Costs to Name A Company, Brand Naming Fees

Company Naming Costs… and the even higher prices you pay when you don’t approach this vital business development initiative with sharp focus.

Sitting at the center of your brand identity and your entire marketing budget, your business name is an infrastructure investment, the cost of which must be amortized over its expected life. In too many start-ups and small businesses there is a “we’ll get to that later” mindset. But when what every start-up and small business needs to create is interest and excitement, is it any wonder that “later” is an opportunity never afforded to them? Think about what you will be spending in marketing over the next 3-5 years. Add that up. Now take a percentage of that for the role YOU think (not what I think) a name plays in solidifying your marketplace presence. Allocate that to your brand strategy work, inclusive of your naming costs.

Now, for the company naming cost deets…

Assuming a certain level of brand marketing expertise and sophistication, the strategic portion of the company naming costs can range from $2500 to $50,000 or more, depending upon the size of the company, how much research is indicated, how many rounds you wish to pursue, and whether it is part of a comprehensive branding process or not. But, again, there’s some very good news for you here: if you have selected the right company naming agency or brand consultant, the positioning work you do will inform, inspire and help streamline much of your future endeavors, so, done well, it’s actually a hedge against wasted dollars in the future. So, like all things, naming costs should have a built-in expected ROI based upon expected proportionate value. As for the added value provided by a branding firm or positioning expert, frankly, making sure we haven’t lost focus in our business development, and that we’re not chasing the wrong marketplace position, should probably be Priority One for all of us anyhow.

Costs for the creative part of the naming process, the name generations, can vary greatly, based upon how extensive your project is and the level of creative marketing expertise you’ve chosen to employ. Many of the big company naming firms employ a cadre of freelance copywriters or namers who submit names that are then filtered by the Creative Director, based upon his/her own internal criteria and philosophy. Obviously, all of this is built into your company naming costs. A one-person shop, brand strategist or freelance naming copywriter may simply dedicate an agreed-upon number of days or hours per round. Expect to pay anywhere between $5000 and $35,000 for the creative naming exploration phase if there is already a strategic brief in place, and, depending, of course, upon the experience level of the talent, the amount of thoroughness you require and, of course, your budget. Many firms do not include domain name availability and trademark searches, so this is something you will need to coordinate with your legal counsel.

You may not have the budget of an Apple® or a P&G® at your disposal, or even the budget of your direct competition, but instead of using that as a reason to take the matter of company naming less seriously, why not instead use that simple fact as your clarion call to work smarter, with more ingenuity and with more of a commitment to authentic brand creation? The more you think of your business as the brand you’re working to build, the more focused your every daily action will be, and the more you will have to show for your efforts in the long run.

 

Which naming agency, business names consultant or naming copywriter?

With a naming agency, a naming copywriter and a naming consultant springing up on every corner of the web, many have asked: what should we look for when it comes to our own pride-and-joy-to-be?

For strategic and creative support with your service, product or company naming, seek out someone who understands that a name isn’t just a way to establish an identity, but to further the sale. It’s this fundamental business disconnect you hear me ranting about, well, pretty much constantly. And it’s not that creativity and innovation aren’t huge parts of both the marketing and naming equation. They most certainly are, and that happens to be a firm specialty of my own. It’s that those creative solutions need to comply with strategic mandates.

“Strategy?” people ask. “Don’t you creative types just sit around tossing out ideas until something good pops?” Um, no. While that’s certainly a part of the process, let’s call it the “Mad Men” part of the process, it leaves way too much out. Like defining the task at hand, putting some concrete objectives into place, approaching the matter as if it were any other important business development initiative. ‘Cause it is.

Now, of course, anybody can claim to be strategic. It’s another one of those giant abstractions that get us nowhere, like “service.” But here’s the thing: in reviewing anybody’s creative work, it’s not the work itself you should let distract you. It’s their narrative about the work to which you should prick up your ears. If it’s a problem-solving narrative, one where key choices, tough choices, were identified and rationally decided upon… that’s the juice. That’s how you’re going to find out the level of thinking involved. That’s how you’re going to determine whether or not you’re sitting in front of the real deal or somebody who just follows the manual or prescribes the same formula regardless of what ails ya.

