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You've got your business idea, you know your market, and everything is ready to go. There’s just one thing missing – an awesome name. But what’s in a name? Well, quite a lot, actually. Especially if you’ve got big ambitions for your biz.
Why is it important to choose a good brand name?
Picking a good company name can make or break a business. It’s the first thing new customers will see when they interact with your business and fundamentally what you’ll be remembered for. With this in mind, it’s vital to choose a name that is original, memorable, embodies your brand and connects with your target audience. It should also be easy to turn into a logo, be available as a domain name and consider the longevity of your company – you’ll need it to continue being relevant as your company grows. This may sound like a daunting list, but let's not forget that choosing a name is also a lot of fun.
Questions to ask yourself when thinking of brand name ideas
Is it already taken?
With so many brands out there, your first and smartest port of call is to find out if a company is already trading with the name you like. A good place to start is the government online register of trademarks. And even if you know you’ve picked a winner, it’s worth checking out our blog on trademark and copyright disputes before you forge ahead.
You should also get some professional indemnity insurance. This just means if you still accidentally pick a brand name that’s taken, or your logo, colours, or fonts are challenged (yes, this happens) your legal costs are covered in the event of a claim.
What sort of brand do I want to be?
A brand name can say a lot about your business’s personality. For instance, do you want to be seen as playful or serious? Obviously a quirky greetings card company is going to have a different vibe to bridal couture, but it’s a good idea to put yourself in your desired audience’s shoes to see what they might expect from your brand name.
How searchable is my potential brand name?
One of the key ways for potential customers to find your brand is through an online search. So before you decide your name, your best bet is to search for it first and see what else comes up. If there’s anything conflicting – or weird – it’s probably time for a rethink!
Is my brand name available as a domain name?
A domain name is the unique address for your website. In an ideal world, you want to be securing the ‘.com’ domain name for your business rather than .net, .org, or .biz, because it carries a little more weight, is more widely recognised and has global expansion in mind.
Next up, the domain name you want needs to be available – and you have to buy it. If someone already has the name you fancy, you may be able to coax them into selling it. The best way to check availability is with a site like GoDaddy or NetworkSolutions.
Many experts see getting the ‘.com’ name you want as an investment, so it's definitely worth spending some time and money on ensuring you have the right one.
Will my product or service offering change?
Although it’s tempting to choose a brand name that represents your business as it is today, you might find it doesn’t grow with you. Especially as you expand into other markets. Instead, you could go for something with a broader appeal that represents your company’s ethics or values.
What does my business name mean in other languages?
Make sure your chosen name doesn’t mean anything rude or offensive in another language. And trust us – even those in the big league aren’t immune to this mistake!
In 2001, Honda introduced the Fitta to the Scandinavian market, only to discover that ‘fitta’ is slang for a woman’s, ahem, ‘bikini zone’ in Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish. The car was quickly renamed the Jazz.
Of course, finding out your company name means something rude in another country may not stop you. But only if you’re as ubiquitous as, say, Siri. Which turns out to mean something rather spicy in Georgian. We’ll leave you to google it.
There’s also pronunciation to take into account. If you go for something that features an English linguistic quirk, foreign markets may be left with a tongue twister. Like cleaning brand Jif, which eventually got renamed to the more European friendly, Cif.
How to come up with business name ideas
You can really get creative when it comes to brand names. Many famous brands have a story behind their monkiers, so this is definitely the good part. Here are some fun starting points:
Your brand’s story
A good solid metaphor goes a long way. Did you know that Nike is the goddess of victory in Greek mythology? And wanting to be ‘Earth’s biggest bookstore,’ Jeff Bezos chose the name Amazon due to its grand geographic connotations. Virgin’s story is a little more direct, with Richard Branson playing on their early days as ‘virgins in business’.
Cisco Systems is so named after the founder’s hometown San Francisco, Evian water is based on the town of Evian-les-Bains, and Adobe surprisingly, is named after the Adobe Creek in California. If you live or grew up somewhere with a memorable name, why not capitalise on it?
Your name, or something related to it
Shropshire-born entrepreneur Nick Jenkinswas looking for a punchy name that was easy to represent in a logo. What did he choose? His school nickname – Moonpig. And the rest, as they say, is history.
You could even use your name just as it is. It worked for Ben & Jerry, Linda McCartney, and Abercrombie & Fitch.
Pun names or a ‘mash-up’
If you’re going to go full-pun, make sure it’s a goodie. Some corkers from the UK include Floral and Hardy, Alan Cartridge (office suppliers), and Deja Brew (a coffee house).
A mash-up can also be fun. Haribo is a blend of founder Hans Riegel’s name, and the city he lived in (Bonn). IKEA is also an assembly of the founder’s name and hometown: Ingvar Kamprad, from Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.
Unique, obscure or rarely used words
If few people have come across a word before, you can make your own mark with it. And you’d be in good company. Google has its roots in the word Googol — which means the digit 1 followed by 100 zeroes. It was the perfect name to represent just how much data the founders were indexing.
A phrase that sums up your business
Sometimes, it’s great to simply have a name that ‘does what it says on the tin’. For example, Not on the High Street, I Want One of Those, and of course the place to go when planning that much needed holiday — TripAdvisor.
If it’s good enough for AOL (America Online), HMV (His Master’s Voice), and BMW (Bavarian Motor Works), then it’s good enough for you.
Things to avoid when choosing a brand name
Anything that could cause you a copyright headache including: song lyrics, a famous quote, or a famous name. The only way the founders of BrewDog managed to back out of a legal spot after naming one of their beers Elvis Juice, was to legally change their own names to Elvis. Not the conundrum you need for a Monday morning.
Some final tips from us
Unlike naming children, you can ask your friends and family what they think of your business name idea. They may see or hear things you don’t. Say the name out loud. Try it out with potential customers, prospects, or investors.
And lastly, trust your gut. People say they experience an ‘aha’ moment when they hit on a good name. The main thing is, don’t rush. This brand name could be with you for decades. Your business is your baby, so give the naming process some time and thought.
This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.