Naming with Personal Names: Boring or Interesting?

A company’s name is its calling card. Naming strategies do vary, but a significant percentage of company names always include first or last names.

Companies established in late 19th or early 20th century often use the surnames or the full names of their founder(s) to honour their heritage. This practice is very popular across a variety of industries (especially among luxury fashion labels and professional services) where the founder’s talents and expertise are of high value.

15 Brands Named with Personal Names

As surnames and full names might produce a corporate and stiff feeling, many successful brands adopt first names or nicknames, such as Wendy’s, Ben & Jerry’s and Claire’s. These names introduce an element of intimacy, giving the brands a stronger personality, a young and fun spirit. Therefore, these brands usually have high relevance and are targeted to the mass public. For example, two former Unilever category managers created Fred & Ed in 2003, using two made-up nicknames to inspire an innovative children’s food brand. 

16 Consumer Brands Named with Personal Names

Other interesting examples are Tod’s and Zara; both are highly successful fashion labels with seemingly random names (i.e. not the founders’ names). So why choose these names?

17 Tod's

Tod’s was created by Diego Della Valle from his family’s shoemaking business in the 1980s. Della Valle was looking for a “charming name,” like Apple or Chanel, that would be simple, catchy and consumer-friendly. More importantly, the name Tod’s “is pronounced like it reads,” making it communicable in most languages. 

6 ZARA

Zara was not always intended to be Zara. The founder of Zara intended to name the store Zorba, after the 1964 film Zorba the Greek. Unfortunately, the name was already taken by a bar opening on the same street. They later decided to name it “Zara”, a girl’s name. The name was a success. Just like Tod’s, “Zara” is simple, catchy and easily pronounced.

In 1993, Prada launched its high fashion label, Miu Miu, headed by Miuccia Prada. The brand didn’t follow the common route of branding with designer’s full name but used her nickname instead. The unusual but simple, repeated syllables give the brand a young and fun spirit that aligns well with its positioning.

18 Miu Miu

However, this naming method also comes with risks and limitations. People are likely to have pre-existing impressions of certain names. Moreover cultural context may skew a brand’s message in foreign markets.  Therefore, companies have to be careful when choosing a nickname as a brand name.

Brands are becoming more creative in order to effectively differentiate themselves and to create relevance. Companies want their brand names to showcase their attributes and value. Nonetheless, with careful weighing of brand positioning, personal names are still a great choice in creating interesting and impactful brands.