Trying to decide on a name that will perfectly encapsulate your brand’s story, mission, and product while still being catchy? Seemingly impossible. And yet thousands of businesses are named each year. So how are they deciding on a name? Well, most are not great. But that doesn’t have to be the case for you and your product or service!
Our guide will help you land on a name that you can wear as a badge of honor for years to come.
It’s Not a Perfect Science
There is no “right name” for your business. The name that you (and your partners) decide will ultimately become the right name, but only in hindsight. That makes choosing a name from your inception a particularly difficult task.
“The right name can be a brand’s most valuable asset, driving differentiation and speeding acceptance,” according to Marty Neumeier, Director of CEO branding for Liquid Agency. But how do you land on the brand name that will be catchy, unique, and works in a URL and on your promotional content? You can file through study after study on what consumers want in a name, but in a lot of cases, it is going to be trial and error.
Even if you spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out the best name, it might not be enough. “[Big businesses] put a lot of money and time into testing a name to make sure that it doesn’t offend anyone and that everyone understands it,” says Alexandra Watkins, Chief Innovation Officer of Eat My Words. “That’s why larger companies end up having tame, descriptive, and flat names.”
When you land on the right name, you will know. But find solace in knowing that whatever you decide on doesn’t have to be forever.
“Many businesses that are now well known started off with completely different names,” says Trisha Bantigue, CEO of Queenly. “Google was once BackRub. AOL was once Quantum Computer Services… The name that you land on doesn’t have to be eternal, but it should be as close to the perfect name at the time as you can get.”
To help get that first name that will hopefully carry you for years to come, keep these suggestions in mind:
Don’t Limit Yourself
“If you pick a name that is too limiting up top, you are certainly going to go through a rebranding down the line. That’s not the end of the world, but you can avoid it by being deliberately broad up top. Think of a company like Apple. If it had gone with the name “Cupertino Computers” it would have had a very limited audience. Go broad. It will make it easier when it comes time to expand your offerings.” – Lindsay McCormick, Founder & CEO of Bite.
Keep it Simple
“It might look cool to change the ‘S’ to a dollar sign, but keep in mind that people need to be able to quickly search you and find you online. The more difficult your brand name is to spell, the harder it is going to be for people to pronounce it and find it. The more time they spend trying to figure out how to spell and find you, the higher the chances are that they get annoyed and start looking elsewhere.” – Michael Jankie, Founder of The Natural Patch Co..
Grab a Good Domain
“You need to make sure that you can secure the domain name for your business. Getting stuck with a .net, .org. biz or any variation is not a good look for your brand. Not having a .com will make you look less established to your potential customers, even if that’s not the case. Get ready to open up your wallet if someone already owns the domain name. Most people are willing to sell them to a business for the right price. Try coming up with a few name options and seeing which domains and social media accounts already exist for them. If there is one that doesn’t have any, that might be your best option.” – Michelle Hodgden, Chief of Staff at Kinoo.
And on the subject of domains…
“Don’t forget to do a trademark search as well. If your top choice is taken by another brand, you are going to have to go to your fallback. Do the same search with the Secretary of State’s records to avoid a name that might be too similar to someone else’s.” – Jim Marggraff, CEO of Kinoo.
Make it Catchy
“No one wants to have a boring name, but a lot of people are boring and so their name winds up boring too! Find a name that is catchy but not too zany. You and employees should be comfortable saying it over and over without rolling their eyes or worrying about what people think. Get feedback from as many people as you can. Have a list of several names and show your friends and family to get good, honest feedback. To make sure your top choice doesn’t have a negative connotation in another language or community, run it by a diverse group. Lastly, make sure the name works well when spoken aloud. Something that looks nice on a website might sound silly when spoken.” – Justin Soleimani, Co-Founder of Tumble.
Easy to Remember
“People have a lot of things on their minds all the time. There is a good chance that they are going to come across your brand while commuting or scrolling or even listening to a podcast or the radio. Your name will quickly get lost in the shuffle of their daily thoughts if it doesn’t stand out to them. Making your name difficult to remember is going to cost you potential customers who were interested but just couldn’t remember what they were supposed to search to find you. Uber, Microsoft, Target are all easy to remember. Keep it to a few syllables and make it stand out from all the noise.” – Elliot Schwarcz, CEO of Becca’s Home.
Be Pragmatic, If Possible
“Be pragmatic or descriptive if you can. ‘Dollar Shave Club’. How clear is that? It tells you what they do and how much they do it for and it tells you their business model all in just three words. It
is so simple that it almost sounds silly. If you are attempting to do something very unique, it might make sense to try and include that unique value proposition in your brand name. If your model is truly unique, it stands to reason that you won’t face many companies with similar names that you have to worry about. It can also help people remember you better. ‘What’s the company that sells those great boxes?’ Box Genie. The service is in the name!” – Jim Beard, COO of Box Genie.
Don’t Tell the Whole Story
“You are going to need to do some marketing to make people understand what your service is no matter what, so don’t try to be overly descriptive with your brand name. Descriptive is good, but try to minimize the number of words you use. Aaron Sorkin said it best in his movie The Social Network, “‘Just “‘Facebook’”. The simpler the better. Communicate your story in as concise a manner as you possibly can. Your audience will learn the whole story later. Your name merely needs to capture the essence of your brand.” – Kevin Callahan, Co-Founder & CEO of Flatline Van Co..
Naming your brand is no easy task but take solace in knowing that every great brand has been where you are now!