Discover more from Sala
The surname effect: how Brand Surnames shape strategic communication
How surnames can shape and optimize the very foundations of effective brand architecture and communication strategies.
Welcome to the world of brand architecture, where strategic development meets effective communication. At the heart of our methodology lies Brand Surname, a crucial element that shapes a brand's verbal and visual identity.
Every brand possesses a surname, whether intentionally planned or not. The act of planning a surname empowers narrative control, fostering deeper connections and unlocking revenue potential. When viewed through the lens of brand communication, brand architecture refers to the systematic arrangement and structure of a company's offerings — brands, products, and services — in order to convey their unique value propositions, differentiation, and overarching brand story to the target audience.
Thanks for reading Sala! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.
Central to this architecture is the main brand name, which serves as the cornerstone of a company's identity. However, more often than not, this name is accompanied by additional descriptors. For instance, "Have you heard of Aime Leon Doré, the renowned store in New York with perpetually long lines?" In this scenario, the brand's surname is store. You may wonder, why is it called a store and not a boutique or market? By adding the surname, we immediately conjure an image of a physical retail space, a destination where customers gather, and long queues form.
To truly grasp the power of brand architecture, envision the brand name as a planet with a gravitational pull, and its surnames as satellites that influence behaviors and shape the system. They provide context, depth, and specificity to the brand name, enabling individuals to locate and comprehend it within their mental landscape.
Moving forward, let's explore this in more detail.
The choice of the surname for the brand takes place in strategic assessment layers, according to the areas that will be affected, namely:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Brand name parts play a vital role in search engine visibility. When strategically incorporated into a brand's name, these parts can enhance SEO efforts by including relevant keywords. This boosts brand visibility and increases organic traffic, contributing to the overall success of the brand universe.
For example, if a company adds its core products as a surname as we see in Cabana Magazine, or the niche as a surname as Clementina Sketchbook. In the same sense, the surname can indicate the audience segment as in Croak Monsieur, or indicate belonging to a group of brands within an umbrella, such as Zara Home and Isabel Marant Étoile.
Localization and Origin Perception
In an increasingly globalized world, brand name parts play a crucial role in both localization efforts and shaping consumers' perception of a brand's origin. By incorporating localized terms or culturally significant words in brand names, businesses can establish an immediate connection with local consumers and foster a sense of belonging, of cultural affinity.
Moreover, certain name parts associated with specific regions or countries, such as Officine Universelle Buly—in which Officine Universelle are surnames to Buly— a French name part, can evoke perceptions of quality craftsmanship or luxurious products, a powerful brand image that influences consumers' purchasing decisions. Within this thinking, we also have Bottega Veneta and Maison Bourgeat as examples.
Now, think about cafe versus coffee shop. Some words are not restricted to a single language but are connected with a notion of foreignness, depending on the place of application, which may be convenient. As it is a word already adhered to the local vocabulary, comprehension is easy and no educational action is needed.
Brand name parts can also define a brand's positioning. Think of the surname Museum: it can be used literally, sharpening expectations as in Musée d'Orsay or serve as a play on words, instigating curiosity, such as in Museum of Peace and Quiet. For instance, a brand using name parts like museum (or musée, in French) in the traditional sense establishes specific expectations about how important that institution is, how the visit will be, that it is likely to be open to the public, that it has an extensive collection, etc. A brand that decides to navigate the humor side conveys its focus on people who will get the joke. Both approaches hit more precisely a segment of the audience.
Personality and Relationship Format
Surnames can set or reinforce the perceived tone and personality which influences how consumers relate to it. A carefully chosen name can evoke emotions, create a sense of trust, and feel approachable, fun, friendly, distant, mature, and professional.
Scharf studio itself can illustrate this: we provide high-end design services and are always rooted in a lot of research and meaning. We are a space for creativity based on study, as the origin of the word studio indicates. We are not an agency, which typically involves organizing transactions between two other parties, nor are we a boutique, as our clients are luxury but not ostentatious.
