Image by Matthew T. Rader
Choosing a memorable name to represent your brand is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a business owner. Your name is what differentiates you from your competitors and is what introduces you as something fresh, new and exciting. It is how you will be remembered and how people will find you when they’re looking for your products or services. Does your business name have to be great? You bet it does. The right name can elevate your business, clearing the way for growth and success while the wrong name can create roadblocks that may even lead to failure. Here’s how to come up with a killer business name that you can turn into a high profile brand in five steps.
Step 1: Decide What You Would Like to Convey
Before even attempting to throw possible names out there, you should have a very clear picture of exactly what it is you are trying to convey. Do you want your name to communicate your expertise and professionalism? Maybe you want a name that speaks to how you are unique and what it is that makes you stand out above the competition? Do you want to evoke a certain feeling or create imagery? Sit down and write a few thoughts on paper about what it is you really want your business name to express.
Real-word names say something concrete about your business that describes you in a creative way, as in “Subway” or “InfoSeek”. Creative, made-up names suggest the uniqueness of your business and rely more on the suggestion of some feeling or trait within the name, like “Microsoft” and “Pixar.” Deciding exactly what it is that you would like to communicate about your business is the first step in coming up with a great name.
Step 2: Identify the Key Elements or “Differentiators” of Your Business
Think about what it is about your business that makes you unique and why your target market chooses you over the competition. Remember, geographic location or specific products may be a primary selling point, but it will limit growth if you commit to them in a name. Besides, most businesses offer services online, making location irrelevant. Brandable names that grow with you simply need to be more robust than “Mike’s Computer Repair” or “Downtown Shoes”.
Step 3: Get Creative, Unique and Even Daring… to a Point
Once you’ve decided on the key elements you want your name to express, it’s time to start thinking about how you want to say it. It’s always a good rule of thumb to be creative and you certainly cannot be memorable without being unique. While there are many thoughts about what is creative and what is pure nonsense, you simply have to take risks with a brandable name if you want maximum return and staying power. After all, no one is questioning company names like Instagram or Twitter.
In today’s marketplace where competition is unwavering, businesses are eager to differentiate themselves with a catchy name - and that’s a good thing. A unique name that stands the test of time has a “stickiness” factor that makes it memorable and very effective. However, trends change and it can be difficult to balance the need to be distinctive with staying power. There is a fine line between a creative brandable name and one that is so obscure that not even an English professor can pronounce it. Made-up words can be perfect for certain businesses while for others they may seem nonsensical and confusing. Be sure to be unique, even daring, but be cautious that your name isn’t too far removed that you’re constantly spelling it out to others.
Step 4: Avoid Common Mistakes
Choosing a name is exciting and fun, but it’s also easy to get carried away. Familiarize yourself with a few common mistakes business owners make and keep a clear mind. Having the following list available and referring to it often as you brainstorm will help you avoid falling into the same trap.
Don’t alienate your target market with a name that’s offensive or controversial in nature. While it may be funny to you, it probably isn’t to someone else.
If a name elicits an emotion, make sure it is a pleasant one. Sad thoughts never persuade consumers to buy.
Don’t choose a name that is too long or hard to spell. Keep it short and snappy. Remember the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company? Most people now recognize their brandable name as 3M.
Don’t limit or restrict growth by adding location or service offering into a name.
Step 5: Narrow Down and Test
Once you’ve come up with five to ten great potential names, try them out. You can always gauge how people respond to a name before you commit by asking around; ask friends, coworkers, neighbors etc. If one of the names you like elicits the type of response you’re looking for, then you know you’re on the right track. Sometimes, taking a brandable name on a test run can save you the hassles of having to re-brand after a disappointing and expensive period of actually using it. Honest feedback from people you trust can give you invaluable insight into how a name performs, helping you avoid costly mistakes.
There are many different approaches to choosing the right business name. What works well for some businesses may not work for others. What is important is that you take the time to think about what it is you want people to get out of your name. Consider your differentiators and showcase your message with a creative, memorable name that steers clear of common mistakes. When you’ve narrowed it down to a promising few, don’t forget to give it a test run to gauge public opinion. Finally, customize a smart and savvy marketing strategy to fit your needs and that high profile brand you’ve been looking for? It will be well on its way.