You have a business idea that you’re itching to launch. You now 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 business name like that is rare. It fully says what it does, yet creates intrigue. Even if you are able to get hundreds of options through a brand name generator, you have no way of knowing if that name will work for your business.
In this blog, this is the conundrum I try to solve, simply because naming is not an arbitrary process. Quite the opposite, in fact. There exists a set procedure to naming your business— one that ensures the name isn’t only compelling, but also inspiring, relevant to your brand, conducive to your monetary success, and checks all the legal requirements.
A 3-Step Process for Finding a Business Name
As part of a company that has helped name over 35,000 projects, I bring you the following three-step process.
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 unique selling proposition (USP). It is the most crucial aspect of your brand. Here are some 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 just 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 a name as 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 brand 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 one.
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. According to our research, the following words are the most popular root words among our customers. You can incorporate some of these words into your brainstorming process.
It also matters whether the root word is in 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 different business names.
In 2021, we ran a survey and discovered that 25-34-year-olds strongly prefer new and innovative branding, while 45-65-year-olds leaned towards historical 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, you will soon taper this list down.
You will 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. 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 business name options.
Your criteria for evaluation can include the following:
- Whether the brand name fits 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 about five or six 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.
- Domain name: few businesses can flourish without a website. You will need a marketable domain name that matches your business name.
- Exact match: 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.
- Alternate extensions: 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)
- Addons: 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 look like this: shop(yourbusinessname).com, eat(yourbusinessname).com, and so on.
You may also look for alternate spellings (such as Lyft, Tumblr, and Flickr) for ease of availability and to add a touch of modernity to your brand name.
- Trademark check: this is another key aspect of validating your business name. A trademark probably exists for each word of 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 More Underrated Step to Naming Your Business
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. 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 is a unique name on its own. Yet, its founders spent invaluable time and thought in figuring out how they wanted it to be seen. 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 business 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 that is monumental to your brand’s identity. Brand imagination, on top of this, will set your name for the ultimate success!
Grant Polachek is the head of branding for Squadhelp.com, a 3X Inc. 5000 startup and disruptive naming agency. He has authored numerous articles and books on marketing and branding.