When you’re starting a new business, choosing a brand name is often one of the first really tough decisions you’ve got to make. Your brand name is one of the first impressions potential clients will have of your business. It sets up expectations and informs your audience of how they should feel about your business. It can be the difference between someone remembering who you are, or not.
When deciding what to name your brand, you might wonder questions like whether or not you should reference exactly what you do, or make it more ambiguous and symbolic. Do you name your business after yourself, or is it better to use a new name? Should you use a made-up word?
To help you make the best decision for your business, I’ve put together some tips on how to choose a brand name that should give you some direction.
1. Develop your brand strategy first
If you’re struggling with choosing a name, I suggest putting the decision aside until after you’ve developed your brand strategy. Your brand strategy defines things like:
- your brand goal(s)
- the target audience
- core values
- brand personality
- core messaging
When you have a solid understanding of these extremely important aspects of your brand, you should have an easier time determining whether or not a name is a good fit. Your brand strategy provides a framework that you can use to measure the suitability of your chosen name.
Use your brand strategy to ask yourself questions like:
- Will this name meet the expectation of my ideal clients?
- Does it express the personality of my brand?
- How well does it align with my messaging?
Your brand name should support and reinforce the story of your brand. It should also be something your audience can find relatable. By starting with a sound brand strategy, you’ll give yourself useful parameters that help you choose the right brand name for your business.
2. Choose a brand name you can grow with
It’s not easy to change your brand name. Because of this, you want to ensure the name you choose can grow alongside your business.
It’s hard to know where your business might end up five years from now. Or even one year from now! In the early stages, you can easily find yourself pivoting significantly. Unless you’re willing to rebrand each time you change directions, you want to be using a name that has flexibility.
Things that might change as your business grows:
- your location
- the services you offer
- the people involved in the business (e.g. business partners)
- your target market
Related post: How to know when its time to rebrand your business
3. Consider different ways to choose a brand name
Here are some different brand name “types” that you can base your ideas from.
- Use your name — e.g. Disney, Louis Vuitton, Ben & Jerry’s
- Describe what you do — e.g. Toys R Us, PayPal, Dunkin’ Donuts
- Make word combinations — e.g. FitBit, MasterCard, Snapchat
- Incorporate a metaphor — e.g. Nike, Amazon, Target
- Use an acronym or initials — e.g. NASA, IBM, MTV
- Invent a new word (could be adapted from an existing word) — e.g. Xerox, Google, Twitter
4. Brainstorm A LOT of ideas
Come up with a big variety of different names, using the above naming options. Make lists, create mindmaps… whatever brainstorming methods work for you.
Give yourself time to sit with your options, as well. You don’t want to make a hasty decision only to realise too late that it doesn’t sound right. A name that’s perfect one day might go stale the next.
That said, you shouldn’t expect perfection from the get-go. A lot of the time, your brand name is something you’ll grow to love over time because of the association it develops with your wider brand and everything it represents.
As your business grows, your brand name becomes more and more familiar to you and your audience. This is something that happens in the long-term, so don’t expect internal fireworks and an instantaneous sense of “this is the one” as you make your choice initially.
5. Check the availability of your chosen name
Before you let yourself get too attached with an option, check to make sure the name is available to you! Are you able to get the domain name for your website? Are the social media handles free? And of course, you want to make sure there aren’t competing businesses using the same name, or even something similar. Do a Google search and see if anything comes up.
6. Test the usability of the name
Aside from availability, here are some other things to consider:
- Is the name prone to misspelling?
- Does it sound good and is it easy to pronounce?
- Will it correctly inform your audience of what to expect or is it misleading?
- Does it stand out from the names of competitors?
- Are there any negative meanings that could be associated with it? This can include its use in other languages.
Bonus tip! Match your brand name with a supportive tagline
I want to give you one final tip, although it’s not exactly about your brand name itself. You can use taglines to help you communicate what you do to your audience. So, for example, maybe you want to use a name that doesn’t explicitly explain what your services are. In that case, you can use a nice, clear tagline in combination with your brand name. It’ll help clear up any possible confusion.
On the flip side, if your brand name does a pretty good job of explaining your services, you can use the tagline to highlight a benefit, or express more of your brand’s personality.
So, there you have it! 6 tips for choosing a brand name for your business. It may not be a perfect formula, but I hope it at least gives you some useful ideas for how to approach the naming process. Choosing a brand name isn’t easy — but it can also be pretty fun. So go ahead and see where your brainstorming ends up. Good luck!
You might also want to check out my 8-Step Branding Checklist which will guide you through the whole branding process!
Looking for more content? Try these!
- A complete guide to creating a brand for your small business
- How to rebrand to reach your business goals faster
- Is a lack of brand strategy holding your business back?
- How to develop a brand voice that sells your services
- What is brand strategy and why is it necessary?
- Personal brand strategy for service-based entrepreneurs