Witty, fitting, memorable names for brands don't generally fall out of the sky right when you need them. Coming up with a name for your brand takes time, insight, patience, and alertness. This comprehensive guide covers the three phases of naming your brand:
Phase 1: Creating a List of Name Contenders
Adjective + Noun Formula
One simple exercise to start with when naming your brand is something that I learned in grad school. The nice, big, conference-style room that my Brand Development course met in every week happened to be in use on the day we did this, so our group roamed the halls of the art school until we found an empty closet/break room. We filed in and filled up the couches, then our instructor handed out sheets of paper and has us write columns of nouns and adjectives. Then we cut out our words and in small groups spread the words out on the little coffee tables and the magic began.
Names such as "The Red Door," "Salty Cucumber," and "Victory Socks" emerged. Some combinations were pitiful, but you would hit on a duo every so often that when read out loud, set off notes of angels singing "halleluiah."
I encourage anyone in the beginning stages of creating their brand to try this strategy. You could take it to the next level by coming up with words that fit your brand's personality, such as "elegant," "cool," and "classic" for a brand anchored in Group 2/summer.
I also teach how to put together a brand thesaurus when starting out so you have a list of branded go-to words when writing copy. The thesaurus could be a good place to start to pull words from for the brand naming exercise.
Short Names = Memorability
Why do we only pick two words when doing this exercise? The most memorable brands have short names. Think about when you introduce yourself. Even if you have a middle name, most of us only ever use our first and last names publicly. It makes remembering the names of new people a whole lot easier. And what is a key pillar of a successful brand? Memorability.
Some brands have only one name, (personality brands included), such as Amazon, Yelp, or Madonna. Others are made up names, such as Häagen-Dazs, Waze, and Google. Made up names can be handy for purchasing your website's domain name as there is a good chance no one has claimed it yet. However, they take a lot more creativity to develop as they need to be relatively short and related to what your business is about. Häagen-Dazs was created to sound Danish, as Denmark was known for dairy. Waze, the maps app, sounds like all the "ways" you can get somewhere. And Google was a play on the word “googol,” the mathematical term for a 1 followed by 100 zeros.
A fun exercise to come up with this type of name would be to write out a brainstorm of as many words you can think of related to your business and see if changing a letter or two creates a new word that makes sense.
Or, if the essence of your brand is strongly tied to a certain culture, is there a word or phrase that you can use and change the spelling or pronunciation to look or sound like it came from that culture's mother tongue? For example, in Maine, the natives end many words with the "ah" sound. If you were going to run with the Salty Cucumber, you could tweak it to Salty Cucumbah and now its meaning has sharply turned in a new direction. Instead of a fine food brand, I'm envisioning a coastal pub.
Asses the Names of Your Competitors
I am not a fan of calling people working in your same space competitors, because if you position yourself correctly you are in a category of one, but for this scenario, I'm calling them competitors. Who or what are the top brands in your space? Is there a trend in their names? For example, in the online marketing community, the general rule of thumb is to use your first and last name as your brand. In new online businesses, it seems these brands mostly fall into the made-up word category. Go check out brands in your space and see if there is a pattern to follow.
IBM did it. UPS did it. Most associations and nonprofits do it. Using an acronym of a longer descriptive name can be a simple solution to naming your brand, however, this type of brand name requires more education on your part to communicate who you are and what you do. If you are starting a personal brand, steer clear.
When You're Completely at a Loss
First, sleep on what you have come up with so far. Wait at least a week to see if anything new crosses over from your unconscious mind to your conscious mind, it could be just the nugget you were looking for.
If not, head on over to Shopify's list of 10 Business Name Generators to Help You Create Your Brand. If you have put in the work this far, you should be able to come up with some more final contenders here.
Phase 2: What to Watch Out For
Phase 3: Trademark & Domain Name Check
Check the US Trademark Database
Once you have come up with something that seems to hit the mark, head on over to the US Trademark database, where you can look up to see if it is already in use.
Click on "Search Trademark Database" and then "Basic Word Mark Search (New User)".
I did a test for salty cucumber and at this moment in time it is up for grabs!
Domain Name Check
After the trademark test, next head on over to Better Who Is, which will allow you to look up the domain name,
This website searches ALL domain registrars to see if what you are searching for is already taken, and who owns it if it is taken, and when their registration expires. Unfortunately, www.saltycucumber.com is reserved at least through December at this time. I see that it has been registered through GoDaddy, so I did a quick search at GoDaddy to see if the company had purchased it so they could re-sell it, or if it had in fact been registered by someone. It had been taken, however, a quick change of the ending, and saltycucumbah.com was available! Hello coastal pub!
Did you generate some great brand names? If you generated some fantastic ones that don't necessarily work for you, leave them in the comments to share the wealth!