Choosing a brand name is often one of the most daunting tasks in developing your brand-building strategy. Without a catchy and sticky name, how can your company attract your ideal audience’s attention (and adoration)?
With the right name, you’ll have the opportunity to differentiate yourself from competitors, develop a rapport with your target audience to reach brand recognition, and show your audience the fundamental values you stand for. Not to mention, gaining customer loyalty and simplifying the process of word of mouth marketing.
Choose the right one, and you’ll become a household name like Jenna Kutcher, Showit, or Tonic Site Shop, with a plethora of customers who can’t wait to talk about you and all the cool things you offer. Choose the wrong one, and you could struggle with obscurity and connecting with a less engaged target audience. No pressure or anything…ha…
You may be thinking, “well, that sounds all well and good, Kaitlyn, but how exactly do I choose a memorable moniker?”
Well, we have a pretty streamlined process that will take your brand name from good to great. The only caveat is that it takes some deep thinking and legwork.
If you’re ready to get your hands dirty, let’s walk through the process of creating the most effective brand name for your business, shall we?
What Makes a Good Brand Name?
Let’s back up. Now we don’t mean to say your brand’s name is the be-all-end-all of your overarching strategy.
While, yes, the name is a critical component in building a successful brand strategy, the true essence of successful brands center around the core identity, purpose, messaging, and belief system. (Not to mention, the quality of your product and your ability to deliver on the brand promise!)
With that said, your brand’s name can be used as one of the many persuasive elements at your disposal in creating a memorable experience for your customers, and it should be easy to use across your platforms and marketing collateral.
In our brand naming process, we start by providing our clients with a bit of homework to answer questions on their background, who their audience is, what their aesthetic preferences are, their core offerings, and what inspires them.
We encourage you to think about the above when deciding on your brand name, in addition to a few key factors below.
Ideally, you want a name that conveys:
It describes your brand’s core identity and ethos to create an emotional connection (more on this later).
Think about other factors outside of work that inspire you, like hobbies or activities that spark enjoyment. Who are some important people in your life? Why did you want to start your business? What are some of your favorite places you’ve traveled to in the past?
It stands out from your competitors and offers a unique look into your products or offerings. It creates brand recognition in your audience.
We recommend keeping it to as few words as possible, ideally between 1-3 words MAX.
Your Audience’s Preferences
First off, who exactly is your target audience? Once you have that narrowed down, get inside their head, and think about what is most important to them when choosing your brand’s product or service.
What is their problem and how do you solve it for them? What do they value when choosing a brand to buy from? How do you make them feel when they interact with your brand? How do they describe your brand?
We also recommend chatting with a few peers or trusted mentors to see what resonates with people the most.
Is your name easy to understand, pronounce, spell, and Google? Does it make your audience want to learn more? Even if you have an unusual name, it’s vital your audience can understand and translate it. Remember, if your name comes across as too complicated, your customers will have difficulty talking about it with their friends.
Can it grow with your company while maintaining relevance to new products or services you offer down the road?
Can you translate your name through visuals like icons, images, logos, and colors?
While this exercise is useful in helping to vet initial naming ideas, the most important thing to consider in what makes a successful name is:
Does it resonate with the right people?
How to Begin Your Brand Naming Process
Now that you have a good idea of what you want your brand name to stand for, it can be very tempting to take the easy way out and use a name generator like Shopify’s Business Name Generator or Behind the Name. While the suggestions certainly help and can get the wheels turning for a good brainstorming sesh, we think it’s essential to choose an intentional and purposeful name.
Our step-by-step guide will show you how to begin this often trying yet rewarding process.
Step 1: Define your core identity.
As we mentioned before, we start our process with a questionnaire for our clients to better understand who they are, what they’re looking for, and what inspires them.
After synthesizing their answers, this allows us to get a better feel for their brand’s purpose, vision, mission, and values, which is the beating heart behind every brand.
We encourage you to look back at the ‘Meaning’ section for additional ideas and inspiration then jot down some thoughts on paper.
Step 2: What are your differentiators?
