carter-branding-the-actually-useful-guide-to-naming-your-brand

The actually useful guide to naming your brand.

If you are planning on launching a new business or are looking to devise a unique name for a new product or service, it is not unusual to find the process of coming up with a suitable name tricky.

While settling on a brand name – something you’re going to build your business on – may seem daunting, it shouldn’t mean the way you go about it should make you feel uncertain.

All you need to do is get started. Admittedly, that sounds really simple but whether you are looking for a brand name for the first time, or you are considering rebranding your existing business, the process is pretty much the same.

Although we are experienced brand-namers, we know that many people prefer to go through the process by themselves.

If that is you, then this article is for you – we’ll look at what needs to happen before you even think about your naming your brand, how to get your creative juices flowing, key things to consider when choosing a brand name and how to make sure the name you choose works for you and your consumers.

Understand Your Brand

The first stage in the process of naming your brand or choosing a name for your company or product, will be based around your brand strategy.

To begin with, you should have completed a comprehensive brand strategy process so that you are in a position to fully understand your business, your offering and – most importantly – your market.

Once you have done this, you will know your brand personality, brand values and vision along with the very essence of your business.

Having this will greatly assist you in coming up with words, names, phrases etc. that will reinforce your brand message. These in turn can be applied to your brand naming.

Your Target Audience

It’s crucial to clearly and fully get to know your target market. It is imperative that you understand who you are appealing to and how your product or service will solve an issue[s] they are facing.

By establishing who they are, their values, likes and dislikes, age and other demographics, what it is that appeals to them will help you clarify why they will choose your brand over anybody else.

Knowing this is not only important for creating your brand name, but it will obviously help your business going forward.

Competitors

The next stage is to review the competitive landscape. You may already know of another company, or indeed many others, offering similar products or services but feel there is space in the market for another offering.

Any thriving market will have lots of competition – that’s a given, so you should take the opportunity to investigate your market place and your direct and indirect competitors closely. Doing so will give you the opportunity to differentiate yourself from everybody else.

By researching your likely competition, you will know where you will sit amongst them. Your brand strategy will confirm you key differentiators – such as your service, pricing, product range, quality etc. – and where you will position yourself.

Then you can carefully check out your competitors and establish their names – who they are what they’re called. In doing so you will be able to confirm that you don’t infringe upon an already-existing business, but rather ensure you stand apart from them.

What will make your brand stand out? Consider what other brands in your market are doing, how you can set yourself apart.

By looking at their brand names, you may see a pattern or a style emerging. You can use this opportunity to break that routine. Looking at it another way, could you be the one different brand? A trendsetter maybe, and not just one of many?

Your competitor research should really help you as you will be able to see where you fit, how you can be different and what names would really attract your target audience.

Create a List

Developing a list of relevant terms should start with a big sheet of paper or lots of little ones and simply write out everything that’s in your head by creating a sort of naming moodboard. Or a naming diagram or brainstorm.

Put your product or service in the middle and then begin adding addition words that are relevant to your product or service around it.

Consider putting words together – such as locations or other places if your brand is geographically-relevant, numbers, colours, names, themes, nouns, pronouns, verbs and transition words and so on. Don’t rule anything out at this stage.

Add in your brand values, your brand essence, your brand vision and details of your brand personality. Write them all out and see if anything jumps out at you.

You could try thinking about your business, product[s] or service in a symbolic sense. Grab a dictionary or thesaurus and work through words with similar or complementary meanings. Try unusual words, foreign or latin words too.

Once you have done this, you should end up with a huge list of potential words that could be used as a starting point for your brand name. You could try grouping one or more together to create a unique name.

Obviously every business is different and thus every brand name needs to be too. It is important that your brand name will be unique, memorable, easy to say, easy to spell and relevant.

If you make and sell candles, your brand name will be very different from a city centre hotel or a firm of solicitors.

You could consider carrying this activity out with another person who may be familiar with your brand and your product or service. If they can work with you to brainstorm ideas, you may find that better concepts or more ideal solutions arise by bouncing ideas between one another. Two heads are – more often than not – better than one.

Wording Wizardry

Once you have list of words and names etc. you can begin pulling out words that you are particularly attracted to. Look at words that could be blended together or words that rhyme for example.

Perhaps you have some words that have a special meaning or just sit well together. Can you combine a couple of words together to create a completely new word?

Add each ideal word, name or phrase onto a new note and pop it on a board. Keep adding as ideas pop up and group them together to form a pattern of ideas on your board.

At this stage, you can see if certain themes or ideas emerge. Are certain words or phrases appearing again and again?

Maybe it’s not even full words. Maybe it’s part of a word perhaps.

If something jumps out at your make another note or place it more centrally within your note / brainstorm pattern. Then step forward with a new version of this from your new central word or phrase and work out from this again.

Once you have done this, you should end up with a selection of shortlisted names for further consideration.

Stop here and come back to it later with a refreshed, open mind.

Take a Break

Now that may seem like a lengthy, unnecessary process – just working through it all is a great achievement. It may only show you where you don’t want to go or routes you aren’t keen on.

But having done this – and even if you have a favourite in mind – taking a break can really help.

You should be able to think more clearly if you put your ideas aside. Do this, again, even if you think you might have landed on the perfect name – and just try and leave it a few days.

Experience tells us that creativity often arises from the subconscious mind.

You may just land upon an amazing idea or see something that sparks your imagination and boom – you have a new direction to investigate. You may come up with a great new name or some new words to explore whilst you’re out walking in the park, for example.

