Naming a brand is both an art and a science. It requires creativity and imagination as much as it requires insight and understanding of the human brain. A name elicits a reaction – and everyone reacts differently.
But even though you only get one shot at that first impression, it won’t be until your business has found a loyal audience that your name will truly make its mark. The most iconic brand names only became iconic after people began to associate them with an incredible product or service. Monzo, Spotify, Nike… on their own, these names might seem too abstract, too niche or simply nonsensical – but paired with a cracking customer experience, they thrive. So don’t think of your name as the be all and end all – once you’ve settled on something you’re happy with, the real work begins: delighting your customers.
Before brainstorming possible names, it’s important to put into words what your business does. So, start by defining your vision, mission, purpose and values. These things are best settled as a team, so get your brightest brains in a room together and try to answer the following questions:
- Your Purpose: Why do you exist?
- Your Vision: What future do you want to create?
- Your Mission: How do you create that future?
- Your Values: What principles guide your behaviour?
Once you know who you are and what you’re all about, you can have some fun generating possible names for your business. Here are a couple ways to get those creative juices flowing.
#1 Start simple: Describe what you do
You’ve found your vision, your mission, your purpose. But what do you actually do day-to-day? What do you make that people should care about? What do you have that others don’t? Sometimes, a descriptive brand name can do a big chunk of heavy lifting for you. A business that does what it says on the tin can save money on marketing because you don’t have to waste time and resources explaining what your company does.
Think of The Body Shop, Hotels.com, Poundland or Paypal. These businesses aren’t hiding behind eloquent synonyms or abstract nouns – they’re simple, clear and straight to the point. Customers know exactly what product or service is offered as each name clearly communicates the companies’ core competencies.
#2 Play the adjectives game
If putting your product or service in your name feels a bit too literal for you, why not venture into the more abstract by listing adjectives that describe your product or service? How would customers tell others about your brand? A mobile dog grooming service might be described as convenient, accessible or personal. Can those adjectives be turned into an interesting brand name? A thesaurus is a great tool here – check what other words might be used to explain the adjectives you associate with your brand. Synonyms are friends, not foes. You can even take things a step further by looking up certain words in other languages! Pret A Manger, Jägermeister, Berghaus…
#3 Get out your colouring pens
Sometimes our brains can come up with fantastic concepts and ideas before we’ve even got the words for them. Spend some time tapping into your subconscious through doodling. Dedicate 10 – 15 minutes to thinking of your business and putting pen to paper – but only allow yourself to draw. No words, no sentences, just associative pictures. You might be surprised by what comes up!
#4 Chop it up and glue it back together
Is your business run by some key figures? Do they have distinct name? Are you especially renowned in a certain city or region? Sometimes, the combination of initials or city codes can create an interesting outcome. Adidas is just a portmanteau of its founder’s name Adolf Dassler. Tesco comes from the initials of teal seller T.E. Stockwell and founder Jack Cohen. Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid make up ABBA. Richard Block and David Quayle created B&Q. You get the gist.
Others have taken the descriptive route (see point 1) but abbreviated it to become its own word. BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke – i.e. Bavarian Engine Works), KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and ASDA (Associated Dairies) all use everyday language that becomes unique when it’s chopped up and glued back together.
#5 Show, don’t tell
Let’s cast our minds back to Year 4 when we first learned about metaphors and similes. These tools can be incredibly effective when naming a brand – by using them, you’re borrowing emotional content from something that is already well understood by your audience. It’s the classic ‘show don’t tell’ rule. What might a customer express when they encounter your business? It is a sigh of relief for finally solving a long-standing problem? Is it an awe-inspired ‘Wow’? Is it an empowered nod of approval? Thinking about your audience’s experience of your brand can help influence a metaphorical name. Maybe you see yourself as a fun, carefree little helper – or a stoic, trustworthy pillar in the industry. What does it feel like to be a part of your brand?
Many of the biggest brands out there have tapped into this more evocative side of naming. Nike, the goddess of victory, tells the story of achievement, of success – an undeniably powerful association for an athletic wear. Jaguar conveys a sleek, fast, beautiful product, while Greenpeace immediately paints a picture of nature and serenity. Tinder is the defining spark in a romantic relationship, Patagonia brings to mind romantic visions of glaciers and windswept peaks. What words evoke the feeling of your brand? Start by completing this sentence: “It’s like when…” or “It’s like a…”.
So, you’ve whittled things down to a shortlist of possible names that you’re happy with. Now what? Sometimes, the deciding factor can actually be as simple as a domain name or dodgy translation. Research your top choices by making your way through our checklist below to ensure you’ve really landed on the one that will make your brand sing.
- Is it unique? Are there companies in other countries or languages that use the same name? Are they in the same industry as yours?
- Is it appropriate? Check it in other languages to make sure.
- Is it easy to spell?
- Is it easy to say?
- Is it easy to remember?
- Can it come to life visually?
- Can it grow with your business? Is it future-proof?
- Does it work with a slogan or tagline?
- Get some legal advice and go through the necessary checks to protect your chosen name.
Finding a perfect brand name is not an easy task. Luckily, there are people out there who can help! Drop us a line today to speak to our award-winning team of strategists and writers about how to take you further.