How to choose a brand name
If you’re a business owner, branding professional, or anyone else who has ever been tasked with choosing a business name… I know you’ll agree with the statement, choosing a brand name isn’t easy!
What with trying to find something everyone in the decision-making process agrees on, that is short but descriptive, unique but relatable, and rolls off the tongue but is easy to spell… not to mention available as a domain name and not trademarked!
Unfortunately, on one hand, this struggle can often cause major delays at the first hurdle and stunt the progression of a lot of start-up brands or businesses. Fortunately, on the other hand, this can actually promote creativity, and lateral thinking, and can be a really valuable process in discovering what is at the heart of your brand.
The following tips – 10 Creative Ways to Choose a Brand Name – have been specifically selected to help you leap the often-challenging first hurdle:
1) Don’t Die by Domain Availability
Sure, choosing a domain name is critically important for any business… but the fact of the matter is that MOST domain names these days are unavailable (unless you want to spend a lot of money). In fact, a study by WhoAPI discovered that every single four-letter domain name combination between AAAA.com and ZZZZ.com is now taken!
If you cannot find a domain name to identically match your brand name, it is not the end of the world, so don’t be dictated by the availability of a .com domain. More and more businesses are using shortened or simplified versions of their business name as their domain.
Joel Gascoigne, co-founder of Buffer, doesn’t think it’s that important when starting out, stating: “Having a matching domain name seems to have no bearing at all on whether you will succeed with your startup”. In this article, he goes on to cite some massive brands that didn’t own their exact domain name to start with (including Twitter and Dropbox).
2) Believe in the Basics
A little bit of a boring (but important) one to get out of the way early – the 101’s of choosing a brand name or well known for a reason… they work! This includes concepts such as:
- Keeping in short
- Make sure it is easy to spell/say
- Using alliteration
- Creating something catchy and memorable
- Avoiding long-windedness
- Explaining the feel of your brand in a few words
3) Think About Word of Mouth
Think about a social situation where your brand name could be shared via word of mouth. For example, you’re at a party/pub/social gathering of some sort, and a friend of a friend asks you “What do you do?” Now, in one short sentence that includes your brand name can you explain your business successfully to them?
If that person comes back with a bunch of questions like, “so what exactly do you do…” or “how do you spell that…” or just nods and smiles awkwardly before disappearing into the bushes, you probably haven’t nailed your brand name!
4) Ask your friends Siri, Alexa, Cortona, or Google
No joking, the popularity of voice search is on the rise, and any new business would be wise to consider its impact when going through the process of choosing a brand name. If our artificially intelligent friends can’t make sense of the spelling/sound of your brand name, it may mean the rest of the human population will struggle with it also!
5) Get Mind-Mapping
Is easy to get bogged down in focusing on a business name that literally describes your brand. Sometimes it can be helpful to use a mind-mapping technique to jot down descriptions of feelings, emotions, techniques, tools, or experiences that directly relate to your brand… and then uncover simple words that sum it all up.
Dusting off the thesaurus during this exercise can also be super valuable!
6) Learn a Foreign Language
Ok, so you don’t have to learn a whole new language… but looking into translations in foreign languages can be a really useful tactic when choosing a brand name.
Certain languages have natural connotations to certain emotions or feelings, which can be used to your benefit in encapsulating the feel of your brand in a few words. For example, French is quite often used to create a romantic or passionate vibe… and similarly, Latin is often used to set a scientific, definitive tone.
7) Make up a Word
If you can’t find the right words in English or any other language… make one up! We aren’t encouraging you to go crazy on the gibberish, but made-up words can be effective (as evident with Google – which is now included in the dictionary!). We can’t all be as popular as Google, but there are a lot of other ways to create made-up words that promote the general feeling or vibe of your brand.
One example tactic is the addition of a seemingly nonsensical but free-flowing suffix at the end of a more common word… as seen in words such as Spotify and Freakonomics. Another really popular tactic is joining two words together to create a new word that may soon become a household classic, such as YouTube, Facebook, SnapChat, or Instagram.
8) Play Scrabble
There’s definitely food for thought in the values of certain letters in the game Scrabble. The least common letters in the English language have the highest value, and can thus often be considered the most memorable letters to incorporate into your brand name.
The Founder of Expedia, Richard Barton once stated that: “My wife and I love to play Scrabble (a great brand name, by the way). The highest point letters (least often used in English) are Z, Q, X, J, and K. These are memorable letters for people because they are so seldom used. Use them in your brands.”
On that note, Christopher Johnson (an industry expert on branding from The Name Inspector) wrote a very interesting article on the effectiveness of the letter Z in branding, citing huge popular brands such as Zomato.
9) Test Test Test Test
All the best ideas are tested to exhaustion. Test it on your family. Test it on your friends. Test it on strangers. Perform deliberate user testing experiences by creating two landing pages and direct potential customers to each to see which yields higher results.
Before you dive the deep in, talk to the people around you. Gather their valuable insights into how they feel and respond and react to certain words or phrases or sounds… this is all invaluable, and should never be taken for granted!
10) Don’t be a Perfectionist
The perfect name doesn’t exist. You are never going to find a name that one demographic dislikes slightly more than another. You simply cannot tick all the boxes within a few syllables.
To borrow some wise words from the professional naming agency Catchwords:
“It’s okay to want a name that’s short, easy to pronounce, original, totally cool-sounding, relevant in meaning, with few negative associations—and that’s available as a domain name. (Most of us would like to win the lottery, too.)”
If you’re still having trouble thinking of the “perfect” (or not so perfect) brand name, check out our specially designed Business Name Generator. This helpful tool generates hundreds of brand name ideas from a single search, and importantly provides additional information on domain availability!
We hope that you found this helpful. Good luck!