Creating and effectively marketing a brand name is one of the biggest challenges of starting a new business. Choose the wrong name, and customers have no idea what your business stands for or what it does. But choose the right name, and customers immediately identify with your value proposition.
We’ll explore the basics of creating a unique, representative brand name that can help convey your identity to customers and partners.
How to create a brand name
Creating a cool company name can take a lot of effort. However, with the right approach and a strategic process, you can select the perfect name to identify your brand.
Let’s examine some essential factors to consider when creating a brand name.
1. Check your brand name’s availability.
When you decide on a name, you’ll first need to see if it’s available. Ignoring this crucial step can end up being an expensive and embarrassing mistake.
Follow these steps to check your brand name’s availability:
- Do a trademark search. Run the name through the Trademark Electronic Search System on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website. This free tool will tell you if there are any registered trademarks or prior pending applications for the marks you want to use.
- Run keyword searches. The next step is to run some targeted keyword Google searches. Put your brand name in quotation marks and conduct a handful of queries. Look for any results that may require further investigation.
- Do a corporate name search. If it’s a company name, you should also check the registry of the Department of Corporations in the state where you’re planning to start your business. Find the right tool online by searching for “corporate name search [your state].”
- Register your name. Finally, register your name with the government to protect it. You can do this by registering your trademark. Although you can do this online, you may want to consult with a trademark attorney first, as the rules can be complicated. Consider intellectual property insurance to pay legal costs if someone infringes on your trademarked name.
Did you know? According to Heer Law, on average, trademark registration prolongs a company’s life span by 6.6 years – more if the trademark is renewed. It also raises profitability by 1.7% and firm value by 11.9%.
2. Don’t get cute with your brand name.
Over the past few years, the trend in startup branding has been to develop a clever name that sounds like a real word but is actually contrived by combining other words. This works in specific situations – think Spotify or Snapchat – but it’s not necessarily the best strategy for all companies.
Getting too cute can often hurt your ability to grow. For best results, choose a more straightforward name.
- Make your brand name easy to spell. Spelling is important. Even if you’ve made up the word, it must be easy to spell. For example, if you heard the name Spotify without seeing it written out, you could probably spell it easily. However, if you were asked to spell the name Saucony (pronounced SOCK-a-nee) without ever seeing it, you might hesitate. Unclear spelling posed a problem when customers search for products online or share the name with friends.
- Ensure your brand name is easy to pronounce. Your brand name should be easy to pronounce. Take Guerlain, for example. Most people pronounce the brand name “Grrr-lane,” when it’s actually “Gher-lahn.” Having a brand name that’s frequently mispronounced isn’t ideal.
If you can develop a brand name that’s easy to spell and pronounce, you’ll be well ahead of many of today’s startups and small businesses.
3. Aim for simplicity with your brand name.
While it’s hard to find an available one these days, one-word brand names are always ideal. They’re easy to remember, strong and relatable. If you think about some of the most successful and recognizable businesses in the world – Target, Amazon, Apple – they all have one-word names.
Sometimes you have to invent a word – Twitter, Google, Starbucks – but the effect is the same. A two-word name is acceptable when one word is not an option, but avoid going with three or more words if possible. Long names complicate everything from choosing a domain name to future product packaging.
Simple names are also more likely to inspire customer trust. In a study of 700 stocks that traded between 1990 and 2004, researchers found that companies with simple names earned 11 percent more than those with difficult-to-pronounce names.
Several factors go into this:
- When looking at a name, simple names appear more truthful than complex names.
- Simpler names are easier to remember and require less effort to process, making them preferable.
- Simple names convey integrity and competence to consumers.
4. Think about the logo when considering a brand name.
Business owners usually think about the logo after selecting a brand name, but it’s good to keep designs in mind when brainstorming name ideas. Your brand name and logo will become synonymous, so they can’t be considered independent components.
Will you use a specific script or font to create a textual logo like Coca-Cola or Facebook, or will you go with an abstract logo like Apple or Target?
These decisions may not directly impact the logo, but they can be a deciding factor when choosing between two or more options.
Tip: While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to logo creation, good logos are usually simple, memorable, versatile, authentic and timeless.
5. Consider future growth when choosing a brand name.
While you may specialize in a particular product now, you don’t want to limit your company to selling only that product forever. The wrong brand name can seriously hamper your ability to scale in the years to come.
For example, let’s say your startup sells cat food. Using the brand name “Cat Food Incorporated” doesn’t give you much room to expand into, say, dog food in the future. However, if you went with the brand name “Healthy Pets Incorporated,” you have room to expand food and product lines.
