Picking The Perfect Brand Name
You may remember in May and June we wrote about the 6 Steps To An Effective Brand and Simple Tips For Brand Messaging. In those posts we covered the topics that most people identify as “branding” or brand identity and messaging. That leaves us with one more topic: brand name.
A couple of common questions arise when naming a brand:
How does a new company choose a name that will resonate with buyers and give them a leg up over their competition?
How does a company solve the problem of a company name that hinders their success?
Let’s start with the obvious: Naming isn’t easy, nor should it be taken lightly.
Your company’s name is the first impression your brand makes on a buyer. Failure to select the right name can alienate your clients and limit your company’s opportunities. Even worse, the wrong name could result in legal headaches. As such, the naming process should be a serious endeavor that involves discovery and a significant amount of research.
Here are some critical things to consider when naming (or renaming) your company or product.
The Why, What, How, Who and When?
As with everything in the branding of your company, start with the 5 most important questions:
Why do you do what you do?
How do you do it?
What do you do?
For Whom do you do it?
When do you do it?
The purpose of this questioning is to identify keywords or phrases that define the values and unique benefits your company or product offers to the client. Think of the obvious and less obvious words that characterize your company. We recommend using a Thesaurus for this exercise.
Make a list of all the keywords that are associated with your business and select those that appeal to you most. These keywords are the initial “seeds” to begin the naming process.
Know Your Audience
In the above line of questioning, the “who” is incredibly important.
Your company must speak the buyer’s language. Similarly, your company’s name should immediately resonate with potential clients and begin the process of differentiation even before you’ve made the first sales pitch.
Filter your list of names by determining what works and won’t work in the industry or market your company exists. Afterwards, look at the competitive landscape and continue to narrow your list of choices.
For B2B companies, names seem to mean less on the surface. Ordinarily, the values of price, service, and past performance help to establish a company within any industry. However, in an “apples to apples” comparison between two companies with the same strengths, the one with the stronger name and fully developed brand is in a better position to win. [nbsp_tc]Likewise, the company with the weaker brand is destined to fail. Psychologically, the brand makes a meaningful impact on the buyer. It further legitimizes your company and supports your value proposition.
For B2C companies, naming is a critical part of the marketing process that allows a product or service to distinguish itself. An obvious example is Coke versus a generic cola. In some parts of the U.S., the word “coke” is so familiar it has replaced the words “soda” or “pop” as an all-encompassing term for any kind of carbonated soft drink. Clearly, the name matters.
Trademarking Your Name
A trademark is a unique word, symbol, name, or logo used to differentiate a seller or business from another. You can conduct a search on the US Patent And Trademark Office database to determine if the names you’re considering will infringe on the rights of another company. Finding a name that can be trademarked is an essential component to creating a business that is truly unique.
This can be a fairly difficult part of the process, especially if your new name appears to be trademarked by other companies who are in the same business as you. If your name is too similar to a competitor’s and could cause confusion in the minds of a consumer, choose another name. There’s no point is using a name that cannot be trademarked or potentially infringes on the rights of another company.
Once you’ve made a final selection for your name, you should return to this part of the process and follow through with registering your company name.
Is A .Com Really Necessary?
Perhaps one of the more contentious parts of the naming process is determining which website extension to secure. There are a couple schools of thought on this matter. In full transparency, we even debate the issue ourselves here at Divining Point.
One argument suggests that a “.com” URL extension is absolutely critical. It is the most familiar website extension that the vast majority of people naturally enter into their browser. .com is the obvious choice for most people when they attempt to directly visit your site. In this line of thinking, using anything other than “.com” will be confusing to the public and could result in lost opportunities. Even though “squatters” have taken most of the good URLs, it’s a small price to pay a couple thousand dollars in order to get these people to release the “.com”.
On the other side of this argument is the belief that your brand name is far more important than the URL extension you use. Your brand also lives in the “real world” offline, therefore, the brand has to exist independent of what happens with your website. Additionally, more people are familiar with the other available URL extensions. Sites with “.net”, “.us”, “.org”, etc, are far more prevalent today. Since most traffic occurs either through an organic search of your company or via a direct or referral method, you can develop a strategy to bypass the “.com”.
Google rewards companies that build strong authoritative brands. Typically, this involves a site with a .com extension. However, the Google algorithm is constantly changing to meet the demands of the fast-paced cyber world. There are startups and brands who’ve experienced great success using different domains like “.io” and “.co”.
Test The Names
Once you’ve narrowed the field of potential names you’ll want to run some simple experiments. Test the name against a handful of other names. Present them to your colleagues. Survey a random group of potential buyers. Show the names to some trusted advisors or family members. Gauge the visceral responses the names generate with people. Narrow the list of names and stick with one that conjures up positive feelings with as many people as possible.
Whether you take a scientific or casual approach to this “focus group” process, testing the names generates valuable feedback by bringing an extra set of eyes (and perspectives) to the process. You may even learn how NOT to name your company based on the feelings and opinions of the people you interview.
Finally, here are some quick and dirty tips to use for naming:
1. Be careful with made up words or unusual spellings. We don’t discourage this practice altogether, but the name must make sense and be easy to pronounce. If there’s any confusion, avoid it.
2. Don’t choose a name that could limit your company’s success. Unless you have a narrow vision for your company, find a name that gives your company the ability to grow. Apple Computer Company became Apple for a reason.
3. Use a name that has meaning. A common way to do that is to select a name that demonstrates the company’s unique value proposition. It’s possible to find synonyms or words from other languages that can be drawn upon to convey the brand’s value.
4. Play with fonts and logos to see how the name looks printed and online. This visual experimentation helps explore how the name works in a design context, and it can conjure up new ways to develop the identity.
5. Work with an expert. Business owners are so close to the company it’s near impossible for them to reflect objectively on their brand. Their bias affects the process with unintended consequences. It’s best to lean on the talents of a team to guide you through the process.