Welcome back to another episode. Today I’m talking about choosing a name for your brand, and I’ll share with you my method that I have used to guide clients through naming processes.
A great name is an important part of a kick-ass brand!
If you have kids, you know that choosing a name can be… well, let’s just say a bit tricky. After all, a name is supposed to last a lifetime, so the last thing you want is to fuck it up. And that name that you’re so in love with? Hah. Most likely, someone in your circle of friends and family are going to absolutely hate it.
I hate to break it to you, but naming a brand is no different. It’s not uncommon to plough through hundreds of potential names before finding one that works for your brand and that isn’t already taken.
A great brand name is timeless, easy to pronounce, and easy to remember. Just like your brand’s visual assets, the name also has to communicate your core values and brand personality – after all, you’re gonna use it in pretty much all of your communication; phone calls, emails, your website, packaging, presentations, business cards… yeah, you get my drift. Your name becomes even more important in situations where you can’t use the visual elements of your brand, like in a radio advert or when someone mentions your brand in a conversation.
In this episode I give you some tips to help you kick-start the process of finding the perfect name for your brand. I’ve also created a PDF with some worksheets for you – grab that here.
I’m going to assume that you have your underlying brand strategy in place, but if you haven’t already defined your brand’s mission statement, vision, and core values… those kinds of things, I suggest spending some time working on your brand foundations first. And here’s a shameless plug for my Brand it! Strategy workbook, in case you need a helping hand. For €47 you get access to my strategic framework and actionable tools and exercises to help you define your brand strategy.
Enough self advertising!
Before I dive into the practical exercises, I want to give you a quick guide to some common types of names, and their pros and cons.
Many brands are named after their founder: Ford, McDonalds, Ben & Jerry’s… This type of name gives a high level of credibility – but the downside is it’s forever tied to one person or family name. That could be an issue if you want to expand your brand in the future – I’m not saying it has to be problematic, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
These are names that say something about what you do. A descriptive name is great for communicating the nature of your brand’s business – but it can also be limiting as your brand develops, say if you want to branch out into other products or industries.
A constructed name is what it says on the tin: an entirely made up name/word. This type of name will give you a distinct uniqueness, but is likely to need a bigger investment (time and/or money) before it’s firmly established in people’s minds.
This category includes names where attributes, things, places, animals, processes, mythology or foreign words are used to create an association to a certain quality or feature that is descriptive of your brand. A metaphorical name doesn’t really say anything outright, but it hints at what you do or what your brand stands for.
Acronyms can be tricky to remember, and don’t really say a lot about what your brand does or is – and because of that they often work better for larger organisations that have the time and financial means to put an extra effort into marketing and creating that brand recognition.
These are names where you change a word’s spelling to create a new and unique name. It could be changing a letter so the name looks different but it’s pronounced the same, or (and this was super popular in the early 2000s but maybe considered a tad dated now) using a number to replace some letters, like using the number 4 or 2 to replace the words for or to, for instance.
Combining different types of names isn’t unusual either, so don’t be afraid to play a little with elements from several categories! If I was to place my brand name according to these categories I’d say it’s a hybrid between a personal name (because Petch is my surname) and a magic spell (because I’ve added the letter Y at the end).
That was a super quick intro to name types, and as a last tip before we dive into the process of actually finding that name, I wanted to give you some resources that can help you get unstuck if you find the ideas don’t flow as freely as you want:
- Thesaurus.com is a free online thesaurus, and is super useful for exploring alternative words
- Panabee.com is an online name generator, that can really help kickstart the creative juices if you’re feeling stuck
- Mindmup.com is an online mind mapping tool, great for sparking those ideas!
So the first thing I’d advise you to do, is to take a moment before you start brainstorming names, and write down some of the fundamental aspects of your brand: Your vision and mission, your brand values and personality traits and your target audience at the very least. These will be your reference points as you work through the exercises I’m about to talk you through.
Ready to dive in? This is where the fun starts!
