Google, Amazon, Coca-cola, and Microsoft. We all know these companies and they are some of the most iconic brand names that seem like a perfect fit. But when these great brand names were chosen was it luck or is there a process for creating impactful, memorable, and catchy names that can stand the test of time?
For a lot of successful entrepreneurs choosing a brand name has less to do with luck and a lot to do with a plan, process, and research. A successful brand name isn’t just something that looks good on your website or sounds good and they aren’t great just because you like it. A great brand name is great because it communicates value and a message to customers.
“Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. Branding is about shaping that perception” – Ashley Friedlein, Marketing expert and founder of Guild.
Good brand names start with a customer focus, they always want an easy way to identify, remember, discuss, and compare brands. The right brand name can be one of the most valuable assets for a business, driving differentiation and acceptance.
But, choosing the right brand name for your organization can be a difficult task. How do you find a name that works? A brand name that’s catchy? A name that looks great on ads, websites, and has an available URL?
There are a few options to getting started, you could use a brand name generator, hire a company to come up with your brand name, or do it yourself. Either way, it can be a daunting task, and depending on your budget and needs you might choose different options. In our experience, finding the right brand name is possible, it just takes some research, effort, and deep thinking.
What Makes a Good Brand Name
There are a lot of theories, studies, and articles on what makes a good brand name. For example, a 2012 study by the European Journal of Marketing found that the equity of a brand name is mainly determined by the customer. With a few vital elements of a brand name emerging, it is clear that there is a process to creating a brand name.
While there is no perfect method for creating a great brand name, there are some important traits of a good brand name to make naming your business easier and a few things that your brand name should and shouldn’t do.
A Good Brand Name Should Be:
Meaningful: A good brand name communicates your brand value, message, creates a brand image, and produces a positive emotional connection.
Distinctive: Distinguishes you from your competition and is unforgettable. A good brand name is unique and can be distinguished from all other brands.
Accessible: Your audience needs to easily understand, interpret, say, spell, and search for your brand. Even if the name is unorthodox or bizarre, it needs to be easily understood.
Flexible: The brand name can be used in a number of formats and placements and can be altered to effectively communicate your message. The brand name needs to grow with the business and continue to be relevant.
Protectable: The brand name isn’t taken and can be trademarked by the organization to ensure it is the brand name only you will be identified as.
Visual: It can be communicated or translated through design elements like icons, logos, colors, etc. You should be able to communicate and display your brand name in visual mediums that have the same effect as the brand name alone.
A Brand Name Should NOT:
Tell the whole story: A brand name cannot do all of your marketing alone. You should never try to tell the whole story of your business with your brand name. Customers and users will learn the whole story later but the name captures the nature of the brand.
Be overly literal: A good brand name should not be so literal that it becomes generic and boring. The brand HP wouldn’t call themselves the computer company, it’s too literal for users to remember and it’s impossible to differentiate from other companies.
Limit the business: A name that limits you to one niche, industry, or category sets the business up to fail and restricts growth. It would be hard for a company named Electrical Supplies Co. to move into actually doing the electrical work. While the services are related, people wouldn’t assume they do more than sell supplies.
Be the focus: While a bland name can be bad for business, any overly flashy name that steals the show can be even worse. Your brand name shouldn’t distract from the functions, offerings, or message of your business.
Slow you down: Choosing a brand name can be tricky but it’s not something that you should worry about for weeks. While you never want to change it and want it to work great for your business, mistakes can be fixed. If there’s a perfect domain you want that isn’t available for another year, don’t wait. Use our tips and creative skills to come up with potential brand names. Don’t get stuck on your name, many great brand names came from a snap decision.
These “do’s” and “don’ts” of good brand names help you create new possibilities and sift through the options, but you want to find a brand name that communicates value and is successful. Not just “good” or “bad”, what matters is having a name that resonates with your target audience.
4 Types of Brand Names
There are many structures and types of brand names but most fall into four categories. These are the four types of brand names that will help you create your own.
Generic Brand Names
Brands like cars.com or Capstick are clear examples of generic brand names. Names like these can be hard to secure for many reasons, the biggest being that generic domains like snacks.com would have a big asking price.
Generic brand names can be easy to remember, identifiable, and clearly explain what the business does. But the category of these names rarely meets the criteria of what a good brand name should do.
Although it is appealing in that it is short, memorable, and practically sums up what your company does, it is not unique, engaging, or piques interest. For example “Dog Food” might be a solid generic name for your dog products. But it’s too literal and boxes the company into one product or category.
Descriptive Brand Names
Descriptive brand names attempt to describe what the brand, product, or service does for the customer. For example, Burger King clearly shows users what they offer and leaves no questions up to the user.
This name tells you what they are going to give you (burgers) and displays that they are good at it (king). You know what you are going to get by just reading the name, that’s a powerful advantage to have.
Other names that would fall into this category are Pizza Hut, General Motors, Holiday Inn, Gmail, and more. Each of these describes or hints at what the organization is offering. This can be a great category for your business to be in.
Suggestive or Associate Brand Names
Suggestive or Associate Brand Names don’t tell the full story of what the business does but imply that it might do through language that communicates imagery and emotion.
