The idea of naming a brand seems relatively straightforward. You take a look at the business, what it offers, what their edge is and then bam… You come up with a unique and memorable name to capture it. Simple.
Well, not exactly. Not to say that that has never happened before. Quite likely it has. For every time that has happened however, there have been thousands of cases of hair pulling frustration in the pursuit of the right brand name.
The confused process
The confused process tends to look something like this.
1) You feel energised to get this name out and you allocate half an hour for the job.
2) You sit down with a couple of loose ideas ready to solidify them in ink.
3) You quickly write out your initial ideas and look for one that jumps out.
4) Nothing jumps out.
5) You reorganise your ideas hoping the key is right there.
6) Nothing jumps out.
7) The confidence and energy you had when you sat down starts to melt away.
8) It suddenly dawns on you that you have no idea what to name your brand.
9) You feel completely lost with no inspiration for a starting point.
10) You think, surely it can’t be this hard.
The right name needs work
The reality is, finding the right name is hard. A name that sounds right, looks right, feels right, is memorable, is catchy is clever, is timeless, doesn’t just come to you without some serious digging.
Every entrepreneur starts a business with the best intentions and often the naming of the business is the first challenge. Many get fixated on the idea that if they don’t get this part right, then the business is destined for failure.
Given the power of belief and the debilitating power of disbelief, there is an element of truth in that theory. It’s important to ensure then, that you take the right steps to give yourself the best chance to create a name that not just fits, but fits like a glove, like it was meant to be.
Adam Fridman digs a little deeper with this in his Forbes article “Why Your Company Name Is As Important As Your Company Function”; saying:
Entire relationships are dictated by first impressions, so making a powerful impact immediately is a necessary key to branding success. The first thing a customer interacts with is a name, so it has to convey the right message; it has to wow the audience. Think of it as a first handshake; it says a lot about the person and makes a powerful impression.
The Magic is in the Process
If you are about to name your brand or feel your brand needs a new approach, you need a system to help you dig deep. Take these five steps and push each one as hard as you can.
When you get frustrated, embrace it because that’s where the magic happens. Keep pushing and you might just uncover what was meant to be. The brand name that was meant to be.
Start with the DNA
Trying to uncover the right brand name should not be taken lightly. Plucking a name out of thin air, even if it sounds catchy, won’t necessarily have a meaningful association with you and your business.
By the time you get to the naming stage, you should have already invested time in defining your brand purpose (the meaningful reason your brand exists beyond making money).
Your purpose sets the tone for you to extract your:
Vision (The possibilities for the future),
Mission (The work that needs to be done to realise the vision)
Values (The moral compass that will guide the work).
This is the DNA of your brand and sets the tone for the connection you will have with your audience so it is important that it is top of mind when creating the name, as this will be the first vehicle for that DNA.
The importance of the brand DNA cannot be understated and is illustrated perfectly by Leonie Roderick saying:
“Consumers increasingly want organisations to demonstrate a purpose beyond profit and prove a business commitment to making the world a better place, but it requires more than a snappy slogan, with brands needing to set out their objectives and prove they are in it for the long term.”
Whether your brand is offering services or products, there may be opportunities in branding each one of these as child brands of the parent brand. Keep this in mind during the naming process as it could potentially uncover an excellent strategic opportunity.
The leadership team should be aligned as to the criteria that a fitting brand name should have. Below are some distinguishable characteristics of a strong brand name. Decide within your leadership team what your pre-requisites are.
Start the process by getting every conceivable name down into a spreadsheet. Be as loose as possible with your criteria at this early stage and don’t rule anything out. Refer to your DNA statements as well as any product/service structure that may be in play. Remember, these are raw ideas – no refining here.
Take every word you have on the spreadsheet and enter them into thesaurus to find synonyms. This will help you to extract alternate words, which may unlock bigger ideas. Capture any relevant contenders into your spreadsheet.
Use other tools available to push the boundaries. We have listed some more tools below so you can continue your exploration. Remember, these tools are simply to help expand your list. They should not be used as the focal point. Don’t get stuck here. Extract what you need and keep moving. The process is where the results lie.
Visual Thesaurus https://www.visualthesaurus.com/
Visual Dictionary http://visual.merriam-webster.com/
Onelook Thesaurus http://www.onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml
Word Hippo http://www.wordhippo.com/
Take a selection of your captured words and jot them down on to a notepad. Write each one down into the centre of a note pad and start to expand related terms. Remember, nothing is too stupid or too far-fetched here. This process usually introduces top contenders for the final list.
