Branding matters. Every business leader will tell you this. But it’s not as simple as designing a large golden “M” and then assuming droves of people will want to eat your Big Macs and McNuggets. A brand is carefully crafted and cultivated to convey what a business is and what it wishes to be. And it all starts with the business name. Or at least it should start with the name.
The website builder and development platform, Wix, which offers a free AI-powered brand name generator, states that a business name “should be unique from your competitors, convey what your business and brand stand for and what it does. It also needs to be instantly recognizable to your target audience.”. That’s four key areas, and considering those four points is a good launchpad to start from when you are mulling over ideas.
Of course, just acknowledging those points is not enough. A brand name can be unique, convey what the business stands for and does, and be recognizable to a target audience without feeling quite right. Consider BackRub, a brand name for a search engine that arguably ticked all those boxes. It was unique, and it was suggestive of what the business did (BackRub refers to backlinks in web indexing). But BackRub was soon changed to the more abstract Google, and the rest is history.
A brand name generator can help you start
Using a brand name generator is a good way to get started. Even if you don’t fully agree with the final results, it can get the creative juices flowing, almost like a brainstorming session. Moreover, modern brand generators will use AI technology, which allows for a more succinct and less random generation of brand names. It’s a great place to begin, even if you decide to adjust the name afterward.
But again, we go back to those four key concepts around uniqueness and recognition. For example, PayPal, which used to be known as Confinity, is much better served by its current name. Without delving too far into the art of nomenclature, the phrase PayPal instantly tells us so much about the company. Even if you had never heard of PayPal, which, of course, most of us have, you could easily make a good guess of what PayPal does by the name alone.
When choosing a brand name, there are, unfortunately, probably more don’t than dos. Almost all experts will tell you to stay away from ‘funny’ names, as they can convey a sense of unprofessionalism. Still, that’s a rule that can be broken under the right circumstances, particularly if it’s something that would resonate with your target audience. Of course, it goes without saying that brand names should never be offensive, and you should stay away from political connotations unless, of course, you are in the business of politics.
Using your own name in the brand can be a good idea, but it often depends on the type of business and the goals. Often, there is a sense of parochial when seeing a brand name like Jim’s Tacos; good for local business, perhaps, but probably not the way to go if you want global domination of the taco industry. There are exceptions, of course. The fashion industry is dominated by brands named after designers. Sometimes it’s simply the real name, like Calvin Klein. Whereas, sometimes it gets tweaked, such as when Ralph Lifshitz decided his wife’s surname “Lauren” would better serve him in the fashion industry.
Getting the basics right
Going back to the four key areas, let’s break it down into steps:
- Choosing a unique name
Obviously, you are going to be in a world of legal trouble if you call your business Amazon or Tesla. But we mean unique in the sense that it should convey the unique messaging of your company. Jeff Bezos chose Amazon for several reasons. One, he liked the “exoticness of the name”. Secondly, he wanted it to start with “A” so it would be top of alphabetical company listings. Thirdly, he knew the Amazon river was the biggest in the world, and he wanted Amazon Books to be the world’s biggest bookseller.
- What your business stands for
Most startups have a mission statement these days, something that states a goal that goes beyond the goals of making money. Can that be summed up in a name? It’s not always easy, but some have succeeded. Innocent Drinks, for instance, which was later bought by Coca-Cola, had a brand name that perfectly summed up its mission of providing healthy and ethical (some of the profits were donated to charity) drinks.
- What your business does
As with a mission statement, summing up what your business does in one or just a couple of words isn’t always easy, but we can still find countless great examples: DoorDash, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Airbnb, Hotels.com, CrowdFunder, Zoom, GrubHub, TripAdvisor – just to name a few. All of those brands give an insight into the business behind them.
- Connecting with your target audience
The first three elements usually combine to lead to this fourth one, being recognized by those you wish to connect with. We mentioned PayPal earlier, but we also like Monday.com. The project managing software company has the perfect brand name to resonate with its target audience – those businesses and people for whom “Monday” has but one meaning; the start of the working week.
In the end, there are no rules
Here’s where we are going to contradict ourselves: you could forget about everything we have said and still find a great brand name. Some of the most well-known and iconic brand names – Apple, Xerox, Hoover, LG – had, at the time of creation, little relevance to the business behind them. But they are synonymous with their industries today and have helped the companies behind them make money. But, alas, for very ‘good’ Apple, there’s a bunch of bad brand names. To get started, you should stick to the basics and use tools like brand-name generators for inspiration. And when you hit the perfect brand name – you’ll know it’s the right one.