How to Choose a Good Brand Name

How To Choose a Great Brand Name
The process of generating a brand name

Brand naming process:

Step 1 – Choose the type of name

Step 2 – What do you want to say?

Step 3 – Is the name available?

Types of Company Names
Types of brand name: founder, descriptive, fabricated, metaphor, acronym, real word.

When to start the naming process

  • You’re starting a new business and you need a name, logo and website.
  • You’ve developed a new product and it needs a name and a logo yesterday.
  • Your name no longer fits who you are and the businesses you are in.
  • You need to change your name because of a trademark conflict.
  • Your name has negative connotations in the new markets we are serving.
  • Your name misleads customers.
  • You merged.

You can have many reasons that trigger starting the naming process, but it all comes own basically to two options:

  • You start a new business and need a name
  • or you change the name of an existing business

If it’s your new brand, then you should start by developing a brand strategy first, even though you don’t have name yet.

No matter what the reason are – you need a new name and choosing a good one ain’t easy.

I will know it when I hear it.

This is probably the biggest myth about naming.

People often indicate that they will be able to make a decision after hearing a name once, which is rarely true.

In fact, good names are strategies and need to be examined, tested, sold, and proven.

So whether you’re naming a new company, service or product – the rules are always the same.

Your name is your brand’s story

To get a name right, it’s vital to first get your story straight—one that gets at the very best of your brand.

Your brand name is your story distilled to its shortest form.

Naming is just one, very powerful, element of the many that a brand has at hand to tell its story.

Your brand name is the most used, the most ubiquitous, which means it holds within it the majority of a brand’s value.

Your name is transmitted day in and day out, in conversations, emails, voicemails, websites, on the product, on business cards, and in presentations – everywhere.

It’s your baby.

Naming a brand is like naming a baby

Naming is a rigorous and exhaustive process.

Frequently hundreds of names are reviewed prior to finding one that is legally available and works.

It’s also important to remember that while the process of creating and selecting a name is critical, once the name is out it the world, the meaning of the word itself will evolve based on how people experience the brand.

And a great name can’t fix a bad experience, but a bad experience can kill a great name.

So if you’re just renaming a bad experience, because you just want to start fresh but haven’t actually change anything else – that’s a warning for you.

Naming is never love at first sight

People rarely love a name because of its technical meaning, or its structure, or its linguistic merits.

Instead, it’s because of the meaningful association they have with the entire brand experience.

If the brand experience is bad, the name becomes the shorthand for this—and possibly other—bad experiences.

If it’s great, the name becomes the handle for everything that’s great about the brand, and the reason people use it, recall it, repeat it, recommend it.

And that’s why the journey of naming should be: deciding how you’ll tell the entire story of your brand in a word.

Why naming isn’t easy?

There are estimated 300 mln companies in the world Today – that’s 300 mln brand names.

Some brands as big as Apple and Coca-Cola, others as small as one person online business (like myself).

With so many brands in the World, is getting harder and harder to create and find a unique brand name.

How do you find a name that’s available?

Naming your business is one of the first steps in the process of branding – before you start your logo design process, you must select a name first, of course.

What makes a good brand name

How do you tell the difference between a good name and a bad one?

The right name needs to be timeless, tireless, easy to say and remember.

How do you find a name that grabs people’s attention?

A great name stands for something and facilitates brand extensions.

Its sound has rhythm and it looks great in the text of an email and in the logo.

How to play and win the name game? – Start with 3 simple steps:

Step 1 – Choose the type of name

There are six different types of brand names and pretty much every company in the world falls into one of them:

Types of brand names:

  1. Founder Names
  2. Descriptive Names
  3. Fabricated Names
  4. Metaphor Names
  5. Acronym Names
  6. Real Word Named

I’ve taken as example some of the famous brands that have clever brand names and fall into those six different categories:

1. Names After Founder

Many companies are named after founders: Ben & Jerry’s, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger. It might be easier to protect. It satisfies an ego.

The downside is that it is inextricably tied to a real human being.

Well-known brands named after founder:

Name after founder
Gucci is named after founder Guccio Gucci
Founder name
Tiffany & Co is named after founder Charles Tiffany

Pros and cons of using founder’s name:

People often weight it on what are the advantages and disadvantages of having a brand that is your name or isn’t your name.

Should I choose my real name or a general name?

The pros of using your own name, is the fact that you don’t have to spend any time thinking about coming up with a name.

