Every business needs a brand name that’s ownable and memorable. A name that provides just enough information to convey what the company is about without being so obvious or boring it gets lost in the sea of predictability.
In this article, we’ll outline how to discover an unforgettable brand name that will help your business step up and stand out. Let’s get started!
Understanding Naming & Excercises
I normally begin with an educational component where the client and I discuss the importance of naming, various kinds of names, name formations, and review some of the competitors’ names so we can have a harmonious jumping-off point.
Various Kinds of Names
There are descriptive names like Hotel.com, Bank of America, and Corn Flakes that plainly express what the company provides. Then there are suggestive names like Febreze, Ripple, and Tropicana, which aim to give you a certain kind of feeling. Some names are fabricated or abstract. Think of companies like Oreo, Adidas, or Uber. These might leave you scratching your head, but don’t count this kind of name out. Many companies have had success with made-up names. It’s helpful to know these categories exist, so you can decide what kind of name is right for your business.
Name formations will help broaden your horizon. Some brands are lucky enough to snatch up names using real words that are familiar like Dove and Twitter. But, you can also get creative and construct words together to form something new. JetBlue, FitBit, and AppOnboard all take this approach. There are also founder names, acronyms, and even misspelled words that are used in brand naming.
Exercises are used to provide direction. You can describe what kind of company you’re naming and what you want and don’t want in a name. Should it resonate with a certain market, be easy to remember, or convey a specific cultural heritage? This is the time to put it in writing. You’ll also want to identify any words to avoid and pin down the desired character length of a name.
Another helpful exercise is to list questions your target customer might search to find your services. It’s critical to know what people are looking for. Lastly, before starting to jot down potential names, define the personality of your brand. Will it be friendly or authoritative, for the masses or niche, modern or classic? This can guide the flavor and attitude of the names you pursue.
Naming Sprints & Narrowing Down
Here comes the fun part you’ve been waiting for! It’s time to open your notebooks and start writing. For the best results, this part of the process should include both the client and designer working together as a team.
First, decide who will participate in the naming sprints and the duration of time before you review your ideas. A week is normally sufficient for the first sprint. You can decide on coming up with 50 names each or even 150 each if the group is feeling like a challenge. Don’t be picky or spend too much time trying to find the perfect name, just write down as many words or ideas as you can—good or bad. When you meet together again, each participant can select their top words or names from the lists. Then compare to see which names are resonating and discuss why.
Let’s Try It Again
Now, with more focus, you can have a second sprint where you begin to hone in on the names that were resonating in the first sprint, develop variations, think of new names with a similar feel, and even go back to the first list in case any good names slipped through the cracks. This sprint is more about refining and fine-tuning. When you come back together, your goal is to end up with a list of 5-10 names that are strong potentials.
But, Is It Available?
At this point you may have a number of great names, but are they available? There are a number of ways you can check the availability of a name. First, you can use the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System to look for similar companies that already use the name. This by itself may narrow down your options. Next, check for web addresses using a registry like Google Domains to find out if there is an available .com. You may also want to do a general internet search or use a database like LogoLounge to see if there are any companies already using the names. Gather all of your findings and write a summary for each name and the probability of its use.
Feedback & Decision Making
So far you may feel like you’ve been working in a vacuum. While it’s important for a select group to understand the project and develop names that have meaning, now’s the time to get feedback from others who are not as tuned in. What will their impressions be?
Another Set of Eyes
Select your top 5 names and create a form to send to a diverse group of people who can pick the options that speak to them and let you know why. Write a brief description of the company at the top of the form that provides just enough information without trying to “sell” one of the options. You might be surprised which one speaks to those who haven’t been involved up until this point.
Once your feedback comes in, review and organize the responses. What were the most and least chosen names? Do you see any recurring concepts or misunderstandings in the feedback? Are the ideas or characteristics of the names coming across? Sometimes there’s a clear winner and other times it’s a close tie. All of this information helps you get closer and closer to what might become your new company name.
It’s Decision Time!
Based on the above review, you can either dive into one last sprint or start making your final decision. In the end, the decision is always in the hands of the client. They might be ready to run with one of the names or may need some time to weigh all of the information along with their gut feeling. This is a big step! Allow some room in the project schedule so no one feels rushed.
Obtaining Links & Registration
Once you’ve decided on a name, scoop up website addresses, social media handles, and make sure your name starts its way through the trademarking process so you can rest assured the new name is yours.
Locking Down Web Addresses
By now you should be familiar with what’s available based on your prior searches. Purchase the addresses you’ll be using for your company websites through domain.com, GoDaddy, or your hosting web site.
Procuring Social Media Handles
It’s important your social media naming style is consistent. If your name isn’t available on all channels, consider adding a descriptor to the handles so they’re all the same. This will make it easier for people to find you and for you to display your handles in advertising—only needing to show it once instead of every variation you’ve procured.
Registering Your Name
Trademarking and registration can be complicated. You may want to consult a Trademark Attorney to assist you through this part of the process. The USPTO also does a good job of providing information on how to trademark your name. In any case, this is the next step you’ll take to ensure you’re legally protected. Once your name and logo pass through the trademarking process and get approved, you can add the coveted ® symbol.
A Proper Introduction
Hopefully, you’ve learned how to discover an unforgettable brand name. Developing an ownable name is not a knee-jerk decision, but can be a collaborative and thoughtful process. A name alone won’t save a company, but can help or detract from the perceived value of your business. An unforgettable name can give customers a proper introduction and help distinguish your company from the sea of other options.
If you’re starting a new business or considering renaming your company and would like to partner on the journey, let’s talk.