One of the most stressful parts of rebranding or creating a new business can be deciding on a name. No pressure, but it’s going to define everything you do for a really, really long time. So it has to be good!
I get a lot of questions about how to come up with a business name that is unique, clever, and resonates with a target audience. Brainstorming ideas and stretching yourself creatively is something that can be tough when you know you have so much riding on it. But if you're like many entrepreneurs out there who don't normally feel creative, relax! I have 6 questions to help you find your perfect brand name that will pack a punch.
1. What do I want my brand to communicate?
Make a list of as many adjectives as you can that you want your brand name to evoke. Maybe you’re a knife company that want to be considered precise and bold, so you choose a name with sharp diction. On the other hand, if you’re selling stuffed animals for infants, words that represent your brand may be “whimsical” and “fluffy”. In that case, you definitely wouldn’t want to choose a name with sharp diction; you’d want to pick something that will make people feel like they’re playing on a bunch of stuffing!
There's a local company here in Park City called Ritual Coffee. Besides their entire visual brand being absolutely beautiful, I love the way they used their name to evoke a particular feeling with their audience. According to dictionary.com the word 'ritual' means "a prescribed or established rite, ceremony, proceeding, or service." When you think about the concept of sitting down to have a cup of coffee, it is in fact, a ritual of sorts. It is a comforting, familiar practice that we participate in almost in a ceremonious manner (especially those of us who indulge in our daily cup o' joe, we know!). Ritual created a brand name that makes you feel invited to participate in the practice of sitting down to a nice warm and comforting cup of coffee.
If you want to mimic the way Ritual came up with their name, try to come up with a list of at least 20-30 adjectives that similarly describe the way you want your audience to perceive your brand. Maybe one of these words will end up working as a stand-alone name, or combined with another category/descriptor word at the end (i.e. design, nutrition, solutions, etc). Perhaps it could even work as part of a play on words like this second question in our list:
2. Should I include any symbolism or plays on words?
Oftentimes, people will include animals or numbers in their brand names. This is because it is an easy way to associate themselves with a certain vibe/feeling while also taking advantage of imagery. For example, if you’re the founder of a business that sells stuffed animals for infants, you'd want to think of elements that relate to your brand adjectives. Maybe words like 'whimsical' or 'fluffy' are ones you'd use when determining how people should think of your brand. Coming up with words that fit these adjectives can help play a part in creating a name. For example, something that's 'whimsical' and 'fluffy' could be a cloud, so you could potentially incorporate clouds into your name if it works!
Sometimes a play on words can be more like a combination of two words or concepts. For example, a recent client of mine came to me in need of help to decide on a good business name. Their business was going to be centered around alignment work and health, with customized plans for each individual. Since many of their clients were going to be coming to them in need of a specific solution for their alignment problems, I brainstormed some ideas around that particular concept. Through that brainstorming process, I came up with a few different words to describe the concept, including: prescription, solution, fix, remedy, recipe, etc.
From these words, I started thinking about how their solution really feels like a 'prescription' for a problem. Since the word 'prescription' was a little too long, and didn't flow as well as I wanted it to, I brainstormed variations and words that could portray this same concept. I came up with 'RX' since this is commonly associated with prescriptions. Knowing that I wanted to use the word 'align' in the name, I played around with variations until I came up with Align RX - which implies a perfect alignment prescription. This ended up being the winner!
Don't feel like you absolutely need to incorporate symbolism if it doesn't work perfectly for your situation. New businesses who choose this route can often find themselves confined to a specific symbol, which limits the growth or expansion potential. Which brings us to...
3. Is this something that can grow with me?
Remember that your business could potentially expand, contract, move, etc. In the case that any of this happens, you need to make sure that whatever your name is, it isn’t too specific to what you currently offer. Stay away from anything related to geography and be sure that if you choose to describe what kind of business you have in your name, that you’re more general. If you’re a graphic designer who wants to someday learn web design, for example, “Allison Wright Graphic Design” may not be the best option—maybe opt for “Allison Wright Design” instead because it encompasses the potential you have for growth.
