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Don’t Listen to Your Heart When Naming a Business

ByGrant Polachek,
business.com writer
| Last Modified
Jan 15, 2019
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> Marketing
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When you are coming up with a business name, it can be challenging to know how to pick the right name, especially if you are expecting love at first sight. You may have tons of ideas, and all of them fit, but none of them feel like “the one.”

So what do you do?

Sometimes, illusions must be cast aside. When it comes to naming a business, love-at-first-sight is not the most productive approach. In fact, going into the naming process with the expectation of falling in love with a name right away often leads to disappointment.

But if you can’t depend on your emotions, how do you know which name is the right name?

A big myth in naming your business is that you should feel an immediate emotional connection to your business name. This is simply missing the main benefit your brand name can offer to your future success. Instead, consider what a name actually should do – function as a tool that supports your business.

It is better to follow logical naming criteria to find a name that supports your brand than to worry about finding a name that makes your heart leap. Your name should function as a productive and powerful marketing and branding asset.

Setting up your naming criteria

Because emotions are subjective, it is better to choose your final business name based on how well it fits your naming criteria. That means you need to set up naming criteria before you begin brainstorming business name ideas.

General naming criteria

Make sure your business name meets the following standards:

Easy to say

A good business name makes referrals easy. Any obstacles in memorability may prevent your customers from passing your name along to other customers. A name that’s difficult to say will discourage people from sharing it. It will also make it more difficult to remember.

Tip: If your brand name can’t pass the crowded bar test, it might be a good idea to pick another name.

Easy to spell

A name with a confusing spelling makes it difficult for your audience to find your business online. If they are depending on memory when searching for your social media accounts or website, but they can’t spell your name, they may not find you. That means you risk losing out on sales with a name that’s difficult to spell.

Easy to remember

By picking a brand name that’s memorable, you ensure that customers can easily remember your name when looking you up, referring you to others and engaging in repeat business with you.

Captivating or evocative

A captivating, evocative name will attract people to your business. With the right level of appeal and intrigue, people will ask questions about your business just after they hear your name. That’s why it’s also important that your name captures the right values and tone.

Contextual

Does your business name make sense within your brand? If not, it may not make sense to your customers. Avoid picking a confusing name that does not have anything to do with your business, industry, values or audience. While using metaphors, symbols and intrigue in a name is a great technique, make sure your name makes sense.

Appealing

An embarrassing or cringey business name can set your success back. An unappealing name will hold people back from saying it, so be mindful of any hidden meanings, odd sounds or bad translations of your name.  

Unique

When naming a business, a unique name helps you avoid trademark conflict. Using a business name that is already taken will only invite messy legal battles.  

Avoid being vague

Is your business name a personal reference only you and your close friends understand? A business name should not have to be over-explained. That detracts from its power and memorability. Names that resonate with you might be too personal. Just because you like it, doesn’t mean it will help your business grow.

Your personal needs

Although the above criteria are helpful in naming your business, you also need to have parameters that are specific to your personal business needs. This is why a project statement is a helpful tool in setting up your naming criteria.

A project statement is made up of tone and secondary branding elements that are the basis of your brand.

Tone is the immediate impression your brand gives off. At SquadHelp, we think of tone in five styles: classic, modern, playful, practical and emotional. Having the right name for the right tone plays a huge role in brand perception.

You’ll also have to consider secondary branding elements that might be relevant to your name. Including a few of these ideas in your project statement will help you narrow your focus. Secondary branding elements include big ideas, values, stories, industry specifics and benefits and feelings. You want to understand the big picture focus of your branding when trying to settle on a name.

Once you put together your tone and secondary branding elements, you can produce your project statement, which contains your core concepts and summarizes your brand.

Here’s what that might look like for a brand that sells unique, vintage and upcycled clothing:

"We need a unique, intriguing name for a boutique that sells artistically-modified clothing and curated vintage finds. The name should speak to standing out, art, being yourself, radiating creativity and quality."

The project statement becomes something you can refer back to as you continue to settle on a business name.

Making the decision

As you continue to brainstorm and narrow your choices, consider what names fulfill the criteria you outlined prior to naming. It’s OK if you don’t absolutely love a name at first. In all likelihood, you will learn to love it and discover that it fits in more ways than you imagined.

Once you’ve narrowed your list to 5-6 names, you should consider audience testing to get unbiased feedback from your target audience. When we have helped people with audience testing in the past, they sometimes found that the name they loved performed very poorly with the target audience. This kind of imbalance should inform your final decision. 

In other cases, names you love might not be usable for trademark reasons. In these cases, it is always important to have some backup ideas before getting too emotionally attached to a name.

Overall, you need to view your business name as more than a name. Naming a business is not like naming a pet. The name must support your business objectives. You should view it as a tool to help you achieve your goals and pick based on what you think will best accomplish them.

When it comes down to it and you end up with a few strong names that you love, of course it is acceptable to go with your preference or gut feeling.  

At the end of the day, emotional attachment to a name is hard to pin down. You should love what the name does for you. You should be excited about how the name helps you launch your business, rather than how it resonates with your past or your preferences.

As long as you can envision your business name helping you succeed, you’ll be in a good place to launch the name.

Grant Polachek
Grant Polachek
See Grant Polachek's Profile
Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company Squadhelp.com, the worlds #1 naming platform, with nearly 20,000 customers from the smallest startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation. Get inspired by exploring these winning business name ideas.
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