Naming In The News

Your Name is Part of Your Brand

by Janelle Barlow

When was the last time you saw such a horrible restaurant name that you would rather eat a 7-Eleven burrito than try the bad-named place's food?

SaladworksOne of the most important elements of a name is that it tells consumers what to expect. A Chinese restaurant name with Dim Sum in the title, for example, provides evidence that you will find dim sum treats. Rosita's gives a strong clue that burritos and tacos will be on the menu and implies reasonable costs, while Manuel Ortega's Cuisine suggests food that will be more elaborate and expensive. Baja Fresh implies fresh ingredients.

Sometimes, brands can be so successful they transcend the restaurant and the name doesn't matter. The name McDonald's doesn't tell us much, but at this point it doesn't have to. We know the McDonald's price range, its menu offering and product consistency. But it took some time for the hamburger value-meal concept to become embedded in consumers' minds.

If we didn't know it so well, McDonald's would be more difficult to peg than Peet's Coffee and Tea.

If we didn't know it so well, McDonald's would be more difficult to peg than Peet's Coffee and Tea. As a result, McDonald's — with no food descriptors in its name — can expand its coffee offerings under its coined name. Peet's Coffee, on the other hand, would have a harder time if it started offering meals to go along with its coffee.

But if both chains were to start fresh out of the box today, Peet's Coffee and Tea would tell a more complete story to consumers because its main menu offerings are part of the name.

Port City JavaIn its research, Strategic Name Development — which has helped dub products for companies like John Deere, Campbell's, Sprint and Einstein Bros. — considers several qualifiers when determining a restaurant name, such as whether the restaurant is a family restaurant; if it serves healthful food; and how good the food tastes. For fast-casual names, Strategic Name Development evaluates cost, type of food, and personality of the restaurant.

The Naming Process

If you're at the beginning of the naming stage, you need to define all the elements of your concept and what message you want to convey. Who is your target audience? What's your signature selling point?

Peet's Coffee and TeaOnce you've picked out a few names to choose from, test them. Your new name must resonate with your target market. If you want athletic women in your store, visit gyms or women-only workout facilities to get focus group candidates.

When you have a solid group selected, you should have them evaluate the names and observe their emotional connection with the brand. The group should also be able to determine if the name is memorable. At the end of the focus group, you should know if your target market could recall the name after seeing it just once.

Doc Green'sWhile you want to find what's marketable about the name, you also want to learn what's negatively associated with it. Can the name be considered racial, perverted, or even partial to one religion? How does sound symbolism or phonosemantics (the meaning of sounds) affect the evaluation of a name's latent association?

While this may seem like over-thinking, just remember you don't want people skipping your restaurant because they don't like your name.