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BRAND NAMING STRATEGY

Brand Naming and What We Can Learn from Specsavers

Did anyone notice that Specsavers are now offering hearings aids?

I must confess that when I glanced up from Suduko Blocks during a Masterchef commercial break, this news caught my attention.

Not because I’m in the market just yet, but because it immediately got me thinking. Does Specsavers have permission to offer hearing aids? I don’t mean has this been deemed acceptable by trading standards or the TGA. But rather does this make sense to the consumer? Or does it raise the eyebrows behind the frames of everyday glasses wearers?

Brand naming and Specsavers

An important case study about brand naming and scalability

Specsavers was founded in the UK in 1984 by optometrists Doug and Mary Perkins, who started the business in their spare bedroom on a table-tennis table. In 2008 they opened their first store in Australia and by the end of that year there were 153 stores here and many more worldwide.

Their mission was and remains rooted in eyecare, ‘to offer a wide range of stylish, fashionable glasses at prices affordable for everyone’.

They’ve also been at the forefront of the growth of contact lenses, a product extension which makes perfect sense. Specsavers… affordable high-street eyecare. The leap from spectacles to contact lenses isn’t a big one. Through their naming and product offering they’ve clearly occupied the space of serving glasses wearers and contact lenses aligns comfortably to that. They chose a niche and went for it, but more on that later.

However, where do hearing aids fit into this eyecare mission? It just feels a bit off doesn’t it…? “Specsavers” doing hearing aids. Should it be “Hearingsavers” now? 

Truth be told, on paper it’s a logical product extension for Specsavers.

My hesitation comes down to the glaringly obvious short-sightedness in brand naming (pun intended!).

An important case study about brand naming and scalability

 

Specsavers was founded in the UK in 1984 by optometrists Doug and Mary Perkins, who started the business in their spare bedroom on a table-tennis table. In 2008 they opened their first store in Australia and by the end of that year there were 153 stores here and many more worldwide.

Their mission was and remains rooted in eyecare, ‘to offer a wide range of stylish, fashionable glasses at prices affordable for everyone’.

They’ve also been at the forefront of the growth of contact lenses, a product extension which makes perfect sense. Specsavers… affordable high-street eyecare. The leap from spectacles to contact lenses isn’t a big one. Through their naming and product offering they’ve clearly occupied the space of serving glasses wearers and contact lenses aligns comfortably to that. They chose a niche and went for it, but more on that later.

However, where do hearing aids fit into this eyecare mission? It just feels a bit off doesn’t it…? “Specsavers” doing hearing aids. Should it be “Hearingsavers” now?

Truth be told, on paper it’s a logical product extension for Specsavers.

My hesitation comes down to the glaringly obvious short-sightedness in brand naming (pun intended!).

Specsavers Store

Brand naming challenges and pitfalls

Brand naming is one of the trickiest, most emotionally fraught and practically frustrating undertakings for any business. Whether launching or rebranding, ticking all the boxes can feel like an impossible task.

Is the trademark available? Can you register the domain name? Can people say it, spell it? Does it connect with your audience? Does it say everything you want it to say about the product or service and business?

I’ve sat in many boardrooms with chief executives, whilst they stare pitifully at a few limp post-it notes, completely stumped on what brand naming direction they should take.

It’s important to remind everyone at this juncture that your brand / business name can’t do everything.

But there is one essential thing it really must do, and that is allow for expansion and scalability.

A brand name that talks to what you do for your audience, your value if you will, rather than just what you do, aka your product or service, is far more likely to have longevity. As we like to say in brand and design, it will have legs.

Brand naming challenges and pitfalls

 

Brand naming is one of the trickiest, most emotionally fraught and practically frustrating undertakings for any business. Whether launching or rebranding, ticking all the boxes can feel like an impossible task.

Is the trademark available? Can you register the domain name? Can people say it, spell it? Does it connect with your audience? Does it say everything you want it to say about the product or service and business?

I’ve sat in many boardrooms with chief executives, whilst they stare pitifully at a few limp post-it notes, completely stumped on what brand naming direction they should take.

It’s important to remind everyone at this juncture that your brand / business name can’t do everything.

But there is one essential thing it really must do, and that is allow for expansion and scalability.

A brand name that talks to what you do for your audience, your value if you will, rather than just what you do, aka your product or service, is far more likely to have longevity. As we like to say in brand and design, it will have legs.

The problem with being too literal in brand naming

If you name a brand based on function – what you do or what you sell – you’ve immediately pigeon-holed yourself. 

It seems like a good idea at the time. It does what it says on the tin. “We sell spectacles that are more affordable than traditional, independent optometrists. Specsavers… bingo!”

But it does not allow for product extension, product innovation, diversification and expansion, changes in the market or technological advancements.

Videoezy really had nowhere to go when Netflix killed the video-star.

If they had only understood that they were about in-home entertainment, maybe, just maybe they would still be around today. Not only would they have named themselves with that in mind. It may have changed the mindset of the company and driven a culture of innovation around a greater purpose – to entertain people in the comfort of their own home – leading them to be at the forefront of the streaming evolution, not the victim of it.

When you focus on very literal naming, your ability to stretch and evolve without needing to rebrand is limited. Not only do you risk becoming irrelevant, but you also risk needing to invest in a rebrand much sooner than planned.

