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Beginner's handbook

How to Come Up With a Brand Name

By on June 14th, 2021 Reading Time: 10 minutes

Brand names play a powerful role in our everyday language. Creating (or in some cases rebranding) a brand name, means inventing a new word for people to make fresh emotional connections with. 

A memorable name can also strengthen brand awareness and create strong, favorable, and unique brand associations.

Try an experiment with your friends or teammates—name any popular brand and notice their emotional reactions towards it. Chances are what you hear about a brand from people around you will resonate with your own perception of it. 

Your brand name will play a role in your brand’s marketing success. As a centerpiece of most marketing strategies, it has to be well thought out. The faster your consumers see and understand your name, the quicker they’ll remember it, and the better you’ll be at attracting new customers.

A compelling brand name must meet the standards of your target audience, and your company’s products and messages. Although it appears easy, the greatest ones are already taken. 

In this post, we’ll show you how to come up with ideas that’ll help you choose your perfect brand name, and let you stand out in the crowd of ever-growing number of businesses.

Why brand names matter

Coming up with a brand name is one of the most exciting but also difficult tasks when starting your business venture.

Behavioral scientists agree that we make first impressions of a person in less than half of a second. Chances are this applies to brand images too. First impressions are everything and can get us to trust (or mistrust) a brand long before we buy something from it. 

Google is a great example for naming a brand. Google’s name has become synonymous with the internet—and it sounds great with anything attached to it (like Mail, Maps, Analytics, Trends, etc.)

But if Google had kept its former name, BackRub, we’d have BackRub Mail, BackRub Trends, and BackRub Searches. This doesn’t sound like it’s up to scratch for a billion dollar company. Imagine BackRubbing your potential business partners… Yikes!

Thankfully, BackRub became Google, and today it serves as clear evidence that there’s power in a brand name. Google now is one of the most valuable companies in terms of total value of a company’s shares of stock (or market cap).

If you choose a brand name that’s in line with your products and services, it’ll attract potential clients and at the same time, communicate what your brand is about.

For example, Google sounds a lot like googol, which is a very large number. Dove makes you imagine something feminine, pure and soft, which fits well with their products. Reddit plays on the words “read it”, and Nike is also the name of the Greek goddess of victory. 

Before we look at what other qualities make a brand name work, here are some tips on where to begin.

How to come up with a brand name for your business

The process of finding the perfect brand name requires a great level of research, brainstorming, testing, feedback, and if necessary, a re-do of the entire process. Here are some tips you can use in generating a catchy name for your ecommerce business.

1. Keep it short, simple, and friendly

The human brain can store thousands of words, and an English native speaker knows an average of 35,000 words. In this enormous pile, the short and simple ones are recalled before the complex ones.

Thanks to Harvard’s implicit association test, we now understand that our brains quickly draw threads between words and emotions. According to a test by Customer Thermometer, 65% of US consumers have an emotional attachment to their favorite brands.

So take the time to choose a name that not only rolls off the tongue, but can be easily combined with other branding elements customers react to emotionally: shapes, colors, and sounds.

If brand names are complicated, they won’t have the same effect as short and simple names that are likely to be perceived as friendly. For example, Instagram used to be Burbn, IBM was Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, and Sony was called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo.

To test if your name is simple and understandable to others, you can try the crowded bar theory test. Imagine you just came up with a brilliant brand name idea for your t-shirt store. Over the noise, your friends ask about your business, and you’re excited to tell them the new name: Koala Tee.

“Quality?” your friend asks. “No, Koala Tee,” you say. “Guala tea?” another friend guesses. “Kuwalatay.” your third friend says. You resort to imitating a koala to get your message across. 

Bottom line: people should understand your brand name even when you say it in a crowded bar.

2. Draw inspiration from brand name generators

Coming up with brand name ideas isn’t easy. It can take weeks, sometimes months, but experimenting with brand name generators will get you many fresh ideas in just a few clicks.

The business name generator is a great place to start as it provides potential name suggestions based on data relevant to your business. You can get brand name ideas by searching for your specific industry and keywords or generate names based on emotions associated with your product/service. 

Brand name generators are great for coming up with many brand names at once, making it easier to find what you are looking for.