This sort of thing happens all the time. For example, Boston Market used to be called Boston Chicken. Then it wanted to add other types of foods to the menu and had to embark on a rebranding exercise that cost the company more than $14 million. It’s best to get it right from the beginning.
6. Secure social media accounts with your brand name.
Just as it’s crucial to reserve a domain name with your brand name, you should scoop up other digital versions of your brand name. For example, you’ll want to build a social media presence for your brand name, so lock down Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
If your brand name isn’t available on platforms you want to use for social media marketing, you may even rethink the name. [Related guide: How to Be Successful at Social Media Marketing]
Tip: Use social media monitoring tools to track brand name mentions so you can respond to customers and see how the public perceives your brand.
7. Consider your company values when naming your brand.
When seeing your brand name, potential customers should get a sense of what your company is about. For example, IMPACT is the name of an award-winning marketing agency. Its goal is to create the maximum impact for its clients; the company reinforces this message by writing the name in all capital letters. Another example is Whole Foods, which implies natural, unprocessed food choices.
8. Prioritize uniqueness in your brand name.
The strongest brand names are distinctive. When someone hears your brand name, they should associate it only with your company’s products or services.
Steer away from descriptive words related to your product, such as “Yummy Yogurt” or “Durable Tires.” You can, however, combine words to create a descriptive brand name, such as “Yumgurt” or “DuraTire.”
Gather your team to brainstorm characteristics, values and emotions related to your brand offering. Then try the following:
- Combining words: Examples of word-combination brand names include PayPal and Snapchat.
- Changing the spelling: Examples of spelling changes in brand names include Chick-fil-A or Fiverr.
- Alliteration: Examples of brand names that use alliteration include Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme.
- Rhyming: Examples of brand names that use rhyming include GrubHub and Reese’s Pieces.
- Metaphors: Examples of brand names that use a metaphor include Nike and Quartz.
- A related word: Use a single word that is related but not directly descriptive, like Google or Amazon.
- An unrelated word: Use a single word that’s not related at all, like Square or Apple.
- Homophone: Use a homophone like “Sugar Bare Waxing Studio” or “Wild Hare Salon.”
- Founder’s name: Use the founder’s name, like Kellogg’s or Hilton. Naming your brand after yourself isn’t usually recommended because it can cost the business much more to establish a memorable brand. However, it’s still possible if you want to devote the time and money to build your brand under that name.
9. Ensure your brand name is memorable.
Your brand name must be memorable so consumers and potential customers can easily seek you out and recommend you to others. If you sell in a retail environment, a memorable name allows customers to find you amid a sea of competing products.
Some factors that go into a memorable brand name include the following:
- Meaning: Your brand name should conjure some kind of meaning in customers’ minds, whether it’s product-related or a characteristic your brand embodies.
- Emotion: Your brand name should have an emotional component. Many brands evoke a feeling. Some, like Disney, create this emotion through associations over time, but others have it baked into the brand name. For example, QuickBooks conveys ease of use. HomeGoods combines two words, each with a positive connotation. Sandals Resorts invokes a casual, laid-back atmosphere.
- Uniqueness: The name you choose should be very different from competitive products or companies. If it has similarities to an existing brand name, that brand should be in a totally different industry or make a product with a different target market, to avoid confusion.
Tip: If you’re having trouble brainstorming a memorable brand name, consider crowdsourcing with a contest where prospective customers get a chance to name your brand.
What is a brand name?
A brand is an intangible marketing concept used to identify a product, service, group of products or services, or the company as a whole. A brand name is what you choose to call the brand; it consists of both the spelling and the pronunciation.
The brand name is an integral part of a business’s brand identity and overall marketing plan. A brand identity may include a logo (which might incorporate the brand name or be a stand-alone graphic), slogan or tagline, color scheme, or an aesthetic.
Brand names often give prospective customers an idea of what the company or product does or a characteristic of the company or product. Here are some famous examples:
- Amazon is another word for a mythical race of tall warrior women, so it hints at the concept of “big.” Since it has the letters “a” and “z” in it, it also suggests having everything possible – an idea shown in its logo, which connects the “a” and “z” with an arrow-smile.
- Nike is the winged Greek goddess of victory, suggesting competitiveness, winning and speed. Its famous swoosh logo also reinforces the concepts of speed, movement and a wing.
Some companies, such as General Motors, have multiple product groups represented by brands under their umbrella, such as Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC, all marketed separately with different value propositions.
Launch your brand today
Branding is a critical component of launching a business. With more businesses being created every day, a distinct, memorable brand name can set your company apart from the competition. As you move through the brand-naming process, keep an open mind and don’t rush your decision. Rebranding is an expensive proposition, so get it right the first time.
Larry Alton contributed to the writing and research in this article.