brandname_rWe use language to communicate ideas, but sometimes those ideas have to be rather complex in the form if a very short, usually fictional word, for the world of advertising.

If you are selling something, be it a product, a service, or a website or blog, you want a name for it which attracts customers to buy or use it. That is a fairly obvious point. What isn’t so simple is achieving that.

Deciding on a name really has a few things to consider, and they aren’t that easy to combine.

First, you want the name to instantly convey to your target audience what your product is and what it is for. This gives you names like “used cars” or “yummy pizza” or “language books”. However, those are just normal words which won’t hold much attention. It is also hard to trademark basic words or phrases, which is what you might want to do to make your brand legally bound to you.

So then you need to consider that you want it unique, something that you can easily mark as your own and people will recognize it when it is said. This can be done by adding a unique name or adjective to it, like “George’s Used Cars”, “Luigi’s Yummy Pizza”, or “Glorious Language Books”. These are more unique, and they convey to the potential customer what you are selling, but are they really attractive?

In the restaurant market, we have the brands McDonalds and Burger King. The first is just a name, while the other is two general worlds with one being something of an information conveyor (“Burger”).

Having a personal name for a brand is very common: Wendys, Long John Silvers, Ruby Tuesday, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Harley-Davidson, JCPenney, Philips, Porsche, Rolls-Royce. Problem is, there is no telling what the company does or produces. These could be restaurants, airlines, or even lawyers. They are unique, but until they become well known, the names mean nothing really.

That is when you enter the world of branding disconnect. You want something which is completely unique but conveys what you are, and that is the real trick to finding a good name.

I am talking about all of this because I am sure you, the language lover, have read over dozens of different brand names in your search for the best products and services. If you are a blogger or website builder, you may have even considered making your own brand.

Some of the language ones are fairly straight forward, involving some form of “language”, “linguist”, “polyglot”, or shortened forms (“lang, ling, glot”). Some companies like this are Living Languages, Transparent Languages, Keylingo Translations, Mango Languages, Applied Language Solutions, and Certified Languages International. You know from reading any of these that they are related to languages.

Others do a little more mixing or shortening of terms: DuoLingo, Omniglot, TransPerfect, SignTalk, Wordbank, Lingsoft Group, and Assimil (from “assimilation”). You would guess most of them are language related, but not be sure.

There are a few who use the name approach: Berlitz, Langenscheidt, Pimsleur, Michel Thomas, and Mello Method. These are named after the developers of the methodologies or materials.

A very few have adopted names which relate directly to languages or language items, like Busuu and Rosetta Stone. The former is an endangered language, the second is an artefact. These are very good language company names, for they represent languages instantly to someone who is familiar with languages (although I confess, I have met too many people who didn’t know that the Rosetta Stone was anything besides the software).

Then there are a few that have gone completely in another direction, looking for a flashy name, rather than something people might associate. Online language teaching site LiveMocha “is meant to evoke the relaxed atmosphere of a coffee shop”. Sounds like a great name for a café, but not really for a language place. Others which have questionable language connections include byki, Anki, Forvo, amd Tatoeba.

How many of these have you heard of? Which kinds of names work best to personally attract you?

I am no expert on naming products or brands, and always struggle between what sounds “cool” and what conveys a meaning. In my previous group, we built a language community called UniLang, and I began a magazine called Babel Babble. The first name is one those “mixed truncated terms” kind of name, while the second is a relational name, with “babel” being the name given to the infamous tower which the Bible attributes to being the cause of all the world’s languages.

After that, I started Parleremo, and gave it that name because I was looking for the term “language” in another language. in this case, it was Italian, and it means “we will speak”. It is something which isn’t quite recognizable as a language thing, unless you know some Italian. To help clarify, I attach “languages” to it, giving me “Parleremo Languages” to relate to all the services and products I do.

The magazine for this community has the more oblique name Parrot Time, for a few reasons. First, a parrot is an animal which “talks”, so seems fitting for a language magazine. Periodicals often have a word like “times”, “weekly”, or “journal” attached, so “Time” was added.

The last part is my inside joke. When said as a single word, “Parrot Time” becomes “paradigm”, which means a particular way people think. So then the magazine gets the subtitle “The Thinking of Speaking” to play off that idea.

How about your own brands? How did you come up with your brand names? If you haven’t yet, what do you think would make a good language related name for a service or product?