The brand naming process can be a daunting one. After all, it’s usually the first thing that the world sees about your brand, whether it’s a product, business, or yourself.
However, this shouldn’t discourage you in the face of making a decision. You could say that your brand already has a name, and you just need to discover it.
It’s similar to what Michelangelo said about carving: “I saw the angel in the marble, and carved until I set him free.” This is what your goal is with your brand, and this is what this article is about.
To set the angel free, so-to-speak, here are 6 steps to get you started:
1: Define Objectives
Before you do anything, you MUST define what you hope to achieve with your brand. Is it a new product that you want to reach consumers? Is it a social media channel for your existing brand that you’re hoping will attract new attention?
Is it a personal brand that you hope will help you in your career?
I want to focus on this last one for a second. Your personal brand is just as much of a brand as Apple and Google, and sites linked LinkedIn are platforms where you can build up that brand. Everything in this article can be applied to your LinkedIn account, Facebook page, Instagram page, etc.
2: Figure Out Your “Why?”
Why does your brand exist? Moreover, why should people care about it? The “why” of a brand should play a key role in the naming process of a brand because it defines why your brand is important in the first place!
When defining your core “why,” keep in mind these key points:
Your Brand Vision (why your brand exists)
This encompasses all of the ideas behind your brand that guide it into the future. It’s the map to where you want your brand to go.
Of course, to know where you want to end up, you have to know how you started. That’s why this is a key part to knowing EXACTLY why your brand exists.
A solid brand vision will influence everything from business strategies to customer connections. Neglect this step, and you will fail to ever establish a solid brand, and your time and money will be wasted.
Your Brand Mission (what your brand does)
Remember in college when you had to write mission statements for companies in your textbooks? This is a mission statement, but for your brand. Remember, the brand could be anything from a company to your LinkedIn profile.
Have you ever written a mission statement for your LinkedIn? It took me years to. But it’s extremely important, just like it is for your brand.
Your brand mission statement will build off of your brand vision. It should define why your brand exists, what your long-term goals are, identify the customers your brand will serve and where they live, and define what kind of products or services you will provide for them.
For some ideas of awesome mission statements, check out this article from HubSpot.
How You Provide Value (your brand values)
This is how you will provide value to your customers, including why they should choose your brand over another.
Define why your brand is valuable and unique (if it’s not, you’ll need to take it back to the drawing boards). Make the language you use actionable, because it will help guide your brand moving forward.
Make your values meaningful. Don’t just copy and paste what sounds good from other brands’ definitions of value. Bring your core brand values to light and let your customers know that you care about them.
Two important things to consider when writing your brand values: Keep them clear and defined, so there will be no confusion as to how you stand; and keep them timeless, so they can grow with your brand.
3: Define Your Customers
Imagine that you’re going for a hike (I love hiking and this analogy fits; hear me out). You load up all of the state-of-the-art equipment, pack your car, fill up the gas tank, and drive towards the greatest hike of your life! But you soon realize that you forgot one thing: You never figured out what mountain you were going to.
That’s how so many brands start off. The people behind them do everything write except define exactly who their target audience is. And, although everything else may be perfect, without this crucial step, the brand will die.
If you don’t know who your brand is existing for, then you’ll have a hard time thinking of a name.
After you’ve defined your brand’s objectives, key purposes, and clients, it’s time to start thinking up names. This is the creative part of the brand naming process, so have fun!
When brainstorming, remember the main categories that most brand names fit into:
These brand names literally tells the customer what the brand does. Think General Electric, E*Trade, and Bank of America.
These descriptive names are easy to think up, immediately tell your customers what your brand does without any excess advertising, and often has an advantage in search engines.
Making up an entirely new word for your brand can pay huge dividends if your brand takes off. Think Google and Kodak. These made-up words (although “Google” is close to the number “Googolplex”) became synonymous with their brands, simply because they had never existed outside of their brands.
Having a made-up brand name will also allow you extreme flexibility. Remember when Google was just a search engine? If the name was something like “Brin & Page Search” it would have been a lot more work to rebrand to what Google is today.
From a technical standpoint, made-up names are by far the easiest. You won’t have any issues securing copyrights, domain names, and social media handles.
The beauty of metaphors is that they can paint powerful pictures in our minds with few words. Sometimes, they call to mind stories or sensations that we are already familiar with.
Think of the amazon. It’s one of the world’s most impressive natural sites, providing water to a seemingly endless amount of life in all different forms along its banks.
Can you see why Jeff Bezos chose it as the name for his online store? In addition to having built-in brand value, it also gives the brand room to grow; “Amazon” can be a much larger company than “Bezos Books.”
Brand names that are short and sweet are generally the best. Acronyms can offer these advantages and more…including the ones listed above that come with making up a new word.
Think YMCA, NASA, and AARP. These acronyms are much catchier than their full names and creates a new, unique title for their brands.
Finally, you can combined two familiar words to create a new one. Think Facebook in this example.
