“Sticky” might not seem like the sexiest word in the world, but there’s no better way to describe the timeless companies we all know and love.
Sticky means easy to remember. Sticky brands stick in your mind, instantly and forever occupying a valuable piece of mental real estate. You simply can’t forget Google or Cadillac once they’ve planted that little seed in your brain.
Timeless companies transcend fads and trends. Pokemon GO, fidget spinners and acid-washed jeans come and go, but the likes of Apple, the Dallas Cowboys and Ferrari are here to stay.
Trends might be the ripple of the ocean’s surface in the wake of a passing yacht, but timeless brands are the ocean. A sunbather on the beach might see a thousand waves in one day and not remember a single one, but they’ll always know the sea.
So then, the holy grail in naming a company or brand is figuring out a name that’s both sticky and timeless.
But before we dig into the specifics of naming a sticky, timeless brand, let’s get this out of the way:
There are a billion variables and you’re not going to be able to get this right on your first try (probably).
Branding is a huge piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the only piece.
Correlation does not equal causation, and many companies actually succeed in spite of their branding and name.
But for our purposes, let’s make the assumption that branding and naming are absolutely vital to your business success. How do we go about doing that without being hit on the head by an apple and finding divine inspiration?
Over the years, we’ve gotten pretty good at naming and branding. Something we use extensively with clients across all verticals. We know that when marketing for plastic surgeons, brand makes a big difference in how many leads you get flowing in. Which makes sense, customers need to subconsciously feel safe when choosing someone to cut them open. We’ve also seen these 10 laws make a huge difference in our law firm marketing adventures. These are ten lessons we’ve learned along the way—laws, if you will—you’d be wise to follow if you’re trying to create one of those timeless, lucrative companies. Let’s get started, shall we?
We lied a little in our headline. There are NO LAWS for marketing, naming or branding that should be followed 100% of the time, in every situation, or for every person.
I know that’s frustrating because although there is a science to it, branding is primarily an art. Branding is more like a list of things that work most of the time than a concrete formula you can just plug with variables and find your perfect answer.
But like I said, these suggestions work most of the time, and you have to know the rules before you can break them!
Alright, this is the most important step, so listen up. Ask yourself what your business is REALLY about.
Take Facebook, for example. What is Facebook, really? While defining Facebook today is slightly more complicated, the social network started out as one big digital yearbook. A BOOK of FACES. Facebook.
We at Klicker have asked this question a million times—what are we really all about? One of the best answers we came up with is Calculated Clicks. All day every day, we’re sitting here getting calculated clicks. We do it for us, we do it for our clients. (Two meanings…see below.)
Calculated Clicks later became Klicker.
Your brand is an extension of yourself. Each successful brand has a face attached to the name, from Apple’s Steve Jobs to Tesla’s Elon Musk. So own your brand—be proud of it, and let your name evolve naturally from whatever it is you do.
Simplicity is always best, even for brands that are trying to convey sophistication.
Shorter is better. Easier to pronounce is better. Visually simple is better. All in all, simplicity trumps complexity every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Calculated Clicks might sound nice internally, but outside of our sphere we wanted to condense those five syllables and two words into something a little more palatable. Klicker sticks way better than Calculated Clicks, and we doubt we’d be seeing the same success today had we stuck with the original.
Look at Facebook again. Doesn’t Facebook sound so much better than their original “THE Facebook?” Facebook was shortened for simplicity’s sake, Tidy became Tide, and dozens of other brands chose to go the simpler route and saw huge success because of that.
If you don’t think that extra “the” before Facebook is a big deal, just look around at all of the most successful brands and try adding “the” or “a” in front of their names, and you’ll see which one looks stickier.
Simplicity also extends to the visual side of branding. Even brands with incredibly simple logos are instantly recognizable, such as Apple’s apple, Tesla’s T, Nike’s swoosh, etc. Grand slam brand/logo combinations are forever ingrained in the viewer’s brain, and that’s great news for you and your business.
Timeless and sticky brands don’t just sound good—they look good. Visual balance matters, and many of the top brands feature perfect visual balance.
Think of M&M, Kit Kat, H&M, etc. As you can see, we’re not talking about visual symmetry—you can achieve balance without being symmetrical. Look at the double S in Nissan or the double A in Saab. They just look nice, and that plays a big role in becoming sticky and timeless.
Being clever for just to be clever doesn’t win you business, but if your brand communicates two or more meanings in a simple and easily understood way, that can be a great boost to your appeal with potential customers.
One of our favorite brands that does exactly that is Lunchbox, a waxing service you can visit on your lunch break. Let your mind run wild.
