Written by Natasha Berthiaume, Associate Brand Manager at Moo.
You may be busy kickstarting your startup business, however one of the most important conundrums is what to name your company. Or maybe you’ve already got your company name and now you’re pondering what to call your products and services. The naming process is really worth putting some thought into and there are many ways to approach it.
The first tip is brainstorming ideas and what your business means to you and your customers. A great way to do this is with a bunch of creative people. Start by explaining to a group of six or more the unique selling point of your brand; what’s the most important thing you want your name to convey? How do you want people to feel when they hear it?
To find some of the most intuitive names it’s best to get creative. Design a series of two or three minute exercises to generate as many names as quickly as possible. Having no name at this stage isn’t so bad; in fact sometimes without agonising you’ll find some of the best names.
For example if your business is selling quirky fashion accessories and you’re launching a new tie with a velvet texture, you could of course simply call it the ‘Velvet Tie’ right? But what if you want something a little more emotive and playful to fit with the quirky nature of your brand? Start by asking your team to think about the texture. What does it feel like?
Try to generate more names from your existing set of words by using these three naming techniques: ‘real-twisted’ words, for example turning a common word into a product name by adding a prefix or suffix – like ‘TouchX,’ or invented acronyms like PIN, short for Personal Identification Number and coined phrases by fusing two words together – like ‘EasyJet.’
Look at each other’s lists for inspiration. By the end of the session, if it’s gone to plan, you should have over 200 ideas. If you’ve got the manpower, run another session with different people to get alternate perspectives.
With all your newly potential ideas it’s time to list the top ten contenders. Think about what criteria the perfect name needs to meet. Concise is better than long and convoluted. Does it roll off the tongue, is it easy to pronounce, does it describe – or least give a sense of – what you do? It’s great to have a unique set of names, particularly when it comes to your brand, but if you’re naming a product, they shouldn’t be so off-the-wall that your customers haven’t got a clue as to what you’re selling.
Before you go ahead and agree on a name it’s important to check whether the name is protectable. Do any other companies in your industry have this name trademark registered? It’s advisable to work with a legal firm to conduct these checks, and costs will vary from company to company. However, if you don’t have the budget, it’s worth researching yourself, to see if anyone else has taken it. You can check for registrations on the Intellectual Property Office website (USPTO for the US) and of course there’s always Google, but keep in mind that it’s not fool-proof and can be quite time consuming depending on how common your name is, but it’ll help weed out some of the more obvious ones.
If your name is an infusion or uses a different language it’s important to run a language check to ensure your names don’t mean something offensive or the opposite of what you’re intending in another language. This is particularly relevant if you ever plan to launch your business globally. Even if that feels like a lifetime away, it’s better to plan ahead for the possibility. Contact your friends and colleagues who speak foreign languages and ask them if your name has any negative associations. Remember, you’re not asking them if they ‘like’ it!
The language and trademark check may have dropped a couple of names off the list, so now you should be left with a few final contenders. If there’s no clear winner (hopefully you love them all!), try testing them out for context. Write some dummy website copy, or imagine you’re announcing the product at a conference. Can you picture it? Does it sound right?
If it’s a unique name you should try to protect it to avoid other people using it in the future by filing an application to register a trademark. Approval can take some months, and you’ll have to part with some cash, but it’s worth it in order to establish a strong, distinctive brand.