casual abbreviation that further familiarizes the “thanks” that
you earn with every purchase.
Beyond enticing customers to enroll in the program,
“Bank Thanks” serves a loftier role in shaping customers’
understanding of their bank. A bank that says “thx” is a lot
more approachable than one that bestows rewards, and the
corporate perception is benefitted by the product’s influence.
3. Names should be distinctive (find the open air)
Each bank’s advertising dollars aim to carve a unique story
about why it’s different from competitors. But, at the end of
the day, save for a few industry pioneers, the products that
support the story are often equivalent from bank to bank.
So tagging a brand-building ad with a product like “
Personal Checking from XXX Bank” negates any difference the
campaign sought to delineate. Compounding the challenge is
the fact that—even after attracting potential customers with
a compelling offer—a Google search to find it reopens the
floodgates to similarly named products from other banks.
By creating a distinctive name for each product, the path to
a sale sees fewer distractions.
MainStreet Bank (assets: $282 million), Herndon, Va., has
done a great job of creating an ownable suite of retail product
names, centered around its flagship “airbanking” platform.
Unlike a ubiquitous descriptive term like “mobile banking,”
“airbanking” becomes an ownable new category-definer. It
communicates extra benefit right within the name, accentuating not only the definition of “banking from anywhere”
but emotionally resonant themes of freedom, flexibility,
openness—a breath of fresh air.
It means that, if MainStreet makes a compelling offer, and I
go looking for it, I’m Googling “airbanking” by name (and not
“mobile checking account,” which would have reopened the
door to all the other competitors.) The term “airbanking” is
MainStreet’s alone and gets the first hit on Google every time.
Moreover, the themes suggested by the name strengthen
the brand platform as a whole. By attaching the “air-” prefix
to every product (airchecking, airmortgages) MainStreet has
strengthened its brand consistency and cohesiveness at every
customer touch point, resonating their “bank where you
breathe” tagline that supports the bright, blue-sky vision of
a different approach to banking.
4. Names should tell a cohesive brand story
(round up your products)
Beyond defining individual products, names are part of what
our company calls the “namescape”—a company’s entire
portfolio of names and how they interrelate to support the
brand. When viewed together, a cohesively named suite of
products can weave a deeper illustration of the intended
A particularly colorful example can be found in the Lone
Star state. The Cowboy Bank (assets: $51 million)of Maypearl,
Texas, has created a suite of names that not only distinguish
its products from competitors’, but also reinforce a unique
brand story. Product names like Wrangler Savings, Longhorn
Savings, and Silver Spur Money Market use a simple technique
of pairing evocative language with otherwise commonplace
To compete, new products must move away from traditional
bank-spreak and towards names that spark emotional
The result: each name works harder, distinguishing the
product tiers while also distinguishing the brand experience
as a whole. The thematic approach to naming increases the
consistency of the brand voice, heightening likelihood that
customers will remember the bank for its products in conjunction with an ownable brand personality. Granted this
thematic approach is a bit more maverick than the average
bank can comfortably embrace, but the takeaway is this: A
dynamic and thematically interwoven namescape can elevate
the overarching brand as much as the products themselves,
helping to support broader brand-building efforts.
Time to name with purpose.
A bank that invests millions positioning itself as the most
helpful, supportive bank—and then offers products with
bland, impersonal names like “Preferred Rate Savings”—has
missed an opportunity for that product name to better introduce the intended spirit.
With an onslaught of competition that is getting more
and more focused on friendlier, brand-advancing names—
from Popmoney to SmartyPig—now is the time for banks to
reassess whether the products they offer are named to meet
changing customer expectations—because customers don’t
have to look far to find a friendlier face. n
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JAKE HANCOCK is director of strategy at The Naming
Group, a brand naming agency in New York. The company
specializes in financial naming strategy and has worked
with financial brands such as Capital One on a number of
naming initiatives—including the development of Venture
and Spark credit cards. Website: www.thenaminggroup.
com; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.