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How to create a "brandable" name for your business

Updated: Jun 23

Picking a brand name? Yeah, it's a bit of a head-scratcher. But think about the gravity of it. That little name carries a lot of weight. It's the first thing your customers will encounter and it's your golden ticket to stand out in the crowd. Let's team up and find what makes your brand authentically you. Remember, people connect with people, not faceless corporations. We'll dig deep into your values, carve out your brand's spot in the market, and craft a compelling visual narrative. In this competitive business world, a solid brand is your secret weapon.While the formula for coming up with a brand name is not an exact science, there are a few places to start:

Determine your brand’s values

Think of your brand as a long-term commitment. People are drawn to specific brands not solely for their products, but due to the emotional bond they formulate. So, think about this: What's your brand persona? What do you represent? What's important to you? These are crucial inquiries to consider when building a brand.


Start at the basics: jot down a list of 15-20 words that describe your business. These words should communicate the core spirit of your brand.


Examples of words that come to mind may include:

  • Trustworthy

  • Speedy

  • Reliable

  • Transparent

  • Loyal

  • Unique

  • Superior

  • Simple

  • Innovative

Get to know your target market

Choosing a brand name that resonates with your audience is essential. The key is to ensure your brand speaks the same language as your potential customers, and to do this, you need to really understand your market.


One great way to gain this understanding is through an application scenario. Put yourself in your target audience's shoes. What challenges do they face? And how does their day improve after they've utilized your product? What experience do you want them to have with your brand? This exercise can provide invaluable insights into your market and help shape your brand.


Questions to consider include:


  • Who are you here to serve? Who is your target audience (demographic income, profession, interests, etc.)

  • What problems do you solve for your audience?

  • What makes you stand out from your competition?

  • How do you want your audience to remember your brand?


Brainstorm potential brand names This is your chance to get creative and throw all your ideas on the table – the good and the not-so-good. Allow yourself to come up with several brand name options which you can weed out later in the process. Here are ten types of brand names to consider:


1. The made-up name


Brand names in this category are invented words, but were contrived because the sound of them conveyed the right emotion or value. There may also be a hidden meaning behind part or all of the name. Venmo, a mobile payment service, is a mash-up of the Latin word vendere, meaning “to sell” and mo which means “mobile”. The founders of Venmo chose the name because they wanted something that was short and could be used as a verb: For example, “I’ll Venmo you for dinner”. Putting these words together, it embodies the idea of sending money to someone with a tap of their smartphone while creating an experience where users can share the story behind a payment with their friends and contacts. Venmo’s explosive growth is largely driven by millennials, who use its name as a verb. The phrase “just venmo me” is overheard on every college campus in the country which has increased their growth and popularity.


To come up with a made-up name, take the list of words you created to clarify your brand values and let your creative juices flow. Play around with different variations and sounds, combine several syllables from different words, and see what you come up with. This is clearly a trial and error process, but after some time and discussion with colleagues or friends, you may find yourself a solid winner.


Other examples:

  • Hulu

  • Kodak

  • Etsy

  • Verizon

  • Spotify

  • Rolex

2. The result-oriented name

Overall, these names evoke what your business will do for your clients. For example, Quickbooks, the accounting system for small and medium-sized businesses, helps them accept payments, manage and pay bills, payroll and automate processes in an effective and efficient way. Without telling you what they provide, the name grabs your attention by implying quick and easy accounting solutions.


To come up with a result-oriented brand name, consider what feeling you want to resonate with your audience. You can also think of adverbs that describe what you’re selling or how you will provide this to consumers (quickly, strategically, creatively, etc.). Can you incorporate any of these words into your business name?


Other examples:

  • Zoom

  • Instagram

  • Dropbox

  • Facebook

  • LinkedIn


3. The symbolic name

There’s a reason Nike picked this brand name. In ancient Greek mythology, Nike was the goddess of victory—an attribute that perfectly suits the ethos of a sports equipment manufacturer. This is what symbolic meanings and metaphors are all about: comparing your brand to something else whose attributes or qualities you also claim to have.


To go this route, think of the most prominent quality you want to be associated with. Then, try to identify a person, place or thing that embodies that same attribute. If one of your options evokes the right emotion, you may be onto something.


Other examples:

  • Canon

  • Google

  • Quaker Oats

  • Samsung

  • Target

4. The descriptive name

Transparent brand names tell the consumer upfront what the business does or sells. By eliminating the guesswork, your customers can more rapidly imagine themselves using your product or service. You can also incorporate an adjective or play-on-words to strengthen your tag. One example is The Home Depot. The avid DIY founders of The Home Depot wanted to create a one-stop shop with a wide selection of products at affordable prices for other DIY homeowners.Transparent brand names can virtually work for any type of products or services.


If you want to go this route, consider what you sell and if you like the sound of it in your title. You need to be able to label your product in three words or less, as most brand names don’t usually exceed that word count. You can also try merging it with metaphorical elements for some creative flair.


Other examples:

  • Eggo Waffles

  • Sunglass Hut

  • Subway

  • The Container Store

  • Backyard Pools (local example)


5. The two-in-one name

These brand names mash up two words that describe your brand and combine them into a single, catchy tag. Two-in-one names are effective at peaking consumer interest and conveying an idea of what the product or service actually is. The online streaming app Netflix is a combination of the words internet and flicks, which is a slang term for movies. The founders wanted the name to involve internet and movie since it started with people ordering DVDs on the internet. The word flicks may have come from the idea that movies used to flicker in theaters.Want to give this type of brand name a try? Take a look at your list of values and compare them to the words describing your primary product or service. Try merging some of these terms into a single tag that captures your brand.


