7 useful tips on choosing a business name
Choosing a business name can be challenging
Brand names are critical to success, because names hold power.
Human beings are hard-wired to seek meaning in names, symbols and colours. It’s rapid and unconscious. This is why it’s worth the effort, time and trouble to choose your business name with care. It could also save money in the long run. After all, it could be very expensive to change a brand name that has backfired! It’s something you’ll know instantly, from the ‘aha’ reaction or the polite smile, whether your new business name is a success.
Your brand name plays an important part in building your business
Of course, your brand consists of more than just a name, just as it consists of more than just a logo.
As The Chartered Institute of Marketing says The best brands create a special relationship with customers, based on intangible qualities that evoke strong emotional responses.
Before getting started, here are three points to note:
- The list includes tips I’ve found useful in brand naming practice
- It’s not designed to contain every single type of brand name
- There are no magic formulas or short cuts to success.
1. Be strategic in your choice of business name
Think ahead. Remember the well-known marketing secret – your business, products and services will evolve, because your customers, competitors, markets and technologies will change over time.
- Nothing stands still. Ever. This is probably why you’re launching a new product or service. And this is why your brand name has to last. Even though your brand logo and your brand strapline are likely to be refreshed every 4-5 years.
- Here’s one way to look at it. Ask yourself a question along these lines: ‘If we call our business The Great Widget Company, will we still sell only widgets in four years time? Or will we want to sell other products too?’
- Or take a look at Dyson: Dyson started out selling vacuum cleaners. Now they sell vacuum cleaners, hand dryers, hair dryers, air treatment, lighting and there’s more to come. Their product range has expanded and in the process they have added more meaning and value to their brand name.
2. Use the founder’s name
This is a popular, proven option for a business name. It works, because from the start:
- Customers know, like and trust you
- You’ve got a great reputation
- It’s personal
- It works best with a distinctive name that can be trademarked
In some business categories such as fashion, coaching, interior design and advertising it is almost the norm to use the name of the founder. It is rarely a handicap – unless the founder, or their family cannot transition to a larger scale of business.
And every big brand starts out small…
Here are just a few examples where the name of the founder has worked well.
3. Borrow meaning
Instantly add cachet, colour or personality to your business by using an existing name.
In the short term you can appropriate it’s positive connotations.
Over time you will add your unique brand values and personality.
Always check that your choice of name is capable of being trademarked. It would be tragic to invest in building your brand and then find it copied.
4. Make your business name EASY for your customers
Your new product or service is going to satisfy your customers. They will absolutely love it. So try to make it easy for customers to connect with your brand with ease:
- Is the business name easy to say? So people can say it out loud with confidence and pride. If they struggle to pronounce your brand name it could create resentment or worse, turn into a joke.
- Could you make the business name easy to spell? Allowing customers to write it down with ease, so they recommend your business and find it easy to search for it online.
- Can you make the name easy to remember? You want people to remember your brand name (and not the brand name of your competitor).
5. Keep it short
This tip for your business name works hand in hand with Tip number 4. It’s all about ease and convenience from your customer’s perspective.
- We often have a tendency to abbreviate names to save time.
- This tendency could help you choose a business name that is authentic and relevant, yet still contribute to spoken ease and memorablity.
Here are a few examples of short business names or acronyms – B&Q, WWF, IBM, Asda, Oxfam and GSK. Remember that the rules of trademarking for protection still apply.
6. Be descriptive
Descriptive names can be relevant and helpful to your customers. A descriptive business name could describe:
- What your business does or
- The product range or the
- Range of services you provide
There are two notes of caution here.
- Be mindful of Tip 1: Be Strategic. Avoid ideas for your brand name that could restrict future growth opportunities.
- Be aware of the risks if you cannot trademark the name. On balance it’s better to protect your name.
Examples of descriptive business names include Sports Direct, The Body Shop, The White Company, Poundland, Clutter Clear Solutions and The Decor Cafe
7. Create a new word
Create a unique brand name for your business, product or service:
- It could be appropriate for young disruptive businesses who pioneer new products or services.
- It could be a good option to explore when nothing else seems to fit!
- A made-up name could create curiosity amongst customers or a talking point – although it may need explanation in marketing communications early on…
- When you choose to invent a new word for your brand name, it’s essential that customers feel the new name really does fit your products and services.
Invented names could be based on merging the names of ingredients – like Persil or Oxo. Or you could put two words together to create a new word – like Dulux (DuPont and Luxury) or Kissmetrics. And of course you could create a single word such as Google or Marketo.
How do I create my new brand name?
There are quite a few start points for generating name options for your business. The option you choose depends on the size of your business and how creative you want to be. You may prefer to DIY the name brainstorming or you could work with a brand strategist. Whichever option you choose will require at least:
- One hour in a quiet room
- A whiteboard or sheets of paper, coloured pens and plenty of sticky notes
- And most of all – an open mind
Some good start points for business name brainstorming include:
- Target customer wants and needs
- Your business purpose (your big why)
- Product attributes and their functional and emotional benefits – based on your customer perspectives
- Your brand values, personality and essence
- The roots and heritage of the business
3 essential checks before you finalise the business name
When you get to the top three or four contenders for your new business name, STOP before you get emotionally engaged with any of them. Check:
- Is the business name already registered? In the UK, Companies House is the place to use.
- Has the domain name has been registered? We use LCN.
- Importantly, can you trademark the name? Here’s a great place to start for UK readers – how to register a trademark
Once you’ve completed these checks and have positive results, you’ll have a shortlist of viable names ready to research further with your audience and stakeholders.
Choosing your business name is a strategic decision
- Remember to ensure the name is capable of evolving as your business grows and expands with new products and services.
- Choose a business name that will last – because it could be an expensive exercise to change it.
- Aim for your brand name to have meaning and relevance for your business and for your customers.
- Choose a name that is different from competitors’ names.
- Ensure your brand name is easy to say, spell and remember.
- Always check that you can register and protect your new name.
Have fun with choosing your business name. Do let us know how you get on. Or if you prefer to get specialist branding help, please do get in touch here.
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