If you have a unique name, chances are that the url’s are available.

When you go and tell people, it’s easy to remember because it’s your own name e.g. John Smith Design – you’re John Smith and you do design.

The cons are that if you want to grow your company and potentially take on partners, so now it’s going to be John Smith & Associates and you would have to change your name.

Another disadvantage is that if you want to sell your company, your name is associated with that company and if they take it down the direction that you don’t love – you feel like you’ve lost your own name and your own identity.

But if you want to create a lifestyle brand and never plan on selling your brand – that’s perfectly fine to use your real name.


2. Descriptive Names

Descriptives names work by telling you exactly what the company does. These names convey the nature of the business.

Descriptive name can be much harder to own and protect.

Well-known descriptive brand names examples:

Descriptive Names
Facebook is a descriptive name: a book of faces.
Descriptive Names
Groupon is a descriptive name: a group of coupons.

3. Fabricated Names

Because it’s so hard to find new names, companies like Kleenex and Pinterest have invented names by changing, adding or removing letters or combining two or more words for impact.

Made-up names are distinctive and might be easier to copyright.

Invented names can be highly unique, but if you’re not careful they will start to sound like pharmaceutical drugs.

Well-known invented brand names examples:

Fabricated names
Kodak is a made up name.
Fabricated Name
Verizon is a fabricated name (from the word horizon)

4. Metaphor Names

They work by reflecting imagery and meaning back to the brand.

Metaphor names are interesting to visualize and often can tell a good story.

The Amazon in South America is the world’s largest river – therefore the world’s biggest selection of books, clothes etc. Nike is a greek goddess of victory.

Well-known metaphor brand names examples:

Metaphor Names
Nike is a metaphor name – Greek goddess of victory.
Metaphor Name
Amazon is a metaphor name – the biggest river in the world.

5. Acronym Names

Acronyms are just short-hand version of descriptive name. Some acronyms are more strategic.

These names are difficult to remember and difficult to copyright.

Kentucky Fried Chicken switched to KFC, because fried chicken didn’t sound to healthy. And the Hong-Kong and Shanghai Bank changed to HSBC to help the bank expand globally.

Well-known acronym brand names examples:

Acronym Name
IBM is an acronym name and it stands for International Business Machines.
Acronym Name
CVS is an acronym name and it stands for Convenience, Value & Service

6. Real word Names

Real words like Uber or Slack are taken out of a dictionary and suggest attributes or benefits.

“Uber” literally means an outstanding example. So it works well for a company with big, bold, broad ambitions beyond ride hailing.

It’s hard to find any real words left in a dictionary.

Real words may seem like a good idea but in the world of 300 mln companies its getting harder to find a name.

Well-known suggestive brand names examples:

Real Word Names
Uber is a real word name and it means outstanding, excellent (super taxi).
Real word name
Sharp is named after the company’s very first product – ever sharp mechanical pencil.

Some of the best names combine name types. Some good examples are Cingular Wireless, Citibank.

Customers and investors like names that they can understand.

Step 2 – What do you want your name to say?

Once you’ve selected what type of name:

You need to decide what you want the name to say.

And it’s tempting to create a name that says about those who created them, or what you do, or where you operate, but it all starts with a story.

To get a name right, it’s vital to first get your story straight—one that gets at the very best of your brand.

The best brand names don’t describe – they rather stand for a big idea and the words are translated into emotional appeal.

  • Nike is about winning.
  • GoPro is about heroism.
  • Apple is about simplicity and usability.
  • Google is number with 1 and 100 zeroes after it.
  • Uber is about outstanding, super taxi experience.

So that really big number help support company’s really big original vision – to organize worlds information.

Think carefully and ask yourself:

What’s your big idea?

as you think about your new business name.

Step 3 – Is the brand name available?

The third step is to check if the name isn’t already taken.

Is the domain name available?

Is the social media handle available?

Check my video tutorial on how to evaluate name ideas:

You might have to create hundreds of names perhaps thousands – before you find one that is even available.

Probably the fastest way to check your name availability it so use this name checker.

This tool will save you a lot of time, it will show you available and taken domain extensions domains as well as usernames on popular social media channels – it comes in very handy when testing possible names for your brand.

Also remember to check if the name doesn’t mean any negative in other languages or countries.

The last things you want – is embarrassing naming fail.

The wrong types of brand names

The wrong name for a company, product, or service can hinder marketing efforts, through miscommunication or because people cannot pronounce it or remember it.