Recently, I was called in for “an emergency consult” by a business owner who couldn’t fathom why the company naming agency (one of the better ones, at that) he had hired failed after two rounds. As it turned out, most of the time they had spent with him revolved around name types (metaphor, alliteration, allusion, etc. — more on company name types in a future blog post) and his own personal style and taste preferences. This is where creative assignments of all types, not the least of which is naming, go wrong: if loose lips sink ships, then loose briefs sink businesses.

After reviewing their submissions, I told him: I can tell just by looking at these that real, earnest work was done here. I saw that they had explored many paths, and were paying (almost too much) attention to his stated likes. But, ultimately, an unhappy client is an unsuccessful job. For the failure to identify a strategy for the name, which often times requires more brand discovery, I blame both of them. But the lion’s share of the blame goes to the company naming agency. Did I want to take a stab, he asked. What do you think? Do you think I agreed to throw yet more darts at a board for which the bulls-eye will remain undefined? Pass-a-dena! Beyond happy to help those who truly want to “up” the level of their game and their understanding of a proven process. But when people keep their creative assignments at the level of a guessing game, it always makes me wonder if there isn’t some kind of control/power grip thing going on. Pass, not a fit for me. Off principle.

It’s up to us, as copywriters, designers and the brand ambassadors of branding itself, to educate our clients, to serve their ultimate best interests by steering them through the creative sides of business. When we accept an “I’ll know it when I see it” mindset, we do more than simply devalue our work and derail the process. We actually reinforce marketplace perceptions that the creative arts are just one giant crap shoot. But authentic design has always been about problem-solving. True, it may not be the exact science our business counterparts may want it to be. Yes, there’s wiggle room and room for the wonderfully unexpected to emerge. But a crap shoot? At this level of the game, with proven discipline mastery and plenty of experience? Hardly. That’s Little League. Let’s leave that to the overseas workers, the crowd, the recent grads and those who just completed their “How to be a copywriter” e-book courses.

You need a company naming agency or brand consultant who doesn’t just work to reflect your company through its name, but to elevate its presence within the target’s mind, taking both a highly analytical and creative approach to the process. You’ve gotta put the time in. You’ve gotta find somebody who will challenge every existing premise you may have about your company and its prospects in order to get both of you ahead further and faster.

Since prior naming generations may be protected by confidentiality clauses, ask: a) to hear more about your potential partner’s brand naming philosophy and process, and b) whether the brand name consultant or copywriter can easily convey how branding, positioning, and your ongoing marketing outreach all relate to this core element of your company’s identity.

Take Your Company Name Seriously But Have Fun

A great company name or, perhaps more commonly, a great company name and tagline in combination, due to their prominence, exert a marketing influence more powerful than pretty much anything else in your marketing arsenal. It should surprise no one that the companies who haven’t invested in marketing’s dynamic duo, Positioning & Messaging, tend to also be the ones who struggle in the company naming department. (On a similar note, those who struggle with their messaging need to go back to the creative brief stage. THIS is where I help companies diagnose their marketing strengths and weaknesses. In politics, it may be “the economy, stupid,” but in business and marketing, in my experience, “It’s the brief, stupid!” It’s the brief. It’s the brief. It’s the brief.)

The process for creating a vibrant and enduring company name is far more than an exercise in vanity. It is not only a matter of a good first impression; it is also a matter of a dynamic, consistent second, third and fourth impression. Remember, healthy brands are constantly in the process of making and keeping promises. How many opportunities does an enterprise get to make those core emotional promises and to set those expectations high at such a fundamental level? Very few. That’s why you’ve got to get your company name and your company tagline right.

Just what separates the powerful company names from the meek?

