get the 30,000-foot perspective. We offer both internal and competitive name audits for clients who want the big picture.

Internal name audits
An internal name audit can answer all sorts of questions you may not even think to ask. For instance:

  • How many trademarks do you own?
  • How many of them are current?
  • Are all your product names being used correctly in collateral and other marketing?
  • Are there names on your website that you don’t even know about?
  • Do you really own all the domains you think you do?

Internal name audits include IP assessments (of trademarks, domain names, licensed names, and co-branding), reviews of internal and external communications, analysis of existing names, and most importantly, recommendations for improving name equity, management, and marketing.

Competitive name audits
Or you may want to know what your competition is up to and how their names stack up against yours. Becoming familiar with their naming styles and the organization and structure of their brand name portfolio will help you understand what they—and you—are doing right and wrong.

Competitive name audits include an in-depth analysis of the naming strategies of up to five competitors followed by an analysis of the competitive naming landscape as a whole. We also provide clients with a summary of opportunities to differentiate from competitors and ways to improve current naming practices.

How to Evaluate a Brand Name.

Blog

Hill City name review by CatchwordSan Francisco-based apparel giant Gap Inc. recently launched Hill City, a men’s luxury activewear brand. The new brand is essentially a men’s Athleta (another Gap-owned apparel maker, known for yoga pants, leggings,  sweaters, and other day-to-night activewear for women). Both companies serve consumers who are looking to own fewer and better clothes (and don’t mind paying a premium for them), and both are B corps, striving to integrate sustainability as well as innovation into their business plan.

So what do yoga pants for men look like? Before you avert your eyes, read on.

Hill City offers comfortable, fitness-focused apparel made from high-performance, responsibly sourced materials. Shorts, t-shirts, pants, jackets, underwear, sweatshirts, everything you might need from workout to work to weekend. The look is clean and minimal. The colors are mostly neutral.

Hill City aims to redefine the idea of “high-performance,” expanding it from serious athletes to every man passionate about living an active life, however that may be expressed. As loathe as I am to use the term, this is truly “athleisure” apparel.

Hill City name review by Catchword

photo from Hill City

Currently, Hill City is an online business with sample garments displayed at select Athleta stores. Eventually the company may have stand-alone stores like its sister brand. Given that Gap is considering shutting hundreds of its namesake stores, building a new online brand in the growing athleisure space is a smart move.

But you’re here for a name review.

According to their website, the name Hill City was “inspired by the hybrid nature of our San Francisco roots – the smooth transitions between city and outdoors, the fusion of form and function.”

The colloquial nature of the name suggests a youthful, spirited customer. San Francisco, with a blanket of Millennial energy and angst laid across seven tourist hills, is well-represented.

City connotes sophistication, rubbing against the outdoorsy Hill and the casual attire. Contrast creates interest and suggests story, in this case, the bridging of the gap (see what I did there?) between comfort and high-performance.

Both Hill and City are basic vocabulary, easily understood by an international audience. By choosing these generic words, however, the name sacrifices some memorability and immersiveness. (As we learned in Creative Writing 101, the specific is easier to remember, and more compelling, than the general.) This tendency to the bland is really the only flaw in the name.

Hill City name review by Catchword

photo from Hill City

Graphically, the two words of equal length offer a nice balance, and its length makes it an easy fit on packaging and signage. Plus, the slash that follows the name in the logo does some nice supporting work, suggesting the hills of San Francisco and, more broadly, ascent of body (exercise) and spirit (aspiration).

(By the way, the slash is explained on the site this way: “From above, San Francisco is an organized grid. On the ground, it is much more complex, with unexpected hills, turns, and twists. Our logo signifies the versatility of our brand — its ability to shape-shift and transition. The forward slash, or ‘flash,’ signals the pursuit of continuous improvement. As a brand built on community, our mark is open-ended, representing an invitation to collaborate and progress.” Um, OK.)

Although Hill City may find it an uphill climb to gain share from market leader Lululemon Athletica and compete with Target’s cheaper men’s athleisure wear as well as the emergence of other online brands (hello, Amazon), its name fits the brand like a $78 pair of sustainably produced, moisture wicking, quick-dry, odor-resistant, UV protection running tights.

Contrast creates interest and suggests story, in this case, the bridging of the gap (see what we did there?) between comfort and high-performance.

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