One of the key ingredients to a name for startups is strategy – differentiating yourself from the pack.  Stating unequivocally in your name that you represent an entirely new concept, a new way of thinking and doing.

We recently finished work on a name for a high-end salon concept in New York City with national aspirations.  The salon not only provides a hot, newly emergent service, with audacity it aspires to provide this service to an entirely new clientele:  women who don’t normally frequent salons and spas.

The starting point:  an analysis of naming trends among nearly 800 salons in the NYC and Los Angeles metro areas.  Nine clear trends emerged from the data, including a strong population of names referring to women or feminine characteristics.

(1) Technical and straightforwardly descriptive (‘Dermalogica’),
(2) Personal names (‘Elena Rubin Spa’),
(3) French names or words (‘Arté’; and to a lesser extent Italian),
(4) Evocative women’s names (‘Daphne Studio’),
(5) Mythical or exotic females (‘Athena’),
(6) Words intended to evoke the feminine (‘Blush’),
(7)  Names that evoke paradise (‘Avalon’),
(8) Names that evoke a pleasant experience (‘Affinia’),
(9) Names referencing the concepts new, clean, pure (‘Green Phoenix’).

A strong trend also existed among these names with respect to sound.  Many were multisyllabic names with a flowing feel, and the names frequently ended in vowels.

From this competitor data we identified a significant strategic opportunity for the clients to differentiate their salon business.  We provided two primary recommendations to guide the creative process.

First, we recommended a short crisp name with fewer syllables that used words ending in consonants, based on the Anglo-Saxon foundation of the English lexicon.  These types of words follow intuitively pleasing patterns that English speakers like to say.  Sound itself is a useful tool in creating an emotional connection with the brand.  We recommended avoiding a longer multisyllabic name ending in a vowel, both for linguistic reasons as well as to avoid evoking the feminine aesthetic already prevalent in salon names.  We also recommended pursuing a short name advantageous to word-of-mouth for the brand, an essential ingredient for successful marketing in salon culture.

Second, we recommended developing a name that explored an entirely different aesthetic and emotional connection to the client.  The name would stand out by avoiding reference to the feminine and other common tropes in the salon industry.  Instead the name would tap directly into an emotional imagery that meshed with the clients’ branding vision for the salon.  Some of these evocations would be captured in the crisp sound, some in the meaning of the words.

The final name?  Still under wraps in the trademark application process.  But we can tip our hand slightly:  a detailed strategic development took place before a single drop of creative ink was spilled.  As a result this salon business has a name sure to turn heads as it boldly plants its flag in new territory.