It’s a simple rule of business: every brand needs a name.
Whether it’s a company, product, or store, a brand name is one of the first things most entrepreneurs consider when starting a business.
At their best, brand names become household names, supporting all your other branding efforts. But finding a name that has the same power as the Coca-Colas and Walmarts of the world doesn’t just happen.
To help you find the right brand name for your business, we’ve put together a few steps you can follow. First, we’ll look at what makes a good name. Then, we’ll give you a few brand name generation ideas. With these two steps together, you’ll be able to build a brand name that’s equal parts exciting and effective.
What makes a good brand name?
Before you start generating brand names for your business, it’s best to begin by looking at what actually makes a brand name work. That way, you’ll have a framework for your name brainstorming. Let’s look at a few core qualities any good brand name has:
1. It puts customers first
Your brand name isn’t just about your business—it’s also about your customers. If your customers don’t buy into your brand’s name, chances are they won’t buy from your brand. So, for every name you consider, consider your customers.
Who is this brand for?
What are their needs?
What are their wants?
What challenges do they face?
An exciting and effective name will both catch your customers’ attention and communicate something meaningful about your brand. How it does both of those things will depend entirely on who your customers are. By keeping your customer profiles in mind throughout the naming process, you’ll generate a brand name customers can connect with.
2. It reflects your overall brand
Now that you know who you’re naming your company for, consider how your brand fits into their lives. How you solve those wants, needs, and challenges will determine how you position your brand.
Who you are to your customers (the perceptions, memories, feelings, and associations they have about you) is what composes your brand. While you can’t control customer feelings completely, you can shape them with your brand identity and assets—including your name.
But even if you haven’t been through a full branding exercise or built out a complete company brand identity yet, you might have more brand strategy on hand than you think.
If you have nothing else to go on, ask yourself these four questions:
Why are you in business?
What does your business provide?
What values and traits define the way you do business?
Why should your customers care?
These questions form the ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘so what’ of your brand. If a name doesn’t suit with any one of these areas, it’s not aligned with your overall brand strategy. Think of it this way, if innovation is a trait that defines you, a brand name with “Old” or “Vintage” in it might send mixed signals to customers.
3. It’s original and available for use
As you begin to generate business names, you’ll need to make sure no one had your great brand name idea before you. If you can’t own the name online and in people’s minds, you might need to reconsider.
While you can always change your website or social handles slightly to accommodate a word already in use, doing so shouldn’t confuse customers. Customers might understand that Apple.com and actual apples are two different things, but you wouldn’t want to be treading on too close to a similar name in a similar industry.
But even if the domain and social handles are available for your business name, it’s still worth checking what turns up in search. If your brand is surrounded by questionable websites, it’s not a good look.
Additionally, consult movies and books that might coincidentally mention your brand name, to see what people might associate with your name. Not every brand can overcome negative associations that come along with their name the same way that Soylent did.
4. It can grow with your business
Rebrands might sound fun in theory, but they come with the very real risk of losing brand equity and brand recognition. So, as you look at your brand name options, consider whether they work for your business long-term—not just today.
If your business plans for the future include brand extensions or product expansions, take that into account as you look through your name options. A brand name that encompasses the ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘how’, and ‘so what’ of your brand will serve you better in the long run than something that’s tied directly to your current product offering.
When in doubt, keep it simple, with a brand name that resonates with the core of your brand promise and personality, rather than trying to communicate everything you do in just one word. (That’s what marketing is for.)
5. It’s user-friendly
No matter how much a name seems like a good fit for your brand, if it isn’t user-friendly, your customers aren’t going to use it much. Consider whether your brand name will be legible in different mediums and whether its pronunciation is something your customers will be able to grasp. If they can’t read or say your brand’s name, they’re probably going to pick the brand they can.
As you try to root out any user experience issues, your best course of action is simply listening to your customers (or potential customers). Leveraging their feedback will help you choose a brand name you know they can connect with.
Don’t feel like reading through all of this again as you start brainstorming?
Keep this video on hand instead:
How to choose a brand name
Now that we’ve covered what makes a good brand name, let’s look at a few ideas to start generating your own. Once you’ve created a few options and run them through the requirements, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a household name.
Use your own name – For service-based businesses, your name alone might be the right fit, since you’re already closely tied to the business and its offerings.
Describe what your business does – If your business is product-based, try telling people what you provide. You’ll get the ‘what’ of your business across quickly and with fewer gaps in understanding.
Make a portmanteau – Try combining two words related to your business to make a new one. These words can be related to what you do or a feeling you want to convey.
Give new meaning to an old word – By taking a word that already exists and applying it in a new context, you can leverage word associations while providing a fresh take.
Alter the spelling of a pre-existing word – By swapping letters or removing them entirely, a unique spelling of a pre-existing word lets you leverage familiarity, without having to fight for a place in search.
Add prefixes and suffixes – Like altertering spelling, modifying a preexisting word with prefixes and suffixes allows you to claim a brand name that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to own.
Look to other languages – While you’ll want to consult a few sources to make sure you’re getting it right, using other languages opens up a new world of brand name options.
UAA (Use An Acronym) – If you want to have a longer, more descriptive brand name, you might consider using an acronym. This way, you can avoid scalability issues down the line.
Choose a place – By going with a location (whether it’s a street name, city, or something larger), you’ll be able to capture some of the feelings people already have towards a location in your brand.
Have pun with it - Sometimes a little word play can help you pick the right name for your business, especially if you brand is more playful. But if you run something more serious, a pun might make for poor timing.
Create a new word – If none of these options work for your brand, you can always make up a brand new word to act as your new brand name.
The most important part of your brand’s name
As you start working on creating an exciting and effective brand name for your business or product, there’s one more factor you’ll need to consider.
Do you love it? If you don’t love it, don’t keep it. A name should be something you’re proud of and something you’re happy to see everywhere around your business for years to come.
So if you can’t stand the sight of it—even if it fits the other requirements—it might be time to look at other names. After all, it’s easier to change a name before it’s plastered all over your website and marketing materials, rather than after.
After you choose the right name for your brand, browse our content hub with over 30 resources to help your brand shine in other ways. Build yourself up with help from G2.
Christine Glossop works as a writer for Looka—an AI-powered logo maker that provides
business owners with a quick and affordable way to create a beautiful brand—where she
focuses on branding-related content.