Other examples:

  • Coca-Cola

  • GameStop

  • Dunkin Donuts

  • GrubHub

  • Weight Watchers

  • PayPal


6. The founder’s name

Take a traditional approach by giving your business your first name, family name or nickname to personalize your brand and create a sense of trust. A great example is Walt Disney World. As a tribute to his late brother, Roy Disney insisted that the park be known as Walt Disney World, so that people would remember his brother’s name and who started it all with his creations.


If you choose to go this route, remember that a first name will always be more casual while a last name will sound more formal. If you’re not particularly proud of your own name, you can consider borrowing the one of a friend, family member, or even your pet.


Other examples:

  • Barnes and Noble

  • Jimmy Dean

  • John Deere

  • Ford

  • Levi’s

  • Oscar Mayer

  • Ben & Jerry’s


7. The location-based name

Many local businesses find great results with naming their business from location-based brand names. It encourages loyal, local-first shoppers to choose your business over national chains. You can choose a location based name even outside of your area but that conveys the culture, values and overall vibe of your business. Founder of Amazon named the company after the Amazon River because he wanted the company to reflect its size, which is one of the largest in the world. The company’s motto has always been “get big fast” and it is living up to that very motto!


Other examples:

  • Outback Steakhouse

  • American Airlines

  • Kentucky Fried Chicken

8. The abbreviated name

Have a lot of things to say? Consider using an abbreviation for your brand name. It will enable you to incorporate a phrase or multiple words that don’t tie together naturally. For example, while you may think IKEA is a Swedish word meaning, “put-it-together-yourself-and-feel-like-you-ran-a-marathon-afterwards,” the furniture giant’s name is actually an acronym. The I and K derive from the founder’s name, Ingvar Kampra, and the E and A come from the name of the farm he grew up on, Elmtaryd, followed by the name of the village it was in, Agunnaryd. While nothing in the term IKEA has anything to do with what the store sells, it has become a worldwide household name associated with furniture.


To come up with an abbreviated brand name, take the first letter of each word you want to incorporate and jot them down. Try putting them together in various orders. Anything sound good?


Other examples:

  • AT&T (American Telephone and Telegraph Company)

  • 3M (The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company)

  • GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company)

  • LEGO (an abbreviation of the Danish words “leg godt” that mean “play well”)

  • GE (General Electric)

  • RCLF (local example: Renaissance Community Loan Fund)

9. The name that conveys industry leadership

These names are designed to give the brand a sense of leadership in their industry.

A great example in the pet food industry is Royal Canin. Founded by a veterinarian in France, Dr. Cathary had the vision of a pet food company grounded in science and creating advanced pet food made to satisfy the needs of the pet. The name reputation of Royal Canin remains the cutting edge of pet nutrition and specialized diets for all breeds.

To employ this technique, consider how your product or service stands out in your field. Can you convey this in your brand name?


Other examples:

  • Best Buy

  • Target

  • Mastercard

  • Whole Foods

  • Truist Bank

  • Queen’s Reward (local example)


10. The name with no hidden meaning

These brand names do not have any particular connection to the product or the service, but were chosen for their attention-grabbing ring. How did Steve Jobs come up with the name Apple for his technology empire? After returning from an apple farm one day, he thought the name would make the brand sound “fun, spirited, and not intimidating.” He wasn’t wrong!


Using a name like this can be a good corporate branding strategy to make your business stand out among competitors with transparent tags. It lets consumers know that you are doing business differently than others in your industry.


Other examples:

  • Avacado

  • Olly

  • Purple

  • CREST

  • Indigo CoWork (local example)

Make sure your brand name is available

There are millions of companies out there, and most chances are: someone already thought of the name you found for your own brand. Does it mean it should stop you from using it? Not necessarily. Here are a few things you want to check before you decide:

  1. Do a domain name search: Your company’s domain name is its home on the internet. Since your domain name will most likely include your business name, you’ll want to make sure it’s available. Once you register your domain name, it's yours, and no one else can use it. It's a great way to protect your brand's online presence. Use a source such as godaddy.com to quickly assess if your company name is available as a matching domain name. Feel free to get creative!

  2. Do a Google search: Check that your potential name isn’t identical to something else out there that is in the geographical area and industry as your business.

  3. Check for social media availability: Check social media to make sure your brand name doesn’t already exist as a company profile.

  4. Check with Mississippi Secretary of State for name availability: Your business name - It's like your personal handshake with the state. This is how the state recognizes your business. There are various state-specific rules about what your business name can be, and in most cases, it's your shield that prevents anyone else in the state from operating under the same name. But bear in mind, the rules can change depending on the state and business structure so do check with your state. For Mississippi, visit Mississippi Business Name Search to check and see if your business name ideas are already being used. Looks like your name is available? Awesome! Go ahead and register it to call dibs on that name!

No matter what direction you go in, creating a brand name is a fundamental step in establishing your business identity. A thoughtfully crafted brand name can set the stage for your success by making a memorable first impression and fostering a lasting connection with your customers. By taking the time to create a brand name that is authentic and meaningful, you pave the way for a brand story that resonates with real people, ultimately leading to a successful and enduring brand presence.

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