How to think about naming a social enterprise

Recently, I’ve become more attuned to the finer uses of story-telling in a brand experience, namely, in the brand name. I’ve been thinking about how difficult it is for social enterprises and even non-profits to differentiate themselves and create a strong perception in the minds of their audiences. Social enterprises tend to have more inspirational names or even non-descript names that require some explanation. I understand the motivation behind it, but wonder if it’s in the best interest for the organization?

Is it more important for a social enterprise brand name to communicate its aspiration or its story?

I am not a naming expert and have never before named a brand, but personally I’ve been drawn to companies with names that encapsulate a story in itself. It lures me into discovering more about the enterprise, their background and eventually converting me into either a donor or at the very least a supporter and a very vocal proponent of the brand. Here is what I mean:

Falling Whistles: My first introduction to this charity was via a brief flip-book that told the story of four boy soldiers in Congo that were forced on the front-lines and were asked blow whistles to warn the rebel leaders of oncoming gunfire. The story is also told online using stunning imagery and eloquent text. Falling Whistles, an unseemly phrase, took on a different meaning in my mind and has stuck since. Not only does this brand make an excellent use of story-telling to explain the mission and campaign, but they’ve incorporate “story” throughout the brand experience: from the name of their campaign to the tools used to communicate their mission and the ask. I’m a fan.

Flying Kites: Similarly, this little NPF started by two twenty-somethings in USA, runs an orphanage in Kenya. At a recent StartingBloc event, I met a woman who has been volunteering at the organization for over a year and the passion in her voice and the stories she told was infectious. Flying Kites is a beautiful metaphor for how the organization see’s the future of the children whose lives they are trying to improve. Everytime I narrate this story, it’s not about a “friend that runs an orphanage in Kenya,” it’s about, “Flying Kites.” That’s powerful naming right there.

There’s also TOMS Shoes, Invisible Children, Pencils of Promise etc etc. Every organization is unique in its own right but

with so many diverse organizations focused on micro-causes and competing essentially for the same pool of money, it is SO important to establish brand recall. I think, a compelling story helps but an evocative name seals the deal.

Just my two cents.

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