Brand naming: the most fundamental element of brand strategy

When Brand Naming Is In Your Future

Determining your organization’s brand name, or it’s new brand name, will be one of the most important business decisions you will ever make. Because brand naming not only sets the tone for all of the expectations surrounding your brand, but everything your brand is about.

A Real World Client Example

Trajectory experienced this truth again as we just completed a re-branding of Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey (CPNJ). CPNJ is a nonprofit agency founded in 1953 by the parents of children with cerebral palsy who wanted more services for their children. The agency has steadily grown to serve more than 1,500 infants, children and adults with a wide range of disabilities each year through a network of 21 sites located throughout northern New Jersey. CPNJ provides services across the life span, with consumers ranging from infants less than a year old to adults in their 80’s. The organization specializes in serving the most challenging populations, including those with multiple and severe disabilities and medical challenges. Over the years, the organization has steadily served an increasingly large population of people who don’t have cerebral palsy.

As a result of the diversity of people served by CPNJ, there was a hypothesis that the agency outgrew its name. So typical of any naming assignment, we stepped back to understand the future direction of CPNJ and the current perceptions surrounding the CPNJ brand. We conducted interviews with Leadership and Board, conducted surveys among internal staff and external stakeholders, and conducted competitor and role model branding and marketing reviews.

Typical of this brand naming process, and particularly in this market space, it’s an anxious time for those who have long histories with a brand. Because the “baby” they’ve nurtured, actively rallied behind and in many cases have used the services of for so many years, is going away. Along with “their” logo, tagline, related visual identity system and messaging.

Ten criteria to consider when choosing a new name

How can you objectify, as much as possible, the brand naming? How do you evaluate the potential strength of a new name to represent your positioning, unique tone, personality, ideas and story you want your brand to express to the world? Here are ten criteria to consider when choosing a new name. Caveat: this assumes at this point that you at least have buy-in to explore a new name from the influencers and decision-makers whose opinions matter most.

  1. Does it support future business direction?
  2. Is the first impression strong? Does it sound/look good?
  3. Are associations positive? Does it feel right?
  4. Does it sound credible? Within your space, for the audiences you serve today and those you can serve in the future?
  5. Does the name reflect the personality of your organization?
  6. Is it easy to spell and pronounce?
  7. As a starting point to differentiate your brand from competition, does the name stand apart from the crowd?
  8. Is it memorable?
  9. Is it registrable and protectable?
  10. Can it work internationally?

There’s always emotion that comes into play with big brand naming decisions like this. Key is to objectify as much as possible, supported with all the findings and takeaways from upfront research. Ultimately, if you sell, build bridges, show empathy, go back to the evidence (rinse and repeat), you’ll come away with a result that all are proud of. By the way, in the case of Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey, that new result is PILLAR Care Continuum. And here’s the logo and tagline:

Pillar Care Continuum logo



If your organization is contemplating a rebranding, reach out for a conversation. Since 1999, we’ve been launching, reenergizing and rebranding organizations across the healthcare and wellness landscape.


Eric Brody

Eric Brody is President of Trajectory, launched in 1999, the specialist health & wellness branding and marketing agency using every moment to move customers, brands and businesses upward. Prior to Trajectory, Eric served as EVP and Management Board member at Interbrand (the world’s most influential brand consultancy). Before Interbrand, he held senior marketing positions at Beiersdorf Inc. and L’Oreal and advertising account management positions at Marschalk and Benton & Bowles.He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall’s Graduate School of Communications and has lectured at Wharton Business School and Emory Goizueta School of Business.