Amazon is a great example of this type of brand name, their brand name suggests that they have a vast catalog and can offer users a lot. The business doesn’t have anything to do with amazon, but they do offer a massive variety of products. In a sense, they are associated with the vast offerings, diversity, and size of the amazon forest with their brand.
One of the big benefits of this kind of brand name is the only constraint is your creativity. It can be great for a brand that wants to be unique, and distinct, base its name on history, or create a fun play on words.
Random or Abstract Brand Names
This category of brand names requires the most creativity and can take time to figure out. However, a lot of the most iconic brand names of all time came from made-up, random, or abstract words.
These names are a blank slate and can develop into just about anything, but it’s harder to build brand recognition around them. The reason these names don’t always work is because people cannot associate the name with anything or connect with it. If you’re launching a new product, service, or business, you should typically incorporate a name that explains something to the users.
A few examples of random brand names are Google or Apple, while they are iconic today and everyone knows them, they have nothing to do with the business offerings.
How to Find the Right Brand Name
Finding your brand name can be exciting, stressful, exhausting, and everything in between. But, there are multiple tools and platforms that are trying to make it easier for businesses, whether it’s through name generation, suggestions, showing available domains or names, or (the most important) brand name testing.
These tools can be helpful in brainstorming, vetting, and researching, but it’s important to choose and test a brand name with purpose. If you are ready to find the best brand name for your business, here’s our step-by-step guide.
1. Communicate Brand Value
Before you choose your brand name you need to understand the goals of the organization, your unique selling proposition, and who you are. To do this, you need to communicate brand value, this includes:
- Purpose: What do you do?
- Vision: what problem do you want to solve, and what does the future of the brand look like?
- Mission: What are you trying to accomplish and how are you going to do that?
- Values: What guides your business and behavior?
These elements should guide everything the organization does, including choosing your name. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you might not be ready to find your brand name.
2. Differentiate Your Brand
Understanding what makes your product, service, or business different from the competition is the key to finding a brand name that will stick. Brand values are definitely something that makes you unique, but there are a number of other elements that create differentiation.
You want to keep your competitive advantage at the forefront of your brand as you move through the naming process. You aren’t just looking for a great name, you are looking for one that is a great name for you, your customers, and your industry.
If you can’t identify what makes you different, do some research, consider what you offer, and look at the competition. You’ll get a better sense of how you can stand out in every aspect of brand development.
This is the fun or exciting part of naming a brand. Get your team together, ask some friends or family, and come up with as many potential brand names as possible, the more the better.
While it can be fun to let everyone throw out any idea, you should give some guidelines for what you are looking for, what you want to communicate, and the type of name you want. You might want to start your discussion with a prompt such as:
- Write down the adjectives that describe the brand or business
- Describe what you want customers to feel when they see your name
- Associate words with the product or service
Another useful way to brainstorm names is to think of categories that you might want to align with:
- Founder: A name based on a real or fictional person, like Sam Adams or Ben & Jerry’s
- Descriptive: A name that describes what you do, like Toys R Us
- Fabricated: A completely made-up name or word, like Hulu
- Acronym: A brand name that used initials or abbreviations, like IBM
- Metaphor: Foreign, imaginary, or mythical things, places, people, or processes, like Nike
- Misspelling: A name that changes the spelling or combines words, like Google
Challenge the team to come up with names for every category, you’ll probably have a lot to work with, and might start to see a trend of preferences for one type over another.
4. Consolidate the List
This can be the most frustrating part of the brand naming process, there’s no point in testing names that are already taken, or sound too close to other brands. You need to narrow your list down to unique, powerful, and effective brand names.
Consider the team’s favorite names, ideally 5-10, then do some research to identify if any of them are taken, are too similar to the competition, or are other established brands. If they are all taken, it’s back to step three, this process will reduce your list down to the brand names that might work and the ones that the business can actually use.
If your team is lucky, or geniuses and you found 20 unique, unregistered brand names, narrow it down to your top three or four to test.
5. Test and Retest
Now that you have a list of your favorite brand name possibilities, here is the most exciting part, using consumer feedback to identify the best brand name. You get to create logos, product packaging, landing pages, and more.
Test your top 4 or so names, you might be surprised by what test participants like. Your favorite brand name might not be what the users like, you should consider their feedback when you ultimately choose a name.
To test a brand name, follow Poll the People’s guide to brand name testing. You will be able to create a custom test that compares two brand names, allows your target audience to vote, and gives detailed feedback on what makes one better than the other.
The best part, our tests take less than 60 minutes and responses only cost $1. This allows you to test as many brand names as you want, all while getting feedback from real users.
Once you’ve tested, re-tested, and analyzed all of the quantitative and qualitative data you should have a frontrunner.
Testing with Poll the People makes the process quick and easy, allowing you to worry less about spending money on brand name testing and giving you more time to finalize the product and create every part of the brand.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a brand name. You need to think about the elements of a good brand name, what a brand name shouldn’t be, the different types of brand names, and what goes into creating one.
The best way to test your brand name is to use Poll the People’s brand name testing feature. This tool will allow you to see how your brand name options compare and with real user feedback you will be able to find the name that fits your business.
Choosing a brand name is a critical decision. Make sure you take the time to test your name to ensure you are making the best choice for your business. If you are ready to find a powerful name for your business, product, or service, sign up for Poll the People and launch your first test in minutes.
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