Metaphors are powerful.

As James Geary explained in his Ted Talk, “Metaphorically Speaking,” we get a more vivid understanding of something because of all the analogies triggered by its metaphor.

In branding, metaphors create expectations by linking the brand to something we already understand and evoking those qualities.

For example:

Apple — Simple. Approachable. A Garden of Eden original.
Irish Spring — Fresh. Clean. Pure.
Amazon — Huge. Abundant. Flowing.

Of course, metaphorical names only work for brands when they evoke the appropriate ideas.

To see how evocative names can go horribly wrong, check out this experiment in artificial intelligence, in which a neural network was programmed to create names for paint colors. Although able to pair adjectives with nouns and connect certain words with specific colors, the AI lacks the human brain’s ability to discern between attractive and repulsive names based on the ideas conjured by metaphors.

And thus the AI suggests names such as Navel Tan, Bank Butt, Stoner Blue and Turdly.

Which just goes to show that even the most sophisticated algorithms can’t compare to the power of human comprehension. But they’re still good for a laugh.