The Role of Warmth in a Brand Name

Pollywog - A Naming Agency

A recent study published in the Journal of Marketing suggests that feminine-sounding brand names appeal more to customers than their male counterparts.

Aside from actually using a woman’s name (i.e., Victoria’s Secret, Liz Claiborne, Vera Wang, etc.), what makes a brand name sound feminine? The researchers say:

Women’s names tend to be longer, have more syllables, have stress on the second or later syllable, and end with a vowel (e.g., Amanda).” Meanwhile, men’s names “tend to be shorter with one stressed syllable, or with stress on the first of two syllables, and end in a consonant (e.g., Ed or Edward).”

The reason for this natural affinity can be traced to our most primitive roots, the researchers say. In addition to implying a positive outcome, linguistically feminine names convey warmth. In our prehistoric past, the perception of warmth helped us make a snap decision when encountering someone new. If the stranger was not warm, the caveman’s lizard brain kicked into fight or flight mode.

Read the full study here:

Whether developed for B2B or B2C, a name’s perceived warmth contributes to the overall effectiveness of the brand. Warmth is one of the 17 traits in a name that we examine and score through our proprietary name evaluation method. When you engage Pollywog to create your new brand name, you’ll see how each of the names score in all 17 traits for a well-rounded understanding of each name option.

Pollywog Wins Top Branding Agencies Award for the Second Time in a Row

For the second year in a row, Pollywog has won the 2021 Clutch leader award for top branding agencies.

“We’re honored and thrilled to once again be named a top branding company by Clutch. We want to thank our clients for their faith in our agency, and for their stellar reviews that help keep Pollywog in the top tier of naming companies.” Devon Thomas Treadwell, Co-Founder of Pollywog

Clutch is an independent B2B ratings and reviews platform that evaluates technology service and solution companies based on the quality of work, leadership and client satisfaction. Pollywog currently has 19 reviews with an overall rating of nearly 5 stars.

“I’m very impressed with their attention to detail and desire to understand our business.” — President, Mission Ready

The leadership of Mission Ready, a traffic and construction safety ecommerce business, recently provided a five-star review for Pollywog based on our name development services. They have also engaged us for brand identity development, which is currently in progress.

See all our Clutch reviews here.


RIAs and the Same Name Game

Naming for Financial Advisors

Bricks by Marc Gerard – CC BY SA

A site for registered investment advisors (RIAs) recently featured an article on naming for financial advisors. In it, the author underscored the tendency of some practices to adopt names that are already being used by others.

He noted that among the most successful RIAs in America,

I find 16 (again, apparently unrelated) firms whose names begin with ‘Cornerstone.’ Five are Heritage Financial Something and four more are Heritage Wealth Something. In addition to the 18 firms beginning with ‘Summit,’ another seven start with ‘Peak,’ and eleven names begin with the synonym ‘Pinnacle.’

Many larger practices eventually decide to adopt a true brand name rather than continue to be known by their partners’ names. (See the reasons why many financial advisors choose to rename their firms.) Creating a brand name enables a firm to really stand out in an industry cluttered with founder names. But instead of choosing a unique brand name, the firms noted in the article chose to be the same as others. They chose to be different from most, but the same as some.

These RIAs are succeeding even though their names aren’t unique, so should it matter?

Absolutely. Here’s why.

Someone Else Owns the Trademark

For each of the commonly used names quoted above, there’s a practice that actually holds a trademark on the name. For example, the oldest version of CORNERSTONE in the financial planning area is CORNERSTONE CAPITAL SYSTEMS, filed in 2003. Without my getting too deep into the weeds, understand that generic descriptors cannot be trademarked. So the only protectable word in that practice’s name is CORNERSTONE. Therefore, it wouldn’t help to try to register “CORNERSTONE FINANCIAL,” for example, if you are offering similar services as the practice who holds the trademark on CORNERSTONE CAPITAL SYSTEMS. Your registration will most likely be denied.

What all this means is that if you adopt a version of a name that’s already registered, you’ll likely waste time and money by trying to register it with the trademark office. If you use the name in commerce regardless, you’ll be violating someone’s trademark. You’ll never truly own your firm’s name, and theoretically, the trademark owner could send you a cease and desist letter at any time.

For an industry as risk averse as financial services, a surprising number of practices are willing to adopt a name that they don’t own. It’s like buying a house with a cloud over its title.

