Which Came First – The Name or The Meaning?

Does the name create the identity, or does the identity give meaning to the name?
The answer: yes.

I can’t remember how exactly I came across this article, “Your Name Goes Here“, but I remember the question that drew me to it – “Which came first, the name or its meaning”, in relation to branding and brand values.

As a brand practitioner, I’ve seen both approaches:

1) The Egg Came First – i.e. Get a brand name, any brand name… then make it great.

This is where proponents will argue that a great name, even though it sounds silly at first, will eventually be great because of the efforts towards building it – fleshing out its values, demonstrating its brand personality and building off the strategic brand platform. This is probably why you see a host of odd sounding names – most notoriously among creative agencies and internet start-ups. Hey, I bet “Google” sounded really dumb before it became the #1 super-giant for web search today, right?

From personal experience, I notice that this is often the approach if you’re on the organisation/client’s side.

2) The Chicken Comes First – Determine the strategy/values/platform/direction, the get a name that embodies it.

Often, this approach is for people who don’t like to “put the cart before the horse”. These are practitioners who need a lot of insight and research before they are able to prepare the brand strategy… which will them guide them as they work towards namestorming. Hence, the name often embodies everything that the brand should stand for – these are “meaningful” name, often with a great brand story and/or history behind it.

From personal experience, this is often the approach taken if you’re the agency/consultant. It’s easier to “make the case” with the client when you have solid “research/data/foundation” to work from.

So which way works best? Does the name create the identity, or does the identity give meaning to the name? I agree with the article, the answer is: yes.

What do you think? Would love to chat in the comments please.

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