Naming a business can arguably be one of the most challenging aspects of branding/re-branding or launching a new company. A business name is what customers will see first, think about when they remember their interaction with the business, and talk to their friends and family about after the fact. A business name can be too broad or too confining. It can be too quirky or not memorable enough. Creating the perfect combination of something simple, yet memorable, and captures the true essence of your brand may feel like an impossible task.
To make this experience a little less daunting, we created a guide of 12 helpful questions to ask when naming a business.
A name can help separate you from competitors and reinforce a company’s image. It’s important to define your brand positioning before choosing a name. You also want to be careful to not box yourself in and avoid picking names that could limit your business from expanding product lines or moving to new locations. It needs to be something that will last the test of time.
Getting really clear on your value proposition and brand positioning is not only good for your marketing strategy, but can also uncover some common words or phrases used in your industry that will be helpful when naming your company.
To help, try asking how you might explain your business to a five-year-old in a way that would keep him or her interested. This is a fun activity to do in order to get your creative juices flowing, and to think outside of your everyday lingo. You are the closest person to your business, and many people that encounter your brand won’t understand the ins and outs of your industry like you do. Boiling down your business message to a five-year-old will uncover new language and help you get really clear on what it is you want to convey through your name.
Embrace emotion during your naming process. Talk to your team or close friends and family about how they feel about your business and compare their answers with how you want your customers to feel when hearing your brand name. Brand positioning should have backing behind it from employees especially since they’re the ones working to grow the company. Their input is valuable and their insight into elements that make up a good name might surprise you.
Think about your brand voice and write out a long list of character traits you would use to describe your brand. Gather a group together and work together to narrow it down to 5 key words that stand out. Use these words as inspiration for naming a business and use them as drivers for enhancing brand positioning.
Do you ever use analogies when describing your business to an outsider? Maybe you say that you are the “uber of healthcare.” Think about what comparisons you can make regarding how your business operates. This is another great exercise for brainstorming clever adaptations or phrases that might work for your business name. They often start as taglines or funny quips, but can be a great backing point for creating a name that supports the analogy.
Dig deep and do some reflection here. What inspired you to start this business? Is there a key experience or story you can draw inspiration from? What is your calling as a business owner? Be careful to not misconstrue this question to mean naming the business after yourself or your dog. This can sometimes miss the mark in capturing the owner’s passion and desire for success. Not to mention, just because your dog is important to you, doesn’t mean it’s important to the next guy down the street. Find clear and concise meaning that evokes interest. Make it so that your story or experience supports the name chosen and invites people in to learn more or join you alongside your journey.
What is the demographic of your audience? Do they respond well to trendy language? Or do they need something a little more straightforward? Take into consideration other brands your target audience engages with and how they chose their names. Knowing how your audience thinks, engages with, and buys from a business is vital to capturing their attention with a new business name that you are selecting.
This goes back to your value proposition. You should be able to describe the problem you are solving for your target audience in a sentence or two. It’s important to get really clear on this before jumping to naming your business. Make sure your team can define your audience’s needs and the ways in which your company is addressing those needs. Defining solutions is the most popular way in which companies select a business name. They start with their audience, ask what the problem is they’re trying to solve, identify solutions they have, and spread the word. Don’t let this question pass you by when it comes to naming a business.
Do you need your customers to know something about your business when they hear the name? Is there a key feature, key service, key phrase they should always associate with your brand? Knowing your audience and understanding how they consume information will help answer these questions.
This may seem like a given but some companies purposely select names that consumers can’t easily spell or pronounce. It’s a risky strategy and many would recommend against it. If the name looks like a typo or sounds like a mistake, take it off the list. It’s also important to spell the name exactly as it sounds, or you will forever have to battle spelling it out for people.
Are there any words that are essential to your brand that you need to include in the name? Conversely, are there any words that may be taboo in your industry that you should definitely stay away from? In most cases, you want to avoid any political statements, cuss words, ultra-aversive topical words, or phrases that are generally offensive. While you might feel passionately about a certain topic, the goal is to draw in your audience, not push them away. As far as avoiding industry taboos, an example might be avoiding the word “death” in a company name who’s services are tied specifically to healthcare – an industry bent on giving life!
Do your research and understand the market of companies that already exists, especially in your industry. A great name is worthless if someone else has already laid claim to it. Start with free resources like Trademarkia or USPTO to run a cursory search the see if the name is already in use. Stray away from duplicate names or names that sound too similar. Consider also talking with a lawyer once you’ve chosen a few name options to figure out if you need to trademark your name.
Naming a business can be a challenge, but we encourage you to embrace the process and invite others in as you work to serve your consumers and meet their needs on a daily basis. Start with these questions above as exercises and see where it gets you.
Where are you in the process of naming your business? Having trouble focusing on your brand positioning? We’d love to hear your questions, stories, and ideas for those who are just getting started. As always, we’d love to chat more over coffee or a beer.