The following is an edited transcript of my video, Why Suggestive Trademarks and Brand Names Are My Favorite.
I get asked all the time about what type of brand names I prefer. The answer for me is easy: for commercial, marketing, and legal purposes, I strongly suggest that clients choose suggestive brand names.
What do I mean by suggestive brand names? Let’s start with the spectrum of the types of brand names – the two ends of the spectrum where suggestive is actually in the middle. On the one hand, we have names that are descriptive—even so descriptive that they’re generic and tell you exactly what the product or service is without any thought having to go into it—like Cartoon Network, Hotels.com, or Sports Illustrated. You hear those names and know exactly what they’re offering. On the other end of the spectrum, you have brand names that are arbitrary, coined and made up. Either a completely new word that has no meaning, or a word that has no meaning with the particular product or service.
Apple computers and iPhone are arbitrary names. Exxon is a made-up word. Pandora is another name for a music service that is arbitrary. Yahoo is a word that exists or a expression that exists but doesn’t have any meaning as it relates to an internet directory. Those are the type of words that are quite creative, but they tell the consumer nothing about the product or service on their own if you didn’t already know what the service was.
In the middle we have what I think are the best brand names. They’re suggestive, not descriptive or arbitrary. They’re entitled to strong protection and tell the consumers something about the brand name. Online examples like Pinterest, Travelocity, Netflix, or YouTube. Those tell you a little bit about the service. YouTube tells you it has to do with video. Netflix tells you it has to do with internet and movies. Travelocity tells you it has to do with going places.
The restaurant service OpenTable is suggestive. The restaurant name for a salad place called Tossed is a creative, suggestive name. I love coffee shops; in my hometown and everywhere I go there are so many creative coffee shop names. Some favorites are Brewed Awakening and Bean Around the World: a little playful, but also a name that is tied to coffee.
Another suggestive name that I think is quite creative is Bootleggers for a footwear store that sells shoes. Those are the type of names that I favor because they tell the customer something, but not in an overtly descriptive way. And they’re entitled to strong protection because descriptive names are entitled to weaker and less protection until they become really well known, or have been used for a really long time.
It is not easy to come up with a great suggestive name, but I strongly believe that it is worth the time. If you are looking into new brand names, look for my resources about brainstorming and choosing new brand names and read about the scale of protection for different types of trademarks, and you will see why I prefer suggestive ones. .