Why is your brand unique, and what makes it stand out?
If you don’t have a firm grasp on what makes you distinctive from your competition, try a competitive analysis. While it can come across as tedious and overwhelming, knowing who your competitors are, how they position themselves, and their strengths and weaknesses will allow you to recognize the unique ways you can outshine them.
Step 3: Brainstorm
Here comes the fun (and okay, the sometimes exhausting, brutal, and overwhelming part). Write down everything that comes to mind, such as all the adjectives or free association of words that describe your product or service.
Maybe your name is based on the founder’s name like Anni Graham Photography, Christian Oth Studio, or Ben & Jerry’s. Additionally, if you have a favorite book or movie character, follow in Warby Parker’s footsteps. Their founders derived their brand name from two characters in a Jack Kerouac novel. Or, create an entirely fictional persona like Betty Crocker.
If you’re looking for something a little more straightforward, a literal name like General Motors describes exactly what the company does and gets the point across in a crystal clear way. You could also try using an acronym, initials, or abbreviations like DKNY or GE.
Copy Uncorked is based on a metaphor and infuses a theme throughout our website and messaging with references to all things wine-related. Our friend, Laura, a fellow copywriter, has the brand, Copy Noir, related to her love of films and the movie industry. Figure out what you like and how it could relate to your business in a memorable way!
And if all else fails, make something up! (As long as it follows our guidelines on ‘clarity’ above, of course!
Kodak, TiVO, Xerox, Uber, Sony, Google, and Ikea are all great examples of made-up, but well-known brands.
The point being, generate as many ideas as possible before you work on narrowing them down. Ideally, you want 10-30 good ideas before you start the elimination process.
Step 4: Vet Your Brand Name
Okay, you’ve narrowed your list down into a handful of top contenders, now what? And I will preface the above statement as this can indeed be the most frustrating part. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve come up with so many great naming ideas for clients and realized the domain has been taken, which is why you need to check them out in a few places before getting even remotely attached to it:
- GoDaddy and/or Google Domains for a domain search. If you found the perfect name and the domain is taken, try rewording it a bit by adding “the” or using underscores or dashes. The same applies to your social media. You could also try an extension other than “.com”, although we strive to land a .com domain name as much as possible.
- United States Patent & Trademark Office’s database of registered trademarks.
- Last but certainly not least, do a simple Google search to see if anything comes up with your potential brand name. Especially if it’s related to your industry / core offerings.
Honestly, this part of the process can really dwindle down your list, which is why we recommend starting with LOTS of options and working to narrow it down to the top three.
Note: Remember to consult a lawyer to confirm the name is really truly available, and get it registered.
Step 5: Test, test, and test again!
You’ve made it! You have your top three names, and now you’re ready to test it out on logos, product packaging, home pages, etc. You may be surprised to see how different a name can come across visually.
We also like thinking through whether we’d be able to derive unique messaging concepts from the name itself. Part of what made Copy Uncorked stick for us was a brainstorming session in coming up with all the different ways we could play off the brand name in the rest of the messaging and copy.
It’s amazing how much a name can either leave you feeling stuck or inspired.
If you do choose a personal / founder name, you’re not limited to one ‘theme’ and can add as much personality as you want to your copy! So either way, it can be a win-win.
We also recommend having conversations with a few select clients / customers / people from your target audience and having discussions with a few peers or trusted mentors to see what resonates with people the most. Remember, this is the one key metric in making your naming successful and compelling!
Once you have your final decision, we suggest working with a legal team to trademark it and secure your domain and social handles.
Be sure to also check out our post How to Build a Brand on Any Budget which will answer any questions you may have about what do once you’ve decided on your brand name – including steps like developing clear, concise messaging to creating an organized website, and more to ensure you hit the ground running and become the successful entrepreneur we know you are!
The best names speak to your audience and convey something meaningful about your brand. We hope this guide helped you choose a name that resonates with your audience, creates connections, and accelerates brand awareness.
Always remember, you’re not just looking for a great name. You’re looking for a great name for you.