The brand name is one of the most exciting and crucial elements of the brand identity. However, deciding what it’s going to be is often one of the hardest things startups face at their very beginning.
Getting it right will ensure it’s future-proof, but getting it wrong may mean you’ll overgrow it when your business reaches the next stage and this may mean a costly rebrand. Changing the name at later stages is always more complex and expensive to implement. You not only need to change your assets, but you also need to ensure your loyal customer base does not drop off due to a significant change in your branding.
A great brand name is not something that just sounds cool or fun. It’s something that should resonate with your customers, be memorable and relevant to your business.
But if you’re just starting up with your business, your customer base is small or you have no qualitative data yet, how do you know you got it right, apart from believing your own taste and, essentially, your gut feeling?
This short guide will help you make an informed decision through 8 steps, and at the end you should be able to say exactly why your chosen brand name is the best for your business.
Prior to any activity, we suggest identifying the key people in your company, and including them through all steps and activities of the naming process. We also suggest not to seek advice or opinion from people who are unfamiliar with your industry and your company, as they are more likely to confuse you than give you constructive advice. It’s best to trust yourself and your team.
Step 1. Market Research, Competitors and Consumers
It all starts with research and analysis. It is important to familiarize yourself with the market, competition and consumers before getting into any creative brainstorming. You should research all aspects of your competitors' communications in as much detail as you can, so that you can find the best position for yourself in the market. Equally, you need to understand your customers, what they want and what their habits are. Without this knowledge, any steps you take towards developing your brand would be a shot in the dark.
Step 2. Develop Your Brand Strategy
After you have all the insight from the market you need, you can start defining your strategy and work on positioning your brand. Include the following questions and activities:
- Define your tone of voice. Not what you are talking about, but how you’re talking to your customers.
- What is the main message you want to send to your audience?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What is the purpose of your existence?
- Why would people choose you over your competitors?
- What would be the values of your brand?
- Try defining the aspired look and feel of the brand using mood boards.
When you have completed all the strategic questions and activities, define your brand positioning in one sentence. Your brand positioning statement is very important and the base of your entire verbal brand identity.You are likely to come up with ideas for names while you are working on the strategy. We recommend that you record them as those will be needed for the next step.
Step 3. Brainstorm - Quantity
At this stage, it is important that you keep your mind open to any ideas that come up and record all of them. The are no wrong suggestions, you never know where any of the ideas can take you. It is recommended to list as many ideas as you can. In this process we do about 1000 names. Don't let that number scare you, because when you start writing down whatever comes to your mind, it's easy to fill up the whole list.
Step 4. Shortlist - Top 20
As you choose your favourites, there are a few things to take into consideration:
- Avoid acronyms, generic and obvious names. Names with acronyms carry a potential risk because they are pronounced differently in different languages. Generic names can be risky because there’s a high chance the competition is already using them, and they are also not unique enough to ensure your brand stands out in a sea of other similar brands.
- Keep it short and easy to remember.
- The name must be consistent with the strategy.
- All your markets should ideally find it easy to pronounce, regardless of the local language.
Step 5. Check - Negative or Misleading Meaning, Pronunciation and Availability
It’s very important that you check all the names you’re considering for any negative or offensive meaning in languages spoken in your markets. Also check if it can be pronounced with no difficulties. This is usually done by specialized translation agencies, but if you do not have the budget for something like this, we recommend that you ask your friends or acquaintances from other countries. You may get useful feedback from them, which is better than nothing!
After the above, you also need to check the legal availability, or whether your brand name can be registered and used in all planned markets. It's best to hire a specialist trademark and copyright law firm to help you with this.
Also don’t forget to check if the domain and usernames for social networks are available for your shortlisted choices. This can be quite challenging because almost all good domains are purchased from brands, as well as from resellers. If a domain is not available, you will need to come up with an adequate alternative.
Step 6. Shorter List - 3-5
Once you’re sure the proposals tick all the boxes you can narrow down your selection to 3-5 finalists. This is usually selected based on how you feel about them, but also if the shortlisted names have the potential to support you in your long-term plans.
Insist that all of the key project stakeholders that are participating in the selection of the final name explain why they have opted for the one they’re suggesting and how they see it in the context of further development of your brand identity.
Step 7. Test
If you don’t have a large budget for testing and hiring a concept testing company, you can also test among acquaintances, clients or workers. However, if you go down that route, you should avoid just saying the name, but instead give them a bit more context. If possible, include the logo and the mock-ups of crucial touch points to help them get the complete picture of how the whole brand will look and feel before they give you any feedback.
Step 8. The Final Selection
This is by far the hardest part. You have done all the preparations, shortlisted your favourites and now you have to narrow it down to one. Take time to allow all your options to settle; it’s ok if it takes longer to make a decision on this final step. This is a very important step and you shouldn’t make rushed decisions. This is the time to listen to your gut feeling, and when you are ready, you can confidently say you selected the best name - and roll into the next branding stage: your shiny new visual identity.