Squandered Opportunities

For Differentiation

When it comes to naming for financial advisors, I understand that there’s a certain comfort level in using a familiar name. Everyone wants a safe-sounding name that’s positive and aspirational. But sorry to say, those familiar, expected names have already been taken. (Are we running out of trademarks? Unfortunately, yes.)

But look at this challenge as your opportunity to be fresh and different. Your new brand name can and should set you apart from other firms. When someone Googles your firm’s name, they shouldn’t have to wonder which result is actually you.

For Predisposing Potential Clients

Hearing your firm’s name will likely be a potential client’s first brand experience. Make it count. Your name can and should express an inherent truth about what you will do for your clients. Or how you’ll work together. Or the feeling your clients will have knowing their financial future is in good hands. While it’s challenging to develop an available brand name that expresses a compelling promise or differentiator, it can be done. (See our Brands page for just a few examples of the many Ameriprise firms that Pollywog has renamed.)

And when you’re finished, you’ll own a valuable intellectual property that will be a long-term asset for your business.

Financial Advisor Renaming

Bricks by Marc Gerard – CC BY SA



Kim’s No No

Kim Kardashian by Eva Rinaldi – CC BY SA

Kim Kardashian is abandoning the controversial name of her new line of shapewear.

The New York Daily News has more on the story here.

As the old saying goes, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” A highly visible company will get an earful about a new brand whether it deserves criticism or not. (Witness the kerfuffles when Nintendo’s Wii and Apple’s iPad were introduced.)

But the line in the sand for naming is whether the brand is culturally offensive. Brand names that wander into ethnically or racially sensitive areas can expect to take a drubbing from the public. While Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima and the Washington Redskins live on as brand names, it’s unlikely they could ever be introduced today. [Update 8/1/2020: All three of the aforementioned brands have or will be changing their name due to public pressure.]

Going on the Offense

An edgy name can be highly effective at getting attention and sticking in a customer’s mind. But invariably, someone is going to complain about the name. That’s the nature of edge—it’s controversial. And these days, social media gives everyone a microphone, and business owners can feel pressure about a questionable brand name choice from relatively few voices.

There’s nothing wrong with edge, per se. It’s a tool in the branding toolbox that can be used to great success. The question is, what kind of names can overcome controversy, and what kind should a business always stay away from?

Here are five cases in Charlotte, NC of names that stirred the pot. I have my opinion on which names went too far, and which rode that keen edge between acceptable and disaster. What do you think?

Here’s what happens when a business or product gets offensively named.

Pollywog Named Top-Ranked Naming Agency in Minneapolis by

Pollywog creates names that go beyond mere cleverness and creativity. Each of our names tells a compelling story of what’s unique and desirable about a company, product or service — and makes it memorable. As veterans of the advertising, design, and marketing world, our team thrives on building brands, leveraging the latest trends, staying committed to our clients.

In fact, we’ve been identified as the leading naming agency in Minneapolis, and thanks to Clutch, the B2B research and reviews agency, the world now knows how well our market presence, customer service, and industry position stand up to our competitors. Pollywog has a sustained track record of success with developing businesses’ brands and stories, and we’re thankful for this recognition.

We were evaluated by Clutch based on a set of quantitative and qualitative criteria – chief among them being client reviews. We’ve collected 11 reviews since joining Clutch, and retained a 5 out of 5-star rating! We wanted to use this opportunity to highlight some of their comments below:

The project was about finding a name that meant something to our customers … You have to be a great writer or strategic thinker to get to the heart of a B2B liquid chemistry product and have it resonate with people, and Pollywog did an excellent job,” highlighted one client, the head of customer insights at a major chemical manufacturer. “Anytime we had a question, they were quick to answer, and they seamlessly managed our time. I appreciated their flexibility and creativity.


My business wouldn’t be where it is today, 11 years later, if it weren’t for them,” raved a second client, the founder of a concierge service. “They nailed the name to a T on the first round of options they provided, which had a lot to do with the fact that they took the time to get to know me and my brand very well. Their work has helped my business as it’s evolved over the years – it’s the best investment I’ve made, because my company wouldn’t be on the map without its branding.

Sister sites to Clutch, The Manifest and Visual Objects, have also recognized our top performance and expertise, with business news website The Manifest calling us one of the city’s best naming firms and portfolio curation platform Visual Objects featuring us as one of the industry’s premier branding agencies.

We’d like to think that our expertise and passion speak for themselves, but if you’re interested in learning more about our approach, please connect with us here. We’d love to talk about how we can help guide your brand in its most critical formative stages!

Pollywog is a naming company. We create story-rich names that draw people to brands. 612.326.4207