6 Steps to Naming Your Brand

You have a monumental idea for a product. It has the potential to change your customers’ lives. And, it’s looking like a lucrative opportunity for you.

So, how do you communicate with the public, grab their attention, and launch your business to success? The first thing anyone will notice about your brand is its name. It’s essential that you choose a great one.

Step One: Understand what a good name does for your brand (and what it can’t do). A good brand name is catchy, memorable, and piques curiosity. It will differentiate you from your competitors and help you form a relationship with your customers. Ultimately, a brand name serves as mental shorthand that bridges a connection with the public.

But no matter how great your name is, there are some things it can’t do. A brand name won’t sell your product to all people; it is designed to speak to your target audience. One or two words also cannot communicate everything about your product. That’s what marketing, packaging, and a good logo are for. And finally, a great name can’t salvage a poor product. It reflects your brand but isn’t a magic spell for instant success.

Step Two: Brainstorm. In order to choose a name that accurately reflects your brand, you need to gain a deep, well-rounded understanding of the product itself, your hopes for a company image, and your intended audience. Brainstorm by asking yourself these questions:

  • What problem do you solve for your customers, or what is your fundamental purpose?
  • What are your brand values (beliefs that influence how you carry out your purpose)?
  • Imagine your brand as a person. How would you describe them?
  • Who is your target audience, what are their values, and how might your audience change in the future?
  • Who are your main competitors, and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
  • How do you envision your brand evolving in the future? Avoid choosing a brand name that paints you into a corner.

Step Three: Start putting your thoughts into words. Now that you’ve brainstormed ideas about your brand, it’s time to start describing these concepts. Gather ideas by using one or more of these strategies:

  • Start writing down words that you associate with your brand, including words from other languages or words that you create by mixing two or more words together or by adding creative prefixes and suffixes.
  • Play with synonyms, metaphors, unusual words, catchy or odd-sounding words, and surprising word pairings.
  • Consider the impact of visuals and feelings evoked by different words.
  • Try a group approach. Several creative people batting around ideas can often come up with something more creative than one person working alone.

Step Four: Create a short list of name candidates. Now that you have a large pool of candidates, it’s time to hone them to perfection. Start by selecting about 10 percent of your best candidates, play with them for a few days, and allow this to be a non-linear process. Keep your mind open and avoid making snap judgments. This process is about identifying a name that will resonate with your entire audience, not just you or one member of your team.

Prune this short list down to a few good candidates and proceed to the next step.

Step Five: Screen your shortlisted names for availability. Now it’s time to vet your names by checking for existing trademarks, domain names, and social media handles. Remember that some names might not be trademarked, but existing common-law use of them still presents a risk.

At this point you should consult an attorney for advice, to be sure that the name you ultimately choose will not present a trademark or other risk.

Step Six: Conduct research on your chosen name. It might be simple enough to choose an English name for a product that will reach exclusively English-speaking audiences. But what if you want to market your product to another country or culture? A linguistic analysis of your brand name will help you to avoid confusion or unintended negative associations within foreign audiences.

And of course, simply asking your target audience for their impressions is a great way to arrive at the right brand name. Focus groups or online surveys can be invaluable tools to measure the impact of a name, guard against mistaken associations, and convince a CEO that your name candidate is the right one for the brand.

After you’ve conducted the above steps, it’s time to make it official. Ask your business planning attorney for advice on trademarking your name and moving forward with brand creation.

Picture of Michael Kimball, Esq.

Michael Kimball, Esq.

Mike Kimball offers practical, timely, and economical legal solutions that move projects along and allow you to focus more on your core business objectives. He has years of experience partnering with companies ranging from Silicon Valley startups to firms in aerospace, biotech, construction, and many more. Mike’s in-house experience includes Yahoo!, Krux Digital (acquired by Salesforce), and Commerce One. He has worked on transactions with Eurostar, Red Bull, Major League Baseball, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Liveramp, Amazon, and NASCAR.