Think for a moment: what is the hardest part of branding?
There’s a good chance you said naming. Not just because you are reading this article, but also because finding the right name is genuinely tough. It’s been the single most challenging aspect of branding for many of my clients.
Why is naming a brand so hard?
Lots of people like to think they have an eye for good design. Even more believe they can write well. Naming is on a similar level. We’ve all done it one way or another: naming a toy, a pet or a child. It sounds easy on the surface. But finding a good name rarely is. Particularly, a good name that isn't already taken.
Names are very subjective. It’s better to have an objective list of requirements before embarking on the mission of finding one. You need to envisage the future too. How will the name influence your startup as it develops?
How do you find a name for your new business?
Do your research
I assume you have already figured out roughly what your business does. Make sure you do your research and understand your industry and market. It’s helpful to learn from competitors’ successes and mistakes. Try to establish which names resonate more with your target audiences.
You need an objective list of criteria that your name should meet. What works and doesn’t differs from business to business. We’ve put together the most common benchmarks for a strong name in the next section.
Generate lots of names
There is no shortcut. You’ll have to bring lots of ideas to the table. Keep in mind that at the end of the process, you need a unique name and an available domain address. At this point, generic, single-word names are really hard to come by. So try made-up names or mash-ups, two-word names, or different domain extensions (more on this below).
Assess the names
Once you have 30-40 name candidates (these don’t need to be perfect), check them against your criteria. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit. If you don’t have anything left, you’ll need to repeat step 3.
Test in context
Do you have at least 2-3 names still intact after the previous step? Try to write a few sentences with them. Drop them into some visual mock-ups too. Say them out loud. How do they sound if you answer an imaginary business call? How do they look?
Share your ideas with people whose opinions you trust. A good name should be self-explanatory. If they don’t get it without a lengthy description, you might need to try again.
Repeat until happy (or your deadline)
You might not immediately find the right name for your business. But equally you might never arrive at a name that everyone falls in love with. It’s difficult, but necessary to have a sense of when to stop.
Make sure you read my thoughts on ‘how to brand a startup’ if you haven’t got your brand identity figured out yet.
How do you spot a good name?
Here are some ideas for what your criteria could cover:
Your brand name should be relevant.
It should stand out but also feel right for your industry, your audience and your business.
Your brand name should match your identity.
A few people can come up with a strong name without working out a brand strategy first. You need at least a workable brand purpose and set of values to assess any name ideas against.
Your brand name should be easy to explain.
The name doesn’t work if it takes more than a sentence to explain it. Better, it should explain itself.
Your brand name should be short and easy to spell.
This is for practical reasons. You shouldn’t expect people to remember a complex name, or know how to spell something that’s not obvious. It’s best not to go over three syllables.
Your brand name should be future-proof.
Your business will change and your brand will probably need to evolve too. It’s best to pick a name that is broad enough. Don’t go for trendy names or spelling that might go out of fashion.
A distinct and focused brand identity will help you craft a unique name.
.com or no .com?
Having a good domain is definitely a criterion too. The .com extension has a sense of authority and credibility. It’s preferred, but this can be a barrier as they’re not easy to find. It could be argued that you don’t need a .com domain if your company only serves other businesses. You should be fine as long as you are certain you won’t shift to serving individuals (consumers) in future.
Don’t expect love at first sight
We often hear: “I’ll know it when I hear it”. In fact, this is rare. There are well-known brands today that started out with questionable names. Brands gain meaning over time. Remember, we always see names in context too. They can make more sense as part of a bigger picture than they do in isolation.
Excellent names inspire and become complete with design. Allow time for your brand name to live, breathe and absorb meaning.
Are you ready to develop your organisation's branding? Get in touch to find out how we can help you.