11 Steps to Find a Killer Brand Name for Your Startup
“Why do you need a right Brand Naming Process?” you may ask.
Brand naming is the first and foremost step in your entrepreneurial journey.
So, not having a brand naming process is the biggest mistake you can make.
‘Why so?’ you quip again.
Let me quote.
‘What’s in name?’ said William Shakespeare once!
I would say – ‘EVERYTHING’.
After all, it’s your name that everyone first get to know about you.
When it comes to naming your brand, it becomes much more critical – especially in today’s digital era.
Just imagine what would ‘Apple’ be without its name?
The name itself reflects its core philosophy – ‘Think Differently.’
Without doubt, an apt and unique brand name sets the tone for the brand.
A right brand name does more than just influencing buyers, it becomes a staple to your company’s entire brand image.
When done right, a brand name can be your foremost essential differentiator of your brand.
You use this name to pitch your clients and people are going to recall you with this name.
A great brand name will evoke meaning and trust.
Your brand name should help customers understand your products or services.
But how to come up with a perfect brand name for your business?
However, finding the perfect brand name is easier said than done.
Did you know there is a science behind the importance of brand names?
That’s why having a right brand naming process for your brand is so important.
A proper brand naming process will ensure that you stay on the right path and follow all Dos and Don’ts.
Let’s dive in and understand more about the brand naming process, DOs and DON’Ts, key things to remember.
The more you know, the better are your chances of coming up with a strong brand name that fits!
I’m sure after reading this article, you will be better equipped to find the perfect brand name for your startup.
Cutting the long story short, here is my list of top 11 steps to find the perfect name for your brand.
1. First Define a Brand Naming Approach
Before brainstorming the brand name ideas, think about a definite approach to find out your name. There can be different approaches.
Let’s have a look:
A Blank Canvas:
This approach works well for a brand name like ‘Apple’ which doesn’t describe anything about what the company exactly does.
It remains abstract.
Though it requires you to pour in more money into advertisement since you have to convey the meaning of the brand name with a lot of promotion.
Usually big brands go for such an approach.
Saying As It Is:
For a brand like Burger King that indicates exactly what the business does.
More brands like Pizza Hut, have also followed the same approach.
You can also consider this if you are attracting audience that is searching generic terms on google.
Inventing Your Own:
This approach speaks about coming up with a word of your own.
For example, ‘Skype’ which as a word didn’t have a meaning came from sky peer-to-peer to ‘Skyper’ to ‘Skype’ after eventually dropping of ‘r’.
Other brand example that followed this approach is Vodafone which came from voice, data and telefone.
No matter what approach you go for, make sure the name that you choose is catchy and memorable.
And yes, avoid going for names that contains no intrinsic or linguistic meaning since you have to rely heavily on advertising to convey its meaning.
2. Set The Brand Naming Process Criteria / Guidelines
Make a set of criteria or brand guidelines while choosing the brand name options.
Define what does your brand will represent and how it will convey your business essence.
This criteria can be custom as per your unique requirement.
- Simple to say, easy to remember
- Ideal length of the brand name
- Ideal simplicity or lack of complexity of the brand name
- Potential Abbreviation of the brand name
- Possible translation in popular languages of the brand name
- The name with a rhythm to it
- Possible spelling variation of the brand name
- Domain name availability of the brand name
- Social Media name availability of the brand name
- Similar existing brand names and chances of clash
And few more as per your unique needs.
3. Look for a positive connotation for Your Brand Name
You must have discovered till now that naming your brand is pretty difficult process.
If we dig deeper, a name can give away two types of vibes:
Denotation and Connotation.
Many words have both, but some words just have a literal meaning to it i.e. denotation and no emotional appeal to it i.e connotation.
To make sure you are either on the positive or neutral side, here are few things you can look out for:
Easy | Simple | Supportive | Empowering | Transparent | Friendly
While naming your brand, see if your brand name is a blend of these.
For example, Dove, if we see why it stands out in the crowd is because of the meaning that it conveys — softness, peace and tranquility.
The key here is to have a name your audience can relate to, a name that your target audience can associate with.
Pro tip: Take “reliability” as a factor while measuring your shortlisted names on a scale!
4. Use KISS – Keep It Short and Simple – For Naming Your Startup
Think how it would feel if you had to say
‘Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle’ instead of Yahoo.
‘Bayerische Motoren Werke’ for BMW.
‘Yahoo’ and ‘BMW’ sounds much better, doesn’t it?
The KISS principle states that most brand names work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in choosing a brand name unnecessary complexity and length should be avoided.
Go for a short word keeping in mind it’s descriptive enough to tell your customers about what industry you’re into.
Quoting Neil Patel on brand ‘NomNom’, the brand name suggests food and would likely be inappropriate for a financial services company.
Go for names that are-
Suggestive (Starbucks) – telling customers something about the product.
Evocative (Nike named after a Greek God of Victory) – names which evokes imagery or stimulates the imagination.
Lexical (Pentium) – selecting brand names after company or product.
Though, there is no ‘hard and fast’ rule for having an acronym for your brand. If it doesn’t go well, then don’t force it.
Don’t use long confusing names (Marufku.com).
Avoid going the “generic” way.
Now this is not particularly a thing to avoid. But isn’t it a big put off when brands get a little too generic.
- Naming your brand after a city or a country name.
- Similarly, don’t name it after yourself as it only shows the brand as an individual unit and you will be selling the name, not the brand. Unless you are already a famous name in the industry (say, Ralph Lauren)
You will never want your trademark to become too generic after seeing this one.
Pro Tip: Try to be as unique and catchy as possible.
5. Check International Translation of your Brand Name
Always check what your brand name means in international languages.
You surely don’t want to upset your audience if your brand name sounds or means something obscene in their language.
