What’s in a Brand Name?

June 16, 2009Sparxoo

brand naming strategies and insights for entrepreneurs

By David Capece, Managing Partner

How much does a name really matter in branding?  If you wanted to create a great pop culture brand today, would you name it MTV?  Especially when MTV isn’t really music television anymore.  Is Yahoo that much better a name than Excite or Lycos?  And for that matter, is Google a 10x better name than Yahoo?   The truth is that the name itself is only one of many components necessary to build a great brand.  A brilliant name and a terrible business will result in a low quality brand.  At Sparxoo, we are experts in branding, and we do believe that your name matters as an important component of your overall identity.

It is common for companies to get lost in the process of naming a new venture, or to become dissatisfied with their existing company or product name.  As you begin the process of naming, start with the big picture.  Ask high level strategic  questions such as what your company stands for, who are your key audiences today and in the future, how are you different than your competitors?  What are the key attributes you want to convey?  Take time up-front to define your goals and criteria for name development.   For example do you want a name that is memorable for word of mouth?  Do you want a name that is unique in your category?  Do you want a name that conveys a sense of trust, reliability and strength?

Once you have overall parameters for name development, the fun part begins.  Our team recommends using a very creative approach that extends beyond the obvious.  Brainstorm many names (at least 50, and sometimes several hundred), using inspiration from trends, personalities, major references, pop culture, and of course your brand platform.  If you need fresh thinking, ask others to contribute ideas, or even use a name generator from the web such as BrandNameGenerator.  Your exploration will lead you to many ridiculous names that have no potential, but it’s this creative process that will ultimately yield a winner.  After extensive brainstorming, start to whittle down the list of names.  Typically, you should short-list 5 to 10 names and start to test for market feedback, management taste, trademarks, and URL availability.  Your list will grow shorter and shorter (although you may need to go back for additional rounds of brainstorming to cast your net wider).  Ultimately, a name should rise to the top that excites your team, is right for your market and customers, and meets your key criteria.

A few more tips as you develop names.  Be careful not to pick a name that:

  • is hard to remember
  • is limited / can become outdated as the business grows
  • has negative connotations

Once you decide on a name (and sometimes even when you are looking at the final list of names), buy the URL immediately (you can do this on GoDaddy and other sites for $10 or less).  If the URL is not available, use the Whois.net directory to identify the owner.  See if they are using the URL for business purposes and contact the owner from a personal e-mail address (you don’t want to overpay especially for a niche name, and when they see a business address, their eyes may light up with dollar signs).

With a great name that your team is excited about, you’ve taken the first step towards building a brand.  The next step is to design a logo that brings the brand to life.

Photo courtesy of Mark from Flickr

Protect your product brand name against copyright infringement with the help of a trademark attorney.