A brand’s name is one of the most foundational elements of brand identity, helping establish and maintain a unique presence in the minds of customers and other key audiences. To maintain a positive reputation among consumers, you should be positioned to approach brand naming projects with confidence and expertise.
Characteristics to Consider When Choosing a Brand Name
Your brand name is the first detail consumers learn about your brand—and if you get it wrong, you could lose their loyalty before they even try your product or service. Whether you’re building a new business from the ground up or looking to refresh an existing brand, choose a brand name that clearly communicates what you’re all about while resonating in the minds of your consumers. In order to do that, make sure the name you choose meets the following criteria:
In order to be memorable, stand out from the competition, and avoid confusion among your target audiences, a strong brand name must be distinct—especially within your industry.
Distinction vs. Differentiation
Crafting a distinctive brand is easier to do than crafting a differentiating brand. For example, if you’re Adidas, you can’t easily differentiate your product from Nike. You have the same or a similar customer base and your products meet the same needs. Rather than pouring money into trying to appear different or creating a category separate from your competitors, focus on making your brand name distinctive in order to capture and keep your audience’s attention.
You should also consider whether your brand name stands out from a geographic perspective. Before you do anything else, conduct a quick search to find out whether other businesses in your geographic area share the same or a similar name. Even if these businesses aren’t in the same industry as yours, their brand name could create confusion among your audience and dilute your name’s value, effectively harming your reputation.
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Authenticity is more important now than ever before. Consumers want to engage with brands that accurately and authentically represent their mission, vision, and core values. If your brand name doesn’t accurately represent what your brand stands for, you may dampen your reputation. For this reason, your name must fit your company—not necessarily by describing what you do, but by capturing the essence of who you are. When you begin brainstorming brand names, ask yourself:
- Why do we do what we do?
- What are our values?
- What makes us different?
- Where do we come from?
- What is our personality?
Understanding the answers to these questions will help inform the naming process and ensure you come up with a name that is uniquely and authentically you.
A brand name doesn’t have much value if no one can remember it. Find a name that is simple, easy to pronounce, and evocative. Brighter Naming suggests keeping things “short and sweet,” and making sure that whatever name you choose can be easily spelled and searched for online. Without being kitschy, strive to be catchy—think Moz, Nike, or Starbucks.
You want your brand name to resonate with consumers no matter where they are on the buyer’s journey.
Alliteration can also help keep your brand name in the forefront of consumers’ minds. Some of today’s most well-known brands use alliteration to their advantage, like Best Buy, Coca-Cola, and Dunkin’ Donuts. You want your brand name to resonate with consumers no matter where they are on the buyer’s journey—whether they’re prospective customers, or brand advocates already singing the praises of your product or service. Alliteration helps your brand name stick in consumers’ minds, so they remember it when it comes time to make a purchase.
Developing a brand takes time and effort, so it’s important to choose a name that will last as your business evolves. It can be easy to choose something trendy, but unless you’re eager to rebrand again in a short period of time, avoid latching onto trends that will soon disappear, or become unfashionable. To determine whether the brand name you’ve chosen is enduring, ask yourself:
- Is the name flexible enough to accommodate new strategies, products, and acquisitions?
- Will the name still fit if our focus expands or changes?
Choosing a name that’s too trendy or niche could potentially exclude or dissuade key audiences from interacting with your brand. For example, the company Water Heaters Only recently expanded its product offering to more than just water heaters. By choosing the name Water Heaters Only, they’ve led consumers to believe they can only purchase water heaters from a company that actually sells quite a bit more. It’s hard to bounce back from that.
Maintain the integrity of your brand by choosing something that will stand the test of time, like Apple. The internationally beloved tech giant chose its name years ago, and it still serves them today.
Last, but not least, make sure the brand name you choose is available and defensible from a legal perspective. In other words, make sure you are able to obtain full legal rights to the name within your industry, and within the countries in which you conduct business. “There are a lot of companies with the same name, but as long as they are not operating in the same industry, it’s typically fine,” says Olive & Company’s Director of Brand Strategy, Kathryn Henriksen.
You can also conduct a high-level trademark search yourself by consulting the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the WIPO Global Brand online databases. We always recommend consulting with an attorney who specializes in trademark law to help you navigate the tricky legal considerations of choosing a brand name.
Elevate Your Brand Name
Your brand name is often the first element of your brand that customers will encounter. It’s vital that the name is distinctive, authentic, memorable, enduring, and defensible, so it resonates with your target audience, sticks in their minds, builds and maintains trust with your consumers, and remains relevant as your company evolves. In other words, a strong brand name is vital to establishing a strong brand reputation. And who doesn’t want that?
Coming up with a catchy and clever brand name is easier to do once you know who you are. Discover how you can bring authenticity to the forefront of your messaging to capture the hearts and minds of your audience.