Naming requires a creative, disciplined and strategic approach.

It can subject a company to unnecessary legal risks or alienate a market segment.

Finding the right name that is legally available is a gargantuan challenge.

How to come up with a brand name

Finding a brand name is a very time-consuming task.

The right name must capture the imagination and connect with the people you want to reach.

The right name has the potential to become a self-propelling publicity campaign, motivating word of mouth, reputation, recommendations, and press coverage.

Your brand names should have the following qualities:

  • Meaningful
    It communicates something about the essence of the brand. It supports the image that the company wants to convey.
  • Distinctive
    It is unique, as well as easy to remember, pronounce, and spell. It is differentiated from the competition.
  • Future-oriented
    It positions the company for growth, change, and success. It has sustainability and preserves possibilities. It has long legs.
  • Modular
    It enables a company to build brand extensions with ease.
  • Protectable
    It can be owned and trademarked. A domain is available.
  • Positive
    It has positive connotations in the markets served. It has no strong negative connotations.
  • Visual
    It lends itself well to graphic presentation in a logo, in text, and in brand architecture.

What makes a great name?

When your new brand name works as a shortcut for people to make great decisions.

A great name is the fastest and easiest way for people to navigate the choice of a brand, or product, or service, when they need it most.

Names are way-finders, used by people to locate and choose you over your competitors.

In them, they carry so many attributes, associations, experiences, and information that people immediately understand and accept.

A great name conveys all of this in a single word or phrase.

Tips for naming your brand

  1. Know what you’re naming – If you can’t sum up what it actually is you’re trying to name in a sentence, then you don’t know what you’re naming. Yes, this really does happen. Make sure you have a firm grasp on the details before you begin.
  2. Know who cares about it – Having a good picture of the brand’s target audience is essential. Do your background research, but more importantly, talk to some customers in person—you’ll begin to see your brand through their eyes. And don’t forget your people internally. They’ll have a lot to say about it.
  3. Know what you want to say – A few key communication points are all you need—but you need to know them backwards and forwards to ensure that these key messages are being conveyed by your name in a convincing and engaging way.

Naming Tools

Name Generators

Although I don’t recommend using them, you might want to test out some different options if you decide to let’s say combine two words (fabricated name) e.g. Groupon = Group + Coupon.

If so, then using name generators can give you some name ideas to consider.

  1. Mixwords – Simple tool that takes source words and generates random mixes to quickly visualize potential combinations.
  2. Panabee – A simple way to search for domain names, app names, and company names. Combines input words to create unexpected pairings and connections.
  3. Wordoid – Power random word generator with toggles for language, quality, patterns, length, and domain availability.

Also check tool like Shopify business name generator that can give you some ideas you can play with.

Dictionaries

Using dictionaries comes handy when searching for the right words to support your big idea. Here are my three top dictionaries:

  1. Dictionary.com – Primary definitions, secondary definitions, root words, and related terms. A good jumping off point but unlikely to get you to the end of your search.
  2. Merriam-Webster – Comprehensive dictionary including pronunciations, first known uses, language learner and children’s definitions. Also includes a strong thesaurus.
  3. Urban Dictionary – The people’s internet dictionary. Find obscure memes, definitions and phrases. Useful to check if your selected name is offensive or has an obscure second meaning.

Check the full list of naming tools.

Conclusions

Finally, a few words about Alphabet.

The parent company of Google and now one of the World’s most valuable companies.

Is “Alphabet” a great name?

You bet.

First of all, the name is an idea.

As we all know the alphabet is a set of letters that form basis for all of the language and communication.

Second, the provides the playful link to the companies underneath: G for Google, N for Nest, and so on.

Naming encourages the Wall Street investors.

Buy this stock and you making an alpha-bet.

But there’s one problem with that name:

BMW owns the domain alphabet.com

However, it isn’t much of an issue these days.

Now that we find stuff through google search, and we connect with brands through social media and smartphone apps.

So Alphabet the company forgot about the alphabet.com and instead found a shorter, more unique web address:

ww.abc.xyz

That’s clever – isn’t it?

Ready to start searching for your business name?

Check this comprehensive naming resource first.

Early on I made a decision that I didn’t want the company to be me forever.

I already knew I wanted it to be bigger than me – that’s why I came up with my brand name: Ebaqdesign.

Here’s the naming guide PDF: