You have a business idea that you’re itching to launch. Now, you need a name for it. You scour the internet for thousands of options but nothing seems to click as well as say, Dollar Shave Club. A brand name like that is rare. It fully says what it does yet creates intrigue as a business name. Even if you are able to get hundreds of options through a name generator, you have no way to know if that name works for your business.
As the world’s largest naming platform, this is the conundrum we are trying to solve simply because naming is not an arbitrary process. Quite the opposite, in fact. There exists a set procedure for naming your business — one that ensures your name isn’t only compelling but also inspiring, relevant to your brand, conducive to your monetary success, and checks all the legal requirements.
As part of a company that has helped name over 35,000 projects, here is this 3-step process and one differentiating step that can massively up your name game:
1. Understand your brand
The simplest way to understand who you are as a brand is to nail down your value proposition. Some might call it the elevator pitch or the USP but it is the most crucial aspect of your brand. Here are some remarkable one-liner value propositions for guidance:
- Apple: Apple transforms how humans interact with technologies.
- Airbnb: Airbnb connects people around the world with unique homes and unforgettable experiences.
- Eventbrite: Eventbrite is a marketplace for events.
You get the drift. You should be able to explain your brand to anyone in the simplest way possible, ideally using as few words as you can. In my experience working with over 1,000 brands, I am surprised to see how few of them can do this. But when you have a clear idea of what your business does, you can convey that to your audience as clearly.
The next step to understanding your brand is its tone. This is the character and attitude of your brand. You can choose from these five most popular tones. Most businesses fit into one of these categories:
- Emotionally Powerful
Your tone should be shaped by how you want your brand to be seen and not by any fad or linear approach. Many naming agencies today recommend that you must have a mono-syllabled, spunky name. But that will not work for let’s say, a high-end brand. Berkshire Hathaway is as awesome as a name like Slack. But both brands’ tones and personalities are vastly different, and you must understand the same for your brand.
2. Brainstorm good and bad names
The next step in naming requires you to pull on your creative strings. Think of as many names as you can without judging or analyzing them. The only thing to keep in mind is that these names should match the brand proposition and personality you charted out in step 1.
Some ways to get you started are a thesaurus, rhyming words, industry slang, popular words, and so on. This process helps you put together your thoughts on paper and is even more comprehensive with a team.
You may consider that some root words (basic words to which other words are attached) get more traction than others. You can incorporate some of them into the brainstorming process.
At the top of the chart are Gen, Omni, Casa, Spot, and Door. It also matters whether the root word is at the beginning or end of the domain name. For example, domains that include “Health” in the end showed better results as compared to domains where “Health” was at the beginning of the domain.
Further, if others are assisting you, I recommend including people from various age groups as they may think differently about innovative or modern vs. historied or pre-eminent names.
In 2021, we ran a survey and discovered that 25 to 34-year-olds strongly prefer new and innovative branding while 45 to 65-year-olds leaned towards historied and trusted names. The 35-45 age group was split evenly between the two options. Hence, it’s helpful to have multiple age groups to ensure a balanced mix of options.
Remember, this process is open-ended and creative, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Even if you end up with 200 odd names at this point, we will soon taper this list down.
Shortlist the best names
We now evaluate names from the brainstorm with a critical lens. This is the time to closely assess how each option fits with your brand’s value proposition and tone from step 1. If a team is working with you, you must communicate your brand’s blueprint to them thoroughly using a naming brief. Working with a team is also helpful to bring in objectivity and unique perspectives — as an entrepreneur, it is easy to get attached to some of the name options.
Your criteria for evaluation can include — fit with the brand’s tone and value proposition, how it sounds, whether it stands out, whether it gets you excited, how it might look on social media, etc. Try to narrow your list down to 5-6 options by the end of this step.
The final step in the naming process is slightly more time-consuming but non-negotiable. You need to run your top brand name options through a series of tests to land that ultimate name for your business.
Few businesses can flourish without a website. You will need a domain name that matches your business name.
In an ideal scenario, your domain name would be an exact match like yourbusinessname.com (Example: Apple is at Apple.com), and it would be readily available. But that rarely ever happens.
If an exact match is not available for your domain name, you can check for alternate extensions such as .co or .io. (Example: Peppercontent.io)
You can also use industry add-ons behind or in front of a potential domain name when checking for available options. Examples of back-side add-ons are: (yourbusinessname)consulting.com, or (yourbusinessname)motors.com. Front-side add-ons may looks like this: Shop(yourbusinessname).com, Eat(yourbusinessname).com. Some general add-ons are Go(yourbusinessname.com), Get(yourbusinessname.com), and so on.
You may also look for alternate spellings (Lyft, Tumblr, Flickr) for ease of availability and to add a touch of modernity to your brand name. If this still seems impossible, you can check out our instantly available domain names.
- Trademark check: Another key aspect of your validation is a trademark check. A trademark probably exists for each word in the English dictionary. Seek legal help to get this step right. As excited as you might be to launch your business, ignoring a trademark check can lead to cease and desist letters in the future.
- Audience testing: Your product or service will most likely be used by strangers. Hence, you need to have their views incorporated even during the naming process. You can run your names by someone you met at a cafe, a bar, or elsewhere. If there are chances you might see this person again, try telling them the name during a conversation and check if they remember it the next day. At this stage, also test for alternate pronunciations, meanings in different languages, etc.
One underrated step to naming
With the validation checks, your naming process more or less ends. You should now have a name that energizes you and has the potential to inspire others and stay with them. There is, however, one more step that can help you stand out in today’s digital marketing ecosystem.
This step is brand imagination.
Your business name, on its own, is only a word on a piece of paper. What makes it magical is its ability to excite you and others. That’s brand imagination. If you can visualize the power of your brand and what you aim for it to achieve, everything you do henceforth in the branding process will be guided by this imagination.
Nike on its own is a unique name. Yet, its founders spent invaluable time and thought in figuring out how they want Nike perceived. Today, you may not know that Nike actually means the Greek goddess of victory. But, you definitely know it for its winning identity, drive, and superior quality. That’s the power of brand imagination.
So, as you get started on this thrilling naming journey for your business, remember that a name is only as good as the thought, understanding, and vision you’ve attached to it. Going through the process of figuring out your brand and its value proposition, brainstorming a ton of good and bad names with a diverse team, shortlisting in accordance with a naming brief, and validating a name for its domain, trademark, and audience response can ensure that you land an invigorating name monumental to your brand’s identity. Brand imagination, on top of this, will set your name for the ultimate success!