Done well, which means to me both strategically and creatively, a company’s name and its supporting tagline proudly and personally announce its arrival into the target customer’s world.

“Hello, there, you fellow human and lover of all things valuable. We’re one of a kind, we represent a unique point of view, and our shared values render us worthy of your attention and a deeper relationship.”

Remember, these days, we fight not only for revenues and market share against the literal competition, rather, we must compete at an even more fundamental level, for time and attention – a noisy, media-rich, choice-saturated world demands levels of strategic positioning, communications creativity and messaging relevance which were previously the sophisticated pursuits of only the big companies.

Name your company well (or name your products and name your services well, for that matter), and you will thank yourself for years, possibly decades to come. Not so thrilled in the company name department? Do it over. As mentioned in a previous blog post, the new opportunities created, provided you’re working with the right business-minded company naming firm or branding agency, will far outweigh any lingering concerns you may have regarding equity in your current company name.

 

Today, Branding is Everybody’s Business

Just some of the prices paid by those who didn’t name their companies well from the outset include an insufficient amount of target interest and excitement, as well a failure to accumulate as much brand equity and loyalty as they would have no doubt preferred. In simple terms: their start-up could have been more attractive to investors; their mature business could have commanded more from its acquirer; their HR department just may have been able to land that transformational superstar. The list is endless.

In every category, what you really want to be is the default choice, the obvious leader. Typically that requires far more than a camouflaged marketplace existence. Today more than ever, companies need an edge and a differentiated position — and that’s what best-in-breed branding is all about. A great company name and company tagline are two of your most important brand identifiers. If you can get those right, you set yourself up for even bigger victories down the road.

As for the equity you’re worried about losing by renaming the company? Don’t. In an overwhelming percentage of cases, assuming you’re not Coke, Nike or Oprah, it proves to be either strategically immaterial or entirely offset by a) the value created by the new company name and position, not to mention b) the additional marketing, PR and outreach opportunities that the new identity will create. Have you really been doing so much mass marketing that your most valuable prospects are now totally unreachable to us? Doubtful. And, as is so often the case, if it proves it was the “wrong equity” (wrong/parity position, irrelevant, insufficiently lucrative, creatively lackluster, etc.) we were building, why are we suddenly so worried about losing it when we can break those chains and begin earning the right kind of equity today?

Business Names, Brand Names and The New Business Order

Not so long ago, it was possible to create a successful business simply by doing a good job or fulfilling upon an unmet need. Not so easy today, when most companies have been reduced to commodity status and most categories are rife with parity offerings. But hanging onto old school thinking is what costs companies fortunes and keeps start-ups and entrepreneurs from actualizing on their potential.

When competing marketplace forces are underestimated (“Not just the actual competition,” he cried, “the status quo and an endless sea of marketing messages directly compete with you, too!”)… when customer time and interest is taken for granted… when me-centric communications reign supreme, with marketing communications hosting sales monologues instead of two-way dialogues… where high-end, killer creative is seen as a discretionary expenditure and not a communications constant… all of this retards, rather than accelerates, your revenue growth and your brand impact.

But today’s sophisticated marketers, savvy entrepreneurs and brand-centric marketing directors know: if you’re in business, you’re in sales. And the highest performing salespeople of all time have always known, before persuasion, there’s pre-suasion™. This is why, when talking about my work as a brand strategist, copywriter or company namer, I always remind clients to utilize marketing at its best and most efficient: the cultivation of a positive predispostion to working with you!

But let’s forget for a moment marketing-speak words like engagement, awareness and market penetration, shall we? Second only to two things – 1) whether your business has been engineered in response to concrete, niche needs or desires, and 2) whether, from here, you’ve dug deeper to ensure your entire brand personality has been thoughtfully reverse-engineered to achieve maximum target resonance, both now and down the road — your identity elements of business name and/or brand name, logo and tag serve both you and your target audience, providing graphical and verbal mental pillars to which your overarching company values, goals, services, and products can be anchored. With a solid brand name in place, for starters, potential clients will gain a quick way to connect with your company, while employees will be keyed into the vision that defines the work they contribute. Obviously, a tagline is a great way to supplement the business name or brand name, providing customers, employees, and all other brand audience members even further insight into what makes you tick and what they can emotionally expect from you… and only from you!

