How to pick a great brand name

How to pick a great brand name


by: Gemma Reeves

Picking the right brand name can have a huge impact on your business. In this article, our friends over at Find My Workspace discuss how you can pick the best brand name to set your business up for success.

So you finally made the decision to turn that brilliant idea into a legitimate business—congratulations! There are likely many to-dos on your mind right now including how to market your product, how to determine who your target market is, and how much capital you need to establish the business. 

Of course, all of these are important parts of your business plan, but have you already settled the most basic element of your brand?

Yes, you need a name—and if you're having difficulty coming up with one, that's perfectly normal.

Related: Brand building 101—8 steps to building a brand that lasts

Whose way or the highway?

Even some of the biggest names in branding fall into the trap of believing there is one way every business should approach the naming process.

Huge naming agencies tend to gravitate towards one-word intriguing names like Uber. They argue that these names draw attention because they're offbeat and modern.

Many branding experts take the opposite stance and say the best kind of name is a descriptive one that states what your company does. They claim that this saves you money on marketing, because you don't have to waste time & resources explaining what your company does.

Many people are zealous about intriguing names or descriptive brand names. Neither of these approaches is wrong by any means... but to claim these are only ways to go about brand naming is limiting and reductive.

What we have found is that everyone needs something different.

After analyzing millions of brand names and working on thousands of projects, it's abundantly clear that there needs to be a more relative approach in brand naming. With so many businesses having their own unique verticals, plans & needs, claiming there's one superior approach to naming is flat-out false.

To truly find the right name for your brand identity, consider your unique needs & positioning.

The right name for your brand

Coming up with the right name for your brand is not about fitting a singular, universal standard. That would be like holding sprinters & marathoners to the same standard of success when both athletes train for completely different races.

Consider these aspects of your brand when determining what kind of brand name your business needs.


Fundamentally, stories are about connection. They offer universals for everyone to relate to, and they establish common experiences between people. In business, storytelling can be a powerful tool, especially when it comes to branding. But, what if we told you that you can also use your brand name to tell a story?

Applying stories to your business name may seem impossible. Most brand names are only one or two words. How can a story fit inside that?

Story-driven names use metaphors and references, like Nike and Amazon. Nike is the Greek goddess of victory. Amazon refers to the largest forest on earth. From these metaphorical names, we can tease out intriguing stories.

  • Nike's story leads us on a journey of achievement and victory—powerful associations for an athletic wear brand.

  • Amazon's metaphor speaks to discovery and the endless, nourishing variety found in the rainforest.

Story-driven business names are intriguing. They draw people in. They also have the added bonus of setting up an association between your brand and an established story. Every story provides a foundation of connection and values.

First impressions

When you think about your brand, you should think about how you want to come across to customers right off the bat. What kind of first impression do you want to make? Are you a fun, carefree helper? Are you a reliable, trustworthy pillar?

After 20,000+ naming projects and analyzing hundreds of thousands of company name ideas, we've observed five categories of names.

Classic brand names

A classic name sets a business up as high-end or preeminent.

Vanguard is a company that's seen great success with a powerful classic name. The name itself comes from Horatio Nelson's flagship at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. (I know, right?) It sets the brand up as secure, reliable and fortified.

Here are a few additional examples of classic names:

Classic names can help a company fit into an industry, or they can help a business demonstrate values of stability & trust. Legal services, real estate, publishing and other established industries usually resonate well with classic names.

Modern / intriguing brand names

A modern brand name helps a business come across as cutting edge, innovative & fresh.

Apple is an iconic example of a successful modern & intriguing name. The computer company stood out from the HPs and IBMs on the market with a bold, fresh take on naming. They positioned themselves as an everyday computer for everyday people by naming themselves after a fruit that everyone has a connection to.

With modern names, you can also choose something abstract, visual and more. Here are some successful companies with modern business names:

  • Hulu

  • Amazon

  • Nike

  • Firefox

Modern business names can tie back to the values a company holds, like Nike being named after the goddess of victory. They can also connect to a metaphor the way Amazon does to the rainforest.

Modern, intriguing names offer a variety of directions, and they're great for companies that don't want to be boxed in.

Emotional brand names

To appeal to people's emotions, use an emotional brand name.

Triumph Motorcycles inspires a feeling of accomplishment & victory to provoke a positive response from customers & potential buyers. Appealing to emotions is a strong, powerful way to connect with an audience.

These companies have also seen success with emotional names:

  • Greenpeace

  • Doctors Without Borders

  • Salesforce

Emotional names work well for charities, but they can be crafted for most businesses—especially ones that focus on the outcome of their product or service rather than the actual use or function of it.

Clever brand names

Clever brand names are playful, fun & approachable. They often use puns, rhymes or silly imagery to get a reaction.

Squatty Potty is a clever rhyming name that helped the company talk playfully about a subject few people like to discuss: bathroom aids.