3. Get feedback

When you get enough feedback it provides a representation of how customers collectively perceive your brand. However, to maintain the brand’s integrity, feedback shouldn’t come from your family and friends but from brand professionals, customers, and your team. We recommend getting reviews from naming professionals because they provide functionality testing, customer testing, and other helpful services that’ll make your naming journey smooth. Feedback will also give you key information about your brand name’s tone and perceived meaning.

How to spot a great brand name

Popular brands like Nike, YouTube and eBay have become household names and could be recognized anywhere. How do you come up with brand names that are this evergreen?

These six qualities that we’ll list below will show you what to consider when coming up with brand name ideas.

Memorable

Choose a name that your clients can easily remember when thinking of your products. 

For instance, Steve Jobs came up with Apple when he was on one of his fruitarian diets. He had just come back from an apple farm, and thought the name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.” 

Caterpillar is a corporation that develops, manufactures, and sells machinery, engines, and financial products. Its name Caterpillar was chosen in 1925 when a company photographer noticed the tractor tracks resembling a caterpillar moving along the ground. With the expansion of the brand line, Cat emerged as a distinctive brand in its own right, and in its early days was synonymous with Caterpillar.

Consistent

Your brand’s marketing, inventory, sales, and size may change, but your brand name should be able to stand the test of time. If you choose a name that’s too niche or trendy, it might not click with your audience. Choosing words and expressions that are “in” will look aged as soon as the trend passes and gets replaced by something else.

So ensure that your list of potential names are ageless. Consistency requires your business to be lasting and not a candle in the wind.

As an example of a brand name that could be too niche is a company that’d be called Water Heater Fixer. As the brand would become popular and expand their product and service range their customers and target audience would always associate them with fixing water heaters. It would take a lot of good marketing to change the brand’s image.

Easy to find

The virtual business world relies heavily on consumers locating your online site by simply searching your brand name. This is the part where things can go wrong if you’ve chosen a name that’s similar to an established brand even if it’s not operating in the same niche. 

Besides being hard to find on the internet, choosing a brand name similar to another business is bad for several other reasons: 

  • It affects the Brand Recall and Brand Recognition
  • The brands can affect each other’s image
  • It creates confusion within your potential customers, Dove sells chocolates now?

For example if you Googled “the best VPN” a few years ago, you’d see this result.

Each of them is a different brand competing for the same attention on Google’s top results. This is an unnecessary competition and just makes it harder to market your brand.

New

Short and simple domain names aren’t easy to come by anymore. Almost every dictionary word has been claimed online. So where does this leave you? It leaves you with a Shakespearean advantage of coming up with a word of your own!

Brands that create their own name or blend a couple of words, often get something interesting and memorable that sometimes reflects their niche.

For example, Instagram, Microsoft and Techolution are blends that work well in hinting what the brand offers.

Sometimes brand names can even transition into the cultural lexicon. To hoover means to vacuum in England, and this verb came from one of the most influential companies that developed vacuum cleaners. Hoover was one of the first and more influential companies in the development of the device.

Suitable

It’s crucial that you court your customer’s attention as much as possible. Data from Chartbeat states that 55% of site visitors leave in just 15 seconds and only a smaller fraction bother to check the About Us page.

And one way successful businesses as Facebook, Instagram, Shopify, and Printful get it done is by having their names hint at their niches. This makes it possible for potential customers to identify the brands easily.

Printful brand name

Different names appeal to different customers, but not every customer is the right one for your brand. Customers buy from businesses that match in beliefs and values. A great name differentiates you from all other brands and makes you stand out. Even if you sell products in a broad niche, like apparel, elements like brand name and logo will attract a specific type of customer who can resonate with your brand. Compare the names of these two clothing brands, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. The names already give the taste of brand image, even before we visit the websites, and that’s what you want to achieve with your brand name too.

Creative

There are so many ways to come up with a creative brand name. We already mentioned the brand name generator which will get you started if you have an idea of what your brand should encompass.

Because the number of online businesses rapidly grows each day, a brand name should be easy to spell. However, many of the simple names that could be related to your brand will often be taken. So instead you can get creative and think of associations you want your customers to have with your brand. What feelings could arise when people open your website? What would come to mind when seeing your products or services? Your brand name will be instantly impactful if it has an emotional charge.

