Step-by-step guide on how come up with an original brand name

If you’ve ever had to come up with an original name for something, you’ll know how difficult it is. Having virtually unlimited possibilities can be seen as a blessing, but it’s more often a curse. It feels like everything good you come up with is already there, and all of the leftovers just sound awkward.

We’ve been through this process numerous times, not just for our clients, but for ourselves too, when we rebranded as Marvellous! Although it’s still difficult every time, we have a set of tips and tricks that help us land on a great name much quicker.

  • Short, easy to pronounce and memorable names are the best
  • Is it confusing to spell? Anything out of ordinary may look or sound cool, but unless you can afford multiple domains with all the possible variations of spelling, it’s a big risk
  • Avoid copycat names with overused words, especially industry buzzwords
  • Don’t send mixed signals – don’t call your brand something that immediately brings a mental image of something else. For example, don’t call a construction company something that makes you think of a restaurant
  • This is a tricky one, but if you’re thinking of going global, check if your word doesn’t mean anything awkward in different languages – you can use Google Translate for that
  • Avoid names that are too simple or generic for SEO reasons. If you want to call yourself ‘botanic’, your company will be pushed down by many other sites like wikipedia or dictionaries.
  • Try not to follow the current trends – the names need to work not just now, but also in 5, 10, or 15 years. Trends fade quickly, and what seems cool now may turn out to be cringey in a couple of years
  • Remember that whatever you come up with will be the first thing you say whenever you introduce your brand to others. Make sure you’re comfortable with it!

Keep these in mind as you go through the process below:

Value proposition

The first step is to start with a value proposition. If you have one already, that’s great! If not, you need to create one before you start thinking about the brand name. This will ensure that your name reflects what you have to offer.

If you’ve never done this before, value proposition in its simplest form is essentially a one-sentence summary of what your business/service/brand has to offer to a potential customer. If you’re selling running shoes, your value proposition could be ‘affordable trainers that will make you feel powerful’. It should also include USP or a few bullet points that explain what you do. Sometimes the original sentence will be referred to as a ‘position statement’.

Keywords

With your value proposition in mind, generate as many keywords as you can that are related to your brand. These could be nouns, adjectives, adverbs – anything. Say you’re branding a time-management app, for example. Think about the obvious ones like time, organisation, or task list if your brand is a time-management app, as well as less generic ones, such as emotions that you want to evoke with your app – is it peace of mind? Thrill? Happiness? Open Thesaurus and look for synonyms for more inspiration – this will add another layer of depth to your list.

Foreign words

If your brand has foreign roots, or if it’s something that you’d like to reflect in your brand name, why not add some relevant and nice-sounding foreign words to your list? Don’t do this randomly just to sound a bit more global – make sure you’re being authentic.

Wordoid

If you’re really stuck, you can give Wordoid a go. It’ll generate lists of made up words that start, contain or end with a specific word. A lot of these options won’t work, but if you’re patient you can find some gems!

Bust a Name

Another great tool is Bust a Name. You can use it to see available domains with keywords combinations. It allows you to find synonyms easily and add them to your list – a vast majority of these generated combinations will be pretty bad, but don’t get disheartened and try to look for the gold – sometimes it’s buried deep.

Struggling?

Some people go through these exercises like a breeze, but some find it difficult. Don’t worry though, you’ll eventually get there. If you’re stuck, don’t try to get it all done in one sitting. If you’re working on this in a team, do the initial brainstorm together, but then let people go and think on their own. Many people come up with the best ideas when they get some peace and quiet. Once you get back together, we guarantee your list will have grown.

Safety checks

There are a few safety checks that you need to do before you move any further.

First of all, research the market – see what your competition is doing and what the trends are. Are certain types of names more popular? Is it worth following them or should yours be different? Are any of your name options already out there? Get rid of everything that could potentially cause problems.

The second step is to check the domain availability. If yours is free, snatch all the common extensions, like .com, .co.uk etc. Some domains may be owned by one of the domain reselling sites. These will be usually more expensive than if you bought them straight from GoDaddy or some other service, but it’s worth enquiring or even maybe trying to haggle.

Finally, it’s a good idea to trademark your brand. You can’t trademark the name itself, but you can trademark your logotype that has the brand name in it. For EU trademarks go to the Intellectual Property Office and search what’s already there using keywords. Remember that trademarks operate within specific classes, so depending what sort of business you do, you have to select a class that applies to it and search within it. You can find more information in this Classification Guide. If there is a business that operates within the same class and has the same or very similar name, cross it out of your list. It’s not worth risking a lawsuit, plus you won’t be able to get a trademark yourself.

Narrowing it Down

At this stage you should have a decent list of bulletproof options. Naturally, some of these will be good, some will be okay and some will be back up options. No matter how long the list is, try to narrow it down to about 10 options.

It’s likely that some of your options will be quite abstract, so context is necessary. Come up with short straplines that add definition to your names, for example ‘Bravo! – A time-management app with a twist’. Adding context will make your options look and sound more real.

We recommend printing them in black and white, with big and bold name on the top and strapline below, all in the same font. This will make it easier to compare them.

Testing

Now it’s time for testing! Of course, you’ll have your favourites, but the brand you’re creating won’t be just for you, so it’s crucial that you test the name against its target audience. If you have a decent budget, do some proper A/B testing and see which options are the most popular. If you have a smaller budget, you can do a bit of guerilla testing and ask people on the streets.

Don’t stop at your friends and family, because strangers will be more likely to give you their honest opinion. And of course, ask people that fit your target audience profile. If you’re creating a new skate fashion brand for teens, there’s no way you can just talk to people in your office.

At the same time, don’t be too swayed by singular personal opinions. When your best mate absolutely hates the name, but other people are responding positively, you should probably go for it.

Decision time

There are a few factors that you should take into account while deciding which name to go for. First of all, there’s testing results – these should be the most important argument when picking a name. Second of all, yours and your teammates opinions – these are less important, but should still be taken into consideration. If a name performs very well in user testing, but your team doesn’t like it at all, it’s a tough decision to make. You could avoid these kinds of situations by consulting the team beforehand, but you need to bear in mind that you can’t keep everyone happy. Still, from our experience, it’s very unlikely that something despised internally would somehow make it to the final 10 and then perform well in the testing.

Another suggestion is to not involve everyone in the final decision making process. Getting many people to narrow down  names will result in the safest option getting picked. Have them help you generate ideas, but ultimately the decision should be made preferably by just one or two people.

Congratulations! Your brand now has a great name! Make sure you buy the domains and get in touch with an IP lawyer to start the trademarking process. After that you can give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!

Do you have any tips for coming up with a brand name? Tweet us!

Klaudia
A Marvellous blog by Klaudia

Klaudia is our designer and loves illustration. She spends her days designing Marvellous websites, and researching the best user experience practices. Outside work she is mostly found drawing and dreaming of her future life as a dog mum.

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