We’ve tried to do something similar with one of our projects called Bonafide Men, a testosterone replacement therapy clinic. Both Lunchbox and Bonafide have legit and indirect meanings that can and should be interpreted at the same time.
Please be aware that I’m not saying you should rely on humor to carry your brand by itself. Humor is highly subjective, and what you might find clever could fall flat with your target audience.
Your brand could take one of two directions—logical or emotional.
Facebook is very logical, while Twitter is more emotional. Both social networks boast a huge user base and have become highly influential.
That means both routes are equally valid depending on your unique business—remember rule number one?
Logically, Apple’s name and logo don’t make sense. Apple started out making computers and now builds phones and other tech. Last time I checked, iPhones weren’t made with real apples.
But Steve Jobs wanted his company to be known as simple, and what’s more simple than eating an Apple? That’s an emotional association, and Apple nailed it.
Meanwhile, Facebook literally gives you a digital book of your friends’ faces. That’s logical, and it also works. The key here is that both are SIMPLE and easily recognizable, and both are doing very well.
We can all recognize rhyming. But in the rap world, there’s another little concept called flow.
Flow is how well words fit together based on their syllables, and so many great brands also have great flow.
Ready to have your mind blown? Let’s look at Coca Cola. By my count, they’ve managed to fit four of the branding laws we’ve talked about into one eight-letter name:
Talk about a Grand Slam Brand!
Of course, we’re forgetting about rhyme. Rhyming can quickly get TOO cute and turn into a mess, so be careful.
With that said…when it’s right, it’s right. Stub Hub and Tech Deck are two brands that rhyme and also happen to be insanely sticky.
Some numbers carry significance beyond what lies on the surface, such as 7, 12, and 13. But THE most magical number in the world is 3, hands down.
The human brain is infatuated with the number 3. The rule of thirds is a visual truth for photographers as much as the Rule of 3 is important for writing, telling jokes, and a vast number of other areas. Our website design even uses the Rule of 3.
Tons of killer brands are built with the Rule of 3 in mind:
The Rule of 3 can also be used in brand messaging to great effect. Think of Disneyland’s Family, Fun, Entertainment. Or what about our very own Uptown Puppies with More Fun, More Love, More Life.
The Rule of 3 can really help keep your direction and messaging clear—there’s just something odd about the number 2 or 4 when it comes to branding.
Just like some numbers are better than others, some letters and words are more powerful than others, too.
Ever wondered why the letter X is so prevalent in brands and products? There’s just something magical about the letter X. It’s perfectly balanced but rarely used in the English language, and it has a unique sound.
X is highly memorable, yet also very simple.
The letter I is another great one, especially used in its lowercase form. Apple has basically cornered the market on the letter i.
And just like there are magic letters, so too are there magic words. One of my hobbies is jotting down powerful words in my notebook. My growing list has contributed greatly to Klicker’s personal success and the success of our clients.
Some words just hit you right in the gut.
One of those words is Uptown, which found the perfect home at Uptown Puppies.
We renamed our company 3 times because we kept failing The Real World Test. You have to LIKE saying your brand’s name, and more importantly that name has to STICK in other peoples’ minds.
Be careful asking for feedback when it comes to branding. Most people don’t know what they’re talking about, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.
You wouldn’t ask your dentist to fix your leaky faucet, and you shouldn’t trust the average person to be dialed in on branding. Instead, get down to your top choice and tell people about it and notice if it STICKS.
You might be thinking that it’s stupid to ignore feedback on your brand, but that’s not what I’m saying.
When you specifically ask for feedback or advice, people begin turning off the instinctual part of their brain and start over-analyzing. Brands either stick or they don’t, and that’s all there is to it.
Sometimes a brand might pass The Real World Test and not make any sense at all if you stop to think about it. Many fashion brands and creative businesses fit this description.
“Apple” doesn’t really make sense…but a vast majority of people aren’t sitting around and analyzing brands for a living. They’re going with their gut instinct, what looks and feels good. And that’s what we’re shooting for, too.
Like I said before, naming brands is mostly an art. Inspiration for your brand could come in bits and pieces over the course of a year, it could hit your after an all-day brainstorming session, or it could come to you in a dream.
Creating a winning brand isn’t about luck, though.
This list is the product of years of thinking and doing, breaking down what lead to the creation of the world’s most famous and memorable sticky brands, how we could replicate their results for ourselves, and how we could break down that process into something that was a little more reliable than just “being good at marketing.”
These are the branding laws we live by, and they’ve helped us and our clients achieve great success. If you’re trying to create your very own Blockbuster Brand, just follow these laws and the path will open before you.
It doesn’t get any easier, but at least we can all get better.