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There is no asset in your entire business that you will use more than your brand name. You will use it every single day, every time you answer your phone, every time you write a letter, on your webpage, letterhead, social media, business card, in verbal and visual communication, it is your brand name that you are using. 

Therefore, it is arguably your most valuable asset. Get it right, and your brand could be the wind under your wings, get it wrong however, and you might be facing an uphill battle. 

Here are my tips based on years of experience running a marketing business that worked on thousands of projects. I hope you find this useful. 

Tip 1: The Symphony of Sounds: Unveiling the Power of Phono-Themes in Branding

The human brain is a fascinating instrument, wired to associate sounds with emotions and experiences. This phenomenon plays a crucial role in branding, where the name you choose carries the weight of shaping how consumers perceive your company. Enter the world of phones-themes – the emotional connections we have with specific sounds. By understanding these associations, you can craft a brand name that resonates deeply with your target audience.

Let’s delve into some key phones-themes and explore how they can elevate your brand identity:

(K) is for Energy & Fun : The sharp consonant “K” packs a punch, evoking a sense of powerfun, and impact. Imagine the confidence you feel driving a Kia (known for their bold designs) or the playful energy associated with Kinky (a lingerie brand). This theme is perfect for brands targeting younger demographics or those promoting a sense of adventure and excitement.

Industry Example:

  • Food & Beverage: Kickstart (energy drink) – The name instantly conveys the energizing effect of the beverage.

V is for Vitality & Relaxation : The soothing sound of “V” whispers of vitalitycalmness, and rejuvenation. Think of the serenity associated with Vichy (a spa brand) or the revitalizing spirit of Vida Fitness (a gym chain). This theme is ideal for companies in the wellness, beauty, and relaxation industries.

Industry Example:

  • Beauty: Dove – The name suggests vitality and rejuvenation 

(-ium) is for Science & Technology : Brands with names ending in “ium” often project an air of cutting-edge technology and scientific innovation. Just consider the futuristic feel of Sodium (a battery company) or the groundbreaking association with Aluminium (a sustainable material company). This theme is a natural fit for businesses at the forefront of technological advancement.

Industry Example:

  • Healthcare: Prozium (pharmaceutical company) – The name implies a focus on advanced medical solutions.

(R) is for Luxury & Royalty : The regal “R” sound exudes an aura of refinementprestige, and exclusivity. Brands like Rolex (luxury watches) and Royal Caribbean (cruise line) perfectly embody this association. This theme elevates brands in the premium and luxury sector.

Industry Example:

  • Fashion: Ralph Lauren (designer clothing) – The name evokes a sense of timeless elegance and sophistication.

(B) is for Strength & Security : The solid “B” sound signifies stabilityboldness, and reliability. Companies like Barclays (a bank) and BrandSafes (a security company) leverage this theme to build trust and convey a sense of strength. This theme is powerful for brands in the financial services and security sectors.

Industry Example:

  • Construction: BuildBlock (building materials) – The name emphasizes the company’s role in creating reliable and strong structures.

(M) is for Mystical & Mysterious : The “M” sound can have a double-edged sword effect. While it can suggest intrigue and mystery (Muse – a meditation app), it can also lean towards the dark and unknown (Monster – energy drink, Mordor – the dark land from Lord of the Rings). Carefully consider the intended brand image when using this theme.

Industry Example:

  • Entertainment: Masquerade (a costume company) – The name evokes a sense of mystery and intrigue.

(Sl) is for Low Friction & Smoothness : This sound can evoke ideas of smoothness and elegance (Sleek – a car model, Swift – a brand of running shoes) but also negativity (Slime – a toy, Sleazy – negative connotation). Consider the potential for both positive and negative associations when using this theme.

Industry Example:

  • Technology: Slack (communication platform) – The name suggests a smooth and efficient communication experience.

