Imagine for a moment if Google had instead named itself The Big Search Engine. What if Amazon had instead called itself The Really Big Online Store? Or worse: World of Books? What if Apple had called itself Cutting Edge Computers? Can you imagine these being household names the way they are today? Probably not. Now consider the behavioral health field. Think of how companies name themselves. Most describe what they do. They do not choose names that could become iconic. In fact, they choose names that are decidedly generic.
In the rehab space the number of similar brands creates a feeling of sameness. Popular names (just do some Google searches to find them) often include ‘new,’ ‘recovery,’ ‘beginnings,’ ‘journey,’ ‘fresh,’ and other words they hope evoke a sense of change and possibility. These words are so overused they only cause confusion. Your brand gets lost in a sea of sameness. Choosing a unique, evocative name differentiates you immediately from competitors. It also makes trademarks and protecting your brand possible.
What’s in a Name?
When you think about names such as Apple, Google, and Amazon you recognize they have something in common. They don’t describe at all the company or product. They evoke a feeling. The founders of these companies understood the first step in branding: be different (Apple took this even further with their Think Different campaign). You can be sure when the name “Apple” was first suggested more than a few people thought, “What a dumb name for a computer company. Who would name a computer after a piece of fruit?” Those with vision understood the name was brilliant. The Generic Marketer will always opt for the easy name that describes rather than evokes. The Creative Marketer will think about the potential of a name to capture a brand essence.
One of the most popular ways companies create generic names is by putting two generic words together to create a “new” word. This doesn’t improve your identity much. Think about the most memorable names that you might interact with as a consumer: Target, Jaguar, Pepsi. Then think about what these would have looked like if someone had just put two regular words together to try to capture the essence of the brand: CoolDiscounts, FastLuxury, SweetSoda.
Choosing an evocative name requires thought and research. If you have highly creative people already in your team you can develop a process to find a unique name that you can own and protect. If you need guidance there are companies that specialize in name development who can help you. It can be well worth the investment to create a distinctive identity. Make sure you pick a naming company with an interesting name. If the company is called something like Naming Inc. or Brand It, breaking the rules of evocative names, I’m not sure they are going to do much better with your name. Whatever you decide, be sure you thoroughly research any names you are considering to ensure no one else is already using them. Brand confusion and lawsuits can undermine long term growth.
What Defines a Brand?
A brand isn’t just its name, although that can set it apart. A brand is about what you deliver to the consumer. To truly be a unique brand that encourages loyalty and draws interest from the new customer you have to do things differently from your competitors. The surprising thing is, most behavioral health companies have no idea what defines their brand. If you ask them they will surely have answers, but they will be generic: we have individualized treatment; we meet the client where they’re at; we use evidence-based treatment. The cliches are well known and well worn. Rarely can anyone at the treatment center describe something utterly unique and differentiating that defines their brand.
A truly unique brand that delivers something the consumer wants and needs requires a little more thought. It can be as simple as changing how you do your intake and develop a treatment plan to how you manage client care after discharge. It needs to be distinctively different and you need to deliver consistently on the promise you make.
A brand development process takes about eight weeks to complete. The process begins with an interrogation. That might sound extreme, but it’s exactly what a company needs: ask questions, hard questions, that lead to good answers. In the end, you want to answer this question: Why should I choose you over the hundreds of other brands out their claiming the same expertise and making the same promises?
Tabitha Digital helps behavioral health companies understand their brand and build something unique and powerful.
Vera Appleyard is the founder of Tabitha Digital. She has a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from New York University. She has worked in the behavioral health space since 2000.