Looking for the perfect brand name for your new startup?
There’s no doubt that choosing the perfect brand name is one of the most exciting and important elements of startup branding… But it’s also one of the hardest. Get it right, and you’re a household name, like Airbnb, Uber, or Pepsi. But if you get it wrong, you could be the next “Tea Party Bookshop” (YIKES!). Then you may be forced to rebrand or face embarrassment, failure or even aggression. Building a brand and developing a strong brand identity takes time and involves much more than a slogan and a logo. Before jumping into choosing a brand name, check out this video to get the basics of building a brand identity.
Step 1: Create your brand avatar
No- not THAT Avatar! Before you even begin to think about a name for your brand, it’s imperative to identify, as precisely as possible, the characteristics of the ideal customer for your brand’s products or services. If you don’t know who you’re creating your brand for, then you will never find a compelling name. Defining your target customer will come up when you’re creating your marketing and business strategies too, so it’s well worth the effort. It’s just that a lot of startups can be tempted to define their brand name right away – before they’ve fleshed out these details.
Sure – come up with a working title. But don’t definitively set your brand name until you’re sure it will appeal to your target audience and reflect your brand values. The creation of effective brand avatars is, to some extent, an intuitive and creative process, but it’s important to use hard data as well. Web tools such as Alexa can provide significant demographic information about visitors to competitors’ websites, including, age, gender, and location.
Looking at competitors’ Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts can also provide some useful “soft” intelligence about their customer base and online following. From these sources, you should be able to easily construct a clear picture of the customer your brand is targeting. But this is just the beginning…
Step 2: Create your brand archetype
Having created your brand avatar, it is also necessary to define a brand archetype when coming up with a brand name that will work. Put simply, the goal is to understand as clearly as possible what your brand will mean or represent, which is an essential prerequisite for deciding upon the best brand name to attract potential customers. The concept of the archetype is derived from Jungian psychology, but there is no need to go deep into that.
For the purpose of picking a brand name, it’s only necessary to understand that the avatar is the personification of your customer while the archetype is the personification of your company, along with its products or services. Another helpful way to think of this is to ask yourself how your brand will create an emotional resonance with your intended customers. What brand values do you want to communicate? Would a pun or play on words be appropriate for the image you would like to build for your business? Or do you want to bring a sense of luxury to mind?
You want your brand name to indicate something about who you are or what you do.
Look at these two brand name examples for inspiration:
- Nike: This well-known brand is also the name of the ancient Greek Goddess who personified victory. There’s a whole lot of powerful meaning behind those four letters.
- Dove: Doves conjure up feminine images of purity and softness. Ideal for a toiletry brand.
There are 12 main brand archetypes, including the Hero, the Innocent, and the Outlaw, to name just a few. Spend some time deciding which one fits your brand the best. Alternatively, you can take the ‘Discover Your Brand Archetype Quiz‘ to make the process even easier. It’s also a good idea to take some time with your team to think about the non-verbal meanings and emotional associations you want for your brand. When you’ve decided, make sure to note them down so you can add them to your branding guidelines in future. This will help ensure the different elements of your branding are consistent, cohesive and effective.
If you need some inspiration, this guide includes some great insights on how to create your own brand style guide.
Step 3: Generate brand name ideas
The next task is to generate brand name ideas, which both represent your brand archetype and appeal to your brand avatar. There are no hard and fast rules for this, but here are some general principles that can help you out.
Keep your brand name simple
The perfect brand name for your startup will generally be short, simple and easy to say. Ideally, it will be a two-syllable word, as these generally gain more traction with target audiences and are more memorable. Often a successful startup will develop a range of products, so your brand name shouldn’t be too specific. For example, although Footjoy is probably best known for making quality golf shoes, its name is “Footjoy” not “Footjoy Golf Shoes”, as the company now also sells a wide range of golfing and outdoor gear. With this in mind, you can start brainstorming brand name ideas.
Use word association to brainstorm brand name ideas
Start with some simple word association games. Write down, say or shout as many words associated with your brand as possible. You want ideally to have dozens, or even hundreds, of contenders. These can then be narrowed down to just a few which you or your team think are worth testing out. A good place to start is with this in-depth article from Squadhelp, which exhausts all angles of choosing a brand. If you’re working on your own, friends and family may be able to give you useful feedback.
To kickstart the process, you might try inventing a completely new word or combining two ordinary words to form a new one – Footjoy is an example of this. If you can’t get the creative juices flowing, consider flipping through an online thesaurus for a few minutes:
- Enter a possible name for your startup brand and the thesaurus will generate a list of synonyms and related words.
- You can then enter some of these related words to gather even more ideas.
- Create a spreadsheet of the results.
- Recombine them to create completely new, though often nonsensical, words.
Use online tools to grow your brand name list
Once you’ve got this spreadsheet, try going over to Name Mesh and throw some of the words into its brand name generator. If that’s not helping, you can also take a look at these 7 popular types of brand names for even more thought-provoking ideas.
Consider using foreign language words
For more options, you might also consider using non-English words. Those from the romance languages – like French, Spanish or Italian – are often very effective in naming luxury goods, particularly in markets such as clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, perfume, food, and wine. But caution is required… Secondary meanings in local slang may convey the opposite of what’s intended, or even cause serious offense. Use Google Translate or do a simple web and social media search to mitigate this risk of this happening.
Step 4: Check the availability of your best brand name ideas
Once you have a shortlist of possible brand names, it is important to check that they are not currently in use. Make sure they aren’t already trademarked by another business and that a suitable domain name is available. To do this, you should:
- Do a domain name search with one of the main providers, such as GoDaddy. If you plan to use branded links as part of your branding strategy, you can also use Rebrandly’s domain name search, which can be filtered by industry. This is a quick and effective way to check if someone else is using your brand name ideas. But it is wise to also follow this up with a simple Google search.
- Look for Facebook pages and Twitter accounts using the same or a similar brand name.
- Check that your potential startup names are not trademark protected. Search at the US Patent Office or use a service such as Namechk to do this.
You can find out more about how to choose a domain name for your brand and how they can be used for branded links in the video below.
Step 5: Test your brand name
Before finally deciding on the perfect brand name for your company, it’s a good idea to test your shortlist. This will let you figure out how appealing and memorable your potential customers find them. If you have existing customers for other products, you could survey them via Facebook, email, or one of many other online survey tools. If you are a brand new startup, the testing may form just part of your market research, which may be conducted among family, friends, colleagues and on social media.
Whatever the case, make sure you test your chosen brand name thoroughly and objectively. If people are giving you negative responses or think you sell baseball bats when you are supposed to sell golf shoes, you’ll know you’re missing the mark. Remain skeptical. Pay attention not only to what people say and how they respond – but also their very initial reaction.
Select the perfect brand name
Finally, once you’ve properly vetted and tested your brand name, you can start setting up your online presence. So go out there, capture all the relevant domains, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and anything else necessary to finalize the process. Build your logo around your chosen brand name and start to grow a relevant and trusted brand that’s true to your values.
Some final thoughts…
Your brand name will only be one part of the long-term development of your brand. Consider the example of Apple, one of the world’s most powerful brands whose name bears no relation to its products at all. This was a process. There are many options when finding the perfect brand name and, ultimately, this will become a very important piece of your company’s identity.
Brands are more than names and logos. So define your company and what you stand for, and share it with the world.
Have you recently started your own business? Share the process you used to find the perfect brand name with us in the comments below.