If you’re trying to figure out how to create a brand name, you’ve come to the right place. This 2,500+ word guide is deep dive that will show you everything you should consider when creating a brand name for your company that it can be proud to call its own.
Estimated Read Time: 13 Minutes. Updated: January 10, 2020.
Table of Contents
Why is picking a strong, memorable brand name so important?
Picking your brand name is the first step in establishing your company’s reputation. It helps show people what to expect from you. A good reputation means people will naturally want to connect with you and do business with you without having to put as much thought into the decision making process. That’s not to say that if you do bad work you can cover it up. With social media and Internet reviews, people are able to quickly figure out if you are who you say you are. Seth Godin smartly stated, “It’s logical, then, to care about how your reputation is formed. But it’s dangerous, I think, to decide that it’s worth spending a lot of time gaming the system, to consistently work hard to make your reputation better than you actually are.” If you build up a reputation that is too good to be true, you’ll ultimately let people down and your reputation will self-correct to its proper negative level.
There’s a lot on the line here, so if you’re going to create a brand name that works in your favor you should at least make sure you’re doing it right and it matches your company’s vision and values.
Assuming we’re building our reputation properly and trying to create a brand name that reflects it, picking the right one can do immense good. Getting your brand name right from the get-go gives you a chance to show you’re different, which is extremely beneficial in today’s media-saturated world. If you pick a name that doesn’t stand out from the crowd you’ll be thrown into a person’s mental garbage bin with all the other uninteresting, unmemorable companies.
If you’re like most people running a company or in charge of its marketing, you have limited time and resources to attract your ideal customers. Obviously, you want to make sure every second and every dollar you spend on your brand name empowers it to break through the competitive noise.
The Psychological Data of First Impressions
There are three ways you can make a first impression.
You can make no impression, a bad impression, or a good impression.
Everyone knows you don’t want to make a bad impression. Why else would most Americans cite public speaking as their number one fear? Everything in life and business gets harder when you’re starting with a bad impression. You’re behind the curve. You have to spend more time and energy than your competition to convince your potential customers to the contrary. Nobody wants to get ripped off and the research is clear, people fear loss way more than the potential of gaining something valuable. If people think you’re a bad actor, they’re going to avoid you like the plague.
Only marginally better than making a bad impression, you can make no impression. In a personal situation, you might not have to worry about this as much since you may not have as much on the line. In a business situation, this is an absolute nightmare because it means you spent blood, sweat, and tears (a stack of cash) on a marketing campaign, executed, and then patiently waited while zero results came your way. For many entrepreneurs and business owners in this situation, it spells g-a-m-e o-v-e-r.
Let’s talk about making a good impression now. The cold, icy truth is that you have an extremely, extremely, extremely short window of time to make it. Princeton psychologists have known since 2006 that it takes only 1/10th of a second to form an initial impression and that once it is set is extremely hard to undo. This is why taking the time to pick your brand name and strategically plan out your brand identity, positioning, and messaging is so important and valuable. You literally have the chance to pick what kind of foundation to build your business on. You can choose a strong house of bricks or a flimsy house made of straw that is going to be easily blown down. These reasons contribute to why 70% of global consumers trust a branded company vs. a non-branded company and why branded products and services are able to sell for 280% more than their non-branded counterparts.
Create a Brand Name on a Strong Foundation
It is clearly worth a company’s time to select a proper brand name since it connects so strongly with making a good first impression. We’ll dive into the magic ingredients that go into creating a good brand name. You’ll leave here knowing that you can create a brand name that has the power to leave consumers with that sought-after positive first impression and the psychological magnetism that will make it stick in their minds.
When it comes to picking a brand name, it’s helpful to first understand the different categories of brand names. Some are clearly better than others, but each type of brand name category has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Brand Name Types
There are seven common brand name types according to Brian Lischer, another respected branding expert in the industry. Other branding experts sometimes break the categories down further along extremely technical linguistic factors, but they still end up falling into these seven broader categories and using these higher-level concepts makes the whole subject matter easier to understand.
A Visual Representation of Potential Brand Name Power
Psychological Brand Name Factors
Ask the following questions to make sure when you createa a brand name it is strong from a psychological perspective.
- Does the name have a distinct sound compared to the competition?
- Is the name easy to confuse with a company, product, or service in another industry?
- Do people easily understand the name?
- Does your brand name inspire a strong, positive emotion in your target audience?
- If yes, can people outside of your main target audience also relate to this emotion?
- Can your brand name connect with something meaningful in people’
- Does your brand name consist of words that are easy to visualize?
- Is your brand name tied too closely to a current trend that might limit long-term growth?
- Are there any negative alternate meanings or innuendo that your brand name could accidentally be associated with?
- If you’re planning to grow nationally or globally, does your brand name mesh with new cultures outside of your starting geographic area?
Practical Brand Name Factors
Even if you get all of the psychological factors nailed down, there are real-world world factors you must also consider when you create a brand name. Ask the following questions to make sure you’re building a strong foundation.
- Does no one else have a trademark using the same or similar words?
- Have you checked your country’s regulatory laws about naming products or services in your specific industry?
- Is your brand name easy to pronounce and spell?
- Is your brand name easy to understand over the phone?
- Can you make your brand name shorter so it is easier to remember?
- Is a .com or similar high-level domain name available?
- Is there strong competition on Google for your brand name as a search term?
- Is anyone using the term to a great extent on social media profiles?
What Kinds of Brand Names Make up the Top 10 Brands in the World?
Interbrand ranks the world’s top brands every year. In 2017, the top brands are:
7 out of 10 of these global brands are either expressive or invented brand names. The critical detail all of these brands have in common, besides billions in market capitalization, is the strong emotional connection they’ve built with their target audiences. Only 2 out of 10 brands in this list have a founder name and only 1 out of 10 uses an acronym.
Naming Trends in 2020 and Beyond
According to the 2017 Kaufman Index of Startup Activity, there are 540,000 new startups being formed every month in the United States. That means there’s a lot of competition for picking a new brand name. Using the strategies and tactics discussed so will serve as your foundation.
Due to the increased competition for common words, companies have resorted to inventing new words, intentional misspellings, and creative usage of the top-level domain term (TLD) when they create a brand name.
The invention of words and intentional misspellings are nothing new. We’ve seen them since the web 2.0 days of Flickr, Tumblr, and so on. The only that’s changed is that they are becoming increasingly common due to the increased competition. If you decide to use a name like this you should still try to future-proof your name as much as possible and make sure it is easy to remember and easy to understand. You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater!
The other big trend we’re seeing more of these days is the use of creative domain extensions. More and more technology companies are using them to set themselves apart as cutting edge and forward-thinking when they create a brand name. One of the earliest examples is delicio.us using .us instead of .com. Another domain extension, .io, which was originally intended for the British Indian Ocean territory is being used as a substitute for “input-output” by SaaS companies like close.io and seats.io since their tech-forward audiences intuitively understand it. Beware though, all trends can be overdone and may have limited mileage. At the end of the day, 57.6% of the domains registered in the United States are a .com. With this type of market saturation, a .com is always a sure bet to making sure people remember what to type into the browser when they think of your company name. Be very careful when choosing non-traditional domain extensions and make sure they have a strong, memorable hook to justify their usage.
You can create a brand name that connects with your customers on a deeper level if you take the factors discussed in this guide to heart. Not only will you have a great first impression when you do it right, but you’ll also have a brand name that allows your company to grow with less psychological friction and have strong defenses against competition stealing your valuable customer mindshare.