5: Test the Names
Hopefully the brainstorming phase has yielded you some creative, SEO-friendly, and interesting brand names. Some may suck, but some may be really good. Now comes the time to test them against your target market.
How Memorable is Your Brand Name?
If no one can remember the name of your brand, it’s doomed. Similarly, if it’s hard to pronounce the name or the name is too ambiguous, then it will be easily forgotten.
This can be difficult with personal brands, where the name of the brand is often your own name. I know many magician who have complicated names and have opted to take on a stage name. An example of this is Eric Weisz, who took on the more catchy name “Harry Houdini.”
Domain and Social Handles
This shouldn’t be a dominating factor in choosing your brand name, but it’s an important one to consider. What are the best domain name and social handles for your brand name?
In today’s world, you don’t need a .com domain anymore. There are far more options that are socially acceptable. If your brand can’t secure a .com, try looking at .net, or something more specific like .blog or .tv.
Social handles can be more informal, but still should be on brand. More importantly, all of your social media handles should be consistent. This will give you the professional look you want on social media.
This will make it far easier for your customers to find you on social networks without having to click the links through your website.
Here are a few tips when choosing a social media handle:
- Keep it short; long names are easy to confuse and hard to market
- Avoid using unnecessary numbers, such as @MyBrand1; this makes you look unoriginal
- Avoid using underscores, such as @My_Brand; underscores are easily forgotten and can lead to confusion when your customers search for your brand
- Unless you’re using an acronym for a brand name, don’t abbreviate
- If your ideal brand name is already taken, try adding something to make it sound more prestigious, such as “HQ” or “Official”
If you need help identifying what names are available on what sites, check out Namechk for all the available options.
6: Choose Your Name
I wish I could tell you how to do this, but there’s really no formula for getting this right. After you’ve done your homework, including the steps above, and narrowed it down to a handful of great names, it’s hard to say which will be better.
Getting the brand name wrong can spell disaster for your brand overall. But, after doing your research, brainstorming, and testing, you should have a pretty solid list a names to choose from.
Here are a few tips to pick your final name:
The best brand names are found at the intersection of strategy and creativity. You’ve got the strategy part down, but the creativity part takes some artistic freedom.
Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The brand name tells you that they sell soda (as in “cola”), but does it with a fun, catchy flair.
Starbucks is named after Captain Ahab’s first mate Starbuck in the novel Moby Dick. This seafaring namesake goes hand-in-hand with the iconic mermaid logo.
By definition, there are few rules that constrict creativity. But one of the major ones is to put creativity first. When you put creativity first, you let the unique aspect of your brand shine through. When you do that, you don’t need to use words like “innovative” and “groundbreaking.” Your brand itself will say that without words.
Make Sure It’s Visually Appealing
We humans are visual creatures. We remember images better than words. That’s why so many companies include their name in their logos.
If you want to go this route, which is recommended by many experts, you’ll have to make sure that your brand name actually looks good on paper. How smoothly do the letters of your brand name flow? Is it short enough to fit into a logo? Although it may be easy to say, is it easy to read? These answers will give you an idea as to how it will do as a written logo.
Fill It With Meaning
Finally, your brand name must have meaning. Whatever you choose, make the name synonymous with your brand’s core values. Disney, McDonald’s, Apple; when I say these names, you instantly call to mind the exact feelings that these companies want you to feel.
When you fill your brand name with the values your brand compasses, it can grow with your brand. From the beginning, The Walt Disney Company was in the business of creating entertaining content for children and families. They have expanded from cartoons to amusement parks and cruise ships, but the core values haven’t changed since Steamboat Willie.
Customers who identify themselves with companies are more valuable than gold. When you allow a brand to become part of who you are, you will be a loyal customer for life. Brands that are filled with meaning are the ones who cultivate this kind of following.
Jeep is one of my personal favorite brands. The Jeep brand encompasses “freedom, adventure, and authentic passion.” As an outdoorsman and magician, these brand values are very important to me.
For the 2018 Super Bowl, Jeep paid $5 million to have their ad air. This ad was simply a Jeep driving down a rocky incline, driving through a stream, and continuing on it’s journey.
The ad was simple and boring compared to the other Super Bowl ads, but it spoke at a deep level with Jeep’s customers; the only people needed to care. The Jeep brand is filled with meaning. All they have to do is remind their customers how that meaning feels.
There’s a lot that goes into picking out the name of your brand. But when done right, it will be one of the smartest choices you’ll ever make in your professional career.
Here is a quick recap of all the steps you should consider before ordering a logo for a name you’ll regret:
1: Define Your Objective
2: Figure Out Your “Why?”
- Your Brand Vision (why your brand exists)
- Your Brand Mission (what your brand does)
- How You Provide Value (your brand values)
3: Define Your Customers
- Descriptive Names
- Made-Up Names
- Combined Words
5: Test the Names
- How Memorable is Your Brand Name?
- Domain and Social Handles
6: Choose Your Name
- Be Creative
- Make Sure It’s Visually Appealing
- Fill It With Meaning