If Company Naming Is Critical, So Is The Process

With the power to differentiate your offerings and create differentiated marketplace fervor like nothing else in your marketing and sales arsenal, it’s frightening to see so many businesses approach such a defining moment in such a haphazard, cross-it-off-the-to-do-list manner. Perhaps it is because company names can appear to be so entirely subjective, with their revenue and brand impact so difficult to quantify, that they so often get overlooked in sales and business development meetings. It’s true. Company names, product names and service names can be somewhat subjective arts. But just because something is subjective doesn’t mean it isn’t exerting a major influence or that its idiosyncrasies preclude mastery. In fact, it probably means there’s even more reason to rely on experience and proven creative talent.

Naturally, in small business settings, another reason why the staggering importance of company names, service names and product names gets overlooked is the significant investment involved of both time and money.

Your CEO may not like it. Your own pocketbook may argue with you. But a great company name costs real dollars and requires time for planning, buy-in, creative development and thoughtful consideration… just like the space you leased and the equipment you bought. But here, the real estate we’re talking about pertains to that specific, critical, leverage-able piece of your targets’ minds you want to own, for now and forever. Moreover, if you approach the process from a strategic marketing perspective, what you learn about your own positioning in the company naming process itself will exert an even greater value on all of your future marketing and business planning initiatives.

Diving Deeper into the Company Naming Process

 

Of course, the little exercise mentioned in the prior blog past is just a preliminary, superficial examination… a prelude to an authentic company naming process. A comprehensive brand assessment designed to ensure optimal positioning and maximum marketing effectiveness will take a deeper look. It takes a more serious and analytical gaze at your business, its revenue drivers, its values, its offerings and the competitive landscape. All of this work is undertaken in order to get a more accurate picture of the role and power your name, tag, logo and key collateral are playing in your strategic brand development. But at the level of “pop and sizzle,” that top ten percent which can render the other 90% of your marketing expenditures either totally ineffective or wildly successful, we’ll at least know whether we’re commanding target attention. Analyzing the deficits within the existing name and/or the opportunities in the current marketplace are where every successful company naming process begins.

 

When performing 360-degree brand assessments (on the road to a clearly articulated brand strategy), we measure the name against those criteria established by the organization as being, at the very least, of some relevance to it’s a) history, b) vision and near-term future possibilities, c) external audiences, and d) internal audiences. An analysis of prior marketing collateral and an in-depth review of the competitive forces helps to highlight areas of challenge and opportunity. All of this informs fundamental positioning and messaging, and therefore serves to put some strategic criteria in place for the company name and tagline. NOTE: A company naming brief that indicates only name type and style preferences misses the point entirely. A brief that examines communications strategy is better, depending, of course, on the strategic teeth of your company naming provider, but in an ideal world we would dig even deeper into the business plan and business development fundamentals.

 

A brand blueprint that spells out the entire brand messaging platform, and how the company name and company tagline will fit into the whole serves the organization well beyond its naming and tagging near-term needs. This way, even if company re-naming isn’t in the cards, one still has the opportunity to find “compensating” elements throughout the marketing & messaging plans. But either way, all of this strategic work needs to precede the creative part of the company naming process. As potential name candidates are identified, they are vetted internally for strategic adherence and for any additional insights that may direct future name generations.