(-Ash, -Ack) is for Destruction & Abrupt Contact : Sounds like “Smash,” “Bash,” “Crash,” and “Whack” have a clear association with destruction and force. While not ideal for most brands, they might be suitable for companies in specific sectors.

Industry Example:

  • Gaming: Crash Bandicoot (video game) – The name reflects the action-packed and destructive nature of the game.

(Cl) is for Enclosure & Security: Sounds like “Clam,” “Clasp,” and “Cling” suggest a sense of enclosure, security, and holding on. This theme can be a good fit for brands in industries like finance, security, or logistics.

  • Industry Example:
    • Financial Services: Clutch (investment firm) – The name implies a secure hold on your financial assets.

(Gl) is for Lightness & Glamour: Sounds like “Glitter,” “Glow,” “Glisten,” and “Glimmer” evoke a sense of lightnessshine, and glamour. This theme is ideal for brands in the beauty, luxury, and entertainment industries.

  • Industry Example:
    • Fashion: Glimmer (jewelry brand) – The name suggests a sparkling and eye-catching product.

(Sn) is for Communication & Action: While sounds like “Snore” and “Sniffle” might not be ideal for most brands, others like “Speak” and “Snack” can suggest communication and action. Consider the specific “Sn” sound you’re using and the brand message it conveys.

  • Industry Example:
    • Social Media: Snap (messaging app) – The name implies quick and easy communication.

(St) is for Strength & Stability: As previously mentioned, the “St” sound offers a versatility of associations depending on the specific word. It can represent strength (Stable, Stadium, Statue), stability (Stout, Steel), or even sharpness (Staple, Stitch).

  • Industry Example:
    • Construction: Sturdy (building materials) – The name emphasizes the strength and reliability of the product.

(Str, Sw) is for Length & Flow: Sounds like “Street,” “Stream,” “Sway,” and “Swirl” evoke a sense of lengthmovement, and flow.

  • Industry Example:
    • Logistics: Streamline (delivery service) – The name suggests a smooth and efficient delivery process.

(Tw) is for Twisting & Transformation: Sounds like “Twist” and “Twirl” suggest a sense of twistingturning, and transformation. This theme can be powerful for brands promoting innovation or change.

  • Industry Example:
    • Technology: Twilio (communication platform) – The name hints at the company’s ability to connect and transform communication.

(-tter) is for Repetition & Movement: Sounds like “Flutter,” “Stutter,” and “Chatter” suggest repetitive movement and can create a sense of energy or playfulness. However, be mindful of the potential for negative connotations like “Stutter.”

  • Industry Example:
    • Toys: Chatterbox (interactive toy) – The name implies a playful and interactive experience.

By understanding these additional phono-themes and their potential applications, you can further refine your branding and naming strategy and craft a name that resonates with your target audience on multiple levels. Remember, context remains key – consider the overall brand image you want to project and choose sounds that complement your vision.

References & Bibliography:

Marchand, H. The Categories and Types of Present-Day English Word-Formation: A Synchronic-Diachronic Approach. Alabama Linguistic & Philological Series. O. Harrassowitz, 1960.

Xie et al., Memorability of Words in Arbitrary Verbal Associations Modulates Memory Retrieval in the Anterior Temporal Lobe. Nature Human Behaviour, June 29, 2020 DOI: 10.1038/s41562-020-0901-2

Mahowald, Kyle, Phillip Isola, Evelina Fedorenko, Edward Gibson and Aude Oliva. “Memorable words are monogamous: The role of synonymy and homonymy in word recognition memory.” (2018).

Written by:
Hasan Sahwan
General Manager

(WCM Agency | Branding & Marketing)


Hasan Sahwan, the founder behind WCM Agency, boasts over fifteen years of expertise in marketing, branding, and strategy. A Curtin University graduate, class of 2009, Hasan honed his skills across diverse marketing roles in automotive and media sectors. Outside work, he indulges in historical literature and outdoor exploration.