What’s in a name?
Quite a lot actually. Days, weeks, months of agonising over whether it sounds right, conveys the right feeling, mulling over hidden meanings, logo doodling, testing it out aloud, asking people whether they like it, more logo doodling, putting it in decks, waking up at 4am with another new idea… it goes on and on.
Is there a right way to come up with a brand name? All the ones we love, the brands that are totally smashing it, just seem to have all the names we want. And they seem so perfect for their names that we don’t even question them. Names matter. They’re the first thing we hear about a brand and it helps us form an opinion about what they sell and who they’re for.
But are names really that important?
Here’s a scale of names from explanatory to abstract. Carphone Warehouse – carphones progressed now to mobiles. Tesla - named after the man who invented the first modern AC motor, an obvious connection for an electric car. Ocado – from the word avocado. A branding agency tasked with making a name to convey freshness, food, quality, technology, online. As a generation hooked on smashed avocado on toast, the sound clearly has resonance to us. Apple – sells computers. Enough said there.
These brands are enormous and their names immediately make you think of what they sell whilst also evoking a certain feeling about the brand. But the brands above prove that’s not down to the name alone. It’s got to be the whole package.
Armed with this knowledge about names and combined with the advice of a brand expert on the accelerator programme we were on (that they’re not that important), we should have been able to land on a name quickly. But of course, it wasn’t like that. We are naming what is essentially our baby after all.
Well then, why NINA?
We played with several names over a long period of time. If you spent too long with us at the start you will have heard the many options. Paco’s Pima and Somersault were two names that hung around a while. We want to help Peruvian Pima cotton farmers sell their cotton and to make Peruvian Pima cotton the choice when it comes to cotton clothing. We submerged ourselves in Peruvian culture and history. We considered the cotton process and the farmers who make it. We got excited about the recycling capabilities of this longer cotton fibre and danced around ideas to do with circular fashion. We heard advice to think more critically about the business and what customers buy into. London was dangled about. Then domain names were checked and intellectual rights. We took far longer than we should have.
Then one day Emily was reading The Gentlewoman magazine and the name Nina popped out. We felt the word on our tongues, enjoyed the punchiness of a short word and a female name.
We liked it.
We realised then that this was word meant much more. It was with us right at the start. April 2019, whilst living in Peru and investigating the world of cotton, we were hooked on listening to Nina. Nina Simone. One song in particular was on the speakers non-stop - Baltimore.
I can tell you now that the name Nina means a lot to us. It connects back to Peruvian roots as niña means little girl. It connects right back to what we care about, to reduce inequality. Emily previously worked at girls’ rights charity Plan International - educating girls has a disproportionately positive impact on economic and social development. And of course it goes without saying that Nina Simone was a huge female power and still a huge role model, fighting for equality through her music.
Nina is also just a really beautiful girl’s name that we felt linked nicely to baby products and thoughtful, artistic items. We were later informed that female names instil more trust in a brand too, and so sell products better. Woohoo.
But the truth of it is, just as a brand name evokes a particular feeling far more than a single word, NINA for us is when we decided to do something about this upside-down fashion world and try to have some sort of impact for cotton farmers and communities whose livelihoods depend on it.
A young, probably far too idealistic, recently married couple listening to Nina Simone on repeat, jumping up from laptops with new ideas and exciting findings. Planning trips to visit farmers, cooking octopus on makeshift barbecues (that shrunk to nothing), eating banana pancakes for breakfast and thinking fast about how to make a difference.