Or go an entirely different route and name your business something that doesn't limit it to any one individual! If you know you want to grow your business beyond yourself and perhaps sell it one day, it might be a good idea to think about a name that isn't tied directly to you.
4. Is it easy to spell/say?
Think about those kids in school who had the really complicated first/last names—did you ever really know who they were? They probably had a lot of nicknames and when the substitute teachers called out their real names during roll call, you thought it was some new kid you didn’t know yet. This could happen to your business, IF anyone can even spell it close enough to find you on Google.
I'm currently working with Sarah Winkler, who is a very talented glass blower and custom glass designer. She came to me for help with a new logo and website design, but didn't have a name yet. She was contemplating 'Ceros Studios', which was a play on a rhinoceros (her favorite animal) and the pronunciation of her name (Sarah). When we tried saying the name out loud, there was confusion about what kind of emphasis to put on the different syllables. We also knew the spelling wasn't going to translate well. Instead, we came up with 'Cira Studio'. The word 'Cira' is a derivative of the word 'circle' in Latin, which relates to shape of the sun and also sounds like her name. We had a winner! Next, we had to figure out...
5. Has this name already been taken?
So you’ve come up with a great name and checked off all the boxes. You’re down for the count and in it to win it, but surprise! Your great name is actually so great that someone else has already come up with it… Bummer. To avoid this, use Namechk to make sure the domains and social media usernames are available. It’s also important to do a quick trademark search because while the legal stuff isn’t fun to deal with, it’s imperative for the future of your business.
6. Do people in my industry “get” it?
Warning: Asking close family or friends if they dig your new brand name will only give you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear. The people closest to you in life obviously want you to be happy, so when you come to them with a new business name idea, they’ll tell you they love it. Instead, reach out to the people in your industry, potential clients, anyone you may partner with, etc. They’re the ones who actually have to DEAL with your name and understand what you need, so they’ll probably have more valuable feedback.
BRAND NAME CHECKLIST
- The name sounds good to my target market.
- There is not already a similar brand or company that has a similar name.
- The name is not already a registered trademark.
Check the U.S. Trademark Database
- The brand name is available to register as a business in my state.
Check your secretary of state website, or your state's commerce division for current business entity registration.
- There is not any other brand or company with a similar name that has a bad reputation, pending lawsuit or products that you wouldn't want to be associated with.
- There is not already a related or unrelated brand/company with a similar name that dominates the first two pages or more of search results.
- My brand name is easy to say and can pass a 'radio test'.
It is best to have a name that is easy to spell when you hear it.
- My brand name is socially appropriate.
We don't want you to be offending anyone with the name, so it is important to make sure it doesn't mean anything negative in slang or another language.
- My brand name is available as a domain name. If not, there's a good alternative or a relevant word I can add on the end of it to make it my own.
I like to use GoDaddy.com or Google Domains to search available domain names.
- My brand name (or a good variation) is available on the social media platforms that I want.
Some to think about are: Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Periscope, etc. Use a service like Namechk.com to check multiple social media accounts at once.
If you’ve gone through this process and are now convinced you’ve found a forever name, wait a couple days if you can. Make sure the name still feels meaningful and resonates with you. You'll want to ensure that nothing else comes to mind and that you don’t decide that you actually end up hating your new name in a couple of months. So if you get through all that and you’re still convinced you’ve come up with the best brand name ever, congratulations! You’ve made it through the first step of creating your business's brand.
If you've gone through the checklist and brainstorming, and you're still not feeling like you have a winner, don't worry! I offer free help to choose your perfect brand name with every branding package. I'll work one-on-one with you to create some brainstorming brilliance. Together, we'll find the perfect name for your brand. For more information, send me an email and let's chat!