The Value of Making Up Brand Names

In a recent episode of the Invest Like the Best podcast, Patrick O’Shaughnessy asked Rich Barton about his thoughts about coming up with brand names. His reply is a great guide on the value of brand names. 

Here is the gist of what Rich Barton said (this is paraphrased as I didn’t have much time to transcribe, but you can find the section on minute 56 in the podcast):

Rich Barton: “I love to make up words for companies. I love to make up brand names. It’s just a classic example of thinking long-term versus short-term. 

If you are thinking short-term, you think of the easiest most recognizable words. Put a dot com after it and that’s the name of your company. Blood.com. I don’t want to insult anybody by giving you the name of a real company. But a lot of companies have done that. And that’s great. The SEO is really great in the short term. Everybody knows what you do. It’s easy. 

What’s harder is to make up a word. But if you can do it and fill that empty vessel of a word with meaning and emotion, then long-term you will have invented something that actually enters the language.  And it is yours. It’s much better in the long-term. 

So, my rules of making up words – and I don’t think that every company should do it, but most I think) – but when I’m thinking about consumer brands, which is kind of my space. 

I have a few rules. 

  1. The first one is High-Point Scrabble Letters. For the Scrabble players out there […] you know that the highest point Scrabble letters are z and q. Those are 10. Why is z worth 10? Z is worth ten because Z is the least used letter in English. Which means that when you see it on a page, it stands out and is memorable.  
  2. Two syllables is good. I think fewer syllables is better. I think the sweet spot is two. Expedia was too long. It had the X which was great. It kind of invoked speed and expedition. But it was four syllables and was just too long. 
  3. Does it make a good dog name? That is rule number three. 
  4. Something interesting about the letters. Palindromes are really interesting. Double letters are interesting. Zoom is a really terrific one. They actually repurposed an existing word and then refilled it with a new definition. Zillow filled all of these goals so maybe I’m doing a kind retrofit. 

When people call me and ask me about making up words, then this is the checklist I go through.


Are you looking for a brand name? Make sure you have the .com domain ending. Check out available .com domains for memorable and readable names at Dragon Value.

How to Value a Brand?

The intriguing thing about brands is that they are mostly intangible. You generally won’t find the brand value of a company on its balance sheet. As an example, the $90 billion that Coca-Cola has spent on advertising in its history has no value that is shown on Coca-Cola’s balance sheet. Nonetheless, the brand value clearly is there. The market value of Coca-Cola’s common stock is ten times that of the stated book value of the equity. 

So how do we value a brand? The problem with a task like trying to value a brand is that there will always be some form of circular logic in this kind of exercise.

Is Coca-Cola such a strong business because it is built around such a strong brand, or is Coca-Cola such a strong brand because it is built around such a strong business? 

Where is the boundary where the value from the business model stops and value add from the brand begins? Is it even possible to separate those two things from each other? Brands are contextual. If you could buy the brand out of Coca-Cola, Inc and pivot it to sell Coca-Cola branded furniture, value would most definitely be destroyed. 

Brand Valuation Frameworks

As it turns out, ISO – the International Organization of Standards – has formulated a standard on Brand Valuation. You can even find an old version of the standard online.

Interbrand we the first company to get a certification for standard ISO 10668, the standard for Brand Valuation. Interbrand publishes an annual list of the most valuable brands in the world. You can read more about the Interbrand brand valuation methodology here.

Brand Valuation Resources

Something more to add? Let us know in the comments section!