Avoid the negative and pick words that spark emotions such as  joy, love, wonder, etc. 

Many streetwear brands have taken creative approaches to name their businesses. Such as Alife which is actually a shortening of the original name “Artificial Life”, inspired by an old Lenny Kravitz album. The creators wanted to bring inanimate objects to life and create hype around them. 

The creator of Obey said this about the brand name: “My hope was that, in questioning what “Obey Giant” was about, the viewers would then begin to question all the images they were confronted with. 

So your brand name can invoke feelings, or cause to see your products in a particular light. Something like mind mapping and brainstorming will help you expand your list of potentials. As you build your company’s brand identity, check that each element contributes to the image you want to cultivate. 

Here’s some inspiration:

Clothing brand ASOS stands for “as seen on screen.” This name was chosen because the business was originally intended for people to copy celebrities. 

Rag & Bone is named after “rag-and-bone-man”, British term for a junk dealer who would collect old rags for converting into fabric. They chose this name because the aesthetic of the brand combines a mix of tailoring and work wear.

How to come up with a brand name for a clothing business

There are challenges unique to every niche, but as a print-on-demand company, we’re covering some extra tips for apparel brands.

One of the first and most important steps you can take is to determine who exactly is your target audience. This will make it easier to market your products as well as pave the way for becoming a popular choice in your niche. After you’ve pinpointed who will buy your products, think of words that both define your brand and the qualities this target audience is looking for. 

Many luxury brands like Louis Vouton, Versace and Chanel have a western European feel to them. ResearchGate study shows that for American audience perceived brand name origin has a strong impact on perceived luxury. Sportswear brands like Nike, Puma, Adidas, Fila etc. are short or fast-sounding. They embody this swiftness and performance driven attitudes. 

To come up with a brand name for a clothing business you can also use your own name, play around with it, or shorten it for simplicity.

So connect with and talk to likely customers. You want to gather information about what is important to your customer base. What do they value, and what’s their lifestyle like? Take a note of what comes up often, any words, ideas, values, or concepts that could be associated with your brand.

The buyers, especially the youngest generations, want to discover companies that share their values. 

After you have an idea of your brand name, you should also design a logo that would strengthen your business’s recognizability. You can try Printful’s free Logo Maker and create unique images that match your brand.

To complete your name, remember to consider the values you wish to give to your customers. With every business, comes a purpose and it’s often propped up by brand slogans. A good slogan advertises the benefits of a product, and brand slogans are meant to call attention to your brand’s image as well as let your customers buy into the culture.

Secure your name

As soon as you think you have a unique brand name ready, check if it’s available and take the next steps to secure it. Set up your social media accounts with your new name as the handles and get a matching domain name.

Remember that your brand name will exist online as a domain name and you can also play around with domain suffixes to better reflect your brand. While domain suffixes like .com remain popular, alternative suffixes like .shop, .store, and .mart, can be a helpful way to secure the name of your choice.

How to find out if a brand name is taken?

Do a thorough search online to see if your brand name’s been claimed. Google is a good start—be sure to look beyond page 2 of search results as well.

If the name hasn’t been used yet, register your brand name as soon as possible. If you’re based in the US, run your business name by The US Patent and Trademark Office to see if another company hasn’t taken the name already. And if no one has, go ahead and secure your business name. 

To get your business registered with the USPTO, all you’ve got to do is:

  • Visit the United States Patent Office
  • Click Trademark
  • Click Apply for a trademark
  • Then click on Initial Application Form
  • Fill out the application
  • Submit the form

That’s it. You’ve just completed the first part of registering your business. Now, all you have to do is wait for 6–9 months before receiving your official documents.

If you’re based outside the US, follow the registration guidelines provided by your state authorities.

You’re good to go!

Use these tips as guidelines and you’ll be sure to come up with brand name ideas that appeal to your target audience. Think big and imagine your brand becoming a giant in your niche. 

Which tip did you find the most useful? If you already have an online business, how did you come up with your brand name? Share your story in the comments!

Grant Polachek is the Head of Branding at Inc 500 company Squadhelp.com, the worlds #1 naming platform, with 25,000+ customers from early-stage startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation.

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