Add them to your list if this happens. Then a few days later, you’ll come back to your names with a fresh perspective. You could also try some of your favourites with a new set of eyes – you could try them with a friend, colleague or customer?

By this stage you will hopefully have a couple [or more] favourites to choose from which in turn may well lead you to a position to definitively choose your brand name.

Decision Time

Now that you have completed these multiple steps, you should have confidently chosen your desired brand name. Congratulations! We appreciate it isn’t a simple process.

The stage that follows the decision making process, is to ensure that are able to use the name and that you can secure suitable domain names and social media handles.

Check Name Availability

There are a number of avenues that you will need to explore here. If you are in the United Kingdom, you should check with Companies House to ensure that you brand name hasn’t already been registered as a limited company or partnership etc. Other countries will have their own equivalent. In addition, you may wish to check with other legal organisations to make sure that your desired name won’t infringe on somebody else’s trademark or similar entity.

Before you confirm your choice of brand name, it is important to check whether a relevant domain name is available for it. Pretty much every organisation needs an online presence, so you must be sure that you can obtain a domain name[s] that matches your brand.

There are many online services that you can use to check domain name availability and there are also a number of sites and apps that facilitate searching for available, matching social media handles.

There are three main results of your search here – either you will find that the perfect domain name is available and you can register it without issue. It may already be in use and thus it is unlikely you will be able to obtain it or somebody has registered it but it isn’t in use and it therefore may be available to purchase, normally at a premium price.

It is really important that your chosen domain and social usernames match your brand name is kept as close as possible to your brand name. We recommend avoiding the use of hyphens or numbers in domain names wherever possible too. Aim to keep your name as close as possible to your actual brand name.

When looking for names, you should test every possible combination of your brand name and see which options work best for you, how your target market will refer to you and how they will search online for you too.

Market Research

Now you’ve got your desired brand name or a couple of favourite options in the mix, there are decent, relevant domain and social media names available.

What happens next?

Market research comes next and this stage is really important. It’s no good having an awesome product or service, matched with a name that you love and the perfect domain and usernames too but nobody understands it, it is instantly forgettable or has negative connotations for example.

So how do you know if it will be right for your target audience? Will it attract them and leave the positive impression you’re aiming for?

In order to find out, we suggest trying out your top two or three ideas on a small group within your target market. You can ask existing customers directly if you have them, you could poll people on social media, or depending on your product or service, you could visit users of your competitors products to garner their feedback.

It is important to channel such research directly at your target audience for your brand – otherwise it is possible that any feedback you receive will not be truly representative.

The sample you use doesn’t have to be huge – think quality over quantity. If you are a service-based business, your research could take you to service users of your competitors. Or if you are product-based, again, aim to speak to people who are likely to purchase your product[s]. You may also be able to ask people who have also built their own businesses or other professionals who deal in your market.

Take any feedback you receive carefully. Don’t be too carried away by the overly positive and also, take negativity in a positive light and see what you can learn from it. You may even find that some alternative names that could work better arise.

The ideal scenario is the you can establish a clear favourite that comes from the feedback you receive and this should confirm that you have landed upon the perfect name for your brand.

Don’t be disheartened if this doesn’t happen, you may simply need to repeat some of the previous steps. Perhaps the name is almost right but needs tweaking, or perhaps you’ve missed the mark with your target audience or somebody recognises a similarity with a competitors. Should this happen, simply go back a step or two and rework the process.

Simplicity is Key

When it comes to the length complexity of your brand name, do all you can to keep it short and simple. Doing so will make both your life and that of your customers a lot easier in the long run.

You want something that easily rolls off the tongue. Don’t make pronunciation anything but straightforward. It must be easy to say, easy to read, easy to type and by being user-friendly, it will be easy for your customers to interact with and remember and will leave a positive impression.

How simple and user-friendly your brand name is should directly reflect how quickly and easily it will be to catch the attention of your target consumers.

The less work you need your customers to do to notice and ultimately remember your brand name, the better. Do whatever you can to minimise the letter or character count, a few syllables at most is a good rule to follow.

We have worked with a number of clients in the past who have needed our help to rename their businesses because clients couldn’t spell their name, or knew it had ‘something’ in it but not the way they thought. They had used mis-spelt words or their names were too long which meant that their customers couldn’t remember all of it. One genuinely even had numbers, two separate letter u’s [instead of the word ‘you’] and an underscore in their brand name and was surprised nobody could remember their name.

Keep it simple, keep it obvious, keep it relevant and ensure it is unique.

In additional to deciding upon a simple, user-friendly, relevant and unique name, your ultimate goal is most likely to be in a position to build a legacy upon your brand name. Get it right by following these steps and you’re on your way to building your brand.

Name First, Brand Building Next

Once you have decided upon the name for your brand and you are happy it meets all of your objectives and can be checked off against the above pointers, you can then begin the process of creative direction.

By working with your brand design agency to work on the visual identity for you – how your brand research, name and strategy are applied visually, you brand begins to take shape.

If you have followed these key stages, you will always be able to refer your brand name back to your strategic direction, brand research and consumer theory and you will be in a really strong position moving forwards.

If you’re ready to take the first step toward building your brand so that you are ready for the challenges ahead, then we’d love to discuss your objectives with you.

Carter Branding Founder Daniel James
Author
Daniel James is the founder and creative lead at Carter Branding.
With over twenty years’ experience, he is equally at home working on branding and design projects for major international PLC’s as he is supporting ambitious businesses and innovative start ups.
Learn more

Next Steps

As an award-winning boutique branding  agency, we create brand identities for ambitious organisations.