Embrace the frustration
This is where the process starts to get tough. You’re pushing the capacity of your mind and it can be quite tiring and frustrating. If you notice that you are starting to feel tired and frustrated, this is the sign that you are in the right place. It is at this point, when you can recognise your frustration, but you keep going and keep pushing, the little gems come out. If you don’t feel frustrated at any point during the process, you’re probably not pushing hard enough.
The end of this process should leave you with a starting point of upwards of 100 loose words. Some good, some not so good.
Discard the non-contenders
This is where you start chopping away at your list. Copy your full list into a new tab then start hacking away. You might allow yourself a little chuckle at the words that made it onto this expansive list, if so, it’s a sign you were doing it right. Try to get it down to about 20 words.
Take your shortlist and apply some of these considerations. Get creative here and think outside the box.
After your first round of cuts, copy the remaining words into a new tab and get ruthless with your cuts. Don’t worry about cutting some potential words. If you hit a dead end you can come back to the previous tab and go again. For now, trust your gut and keep going. Aim to get it down to about 3-5.
From the remaining list apply your new potential brand name into sentences. Consider the following might apply to the following:
I work at _______. It’s like a big family there.
One of my biggest customers is ________. They’re easy to work with.
I’ve been using __________ for 5 years. I couldn’t recommend them more.
Purpose, Vision, Mission, Values
Out number one Value at _____________ is accountability. Each of us knows our responsibilities and tasks and take ownership of them.
Say it out loud in different tones and various accents. Analyse how it sounds.
Write it down and type it up. Use many different letterforms and fonts and get a feel for how it looks.
The name should have some meaning. It can be abstract or implied but the meaning should be present. Avoid being obscure, as it will only lead to confusion.
Are there any positive or negative connotations associated with any of the words you have chosen. Even if there is an outside chance of it being taken out of context, consider the consequences.
Domain and Social
Are the domain name and social handles you require available or would you be required to adjust the name as it stands?
If trademarking is something you are considering then check the availability of that name. If it’s a requirement, ensure it’s available.
Select your new brand name
Now that you have it down to a shortlist of top contenders it’s time to make a choice. You may find that one stands head and shoulders above all else and your “meant to be” name has found its way to you through this process.
On the other hand, it might nit be obvious to start out with. Don’t stress if this is the case. As long as the process has been followed, your contenders will be intrinsically linked to the core of your brand simply through the process you have gone through to extract it.
Often, it’s not until a commitment has been made to a name that it starts to become more obvious and your affection towards it starts to grow.
If you are split and you would like to gauge its popularity, feel free to show the options to a closed group. This could be internally within the company (if you are renaming) or externally eg. To a trusted facebook group (often this can be quite constructive). Gather the feedback and note the reasons why people like or dislike the given options
Keep Control of the process
It is perfectly normal to want some feedback and input into the popularity of the options at hand. Remember however that this is not a committee or a debate. Simply take this feedback on board and move on. Ensure it doesn’t interrupt the control of selection. The final decision must remain with the core leadership team and should always keep the previous considerations top of mind.
Avoid Spouses and Family
If your leadership team has followed the process through from start to finish, it’s important to isolate the decision-making process. Providing a shortlist to your family will often result in strong preferences, which will likely influence that decision maker. If two decision makers have been influenced by their families to alternate options, it may become a debate.
If you are a Soloprenuer you will most like want to run the name past your family. Consider the personalities in your family before you do this.
How influential are they in your decisions?
Do they have any connection to your brand DNA?
Will they be speaking from a position of experience?
“Getting the family committee involved” is mistake #1 in this article by Entrepreneur 8 Mistakes to avoid when naming your brand.
Ensure a level of confidence
Ensure you have a level of confidence before making your final decision. If you have arrived at this late stage and none of your options feel remotely like they are on point, consider taking a few steps back to your list of 20 and revise the process. If you still aren’t convinced, then consider getting a professional involved.
Remember, it is a high probability that the name you have chosen doesn’t feel 110% but you can be confident in knowing that the process you have taken means that the name has an intrinsic link to your core brand. If you are 70% confident you might find that you warm to it once you commit, however, less than that you need to get your gut involved.
Stephen is a passionate Brand Creator and Founder of Iconic Fox Brand Agency. With a background in both financial markets and design, he is well positioned on brand strategy and creative and is passionate about both. Stephen has been featured on Marketo, Hubspot, Inside Small Business, Creative Bloq and more for his expertise on brand strategy and creative.
He’s also a friendly chap so if there’s something you want to know about brand, he’d be happy to get into it with you