 

By the time the client is presented options, the naming firm should have one, two or three solid recommendations – and if they don’t, get nervous! You don’t need wishy-washy. Your business doesn’t need obsequiousness. You want a company naming agency or naming copywriter who has “gone off on a valiant quest to capture the name the strategy described.” Having returned from this somewhat perilous adventure, there’s no need to mince words. He/she/they simply needs to explain how they got there. If a second round proves needed, it is to tighten the criteria only. In my experience, most times they aren’t required. When clients exercise them, it is because a) they lack full faith in the exploration that just occurred, and b) they feel like it’s how they get their “money’s worth.” My take on this part of the company naming process is this: anybody who goes into something, anything, thinking there’s going to be a do-over, probably isn’t going to swing for their fences. That’s human nature. Of course, it’s pretty easy to read dissatisfaction (as opposed to fear) in the eyes of a client. If one is truly unhappy (rare), I will, of course, offer an additional round. But it seldom creates any new value for the undertaking or the relationship. Tight briefs from the get-go, that’s my mantra. Or, from another discipline…

<h4>”Measure twice, cut once.”</h4>

Naming: Have You Been Named For Greatness?

This blog post is a brief peek at an article/whitepaper on company naming that now lives in the archive section of this website — you may download the complete paper for free at any time:  www.articulatedbrands.com/marketing-resources/whitepapers-articles/

Skype®. Lean Cuisine®. Sympo™. Google®. Manifest Equity™. The North Face®. Amazon®. Harvest Waste™. TiVo®.

Company names matter. Remarkable ones can turbo-charge growth, forever setting your business apart in the marketplace and ensuring all of your company communications have a strong strategic center. A hastily chosen company name can sabotage your business development efforts and handicap your launch plans even before your vision gets out of the gate.

But I’m not just talking about start-up ventures here. I’m also talking about anybody who has plans for the next stage of business growth. Most times such plans call for the introduction of new products, services and the entry into new markets. Not only does each represent an opportunity to go in with both barrels blazing, but the company name to which you attach to all of this…will it serve as a seal of credibility? Will you create a virtuous circle wherein the brand equity in one serves to reinforce the brand equity in the other? Or will you be like the too many companies who approach their growth plans from the inside-out instead of from the outside-in, determining who you need to be and what you need to be saying from your prospects’ perspectives?

When companies try to carve out a brave and bold new future but refuse to slough off any skins from their past, it reeks of inauthenticity… the kind buyers and prospects can smell… which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that this is the complete opposite of what good branding and good company naming are all about: striking people (buyers) at the core of why you exist and how you are uniquely engineered to answer to their needs, now.

But legacy/owner names, acronyms and names which no longer connect to why the company exits today may be the easiest ones to spot…and gaining buy-in, though still difficult, is possible, especially with the support of a business-minded brand strategist behind you. But the most dangerous company name or product name could very well be the simply mediocre one; its presence may be so seemingly innocuous you may have never even stopped to consider the negative force it’s exerting on your business or the potential goldmine it could be obscuring. In short, most company names are so harmless they’re harmful. Most company names are so quiet and timid they’re entirely forgettable. And that’s a problem. A big one.

So, how do you know if you have a great name, one that’s working dynamically and proactively in support of all your other marketing, sales and business development efforts? Do you need to be a brand agency owner or copywriter to know if your name stinks?

Here’s a brilliant opportunity for the small to midsized business to skip the research expense. Bypass the focus groups and the agency’s fancy charts and graphs. All it takes is a simple test. Next time you meet a new prospect and tell them the name of your company or trade cards, do they comment on the name specifically? Yes or no, it’s just that simple. If even one out of every five people take the time to comment, you’re probably in good shape. Less than that, get concerned. More than that, throw a party. (And by all means, invite me! ‘Nothing I like better than celebrating the chutzpah it took for you to defy the common, the everyday and the literal, to flabbergast the naysayers by signing off on a memorable moniker.) A great name is one of which your ideal customers take note. End of research.

All trademarks are used for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of their respective owners. Sympo, HarvestWaste and Manifest Equity are examples of small business company naming projects by Scott Silverman’s Articulated Brands.

Download your complimentary company naming whitepaper.