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Your guide to choosing the perfect brand name

11 min read
We’d all like our brand to be a household name. To achieve this, it’s vital that your brand name communicates everything you stand for. So how do you choose it?

When a great brand name collides with top-class products or services, and excellent customer and employee experience, you’ve got a winning combination that sets you apart in the market. You want your name to be memorable, talked about, and resonant with consumers. That’s why it’s important to pick a good one right from the start.

Why a good brand name is so important

Google. Uber. IKEA. Starbucks. Pepsi. You only have to hear these names and you instantly envisage what each company provides. Getting the right name can add real long term value to your brand.

The best name:

  • is easy to remember: making your brand instantly memorable
  • makes sense: helping consumers understand what you do or provide
  • piques interest: encouraging a second look
  • symbolizes positive sentiment and loyalty to your brand
  • is distinctive: helping distinguish your brand from competitors
  • is shareable: across social media
  • helps your brand own a space, sector, or industry
  • is flexible: so you can expand, or add products or services under your brand umbrella
  • is trademarked: so nobody else can use it

The best brands in the world have made their names synonymous with the product or service they are selling. People buy not just a product but the brand, and this has a positive knock-on effect with employee experience, customer experience and revenue.

Free eBook:  The State of Brand Experience Management

What makes a good brand name?

Amazon was originally going to be called ‘Cadabra’ – a contraction of ‘Abracadabra’, but it was shelved because it kept being misheard as ‘Cadaver’. Because web listings were alphabetical, Jeff Bezos wanted something beginning with A that reflected the enormity of his corporate vision – the Amazon river. As the business expanded into offering huge volumes of products and services, the name keeps up with the scope. And Steve Jobs, the story goes, was on a fruitarian diet when he came up with Apple, although the fact that Apple would be web-listed alphabetically ahead of Atari was probably significant. And Jobs and Wozniak couldn’t come up with anything better.

We’re not all like Steve Jobs though: a brand name isn’t defined as ‘good’ just because you like it. It’s good because it communicates a message to your audience. It lets current and potential customers:

  • identify you
  • understand what you offer
  • understand its relevance to them

Names that are easy to recall, distinctive and emotionally appealing will be more memorable and set your business up for success. This process never stops; your audience will always want convenient ways to help them with their buying process, and trusting a brand enough to repurchase does this. A sound name can help you differentiate yourself in this process and be a huge asset to the brand’s identity.

It’s important to note the difference between distinctiveness and differentiation. Whilst both are vital:

  • differentiation is the reason or benefit that makes the customer choose your brand over another
  • distinctiveness is where a brand stands out from the others and is easily identifiable

Nike and Apple are two examples of brands that combine the two: they are both distinctive and easily recognizable, by their name, logos, product design, websites and retail stores, and they differentiate themselves from their competitors in doing so.

As behavioural scientist and best-selling author Richard Shotton explains in his book The Choice Factory, research tells us that we are drawn to objects, people, places that are more distinctive. We are hardwired to do this – it is a behavioural reflex we have as humans.

Tips for developing a brand naming strategy

1. Set clear objectives

A name is an extension of your brand, so you first need to decide what you want it to do. Will it just be a company name, or will it be on product labels, and services idents too? Think creatively about the journey you want your brand name to go on and outline your ambitions. You’ll need to run this past your stakeholders.

2. Define your core identity

Your brand name represents what your company stands for, so you’ll need to figure out:

  • who you are
  • what you want people to think when they encounter your business
  • how you will meet the needs of your customers
  • the vision that your employees buy into

If you don’t know what these needs are, or how to meet them then you can undertake market research and find out. As you begin to articulate your brand, take a long hard look at the following:

