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Marketing and Comms
Why Your Sustainable Brand’s Name Is More Important Than You Think

The names that resonate with consumers and shop optimism in an industry hoping to fix a host of complicated, global problems will help form a foundation for many years of success.

Over the last decade, the renewable-energy and sustainability industries have experienced huge growth and demand. Environmental concerns regarding fossil fuels, urbanization, and responsible, equitable economic growth have contributed to the rise — coupled with increased legislation and consumer demand for brands committed to making positive social and environment impacts. As this demand continues, we will continue to see an influx of new brands starting out and securing venture capital that are focused on sustainability and clean energy.

New brands in this space should take the time to develop one of their most important brand assets — their name. After all, nothing will be used longer or more often than your brand or product name. Brand names must capture your audience’s attention, communicate your brand story, reflect your values, and transcend global boundaries. Not only that — it must also be able to clear the necessary legal hurdles, which are more difficult now than ever, to get a trademarked name. Sustainability-focused brands are also in the unique position of not only highlighting what they currently do but also conveying a future promise of a sustainable world ahead. The brand name needs to convey optimism and longevity — and most importantly, help build trust with potentially skeptical consumers.

Many brands in this space have launched or branded themselves to include nature-centric names or include terms such as “eco” or “green” in their identity. While you can easily imply sustainability by putting “eco” or “carbon” next to a name, that will be tired and outdated within the next year and does little to differentiate or become memorable.

Think of the name as a vessel that can carry your brand story into the marketplace. Truly iconic brand names are those that stick in our head and make you think. This is why we counsel brands to think of their naming process as more of a strategic exercise coupled with creativity and rooted in linguistics.

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Sometimes, the result is a name that has some risk and challenges you. For example, take Impossible Foods: The company, initially called Maraxi, had the goal of producing great-tasting, vegan alternatives to meat products. It needed a name that spoke to this lofty goal, caught your attention and had an element of surprise. Impossible Foods checked all these boxes — it's patently false, since the product proves that it is in fact possible; and it acknowledges that the consumer will be skeptical ("this can't possibly taste like meat!"). With this novel approach, the name has generated unsurpassed interest in a disruptive category in sustainable food.

Another approach is to find a name that allows your audience to think and imagine what the company stands for. While it's helpful to flat out describe what a company does, give your audience space to come to their own conclusion and allow them to be curious. Enverus is an energy data and analytics company. Initially named DrillingInfo, it needed a new name and identity that spoke to its goal of collaboration in the energy space. The name Enverus was developed through the combination of three word parts that together captured the company’s past, present, future and mission: ‘En’ signaled the energy industry, while ‘ver’ connoted clarity and truth, and ‘us’ communicated their partnership and collaboration with both its customers and partners across the entirety of the energy sector.

Lastly, be original but approachable. Sustainability has many facets and nuances that can be considered high tech or complicated to understand. Instead of going with a high-tech, jargony name, keep it simple but relatable. Luxury electric carmaker Lucid is an example of an original idea in the EV space. “Lucid” is a real English word that conveys intelligence and awareness, so the name’s sound indirectly conveys efficiency and the quiet sanctuary of the driver’s experience. Another example is Lunar Energy — a renewable-energy startup with the mission to make it easy for every home in the world to be powered by the sun with an integrated solar energy system. The brand needed to convey reliability and power, while also maintaining a degree of optimism and positivity. The company landed on Lunar Energy — an unexpected name that takes inspiration from the way that the moon captures the sun’s light to illuminate itself. The use of lunar instead of solar was a surprising yet memorable word for the startup brand.

For startups in the sustainability space or for brands looking to reinvent themselves, look for a name that stands out, and is surprising and aspirational. The names that resonate with consumers and shop optimism in an industry hoping to fix a host of complicated, global problems will help form a foundation for many years of success. Regardless, companies should make a commitment to sustainability branding as a strategic brand-building opportunity.

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