Did you know that Nike translates to “the Greek goddess of victory”? Even with the company name’s meaning unbeknownst to most, it has managed to be one of the most legendary brands of all time. That’s because its founders were able to understand and visualize the brand. That is one of the most underrated steps when it comes to naming your business.
As part of a platform that has successfully done this over 35,000 times, I can tell you that naming a brand is a 3-step process. When done well, this method can help you easily find a business name that is marketable, catchy, and integral to your company’s monetary success. Here we go:
- Understand your brand:
Your name should succinctly capture who you are and the essence of your brand. To do so, you need to understand your brand in and out. The simplest way to start this is by breaking down what you do. You may call this the elevator pitch, value proposition or the USP but the point is to gain clarity about your brand’s identity. You can also look at Sequoia Capital’s website for guidance.
A great example of a simple value proposition is:
Apple transforms how humans interact with technologies.
Choose your brand’s tone
Once you have the USP, you can begin to finalize your brand’s tone. This encapsulates its personality and voice. A useful way to think about this is how your brand would be if it were a person. The five most commonly used brand tones are:
- Emotionally Powerful
- Playful and Fun
When you decide one of these, the rest of your branding elements will follow suit. You should avoid having a mismatch between the tone and say, the name, logo, tagline etc. If you’re going for a playful brand tone, for example, you want to stick to the same line of thinking for your name. An example is Slack. It’s modern but also playful because their USP is indeed the opposite of slacking. Their website, app, design, etc. are also in tandem with their tone.
While this introspection will take the majority of the naming process time, it’s worth the effort.
- Brainstorm a large range of names:
The next step is fun and creative. You can start brainstorming a ton of names for your brand. You don’t need to analyze the names at this stage. It’s simply focused on thinking out loud. You can use the branding activity from step 1 to guide the brainstorm but don’t be afraid to think innovatively. Quirky, bold, good, bad names are all fair game in this step.
You can also use Squadhelp’s unique name generator to come up with business name ideas. Other tools include using a thesaurus, industry slang, rhyming words, abstract words and so on. You can brainstorm any number of names you like but I recommend at least 100-200.
Once you’re done, it’s time to condense this list. Now you can begin evaluating each name against the USP and brand tone planned out in step 1. When you match each name against those criteria, you will be able to rule out many names while keeping the best, most compelling ones.
For example, if the tone you’re going for is emotional, you can eliminate the playful or pragmatic names. This will help you envision your brand and its goals more clearly.
- Test your final name choices
Any naming process is incomplete without testing it for logistics and feedback. Here are three major checks it must pass before you lock the name in:
- Domain names: A domain name is almost as essential as a business name. In today’s digital landscape, you will need a website sooner or later. The perfect domain name will look like yourbusinessname.com but is very expensive to get. You can instead try unique combinations such as with a .co url or different spellings like Lyft, Tumblr, etc.
- Trademark: A name will only be useful to you if it doesn’t have an existing trademark. You can rope in a legal consultant to help you with this step. Skipping this essential check can lead to cease and desist letters in the future.
- Audience response: This is an extremely vital part of the naming process. At this stage, you can run your name by as many friends, acquaintances, family members, strangers as possible. Many strangers will spot your business online so it can be useful to get feedback from them. As an entrepreneur you will be attached and biased towards your name but others can share objective feedback, which can help you finalize your decision.
One optional but highly recommended step …
With the above three steps, you are already well on your way to landing the perfect business name. Yet, if you want to stand out, there’s one more step to sealing the ideal brand name. It’s called brand imagination.
Without a vision for how you want your brand to be seen by others, any name is simply a piece of paper. Iconic brands like Apple and Nike flourish because they had imagined their brand in a certain way. Everything they did was guided by this vivid imagination be it the font, tagline, marketing campaigns or their products.
Brand imagination allows you to feel excited about your brand and in turn, pass on this thrill to your customers. Underwhelmed brands have rarely created history. So, I strongly suggest that you have a solid vision and imagination for your brand.
A business name is its identity. In a world of millions of businesses today, you must find a way for this identity to make a mark. To find the perfect business name, which is financially and creatively compelling, begin by a deep analysis of your brand and its personality. Then, move on to brainstorming a range of names of all types. Shortlist them for their match against the brand proposition and tone. Finally, run each top name choice by a domain availability, trademark and audience feedback check. And if you can, use brand imagination to pave the way for your brand’s future.
Grant Polachek is the head of branding for Squadhelp.com, 3X Inc 5000 startup and disruptive naming agency. Squadhelp has reviewed more than 1 million names and curated a collection of the best available names on the web today. We are also the world’s leading crowdsource naming platform, supporting clients such as Nestle, Dell, Nuskin, and AutoNation.