  • Brand purpose: Why do you exist? Your business was set up for a reason: to solve a certain problem, service a particular need or meet customer demand. This is your brand purpose. It’s why you get up in the morning, and it’s at the heart of the decisions you make as a business.
  • Brand vision: What will the future look like? Not just for you, but your employees and customers too. It’s essential to have an end goal, or a future state to work towards. This helps to turn your strategy into reality.
  • Brand attributes: what are the pillars that your brand will stand for? What is the vision based on? Is it ‘fun’, ‘easy to use’ or ‘premium’? Identifying these will help make your brand stand out from the competition.
  • Brand personality: How is your brand perceived by target customers? What images, colors and fonts will you use to represent your brand? What tone of voice (TOV) best defines you?
  • Brand values: What do you represent? A company is only as good as the people who work there. Your brand values form a framework that lets you create a culture where everyone can thrive. They are vital to the employee experience, helping you recruit the right people, stay true to who you are while your company grows. They are also the principles that govern behavior in the workplace, and that of the business.

3. Create user personas

A user persona is a fictional representation of your typical customer. Before you even begin brainstorming your brand name, make sure that you have created a distinct user persona or set of personas that you can use to test your ideas from a customer’s perspective.

Once you know who you’re branding your company for, you’ll have an easier time choosing a suitable name. Your user personas will help you empathize with the people you want to sell your products and services to, so you can choose a name that resonates with your customers.

4. Name your brand

This is where the fun starts, and our BrandXM platform can help – it will help you understand your competitors, and enable you to test your brand strategy, giving you authority over the actions you take.

As you build out your brand identity, collaborate with stakeholders, teams and potential customers to ensure a diversity of opinions that allows you to take in the bigger picture. Bring key stakeholders and creatives together and begin by coming up with words that you feel represent your brand (phrases, names, places, adjectives). You may decide to do this in a more structured way and frame your ideas through certain categories. You can try:

  • Personal– based on the company founders. This might be the first name and/or last name, such as John Deere or Walt Disney. Or it might be based on the name of someone else who was significant in creating the company
  • Based on service– a descriptive name that outlines what you do: Deliveroo, Costco, MTV, Volvo, Reddit
  • Acronym– an abbreviation of names, or a phrase: KFC, YouTube, Duracell. Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd doesn’t sound particularly snappy until you use the initials – IKEA
  • Metaphor– a word that symbolizes the future state or feeling that you are trying to create as a business: Verizon, Fanta, Patagonia
  • Or you could make up a word – Etsy, Google, GoDaddy, Skype

Begin by making a list of words that appeal to you. Not only will this help you to create your brand name, but it will also inform the creation of your logo and other brand assets. You’re articulating the brand’s personality, not just the name.

Don’t forget to check that your chosen names are available and not in use or trademarked by anyone else.

5. Test your ideas

Once you get a list of suitable, available names, you can begin testing them, both in-house and more importantly, externally with potential customers. Getting a different perspective will avoid you making mistakes. Your brand name needs to:

  • Be easy to spell and pronounce
  • Sound good and clear on the telephone
  • Avoid any confusion
  • Reflect brand personality
  • Have an available URL

Use both qualitative and quantitative data to test your creative development – surveys, focus groups and interviews will help understand which brand names resonate, which don’t, and why. Use analytics tools to help you to unlock insights and prioritize the key drivers that matter to your audience.

Once you’ve analyzed your names, you can see which ones resonate with your audience the most. Use this feedback to act on and improve them if necessary. That might be word length, tone, or perhaps how they translate in different languages and cultures. Or they might not resonate with customers, in which case you need to assess why.

And finally – trademark your brand so present and future competitors cannot use it.

6. Track your brand growth

As you focus your efforts on growing the brand, you’ll want to see how those efforts pay off. The only way to do that is by measuring it! Using a brand experience program you can track your progress and ensure your efforts produce results. You’ll be able to:

  • Measure essential brand KPIS e.g. brand awareness and consideration
  • Understand how distinct your brand is from competitors
  • Identify the key attributes that resonate (or don’t resonate) with your audience
  • Find the drivers that can improve awareness and other key goals for your brand
  • Keep an eye on short term trends based on social and review data
  • Integrate operational (O) data, such as revenue and ad spend so you can connect your brand tactics with business outcomes

Ultimately, a brand experience program ensures you’re on the right track towards your brand goals – whether you want to be Apple or Nike.

eBook:  The State of Brand Experience Management