How to Choose Your Brand Name - dummies

By Bill Chiaravalle, Barbara Findlay Schenck

When it comes time to name your brand, get ready to invest some time and even some money, especially if your brand’s going to span a large market area, compete against major brand names, or support a major vision that will take decades to achieve and therefore will live long into the future.

Follow these steps:

  1. List the attributes you want to reflect in your brand name.

    Consider the following:

    • What terms out of your brand statement do you most want your name to convey, reflect, or support?

    • What aspects of your brand promise would you like your name to advance?

    • What words define the character you want your name to convey?

  2. Bring together key business partners, managers, and staff members and ask them to answer the three questions listed in Step 1. Then ask them what kinds of names come to their minds.

  3. Decide who will actually choose your name.

  4. Involve all who will have a say — especially the key decision maker — in the naming process.

    You’re setting yourself up for trouble if the person who will ultimately approve the name fails to participate in the process and lacks understanding of the reasons behind the name ideas being presented.

Rounding up good ideas

Whether you’re naming your brand on your own or involving a branding consultant or marketing firm, begin by giving thought to the kinds of names you think do and don’t suit the character and vision of your brand.

Brainstorming

Ease people into the process by starting the session with a discussion of what kinds of feelings the participants would like people to have when they hear your brand name.

Write down every emotion you hear. Then group them into categories, such as reputation, expertise, features and benefits, or any other labels that seem to fit over clusters of words that emerged from the discussion.

Then leave the categories in sight as you begin to brainstorm names that may induce the desired responses.

As you brainstorm name ideas, encourage creativity by following these tips:

  • Give every idea its time and space.

  • When an idea seems to come out of left field, encourage alternatives.

  • Probe ideas. Ask participants to describe the underlying meaning of the names they’re presenting.

  • Encourage alternative perspectives.

Record the results of your brainstorming session and review them as soon after the session as possible.

Finding inspiration

To find a unique name, reach outside your usual work environment. Give the following ideas a try:

  • Go to the kinds of places where your target customers spend time.

  • Scan magazines and websites that you think your customers read.

  • Also scan magazines and websites that are well outside the interest area of your customers.

  • Look through dictionaries and a thesaurus.

As part of your observation, take note of the kinds of names that catch your eye or ear. Your findings can guide your name decision.

The hard part: Narrowing your list to the best options

When creating your short list of names, follow this advice:

  • Include only a few top contenders unless you’re planning to undertake a trademark search, in which case you need a longer list because many will be knocked out during the legal process.

  • Keep your top name contenders tightly within your naming committee until you’re ready to reveal your name selection. Then (and only then) you may want to show also-ran names as part of the rationale you present to build support for your top choice.

Put your top contenders through a preliminary test

When you arrive at a short list of names you believe fit your brand well, put each one through the following series of questions and investigations.

  • Does it accurately depict or support your desired brand image?

    • Does it convey, imply, or accurately reflect your differentiating attributes and brand promise?

    • Does it reflect your brand position?

    • Can it grow with you?

  • Is it easy to say?

  • Is it easy to spell?

  • Is it unique?

    • Enter the name in several search engines and scan the results to see if the name is already in use by other businesses.

  • Does it translate well?

  • Do you like the name?

  • Can you protect it?

    • Make sure you check availability, stake your claim, obtain your domain name, and protect your brand with a trademark if it will be crossing state and national borders.

Check for domain name availability

Your domain name is the string of characters that people type into their web browsers to reach your site. Ideally, you want your domain name to read www.[yourbrandname].com.

For an initial test of availability, open a web browser and enter the domain name of your dreams in the address line. Based on what you learn, here’s what to do next:

  • If you get a message that no such page exists, you’re in luck. Open one of the many domain name registrar sites, conduct a free name search, to confirm that the name is available, and then claim it. Popular registrars include NetworkSolutions.com, GoDaddy.com, and Namecheap.com, among many others.

  • If your initial search takes you straight to a web page, the domain name you want is already taken — sorry.

    • One option is to bid to buy the name. It may be owned by someone willing to part with the address — for a price. Be aware, however, that this can be a time-consuming and costly process.

    • Another option is to buy the name with an alternate top-level domain, such as .net or .info. You should avoid this approach, and here’s why: Most people searching for your business for the first time will take a shortcut by typing your business name plus .com into their browser address lines.

    • A third option, but not a good one, is to buy some clever variation of your name by adding hyphens or using alternative spellings.