July 13, 2023
Nike, the renowned athletic apparel and footwear brand, operated initially under the name “Blue Ribbon Sports” when it was founded in 1964. However, in 1971, the founders decided to rebrand the company. They considered various options, such as “Dimension 6” and “Peregrine,” but eventually settled on “Nike,” inspired by the Greek goddess of victory. Could you imagine if Nike remained as Blue Ribbon Sports? Unsurprisingly, crafting a captivating brand name is an art form that requires careful consideration and a deep understanding of the naming craft. At BLVR®, we’ve helped countless Clients develop new names, but two problems commonly arise — gaining internal support and ensuring legal ownership. This article will explore those hurdles and give you some insightful strategies to turn trickiness into triumph.
CHALLENGE ONE – GETTING BUY IN
Naming is an exciting point in the branding process. And stakeholders naturally want to be involved. Securing stakeholders’ buy-in is crucial, but striking the right balance is key. While diverse perspectives are valuable, involving only a few stakeholders can hinder progress. It is advisable to welcome team input in the early stages but select a smaller core group (e.g. The VP of Marketing, the Head of Brand, the Senior Brand Manager) and an ultimate decision-maker (e.g., The CEO) who understands the brand and business objectives to make key name development decisions. This approach streamlines the decision-making process and avoids complications arising from conflicting opinions.
Achieving consensus among stakeholders can be challenging due to differing expectations and preferences. To overcome this, foster an environment that encourages regular updates. Actively involve key stakeholders throughout the process and facilitate discussions that collectively guide your team to understand the chosen name’s rationale. Presenting research, data, and external insights obtained during the process helps build a persuasive case, increasing the likelihood of obtaining buy-in from all parties involved.
CHALLENGE TWO – TRADEMARKING YOUR NAME
Once you’ve gotten buy-in on your name, ensuring it’s ownable from a trademark perspective is important. Think about some of the most recognizable trademarks in the world — McDonald’s golden arches, Netflix’s wordmark, Coca Cola’s distinctive red color. These are all instantly recognizable elements of some of the world’s best-known brands. Thanks to their respective trademarks, they’ve safeguarded the identity of their products or services, differentiating them from competitors and preventing consumer confusion.
Trademark organizations, such as the USPTO (United States), WIPO (Worldwide), and EUIPO (Europe), play a vital role in evaluating potential brand names’ coexistence and similarity. These organizations employ rigorous evaluation processes to assess names’ potential for causing confusion in the marketplace. Trademark registration is organized into different classes, with 45 categories available. This classification system allows similar names to coexist in different classes without infringing on each other’s rights. For instance, Amazon holds trademarks across various classes, including online retail services (Class 34), transportation and delivery services (Class 39), and entertainment and media services (Class 41).
Navigating trademark law complexities is tricky. And while your agency partner can do initial checks, it’s always recommended to use the guidance of experienced trademark attorneys. These professionals can assist with the registration process, provide expert advice, conduct comprehensive trademark searches, and ensure compliance with legal requirements. Seeking their expertise safeguards your brand and protects you from costly mistakes.
Overcoming challenges in a naming project requires determination and patience. Remember, balancing stakeholder input and decision-making authority fosters consensus while avoiding complications. And understanding the evaluation processes of trademarks and working with a trademark attorney to file registrations within relevant classes ensures trademark viability. By addressing these challenges head-on, you can navigate the naming project successfully and establish a strong brand identity in the marketplace.
About the author(s)
Executive Director Strategic Impact & Growth
Lenya leads business development at BLVR and is well-versed in partnering with clients to drive long-term value for their organizations. She honed her craft working on global brands like Procter & Gamble, Anheuser-Busch, Sony, and Canon at leading agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, and BASIC. A master of purpose-led creativity, her work has been honored by the Effie Awards and the prestigious Cannes Lion Festival.