One of the most important brand assets—that doesn’t often get enough attention—is the brand name. It’s the one thing about your brand that will be most prominent in your customer’s minds.
I know that you have a lot on your plate as a business owner. No wonder why you don’t have the time and resources to go through a lengthy naming process. The bad news is that a poor name can be costly down the road while a good name can accelerate your brand-building process.
This is why the brand name should be strong from the start. After a name has been implemented, changing it is cumbersome and costly. For this reason, it can be worthwhile to hire an expert to guide you through the naming process. Of course, there are ways to successfully name the company yourself. To create a strong brand name, this is what you should consider:
What characteristics make a great brand name?
There are seven characteristics you should keep in mind when creating your brand name.
1. It’s different
A good brand name is unique. It should differ from other names, especially from your closest competitors. This is important for standing out in a saturated market.
2. It’s appropriate and emotive
An appropriate name is tailored to the industry and personality of the brand. Ideally, the name also evokes emotions. Avoid a name that is too descriptive. This could sound generic, confuse your customers and hinder the growth of the brand. Happy socks, for example, limit themselves to the production of socks. What if people don’t need socks anymore or the company wants to expand into a broader market?
3. It’s available
A good brand name is easy to trademark. You should also check the availability of URLs and social handles before you decide on a name. Those can be especially challenging to secure in today’s time.
4. It’s short
A good brand name shouldn’t have more than four syllables. Otherwise, customers might forget it, or get lazy and invent—possibly damaging—abbreviations.
5. It’s easy to spell and pronounce
This suggests that customers will be more likely to share the name. It also reduces the risk of false communication.
6. It’s easy to visualise
Marketing Expert David Ogilvy also talks about an idea that that has legs. This means that the name can be easily translated to logo design, communication campaigns, etc. A good example of a legged name is Twitter. Although it’s fictional, Twitter couldn’t have used another symbol than a bird. And who doesn’t know what a tweet is?
7. It works in different languages
In today’s connected world, most brands reach an international audience. It’s more important than ever that your brand name works across the globe. Research the meaning of the name in different languages to avoid surprises. For example, Mercedes-Benz did not research thoroughly when they entered the Chinese market under the name Bensi, meaning rush to die.
Six types of brand names
Before you can create your own brand name, it’s good to know what the options are. I classified existing brand names into seven types: Founder, Descriptive, Metaphor, Arbitrary, Altered, Acronyms and Invented.
1. Founder’s name
The name of the company’s founder, often their last name, is used as a brand name, such as Ford or Zeiss. Founder’s names are usually unique and easy to trademark. On the flip side, any press that follows the person also follows the brand. A famous example is Lance Armstrong. Founder names can also be perceived as old-fashioned and are often not very emotional.
2. Descriptive name
Descriptive names explicitly indicate what the company is doing, e.g. Facebook or Kickstarter. Descriptive names convey the purpose of a brand well, so the marketing budget for customer education can be reduced. However, URLs and social media handles may not be available. With a descriptive name, you risk sounding generic and unemotional.
3. Metaphoric name
Metaphoric names describe the feeling of a brand by referring to something else, such as the name Puma. Metaphoric names can be creative, unique, and refreshing but they can also be misleading and difficult to search for.
4. Arbitrary name
Arbitrary names are words that have no obvious brand connection, such as Apple or Nike. Like metaphorical names, arbitrary names can sound creative, unique and refreshing. However, it is a challenge to educate customers about an arbitrary name to remove associations with the original word. They can also be misleading and difficult to search for.
5. Altered name
Altered names are fictional words based off real words, such as Spotify. Altered names are easier to trademark and can reflect the brand spirit well. Watch out that customers could misspell the name, making it difficult to search for it.
6. Invented name
Invented names are words that are completely made up, such as Kodak. Invented names can result in very strong names that can end up standing for an entire category like Kleenex. They are the easiest to trademark but they can initially confuse the customers so that an additional marketing budget for education is needed.
How to create your own brand name
Before establishing a brand name for your company, you should define a strategic direction for your brand. What makes your company unique? What personality does your brand have? The brand strategy serves as the foundation for all brand decisions and ensures that the overall image of the brand is implemented consistently. With the strategy in place, you can start the naming process:
- Brainstorm names for each of the above categories. Don’t try to limit yourself or think too much about it. Just write everything down that comes to mind.
- Narrow the list down until you have 5-10 items left.
- Perform a quick search to see which of the names are available as URLs and on social media. If you really like a name that is being used, you can be inventive with this (try other domains or weare[brand name].com)
- Ask a few people about their opinion. But be cautious about the interpretation of their feedback, a new brand name has yet to grow its meaning. When Phil Knight decided for the name Nike he initially said: “ I don’t love it but maybe it will grow on me.”.
- If you’re not convinced, go back to the brainstorming phase. You can also try to combine the existing words to form new ones.
- Don’t forget to research the names in various languages.
- Once you’re happy with a name (or two) you can get in touch with a Trademark Attorney who will investigate if the name can be protected.
You made it. With your new company name in place, you can now start to think about your visual identity design to bring the brand to life. If you have questions, feel free to contact me. I’m always eager to help.