It happens; you’re in a pinch, you grab the first brand name idea that sounds more epic (or less dumb than your coworker’s), and check to see if it’s available as a website.
It is. You buy it. And then a month later, realize that you have no idea what it means, or why it should be connected to your brand.
I did exactly the same thing a couple of years ago, and had to work my way backwards to ‘legitimize’ my branding intent, and make it all seem intentional. You can do it too.
This article will walk you through some of my thought processes for pulling unicorns out of thin air.
I was in exactly the same pinch you are, sitting on a name that meant nothing to me, but the domain was available. See, I was staying at my in-laws in rural Maryland, recently married, staring at a blank screen, and swishing the dregs of my third coffee. I needed to get this business going. Enough of this ‘in-between’ salaries stuff.
For years, I’d branded myself as a ‘Catholic Author’. Since most of my work had come from the Catholic sector, it worked out ok. But now I was breaking out of a post-teen mold into a different space, and needed something neutral.
So I grabbed the title of a book series I was trying to write, bought the domain name, and found myself the proud owner of ‘Arboriad Design’.
Create Meaning out of Thin Air
So the first step to finding a connection to my brand was to write down what I did. That was the easy part. I knew what my skill sets were.
Getting stuff in black and white is important.
What I next needed to invent was the connection between this tree-sounding idea, without telling people ‘oh yeah, it’s inspired by a fantasy novel that I keep procrastinating over’.
The Core of the Idea
Next, I studied that word ‘Arboriad’, and started a word game. Kind of like trivia, or mind-mapping, looking for meaning in that word as it related to my brand offering.
As a side-note, I’m one of those ruggedly handsome, kinda nutty, INTP types. So storytelling, films, branding and seeing connections is my jam.
Just not with math.
So I knew it had to do with trees. And if I was going to theme my company around it, it needed to be a good idea. I needed to root my process in this concept.
Boom. I found my metaphor.
Every business and their identity starts from somewhere, those are your roots.
It’s who you are, what you’ve experienced, what you believe about the world, and what tribes you belong to.
If you can clarify them well enough, you can build your business on those core values. That’s your trunk.
And with those in place, you can then branch out into any service you want to offer, without losing your core sense of distinction and identity.
Man… time for more coffee. I’m a genius.
Rebuild the Brand with this New Approach
Now that I had a starting point that had meaning to me, was something I could communicate, and most importantly, believe in, I scrapped my website and wrote up fresh copy.
My new approach was to always reference everything back to my root concepts, to stop ideas from flowering into uncharted areas. The metaphors kept coming.
Take it into the Field
Over the next couple of years, I was lucky to start meeting people in the same boat. They’d landed on a cool name, but had no idea what it meant to them. Or what it could mean in terms of interpreting their services.
So the first thing we do together is talk about what your company does, who your clients are, and who you are.
Then we look at the word you’ve landed on, and do one of three things:
Explore your past to see if there's anything that's connected to it.
See if there's anything in the idea itself that can overlap with how you do business.
Just go with it, see what happens.
1. Your Past as Inspiration
Brands that thrive on a personal touch often need a good story to break the ice with a new client. Sometimes, you can luck on a childhood memory, or a funny situation centered on your brand name. Sometimes it can be a person or an event, or a place.
Whatever it is, if it has meaning to you, and you’re willing to share it, often it can be a source of inspiration for others. At the very least, it can drive home that this business, and how you’re interpreting your brand, is a deeply personal thing.
Your client understands that your brand isn’t a dollar stamp you stuck to your forehead.
Your brand stems from who you are.
That can go a long way toward building trust and brand authenticity.
2. Unpack the Word Itself
More often than not, if you’re creative, or clever, you can invent a metaphorical connection between the word and your brand.
Sometimes googling the word, reading up its history, or its different meanings, can start to spark connections with your services.
What you’re trying to uncover is how the ideas inherent in your word drive the way that you do business, or how you approach your service.
If you’re looking to communicate something authentic, memorable, and logical, a little elbow grease and coffee on this end can create a lot of great conversations later.
3. Just go with it.
Sometimes, even after going bald with head scratching, there’s no connection to be found.
In that case, you can either dump it, or just grab that sucker and run with it.
But I bet you that in most cases, it’s always possible to stretch meanings and find connections.
And I still haven’t written that novel. But I have helped other companies retroactively create brands, which is a cool story too.
So, can I help you make sense of your brand?
Any thoughts or questions?
Comment below and let me know!
Dominic is Enable’s design and brand specialist. He thoroughly enjoys helping businesses find meaning in their brands and define their distinction. Coffee, cooking and binge-researching are his hobbies. When not building websites, he is delving into projects to find the boundaries of his imagination. He hasn’t found them yet.