From Apple to Coca-Cola to Javelina, learn how to look at names with a brand new perspective

Your organization probably has a logo and a mission statement. Maybe you have a list of values, or some unique messaging. They’re all important pieces of the puzzle that makes up your brand. But the first thing most folks will encounter is your name. Whether they’re hearing it in passing or seeing it on a billboard, your name is a big part of your first impression. 

So why are so many names forgettable? We certainly take names seriously in other parts of our lives. We name kids, pets, cars, and musical instruments with love and care. Those names often carry special meanings to us, because they have a story behind them or they evoke a powerful emotion. But how many organizations do you just know as a string of letters? How many have names that made sense at one point, and are now basically a marketing liability?

In other words, would you ever refer to your dog by an acronym?

At Javelina, we start with a naming philosophy called “IGOR.” In simple terms, the IGOR philosophy means that names fall into four categories: Descriptive, Invented, Evocative, and Experiential. With IGOR, we can turn the often murky art of naming into something a little bit closer to a science. 

The first category, and the most common, is Descriptive. Descriptive names literally explain the service an organization provides. Home Depot. Bank of America. United Parcel Service. In some niche sectors, this is pretty useful. In most, it’s a quick way for people to forget your name within five minutes of hearing it, or turn it into an acronym that loses all meaning. There are better places to explain what your organization does than in your name – like literally anywhere else.

The second category is Invented. Invented names fall into two categories – the completely made-up (like Snapple or Pepsi) or the ‘real name’ (like Berkshire Hathaway or Lockheed Martin). They’re generally free of negative connotations and easy to trademark. But they also hold zero emotional weight, and require a pretty massive marketing budget or a serious pedigree to get folks to associate them with any meaning. When you hear “Pepsi,” you think of soda. But change a single letter (“Dedsi?”) and it suddenly means nothing. Pepsi only means something because we’ve been seeing Pepsi ads and drinking it when Coke isn’t available for our entire lives.

The third type of name are Experiential names – which create a direct connection to something you can experience, relate to, or encounter. It’s more about an experience than it is about what the brand represents or offers. “Goodwill” isn’t about thrift shopping. It doesn’t tell you anything about what they do. But it does imply something about the experience of shopping there. “In-N-Out” doesn’t tell you they sell burgers, but it does tell you that they value efficiency. “Charger,” “Explorer,” and “Accord” aren’t selling you a car, they’re selling you the experience that the car offers. These names are common, but they’re common because they immediately make sense to your audiences. They can be hard to trademark, but they offer a strong emotional resonance that can be tough to beat.

The final type of name are Evocative names. The least common name type, these names compliment your position in your sector rather than the goods or services you offer. A good Evocative name provokes a feeling in your audiences and helps create a brand image that is bigger than your work alone. They’re easy to trademark and tough to do well. 

“Javelina” is a great example. A furry pig has little to do with advancing equality and human dignity or providing excellent consulting services. But javelinas are animals that thrive in groups, working together to succeed. They’re tough, they’re scrappy, and they have Southwestern roots. Sounds a lot like us. On top of that, it’s hard to forget a company named “Javelina.” Apple and Tesla are other great examples – they have nothing to do with computers or cars, but Apple makes you think “oh, that’s different” and Tesla evokes a memory of an eccentric scientist way ahead of his time. Both are exactly what the marketing teams at those companies want you to associate with their brands.

The value of the IGOR philosophy lies in the fact that it demystifies. There aren’t a million kinds of names, there are four. And within those four, you have a framework to immediately identify strengths, weaknesses, and the right opportunities for your brand.

If you’re ready for an acronym-free future where your organization’s name actually helps you make an impact, shoot us a message at hello@javelina.co. We’d love to chat about how we can help you design a name that supports your goals (and that people actually remember).

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