Here are some other well-known clever brand names:

  • Inner Peas

  • Piggly Wiggly

  • 7-Eleven

While clever names aren't limited to casual food businesses or children's products, they're typically reserved for businesses that want to bring their playful side to the forefront of their brand.

Pragmatic brand names

A pragmatic name, or a descriptive name, states what a company does.

PayPal is a great example of a pragmatic name. PayPal wanted to set itself up as a trustworthy & user-friendly payment system, and the name does a great job of explaining that. PayPal is literally a payment pal.

Here are a few other pragmatic names that have been successful:

  • The Art Institute of Chicago

  • Dollar Shave Club

  • LitMag

  • Shake Weight

Pragmatic names are great for companies that want to highlight what sets them apart. These names work especially well for companies that are doing something totally unique that might be hard to understand. The name, then, becomes an easy explanation.

To come up with a strong descriptive name, make sure you have a clear value proposition to help you narrow your focus.

Giving your brand the right name is much like naming your own child. It has to be unique, but at the same time, it should be simple and memorable for people outside the family.

A good brand name gives your business distinction—it sets you apart from all other businesses that have a similar product or service to yours. Here are 5 tips to come up with a good one.

1. Gather ideas and brainstorm with your partners to form a list of possible names

Before anything else, it's best to convene with your business partners about the name of your brand. Together you can throw in ideas, words and phrases that might eventually form your brand name.

The trick is to come up with as many names as possible, list them all down, and slowly tick away the bad ones until you are left with the best candidates. As you do so, take note of the additional tips listed below.

2. Use clear, descriptive, easy-to-remember words

Sure, you want customers to remember your name easily, but that doesn't mean you should use any weird word to gain attention. It's important to make sure your brand name won't send mixed messages—or the wrong message altogether.

Instead, use words that can be easily connected to your product or service, the mission your company stands for, and what customers can expect from your brand.

3. Make sure it's unique

The last issue you want to face is a trademark suit, so before setting your heart on a brand name, do some research to see whether other brands are already using it.

In the event that you get an exact match, there might still be some wiggle room. For example, is the business in the same industry or location? Even if it isn't, we still recommended tweaking your brand name (adding initials or locality, for example) to avoid confusion.

As you're considering brand names, check to see if the domain name is available. If your team has their heart set on a certain name, you may be able to purchase the rights to the domain from the owner, but find out if that's a possibility before finalizing the decision. No one wants as part of their brand.

4. Skip the buzz words

Using trendy new words in your brand name is one way to make it memorable. It's especially helpful in garnering attention and interest from a younger target market. The problem with building your identity on a trend is that it's simply that—a trend.

As we all know, trends come and go, so it doesn't always make sense for the long term. What makes sense for millennials today might not make sense for the younger generation tomorrow, so it's possible for your brand to lose relevance. Try to pick brand names that you can define and that will stand the test of time—and save the trendy lingo for timely marketing campaigns instead.

5. Make sure the name can be carried over to your logo, slogans & taglines

Brand consistency is critical to growth, and it all starts with your brand name. The name should look and sound great alongside the rest of your branding: logos, taglines, slogans, etc.

To put these tips into perspective, you can take inspiration from the following successful brands and their taglines:

1. Apple: Think different.

Before it became synonymous with a world-class company, 'Apple' didn't sound like much of a tech name. The reasoning behind this choice used to be a mystery, as this article shows. Despite sharing its name with a fruit, Apple successfully entrenched itself in the digital technology industry. And the slogan "Think different" reflects what Apple stands for: an innovative tech company that differentiates itself from other brands in every way—including its unorthodox brand name.

2. Dollar Shave Club: Shave time. Shave money.

Dollar Shave Club is a subscription service that delivers razors and other grooming products to its customers every month, with a membership fee that starts at $1.

Notice how the brand name fully incorporates the business's value proposition. Rather than trying to be overly clever, the name is simple and straight to the point. It doesn't shy away from its core benefit: price. Add to that the witty slogan which reinforces the value prop, and you've got some very strong branding on your hands.

3. MasterCard: There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's MasterCard.

MasterCard is a compound word that brings two images to mind: a debit/credit card and a master key. Much like how a master key can help you open any door, MasterCard can help you pay for any purchase. The accompanying slogan does a great job of making MasterCard synonymous with money, driving home its utility as a universally accepted form of payment.

Now it's your turn to make a brand name for yourself. We hope these tips will help you build it brilliantly.

Want to know more about how to build your brand? Download our free ebook on how to build a brand in 2020.


Gemma Reeves

Gemma Reeves is a seasoned writer who enjoys creating helpful articles and interesting stories. She's worked with several clients across different industries such as advertising, online marketing, technology & more. She's also an aspiring entrepreneur who assists other entrepreneurs in finding the best office space for their business. Check out her company here: Find My Workspace.

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