Like I just said, keep your brand’s vision, mission statement, values and target audience in mind, but don’t allow it to limit your creativity during the initial brainstorming phase. Write down everything that comes to mind. There’s no such thing as a ”stupid idea” at this stage! If possible, try to involve other people in this process – more heads = more ideas!
It’s hard to be creative when you’re writing in a small, lined notebook. I recommend having a vast supply of post-its and markers available, plus some big sheets of paper or a wall or a whiteboard to stick the post-its on.
- Brainstorming time! I want you to forget the idea of a final name during this phase. Write down everything that comes to mind! It’s common to feel like you can’t think of any more – but as your brain starts to get into gear, it will become easier to come up with more and more word associations. I’m going to list a few prompts that you can use if you’re stuck (these are all in the worksheets too, so don’t feel like you have to pause to write things down!) – and then as the flow of ideas slows down you can move on to the next prompt.
Can you think of any industry specific words or phrases?
What features does your brand have? (big, fast, cheap, exclusive…)
What advantages does your brand offer? (increased awareness, better health, cheaper utility bills…)
Are there any geographic associations? (landmarks, buildings, roads…)
Are any specific numbers important to your brand? (number of founders, house number…)
Can you think of any colour associations that you can draw upon?
What are your brand’s core values?
If your brand was an animal, what animal would it be?
If your brand was a human, what personality traits would it have?
- Write each idea on a post-it note – then stick it on the wall, a big work surface, or a big blank piece of paper. Also, allow this process to take time, don’t expect it to be done in a couple of hours or even in a day. Creative processes are funny things, your brain will continue to process things even when you walk away from the task, actually… maybe even more so when you take a break!
- When your wall is brimming with sticky notes, go through all of your ideas. Do some of them have the same meaning? Are there any groups of similar words that stand out? See if there is something you can spin new ideas off. Write down any new ideas, spin-offs, and associations on sticky notes – yep even more sticky notes. I hope you stocked up!
- Right! Hopefully your wall is chock-a-block with ideas! Do any of the ideas stand out? If you’re doing this exercise on your own, it might be a good idea to ask for external input at this point. Separate these words from the rest – for instance you could stick them onto an A3 sheet of paper. Aim for a list of about 10-15 words or ideas. (Yes, it might be hard to narrow it down, but it has to be done!)
- Take a closer look at each of your 10-15 ideas. Explore! Could you add a prefix or suffix, or perhaps combine two or more words to create a new and unique name? Aim for a list of at least 10-20 possible names. On the wall or on separate sheets of paper, sort these names into yes, no and maybe.
- Now focus on the names from YES and MAYBE. Eliminate names that people downright dislike, or that are already in use by other brands. Look at the names from different angles until you’re left with a shortlist of 5-10 possible names. This is probably the trickiest part of the entire process, and takes both creativity and patience. Hang in there!
- Write out your final shortlist of potential names and sleep on them for a few days, before asking yourself some very important questions about each of them:
Is the name timeless?
Is the name unique and memorable?
Does the name sound good and is it easy to pronounce? A tip here, especially if you’re operating internationally, is to also make sure the name doesn’t have a different and/or inappropriate meaning in another language!
Does the name reflect your brand’s values and personality? It’s an extension of your brand, so it really needs to tie in with the rest of your branding.
Does the name give positive associations?
Is the name a natural starting point for a good story?
Does the name lend itself to any clever puns?
Does the name help differentiate you from your competitors?
Will the name look visually pleasing when used in a logo?
Is the name available? This is perhaps the most crucial part, as you don’t want to choose a name, start building a brand around it, only to have to change it later because it was already taken. If another business already uses the name you want, you may still be able to use it as your own, if your market area or industry doesn’t overlap with that of the other business. However, proceed with caution and if in doubt call in some professional help to do a trademark search.
(By the way, you’ll find this checklist in the download as well.)
I hope this has helped you on the way to finding your perfect brand name!
Until next time,
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