7 Tips for Naming Your Next Brand
You have a fantastic business idea or project in the works. But the name leaves something (ok, a lot) to be desired.
This is a common growing pain for startups and new business owners. Maybe you’re in build-mode with a temporary name like “Project X” or “Beanstalk V2.” Or maybe the name you have no longer fits the brand’s vision. Maybe, there’s a pesky legal roadblock, and your beloved name is no longer viable in the market.
Finding that perfect name for your product or company can feel impossible—all the good names are already taken, right?
Of course not! While naming can be a beast of its own, it takes patience to find the right name out there. And trust us—it’s out there.
A big focus for our team last year was on expanding our naming services. And with a few wins these last few months, we’re sharing our best learnings and tips for a smooth naming process.
7 Tips for Naming Your Next Brand
1. Start with your brand strategy.
Your business’s name is an important brand element—a name is one of (if not the) longest-lasting part of your brand presence, outliving the inevitable strategic and design evolutions to come. This is why it is critical for your brand name to be rooted in brand strategy. Before you jump into name generation and website domain shopping, take some time to define the strategic territory your brand will occupy. Get clear on your brand mission, values, personality, and overarching “why.” Map out what the next 1, 3, and 5 years look like for your growth, and write out the core differentiators and value props you intend to bring to market. We get it—it might feel weird to go through these exercises without a brand name. Drop in a placeholder name for now, and get your strategy on paper. This is important for the next step.
2. Identify your success criteria.
Write out some north star goals of what you’d like your name to accomplish, across meaning and differentiation. Look back at your brand strategy and identify some key ideas and themes that the name might be able to embody—these will provide fantastic jumping-off points for name generation! Take a look at competitor and peer companies and their own naming conventions—what played-out tropes can you avoid and how can your name differentiate? Draft this all into a naming brief that paints a picture of what a successful brand name accomplishes. Include: a 1-2 sentence description of what’s being named, who the audience of your name is, ideas the name should convey, ideas to avoid, name personality and tone, and any other notes you want to keep in mind when assessing the final name options.
3. Name generation is all about quantity over quality.
Here’s a secret about naming: don’t rely on your brain and blank page. Naming isn’t about coming up with something out of thin air, or waiting until inspiration miraculously strikes. It’s actually more like finding a needle in a haystack. In short: you need to believe your name is out there already — and now your job is to go on a journey to find it. With your naming brief drafted, it’s time to start coming up with name ideas. The more the merrier, and somewhere along the way you still stumble upon your winner. Pick something from your naming brief as a starting point, and start riffing. Write out all ideas that come up: the good, the bad, the weird. Explore synonyms, related words, and word combinations. Use Google, dictionaries, and books. Expose yourself to a diversity of words. If you’re open to a made-up name (”coined”), start splicing and blending.
4. Get out and take breaks.
In the beginning, especially if this is your first time, put a time cap and take breaks. For our team, we aim for each person on the naming crew to come up with ~100 name ideas per day, which typically measures out to about 1.5-2 hours of naming work each day. Breaks are a core part of the process here. When you’re in naming mode, everything you see, hear, and say gets absorbed and processed through the lens of naming. So get out, take walks, go on field trips. You never know what new exploration pathways unfold.
5. It’s normal to hate every name you come up with.
Naming is rarely love at first sight. And often, the names you immediately love are heartbreakingly taken or otherwise unviable to move forward. These are the emotional hazards of such work. But there will be a happy ending in the end. Trust. After a few days of name generation, pull ~10-20 names that could work. You and/or others on your team may not be totally convinced, but it’s important to elevate the viable options and give them a chance.
6. Consider how your name ideas fit and inform the greater brand system.
As you shortlist a few potentially viable names from the hundreds that you’ve generated, try them on for size. Imagine—and mock out—how your name might appear on your website homepage or on product packaging. Consider the brand architecture of your business — are there any subsidiary products or services you’re going to need to name? How might the brand name inform the structures and feelings of those names?
7. Keep perspective.
Yes, your name is important! At the same time, one name can’t say it all (and it’s going to be a hot mess if you try). Remember, your brand name will almost always be used in context with other brand elements that can help tell the bigger story. Lean into one or two messages you want your name to embody, and leave the rest to the greater brand system.
Good luck, and drop us a line with your new brand name!
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