Metaphoric brand names are symbolic shorthand for a brand. In our naming workshops, the usual suspects, Apple® and Nike®, are frequently chosen as benchmarks. But is a metaphoric name suitable for your brand?
Successful metaphoric names communicate the essence of the brand in a single word, stimulating positive associations, and evoking a strong visual image. These two factors working in tandem, significantly increasing brand recall.
Associations and visual cues elevate information from the prefrontal cortex, where short-term memories are stored, to the temporal lobe, where long-term memories, language, and comprehension live. Making this leap, from a label to a story, is what successful naming is all about.
Brands that have pulled off this feat include Alphabet®, Greyhound® and The North Face®.
Alphabet® demonstrates the breadth of companies owned by the holding company of Google®. A for Android®, D for Deepmind®, F for Fitbit®, N for Nest®, W for Waze®, Y for YouTube®, Z for Zagat® etc.
In the 1920's, the operator of the Wisconsin service saw the reflection of a moving bus in a window. The blurred image reminded him of a Greyhound®.
The North Face® is so called because the north face of a mountain is the coldest, iciest and most formidable route to climb.
On the downside, this level of creativity, with brand storytelling at its heart, can be expensive. On the face of things, is there a connection between brand names like Apple® and Wii® and the product being offered? More abstract names like these require significant marketing spend to create the necessary associations in the mind of the consumer.
Inspired by his time working in an orchard, Steve Jobs chose Apple® as it evoked design simplicity, was diametrically opposite to IBM®, and ahead of Atari® in the phone book.
Launched by Nintendo® in 2006, Wii® is a misspelling of we, with the i’s representing two players.
Brands that adopt metaphors as brand names harness the way memories work, embedding themselves in the area of our brain where vocabulary and stories are retained. They transcend mere labels and become a form of language, embedded in our temporal lobe with the rest of the information that is important to us.
It's not an easy trick to pull off, and it can require deep pockets, but those brands that manage it can reap the rewards for decades.