There are few things more challenging throughout the branding process than naming a business or product. It takes condensing a ton of information into a few words that perfectly capture a brand to tell not just who you are, but acts as the first impression your brand will hold onto forever. It’s the thing that needs to stick right away and if it doesn’t, you’re already starting with a disadvantage. Daunting, right?
Some brands name themselves. When appropriate, using a creator’s name, a city reference, or a piece of industry lingo can fall into your lap and perfectly fit the bill for naming purposes. That’s great. Congratulations, if that’s the case. But, a majority of the time, after a product or brand starts to take shape, finding the perfect name can pose a significant challenge.
While honing in on your name, there are a few factors worth considering to help you find the one that suits you.
Clever names lose novelty.
A pun or gimmicky name may feel fun, but can easily grow tired for both you and potential customers. Choose a name you can grow with and represents you in a way you want to be seen. Your name should be smart. It should be fun, if that’s what you’re after. But, don’t let getting caught up in cleverness distract from what you do.
Let practicality guide you, not bog you down.
When you start from scratch with naming, it can be tempting to go the route of simply choosing what’s available based on domains and social handles. Those are important factors to consider, but availability shouldn’t dictate your name. If you settle on a name you love and the obvious domain or handle aren’t available, look at it as an opportunity for creativity. Harley Davidson’s stock ticker symbol is ‘HOG’ because Home Depot already had the obvious choice. Move a little outside the box when necessary and make implementing the right name a priority.
Brainstorm. A lot.
Word association is a fantastic exercise for naming purposes. You’ll often find that even simply writing about your brand or visiting the thesaurus a few times will open up your naming possibilities. Ask yourself “What does my brand do/create?” and just start writing down every word you can think of around those ideas. You may be surprised what comes out of it.
Trends die. Good names stick around.
You probably have a “designer” friend on social media that started something called ‘Rosemary & Birch’ or some combination of flowers and woodland animals with an ampersand dividing them. This is not a bad brand name. It’s a trendy, mostly meaningless one. It’s okay to choose a name that fits with popular culture, but consider how well the name will age. Not only is it likely not the best name for you, it will date your brand with all the other trend followers that started brands around the same time. Picking a name for its trend value will drag you down and cause you to stand out less in the long term.
Say what your brand does. Or don’t. But, maybe.
This ambiguous piece of advice has a point. There’s no magic formula for naming your brand. Sometimes, the no frills dive bar on First Avenue should just be called the ‘First Avenue Pub’. Sometimes, calling it ‘Dr. McManimum’s Drink Emporium’ will work better. There’s a different fit for everyone. What matters most is giving your brand a name that is memorable, helps tell your story, and remains relevant as your business grows.
Brand naming in action.
We helped name JumpSpark, a Jewish teen group previously called ‘The Atlanta Jewish Teen Initiative’. The original name is not a bad one. It defines who this group is for, their affiliation, and even if you don’t know exactly what they do, you get an idea just by the name. But, this is an organization for Jewish teens to get them involved in the community and excited about their faith and culture. Atlanta Jewish Teen Initiative is a mouthful that’s not exactly going to bring in the young folks in droves.
To start the naming process, we spent time with program leaders and participants, went through a branding workshop, and brainstormed both as an agency and with our client. Finally landing on the name JumpSpark took a significant amount of time and work, but clicked almost instantly and was an obvious fit. A ‘jump spark’ is defined as ‘a spark produced by the jumping of electricity across a gap’. It’s a connection. A conduit for something much larger. That’s exactly what the organization does. Connecting Jewish teens with their community and creating opportunities to grow.
This is a successful name for a few reasons. First, it’s short and punchy, a nice departure from the clunky previous name. It’s also easy to remember and will stick with people after hearing it. Stickiness is key. It has a story that connects to what the brand does and can be quickly explained if asked. Finally, it’s smart without going over anyone’s head and clever without relying on a pun or gimmicky name.
Your ideal name is unique to your business and the goal should be to find a name to stand behind with confidence. Give yourself time to explore and sit with your options. Whether you’re working on a name for yourself or paying someone to do it for you, give your gut some credit and go with the name that feels right and will grow with you.