Some examples to explain this better are:
- When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in Latin America with poor outcomes they were not amused to find that ‘no va’ in Spanish means “It doesn’t go.”
- After Toyota introduced the Fiera in Puerto Rica they discovered that Fiera translates to “Ugly old woman.”
- Mercedes-Benz entered the Chinese market under the brand name “Bensi,” which means “rush to die.”
These are some epic fails of brand names went wrong.
Choosing a word that has a positive meaning to it would obviously help you connect and attract more customers towards your brand.
Pro Tip: Be sure of the geographies you are going to work with and then check the local language translation meaning.
6. Don’t Ignore Mobile While Choosing Your Brand Name
We can’t escape mobile even when choosing our brand name.
If you’re in a business category where a mobile app going to be used by your end customers then you should visualize how would your brand name look as an icon on mobile app.
In such cases, many of your customers may see that mobile app logo icon as the main name of your brand.
So choose a name that can be tweaked for mobile app
Pro Tip: Avoid using an acronym for mobile app brand name icon as it won’t tell much about your industry or products/services.
7. Be Patient with Iterations During Your Brand Naming Process
Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither will be your brand name.
Getting a right name for your brand can be tedious process.
So don’t rush to finalize it quickly.
Take your time.
Or should I say you got to keep the iterations coming.
Make a team of people who understand your vision for naming the brand.
Create a shared / collaborative document using Basecamp or Google Drive where your team members can write every tine bit of brand name thoughts come to their mind.
Make a list of names with their synonyms, acronyms and analogies.
Try to find and write down various words’ combinations.
And remember, it’s all going to happen in iterations.
It might take from a few days to few weeks to or even six months before you actually settle for an apt name.
But don’t be worried because the name you choose, or don’t choose, speaks volumes about your business savvy and understanding of the world you are about to enter.
8. Give Your Brand Name a Visual Identity
Once you’ve chosen the brand name, you should consider adding a visual identity to it.
It’s an art to design a perfect logo.
It may be an icon, or playing with your name letters in typographic style.
You can put your brand name in TITLE CASE or LOWER CASE.
You can combine two words into one, give a Curl to the first or the last letter of the brand name.
A great example is Coca-Cola’s ‘red-script’ type and Double-shadowed ‘P’ of PayPal.
Visual brand language is the unique “alphabet” of design elements – such as shape, color, materials, finish, typography and composition – which directly and subliminally communicate a company’s values and personality through compelling imagery and design style.
Visible elements of a brand, such as color, form, and shape, which encapsulate and convey the symbolic meanings that cannot be imparted through words alone.
9. Keep Your Brand Name SEO friendly
Not important for all but if possible, this can be of great advantage to you.
Having a name that is just simple a word or can be referred to two-three things at a time won’t do any good for you SEO-wise.
Whatever name you choose is going to represent you on the internet and your pitch that you will sell to your customers.
There are already so many examples of brands changing their name for it not being search engine friendly.
With SEO changing how you would show up online, you have to keep a check on your brand name beforehand so you won’t have to worry about rebranding later.
Rand fishkin’s had to bid adieu to SEOmoz and change it to Moz since it was no longer the only purely seosoftware based brand.
Choosing a SEO-friendly domain name is much easier than you think, all you need to do is keep it simple and focus on branding.
Here is an detailed article explaining how to make the most out of SEO for a domain name.
Pro tip: Avoid using “k” in place of “Q” or “Ph” in place of “F” because this is just going to locating you on the search engine – – much harder!
10. Check Brand Name Availability
Brand name availability is the most important step of your brand naming process.
Always always run down a domain availability search with your shortlisted names.
You can easily check if the URL for a name you have in mind is free with Shopify’s business name generator.
It gives you as well a handful of options, variations and suggestions based on the keyword you entered.
You can use sites like TESS for trademark search if you are coining a word for your brand name.
Pro Tip: Use ‘go’ or ’get’ in the domain if the name you came up with already exists. For example, ‘Godaddy’.
11. Try The Helvetica Test
Another vital aspect of your brand naming process – Font Test.
Before your brand name is finalized, let it take the ‘Helvetica’ Test.
This test will let you see how it will look in the print in capital letters in Helvetica Light or Helvetica Neue Bold.
The goal is to look for the font balance, visibility and readability of the brand name.
You can choose another font like Standard Sans Serif font for comparison purpose.
Then, print each name on a piece of paper in big font size with high visibility.
Take this paper to the selected people and take feedback on name’s readability and look & feel.
Then, after few days, go and ask the same people which name do thy can recall.
Find out which name(s) stand out from their memories and how easy it was for them to recall certain name(s).
Take as many people you want for the survey but make sure you do a quick try and test before you finally come with your brand name choice.
Another thing that can add value to this step is to see how it will look in the subject line of an email.
You can anytime turn to experts, to name a few Lexicon, Igor and A Hundred Monkeys, for help while naming your brand.
You can run a social media campaign and let your audience itself name your brand.
An alternate way is to try running ads for A/B testing if you are stuck on two-three names.
Bonus Tip: Your brand must be visually distinctive to stand out from the crowd.
I hope now you’re clear on why you need a right brand naming process.
I’ve shared key steps on how to leverage the perfect brand naming process to find a suitable name for your startup.
Wait for my next post where I’ll give you my personal experience/insights on what to consider while designing your logo – another important part of your brand strategy!
Point is, finalizing on a name can take just a moment or several weeks or months of brainstorming but don’t let the process stop you from moving on with your other tasks.
Just start with a small step! Create your own brand naming process or use the one explained in this article.
Don’t forget to share what has been your experience.
How did you come up with your brand name?
Was it a long, grueling brand naming process or a eureka moment?
Let me know in the comments section below or tweet me @iamnitinmalik.