Negative brand names

We probably spent several weeks thinking about all kinds of names we could have chosen for our studio, trying to come up with the perfect, descriptive name. But there is no one “good” name – sometimes going down the opposite route can prove to be fruitful. 

A 2016 study found that negative brand names can cause a survival response within us, making us react to potential threats. It is automatically and more efficiently processed, and negative words capture and hold attention longer than positive words.

Surmounting a first, negative impression of a brand can cause that certain aha-moment. Take Dust Catcher for instance, a magazine we named and designed a while ago. A “dust catcher” or “dust collector” is a derogatory term used for kitsch on people’s shelves that serves no real purpose. Dust Catcher is aimed at collectors of physical art, whether it be designer toys, illustrations or paintings – all things that you can purchase, place on your shelf or hang on your wall, where they’ll eventually catch dust.

Many collectors can understand and identify with Dust Catcher’s ironic take on the name, as they might have had experiences with other people perceiving or referring to their collectables as such. It implies that the makers of the publication are collectors too, sharing the same passion and experiences, thereby showing empathy for the reader and allowing them to be in on the joke as well.

If there’s thought and reason to negativity, it’s a naming strategy worth looking into. Some people might not get the joke or hidden meaning, others do. A single name can’t market to every single person anyway, and building a brand requires more than just a good name – the name is merely the first thing people interact with.