Choose a memorable brand name

Grateful Dead. It’s a weird name—maybe even a bit frightening. Love it, hate it, whatever you think of it… it’s a name that you remember.

Many brands (especially credit unions), however, don’t focus enough on choosing a memorable name. When going through the brand process alone, folks tend to focus too much on the what, leading to overly technical names. Confused? Don’t be. You have one in your pocket. Isn’t iPod a hundred times cooler than the MP3 Deluxe Pocket Player? Even the iPad, its name mocked for months when proposed, is now a terrific brand name.

If you struggle with your name from years ago or wonder if it might be time for a change, don’t worry. Not even the Grateful Dead got it right on the first try. When they formed the band in 1964, they were originally called The Warlocks. Well, they were until they found out there was already a band with that name, which had already recorded and released a single. Garcia floated the Mythical Ethical Icicle Tricycle. Weir thought His Own Sweet Advocates would work. When they couldn’t agree, they did what any logically thinking group needing a rebrand did, they called the team at your marketing co! Not really. It was as actually a bit simpler than that. They opened a copy of the 1956 Funk and Wagnell’s New Practical Standard Dictionary. Someone randomly pointed to a page. The first thing they landed on was Grateful Dead. Some band members were a bit wary, but they all agreed it was memorable. Then they fell in love with it.

The Grateful Dead, an iconic band, is perhaps one of the most widely recognized in history. Funk and Wagnell’s? Really? What exactly does Grateful Dead even mean? It is a type of ballad involving a hero who helps a corpse that is bring refused a proper burial. Even the definition seemed like a perfect fit, evoking a “world beyond consciousness.” As some in the band’s audiences (and, perhaps, one or two of the musicians) experimented with mind altering substances while enjoying the music, it was a perfect fit. Decades later, the name sticks. Fifty years later, the name invokes an “insiders” feel to its fans. The band had a name that parents hated. Less cool acquaintances raised their eyebrows. But all of that only contributed to the community aspect of their fans, bringing them closer than ever.

Though the rebrand story ends on a high note for the Grateful Dead, not everyone who randomly selects a new name form the dictionary gets as lucky. Our team completed one renaming project earlier this year and are in the process of launching two more this summer. We know the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into this process.

If you’re thinking of an all-out name change, or even a slight brand refresh for your credit union, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid common names already in use. Even if your customers are not confused, it will not bode well for you when it comes to people searching for you in the internet.
  • If you’re considering a common name, make some slight changes to it. For example, a social networking site from the early social age named itself FledgeWing (derived from fledgling, which based on their limited success was an accurate name).
  • Many credit unions are looking to made up words for their future success. This is always encouraged, as it allowed you to own that name in search results. Though a great option, try not to pick something difficult to pronounce. Word of mouth will never spread if no one wants to bend their mouths around your new name!
  • Try an alternative spelling for a common word. For example, Google is derived from googol, which is a number is the 10 to the power of 100, or Flickr which is flicker (minus the e). We used this option to name our website division, now known as Uncommn (uncommon without the O).
  • A less common practice, but still effective, is what author Sam Horn calls “alphabetizing.” It is the practice of taking as common word and substituting one letter for another—such as GoGurt, the yogurt in a push tube for kids.

Finding a new name, or even refreshing an existing brand, is one of the most important decisions your credit union will ever make. Yet many go it alone without spending enough time or thought on the most important elements of this project.

Rebranding is not just about buzzing brand words. It’s about re-purposing your life, finding your true voice, and building an authentic brand that impacts lives. It’s a call to re-examine our existence, our goals, and our dreams. It makes us think about why we do what we do—to align life back to its source (our members)—and connect with the hearts of people. It is not a moment. It’s a movement. Make it count.

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald is president of Your Marketing Co. A marketing firm that started serving credit unions nearly a decade ago, offering a wide range of services including web design, branding, ... Web: Details