The Intrigue of Abstract Brand Names: Exploring the Psychology Behind Unconventional Labels

Abstract brand names and why it is not love at first sight

Take it from me, having an odd name for your brand has some big benefits. In case you haven't realised the connection I have an uncommon name—Soojee. Growing up, I didn't like that my name was Soojee. I thought my name made me stand out and it was a stark reminder that I was different to everyone when I just wanted to fit in. Ironically my experience about disliking my differences is not unique. Wanting to fit in is a hallmark of adolescence and a part of life!

With time I’ve become comfortable with my name. To the point where I LOVE having a unique name now. Call it growing up, call it finding myself, today I love that my name is the odd one out. Over time I have created the meaning behind my name and now I love what it stands for. 

Austin McGhie of Brand is a Four Letter Word, explains my experience with this quote, “Most of us grew up with similar names, dressed in similar clothes, went to similar schools. We manage our differences lest our peers find us strange. We make fun of the odd ones.”.

According to McGhie this discomfort with being the "odd one out" is what turns many brands and business leaders off an "odd brand name"—even though they are well aware of the benefits of differentiation. I've seen it first hand, when abstract names are pitched they rarely get "Yes" straight away. I believe it is because McGhie puts it, we've been subconsciously conditioned to want to fit in, rather than stand out.

What is an abstract brand name, and why should your brand consider one?

Abstract brand names are made-up words, such as Spotify, Ikea, or L'Oreal, for example. If you are in the process of naming a brand, this article is for you to consider giving an abstract brand name a crack. While abstract brand names can take a little while to warm up to, they have some big benefits. In our eyes, where being boring is bad for business abstract brand names are one of our favourite paths to take when naming a brand, for these particular reasons:

01. It’s ownable

Any brand name should be protected and owned. From an IP protection perspective in Australia, this means owning the trademark for your brand’s name and making sure your business name is available on ASIC. If you choose not to trademark your brand name, you need to at least make sure your brand name is not infringing on another trademark. 

Other areas you want to make sure you own your brand name are domains and social accounts. When you use an abstract name for your brand, the likelihood of the brand name being available on all of these fronts is much higher. 

02. You can write your own story

When there’s no existing meaning tied to a brand name, you have the opportunity to create your narrative about your brand name. We find that an abstract name inspires creativity with storytelling far more than descriptive names. 

03. It suggests "we think outside the box"

Descriptive names that say what a business does, for example, a made-up company called “The Accounting People”, leaves little to the imagination. A name like Spaceship Investing, however, suggests innovation and outside-the-box thinking. 

Let's do this

If I've convinced you to pursue an odd or abstract brand name for your business here are two tips to help you take the leap:

01. Allow time

Just as I needed to grow into my name, choosing an abstract name can feel uncomfortable at first. Allow yourself and anyone you "test" the name time to sit with the name. Abstract brand names are unfamiliar and we have even seen them tested as “no’s” when clients do the friends and family test, yet turn out to the chosen name.

02. Make it easy to sound out

It's easier if your abstract brand name is straightforward to sound out. For example, it's fairly obvious how to pronounce Hulu or Pixar. The only caveat to this is you can teach people to pronounce and love your abstract brand name that's difficult to pronounce. It's just going to take a little longer or more marketing dollars than a brand name that is easy to pronounce.

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