At some point, “this really exciting new company I’m starting” needs a name. And while you may be lucky enough to have the perfect moniker fly into your head while drinking coffee one morning, you also may not be. In which case, the process can be daunting. Where do you even begin?
While there’s no secret sauce for finding the perfect brand name (sigh), we’ve outlined six easy steps to guide you through the naming process. You may still bang your head against the wall a few times, but this roadmap will help you get you that shiny new name in the end.
1. Set the Tone
As Lexicon, the leading naming agency, says: “A brand name is more than a word. It is the beginning of a conversation.” So think about how you want people to feel when they see your brand. Curious? Comforted? Inspired? Write down all of the words and phrases that you want associated with what you do. These will likely not end up being your brand’s name, but they will provide you with some initial parameters to work within. For example, if you’re opening an exercise studio and want people to feel energized, you won’t be naming it “Dad’s Downtime.”
2. Brainstorm Separately
Once you have that list, work individually or in a very small group to brainstorm brand names. You’ll have plenty of time to yell at one another about whose is better, but it’s important not to let all of that group-sharing kill the creative process.
For more inspiration, write for five minutes, without stopping, using the following prompts to start you off.
- “I began this company (or, I joined this company) because….”
- “Our products make me feel….”
- “I feel [insert one of the emotions from your list above] when….”
See what interesting words and phrases come out the exercise, and add them to the list.
Once you’ve had ample time to get your initial thoughts down, come together and play. Combine the words and names you’ve come up with, spell them weird, add your last name to the end of them, play word alliteration, throw them into a thesaurus. This is where the magic happens. As this Fast Company article explains, Lexicon’s team coined the name “blackberry” for RIM’s email devices after they prompted people to brainstorm things that brought them joy (a sentiment that, they realized, was opposite to what people might naturally feel for an email device). Someone said “picking strawberries,” and after playing around with the phrase, they eventually came to “blackberry.”
Then, whittle that list down to your favorites.
4. Due Diligence
Now that you have a short list, check to see if any of those names have already been trademarked (you can begin that process here). Additionally, research the domain name availability. Ideally, your domain name should be your brand name, unless you want to get into a very costly game of “buy that URL” down the road. You can certainly get creative with the URL, but this process is often helpful in further narrowing your options.
As my grandmother liked to say: Let it marinate. Mock up quick brand logos with each finalist name. Visualize the names on your storefront. Walk around with the names in your head. Mostly, give yourself some time to think about it. Naturally, a few (or one) will rise to the top.
Before you begin the naming process, it’s important that someone be elected to have final say—this will likely be one of the founders, but make sure to pick only one. Otherwise, this already exhausting process has the potential to drag on indefinitely. Armed with the best of the best non-trademarked names, it’s up to this person to make the final call.
If he or she is stuck? Go back to #5 for as long as it takes.
Throughout this process, remember to think long-term. You want a name that can survive any fad and will remain relevant throughout the years. And keep SEO in mind: The more unique your name, the higher its SEO value. While it shouldn’t be the determining factor, it’s certainly helpful if your brand name elevates you in those tricky rankings.
Once you’ve picked your name, and you’re sure (seriously—be sure), put it everywhere. On your website, on your store, on your business cards, on your voicemail. But don’t throw out this list you’ve created! When you’re naming your first product (or your next), it might come in handy.