What ONE sees in a name is not necessarily what ONE is.

Jonte Goldwater

September 29, 2022

What ONE sees in a name is not necessarily what ONE is.

Naming is so tough because it is so subjective and open to challenge. When you are a national telco, this becomes even harder.

There has been a lot of chatter and opinion after Vodafone announced this week that they are changing their brand and name. From what I can see, most of that chatter is centred around the name, and this has been jumped on quickly.

For the folks at Voda/One, this is a huge deal, and I can assure you that in the lead-up to this, a lot of work will have been done, and I would guess that ‘One’ probably wasn’t the name that was always there at the front of the list. I would imagine this has been in the works for years, and in the journey towards this change, an organisation like Voda/One will have gone back and forth, assessed, debated, and planned a change exhaustively.

They will have seen the possible risks, and they will have assessed them properly. Their extensive trademark, competitive and legal searches will have picked things up. They will have taken a pragmatic view and evaluated the likelihood of a minor right-wing connotation hijacking what is essentially a well-used and understood construct. A construct that will carry them well into the future. They will have seen what the bigger picture is and how after time, through storytelling and demonstration, the idea of unification will shine through and carry an organisation to a vision that I would be sure will be clear and robust.

What is interesting and always happens is that people bring their perspective and sometimes baggage to a new name at face value. The reaction is instant, and it always comes with feeling. I repeatedly observe that people believe that the name as first encountered, based on their perspective, is what it is and will always be in their mind.

A name is just a vessel to which meaning is derived over time based on what is done and delivered.

It is those actions that will create meaning in our minds and is that which will bend and warp our minds to stop seeing that name as it was when we first saw it, but how we see it as a shorthand for the careful work that will have been done over the years.

Just think of brands that are acronyms that have meaning and personality; Qantas, IBM, NZI… they are just letters put together, and now they are titans with characters, meaning and value.

If you ever find yourself changing a brand name, take stock and leave lots of time because this is not straightforward. If you are doing this for an international brand, challenges become multiplied. Usually, with a rebrand, design is involved as well, and the name always takes much longer than anything else. Naming holds up the entire process and adds risk because if you progress a design on a name still waiting on the trademark challenges, you are a wee bit open.

Here are the basics for the process of naming.

Before you start, there are a few questions that you may want to consider:

1.      Who are the different types of consumers that we need to communicate with?

2.     What are the industry and company barriers? And what are possible negative perceptions and complications we should be aware of?

3.     Is this name of domestic or global focus? If global, what countries?

4.     What are the cultural sensitivities and considerations that we should be aware of?

From here, critical parts of your brand need to be set down and established. You must have your brand DNA sorted, and you will need to understand whether you are developing a name that is based on:

1.      Place or provenance

2.     Abstract

3.     Fabricated

4.     Descriptive

5.     Evocative

You need a name that brings our DNA to life; it needs to be compelling, memorable, and unique to the category. It needs to make an impact. Based on your planning, it is about understanding your naming sweet spot for which to launch your ‘creative naming platforms’.
You will have a lot of options, and by having a structured approach, you will be able to bring this down to a sensible shortlist. Once you are at this point, there are additional considerations:

1.      Are we clear from a trademark perspective?

2.     Can we obtain the online domain?

3.     Can it be easily pronounced?

4.     What are the positive and negative associations?

5.     Does it feel sensible to write?

6.     Say it out loud; how does that feel?

7.     Reflect on it… and rest with it…

Now you have focus and the ability to link your naming ideas back to a solid foundation that enables you to create objectivity. This is critical as subjectivity is your biggest issue and can derail what could have been the winning solution.

Naming a range of products or services.

If you are dealing with a range of product/service systems, you will need a well-sorted brand architecture that shows the relationships and roles for all parts.

At a broad level, when you are developing naming systems for product or service ranges, there are four main naming types:

1.      Structured systems

2.     Descriptive based

3.     Benefit based

4.     Theme based

Each has pros and cons, ranging from the ability to trademark to flexibility across a growing offering.

Once you understand all the parts and how everything will fit together, there are some practical things that you will need to consider, as generally, people ask three main questions when navigating:

1.      What does it do?

2.     How and where does it fit in your offer?

3.     Why do I need it?

You will need to consider how flexible your system is and where you will run out of runway with it. Considering the design, colour and visual system can help do some lifting alongside the names to assist with navigation.

It will be interesting to see how far our friends at Voda/One go with their name and if it will exist as a theme further down into the broader product and service system. This could be an opportunity to further extend and embed meaning into the master brand name itself.

One as a name is not the most original in the world, but for a business like Vodafone, it doesn’t need to be. It must be a great vessel that seamlessly carries its promise into the future.

So go easy on them as you may find yourself not only having to get something like this through but standing behind it when it is free.

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Are you looking to grow your business through the power of brand & design? Please visit our 'about' page for more

We get smaller brands ready for the next step, big brands back on track,  and we build brands from the ground up.