The problem with being too literal in brand naming

 

If you name a brand based on function – what you do or what you sell – you’ve immediately pigeon-holed yourself.

It seems like a good idea at the time. It does what it says on the tin. “We sell spectacles that are more affordable than traditional, independent optometrists. Specsavers… bingo!”

But it does not allow for product extension, product innovation, diversification and expansion, changes in the market or technological advancements.

Videoezy really had nowhere to go when Netflix killed the video-star.

If they had only understood that they were about in-home entertainment, maybe, just maybe they would still be around today. Not only would they have named themselves with that in mind. It may have changed the mindset of the company and driven a culture of innovation around a greater purpose – to entertain people in the comfort of their own home – leading them to be at the forefront of the streaming evolution, not the victim of it.

When you focus on very literal naming, your ability to stretch and evolve without needing to rebrand is limited. Not only do you risk becoming irrelevant, but you also risk needing to invest in a rebrand much sooner than planned.

But aren’t you supposed to own a niche?

I thought you might ask this. My 2 cents worth is a product-based niche will always have a shelf life. The question is when does that expire? Think Walkman, Polaroid or MySpace. They were hugely successful for a time but became obsolete as technology and /or consumer expectation leap-frogged them.

Apple undersood that. The iPod was once the height of innovation. But they understood technology and consumer desires would continue to change. They had a bigger purpose around accessible technology that meant iPod has been part of their journey not the centre of it.

Owning a niche is important but remember 3 things:

1) Your product or service niche may change as a result of external factors so your brand should allow you to scale. It pays to separate your parent brand and product or service naming strategy.

2) A niche doesn’t have to be product-based, it can be purpose driven or linked to a specific customer group for example.

3) Your niche and your brand name are not the same thing.

But aren’t you supposed to own a niche?

 

I thought you might ask this. My 2 cents worth is a product-based niche will always have a shelf life. The question is when does that expire? Think Walkman, Polaroid or MySpace. They were hugely successful for a time but became obsolete as technology and /or consumer expectation leap-frogged them.

Apple undersood that. The iPod was once the height of innovation. But they understood technology and consumer desires would continue to change. They had a bigger purpose around accessible technology that meant iPod has been part of their journey not the centre of it.

Owning a niche is important but remember 3 things:

1) Your product or service niche may change as a result of external factors so your brand should allow you to scale. It pays to separate your parent brand and product or service naming strategy.

2) A niche doesn’t have to be product-based, it can be purpose driven or linked to a specific customer group for example.

3) Your niche and your brand name are not the same thing.

Apple iPod

Brand naming and your higher purpose

So, what’s the alternative?

Brand naming based on higher purpose, mission or client outcomes not only has more longevity, but it is also far more captivating, ownable and memorable.

People don’t just want ‘specs’, what they actually want is to be able to do all the things they value and enjoy in life to the fullest… maybe ‘Sensesavers’ might have been a more extendable option (OK, it’s not my best, but you get where I’m going with it!).

The point is, when you’re naming a brand think more expansively. Value goes beyond products or services.

The first step is to have clarity on your higher purpose. What emotional and meaningful impact do you have on your customers’ lives through your products or services?

Invest in understanding what human purpose you serve, and how you elevate your customers’ life or business experience. That clarity will give you the foundations for a brand name that will stand the test of time and allow you to stretch, grow and innovate. Not only that, it will also create a culture of customer-centric innovation. Your business ethos is built on how you continue to fulfil that purpose in new and better ways. It’s elevated above simply selling a specific product or delivering a finite service which may limit your long-term growth as well as your customers’ perception of you.

When it comes to building a sustainable business, a ‘long-sighted’ approach to brand naming is crucial.

Brand naming and your higher purpose

 

So, what’s the alternative?

Brand naming based on higher purpose, mission or client outcomes not only has more longevity, but it is also far more captivating, ownable and memorable.

People don’t just want ‘specs’, what they actually want is to be able to do all the things they value and enjoy in life to the fullest… maybe ‘Sensesavers’ might have been a more extendable option (OK, it’s not my best, but you get where I’m going with it!).

The point is, when you’re naming a brand think more expansively. Value goes beyond products or services.

The first step is to have clarity on your higher purpose. What emotional and meaningful impact do you have on your customers’ lives through your products or services?

Invest in understanding what human purpose you serve, and how you elevate your customers’ life or business experience. That clarity will give you the foundations for a brand name that will stand the test of time and allow you to stretch, grow and innovate. Not only that, it will also create a culture of customer-centric innovation. Your business ethos is built on how you continue to fulfil that purpose in new and better ways. It’s elevated above simply selling a specific product or delivering a finite service which may limit your long-term growth as well as your customers’ perception of you.

When it comes to building a sustainable business, a ‘long-sighted’ approach to brand naming is crucial.

If you’re wondering about me, I’m Bec Hughes, a Brand Strategist and Creator with over 20 years experience in the creative industry. I’ve consulted to blue-chip global brands and boutique solo-preneurs on all aspects of their brand strategy and design and have run my own successful Brand Consultancy & Studio for the past 8 years. If you’d like to chat more please feel free to email me.

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