Marketing Planet

Branding with first names in the Netherlands

Recently, Erwin Wijman – a Dutch journalist – carried out a study on new branding strategies in the Netherlands. It appeared that more and more companies use a first name as a brand. Marketing Planet gives you a resume on this study.

Independent first names

Today’s new brands in the Netherlands tend to attract by using a first name for their brand. What is interesting in his study is that the origin of this first name branding trend is not Dutch. You can think of Madonna, Tommy (Tommy Hilfinger), Hugo (Hugo Boss), Ben & Jerry’s and Oprah. These first names are all directly linked to the name of their founder(s). The Dutch version of it has nevertheless moved from this part. The first name brands in the Netherlands are no longer linked to their “creator†and can be a complete independent first name.

Some examples

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  • Ilse: an internet search company
  • Ben: telecom company
  • Johan: magazine for football
  • Alex: online investment bank
  • Fred & Ed (bakery)

This doesn’t withstand that quite some Dutch companies exist that use their full name, like Douwe Egberts, Albert Heijn, or even with their family name, Philips, Blokker, Zeeman as a brand.

It’s these recently created companies that use only a first name for their brand in their search to differentiate and manage their positioning.

Why choose a first name for a brand?

What makes a company choose to position their brand by using a first name? Companies are looking for ways to escape the mass market. They want to avoid having an anonymous approach. A first name can help them with it.

A first name makes a company more human, more personal. It increases the impression of dealing with someone instead of a company. Especially for IT sector companies, this argument is important. Ben was a huge success, before it was brought by a Danish company for its international development. A first name also makes a company more accessible, less distant. In the Netherlands, the informal side of live is highly present and the first name branding trend is an example of today’s society.

A straight forward first name can also be a sign that the company is straight forward itself. For discounters and supermarkets this can represent that they re not expensive and no «nonsense».

To keep it simple and close to the customer, the first name is in general also a short one, maximum 2 syllables. Longer names like «Charlotte» would sound more chic and change the positioning of being close to the customer.

Beware of the risk

This doesn’t mean that all companies can succeed their strategy with a branding based on a first name. Not all type of companies should position close to the customer, and not all first name are suitable. All first names have their history and signification in a country, if you pick out a name that doesn’t correspond your strategy or the type of offer you propose, the name can badly damage your brand. For examples, a high class company selling furniture wouldn’t call their brand for sofa’s «Billy», it is too cosy and doesn’t sound chic [1]

To emphasise on the risk, some examples are given in the study:

  • Adolf is still used as a first name, but there would be few companies choosing it for their brand.
  • You would not find an Emma, Anna or Roos in sex-advertisements. Female first names have special connotations, especially in this environment.

Read more

To read more about the first name branding you can go to where Erwin Wijman wrote the article «Branding on a First Name Basis». It provides more examples and details.


[1Ikea gives names to their products, selling the younger, more fun ones, with more vivid names, also a way of attracting.