How To Create A Name For Your Brand Or Business

How To Create A Name For Your Brand Or Business

It is more complicated than ever to create a name that grabs a consumers’ attention. Having a catchy name is half the battle. The other half is delivering an outstanding product or service. But that’s another article for another day.

If you think creating a great name is a lofty goal beyond the reach of an average mortal. Think again. In this article, I will outline the basic steps to help you achieve this objective and end up with a name that will profoundly impact your business. 

The Basis Of A Great Name

We do not think twice about all the famous names we use and see daily or what they stand for – brand names such as Innocent, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon. It is their marketing that helps us attach meaning to these brands. Who would have thought the word apple would be associated with a technology company?

What is the basis of these brand names? How did they come into being? Well, most company names fall into these three main categories:

  • Strategic is it meaningful, adaptable and distinctive?
  • Creative is it memorable? Does it sound right? Will it look right as a word?
  • Technical is it available? Does it work in a foreign language? Is it ambiguous in sound or spelling?

We can use these three main categories as a yardstick to judge any proposed name and its robustness and suitability.

What Makes A Great Name

Any potential name should be simple to spell, say and remember. If a brand name is also quirky, it will stand out in a consumer’s mind. But a renowned name also needs some of the following attributes.

Adaptability. Can it be adapted to different things? Sub-brands or a range of products, for example.

Is it distinctive enough? Will it be memorable? Your name should be unique, and customers should know what your company does and, more importantly, remember you when they are in the market for what you do.

Is it available? It is becoming increasingly more work to find available names. First, check that the proposed name is not registered and that the URL is also available. It would be best if you carried out this work before designing a brand, creating a website and producing any print.

Is your proposed name politically correct? Have you checked its meaning and any negative connotations in foreign languages? Again this is critical to do before moving forward to the design phase.

An abstract name offers many benefits and one substantial pitfall. Plus, it can be applied to anything and still feel right. But, on the other hand, you will need a much bigger marketing budget to make it stick in the long term.

It is still possible to develop a great name that only fulfils some of the suggestions above since they are only rough guidelines. If it sounds right and looks right, then it is right. Let your gut and some research on trusted customers and employees lead the way.

The Name Creation Process In Brief

The naming process usually consists of seven steps:

  1. The brief (what you want the name to express)
  2. Generating a long list of possible names
  3. Cutting down the long list
  4. Check the availability of the trademark and URL and the meaning of the word or words used.
  5. Finalising the list (consisting of 10-20 names)
  6. Doing a full legal search to ensure nobody else is using the name or has the rights to it
  7. Choosing the final name

Start by thinking broadly about what category or subject your company is in. Then think of words associated with that subject. You will find this approach more manageable than being too specific too soon.

Your brand name is only as good as your reputation.

Richard Branson

Names can be abstract (unrelated to a company), suggestive, and descriptive of what a company does. They can be straightforward, like Virgin or Amazon. Or they can be a combination of two words mashed together, like PayPal or Microsoft. 

Made-up names are usually challenging to remember and require substantial marketing like Google or Febreze. However, made-up names like abstract names have the advantage that you can attach any meaning you like to them.

You can also use initial characters as a name, like IBM or explore using a foreign word as your name.

Creating The Naming Brief

Always start by writing a brief of what you are trying to achieve. Here are a few questions the brief should answer:

  • What is it we are naming? 
  • What idea do we want to convey?
  • How do we want the name to sound and feel? 
  • Which name or idea might we want to explore further? Which word or concept might we want to avoid?
  • Who are we aiming the name at? What are their tastes and level of knowledge?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • Have any previous names been rejected? Why?

Before moving forward with the process, get stakeholder agreement on the brief. All suggested names should match the parameters set out in the briefing document.

Creating A Long List Of More Than 100 Names

Naming is time-consuming. You must research and dig deep to get a creative or distinctive name. Otherwise, you risk scratching the surface and your name being superficial. Put down as many names/words as possible, good or bad; it does not matter at this stage. You have to drive down a lot of dead ends to find the way ahead.

To start, get a pen and paper, write, and create a flow of creative consciousness. Gradually you can lean into the brief and become more specific as you progress. The main objective is to get ideas flowing freely.

Get a few keywords together that outline your subject. Then start looking at similar words using a thesaurus. You will be amazed at how many words this generates. It is like a spider’s web; one idea, word or phrase will lead to another.

Riffing On A Word

When you have your list, see if you can combine two or more words or parts of words to create another word. Again, it is essential to maintain the right sound and feel.

You could look at our words and see if you can alter the spelling of a word to make it unique. For example, Amber could be spelt either Ambr, Ambrrr or Amburr. We could also add a word at the start or end of it, making AgileAmbr or AmbrMoon, for instance. The name Amber comes from the Arabic word anbar; in Chinese, it translates to Tiger Soul. As you can see from this simple demonstration, these are all excellent starting points.

When people use your brand name as a verb, that is remarkable.

– Meg Whitman

Create A Shortlist Of Names

Review every name against the original brief when your long list is complete. Does it answer the original brief? Does it sound and feel right? Can it be adapted, so it works?

Then create your shortlist and check this against current trademarks, products or company names that already exist. Check the availability of the URL for your name as well. 

After this, you should have a solid shortlist. However, you may only like some of the remaining suggestions. If this happens, reexamine the brief to ensure it is correct and start over.

Put Your New Name In Context

Once you have your final list of names, it will be easier to judge them in context. For example, trying them on a brochure cover, the side of a van, or on a website will help bring them to life. In addition, it will be easier to judge them verbally if you use them in conversation or when answering the phone.

Once in context, only some of the names will work. The words may feel awkward to say or look ugly as logos. They may sound odd on the phone or be easy to mishear.

Keeping The Naming Process Fun

As with all creative endeavours, you can’t carve the naming process in stone. The above suggestions are a guide; you can adhere to them as you see fit. It should be a fluid and organic process full of stops, starts and creative sparks of inspiration. It should be treated and entered into as a fun project. Seeing it as a big challenge and giving it a considerable level of difficulty will not make the process easy or help it along.

Keep the naming process light, fresh, and creative; you will surprise yourself with how much fun you will have. I am also betting that you will be amazed and impressed with the result of your efforts. Good luck.