Another good case is Soho House, where a house by definition is a place that offers connection, familiarity, and comfort, in which people meet for a particular activity. We also have Moka Clube, which last name (club in Portuguese) proposes this space or organization dedicated to a specific interest or activity (Moka type of coffee).
There are three main options:
Fixed is the first approach and involves prominently featuring the surname on the logo itself. By doing so, it becomes a part of the core of the visual identity, instantly recognizable to the audience. This method works best when the surname holds significant meaning or recognition, creating a strong association with the brand.
In word-of-mouth communication, the surname may not always be mentioned, but in all other formal communication instances, it is present. This can happen because of the feeling of intimacy with the brand, almost an affectionate name.
In some cases, the attachable approach may be suitable. This method allows flexibility in displaying the surname, depending on the brand's profile or company being presented. The attachable surname can be featured or removed based on the specific context, enabling the brand to adapt its visual representation accordingly. This adaptability ensures the branding remains relevant and aligns with the brand's evolving needs. The most common cases are surnames created for social media handles and domains, sub-brands, and alternative lines (such as outlet).
Lastly, the conversational approach involves using the surname exclusively in texts and speeches, without highlighting it in the logo or key graphic pieces. In this scenario, the surname becomes a highlighted word within the brand's word cloud, outlining its vocabulary and enhancing its communication style. This approach creates a unique and distinctive brand voice that resonates with the audience.
The surname is intricately intertwined with all elements surrounding its core. The meaning remains inseparable from the overall strategy and brand concept, regardless of its connection to physical or virtual reality, and whether it adopts a literal or humorous approach. Surnames encompass a diverse range of linguistic tools such as adjectives, adverbs, substantives, and anything else that contributes to their meaning.
The following list delves into the main approaches that shape a surname.
Structural Surnames: Describes where and how the business takes place. Examples: Deiji Studios, Maison Bourgeat, Vacation Inc, The Animals Observatory, Officine Universelle Buly, Open Air Museum, L'Atelier Nawbar, Port de Bras, Stephen Russell Vintage, The Frankie Shop, Apartamento 61, Girlfriend Collective, Aromatherapy Associates, Aquazzura Casa.
Geographical Surnames: These surnames are derived from a business's place of origin, headquarters, or coverage. Examples: Gohar World, Frescobol Carioca, Husbands Paris, Costa Brazil, Bottega Venetta, Wardrobe.NYC, Michel Paris, L'Occitane en Provence, Moncler Grenoble, Made in Tomboy, Missoni Baia, Farm Rio, Saks Off Fifth, Reflections Copenhagen.
Attributive Surnames: These surnames describe the characteristics of their offers. Examples: Skirt Chronicles, Tekla Fabrics, Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty, Domain of The Flowerings for Home, Jade Swim, Bao Bao Issey Miyake, Joaquina Botánica, Zara Hadid Design, RiRa Objects, Drink Canetta.
Freestyle: Innovative approaches to surname. Examples: Souvenirs of, Agua by Agua Bendita, Rabitti1969, Weekend Max Mara, Red Valentino, Proenza Schouler White Label, ASTR The Label, MM6 Maison Margiela, Tate Modern.
Let's tie it all together by analyzing a good name: Cafe Leandra. From the about page: "[...] an exploratory website that does not yet serve coffee but seeks to make the thrill of browsing online a bit more intuitive".
Cafe Leandra: full name.
Leandra: first name, core.
Plays a strong role in positioning and relationship format.
It's descriptive and fixed.
In conclusion, the hidden potential of brand surnames holds remarkable opportunities for businesses to thrive in their respective landscapes. By taking action and exploring the possibilities they offer, brands can make a lasting impression and forge deeper connections with their target audience. It's time to tap into the vast universe of brand surnames and witness the transformative impact they can have.
If you enjoyed this edition, you may also like:
Thanks for reading Sala! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.