Learning how to name a business isn’t easy.
If you’re just starting out with your business, or you’re rebranding your company, the chances are you’re trying to pin down a new name for your business.
And it’s really not easy. Trust me, we’ve been there. Lots of times.
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When you offer branding services, business naming goes hand in hand.
Thankfully, we’ve developed the following techniques to make naming a business easier.
In today’s post, we’re going to share the 5 techniques we’ve seen used, or use ourselves to make naming decisions a breeze.
But first of all…
What’s In a Business Name?
The name of your business is often the first interaction people have with you.
And you know what we say about first impressions. But, can a first impression really count, without context?
Sure, your name is your first brand touchpoint, but by just hearing a name, can you really make a judgement?
And if you can, why would you want to?
Imagine you were an alien visiting Earth for the first time, and someone says to you:
“Hey, we have this drink, it’s called Coca Cola.”
You’re not instantly going to make an assumption that it’s a black fizzy liquid that tastes good but is full of sugar. You just wouldn’t know what to think.
In fact, your likely reaction is going to simply be:
A business name needs context to deliver it’s messaging effectively.
And more often than not, it’s the branding surrounding the business name that makes the impression. Not the name itself.
Imagine Nike without their advertising spend. Imagine Apple without their branding.
Without branding, marketing, or advertising, they’re just names. Names of companies, written down in isolation, mean absolutely nothing.
But you still need one!
Like I’ve said already, it’s your first brand touchpoint. It allows your business to be identified.
And if you manage to build a brand around your name, then your business name becomes the instant connection between your business and your audience.
It evokes emotion. And it is important.
When I hear “Coca Cola,” I think of sunny days and beer gardens. I know the taste, and I want to drink it.
When I hear “Apple,” I can visualise their products and I want to head over to the Apple Store to buy some shiny new tech.
Your business name is important, but it only becomes recognisable when accompanied by your brand.
Things to Consider When Naming Your Business
There are several key things to consider when it comes the naming your business.
It’s also important to note at this point, that for all it might feel like it, you’re not actually stuck with your name.
One of the benefits of rebranding down the line, is that you can move on from an old identity if it’s not right.
Obviously that would be a worst case scenario, but it is possible!
So what do you need to think about when trying to name a business?
It Needs to Sound Good When Read Aloud
Think about it. If it doesn’t sound good when people hear it, it’s not going to inspire them to find out more.
You could argue that “Apple” doesn’t exactly stand out when said out loud.
But Nike, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Adidas, Pepsi, Amazon, and Google, all certainly make me want to know more. They just sound, interesting.
By the same token, it also needs to be short and snappy.
Most of the World’s famous brands are short and snappy names that aren’t confusing.
You know how to spell Amazon just by hearing it, you could take a guess at how you spell Nike too.
There’s nothing worse than a long, drawn out name, that is hard to spell.
Every time someone asks for your website address or email address, you’ll be on explaining it to them for 10 minutes.
So bear that in mind.
You Must Avoid “Sounds Like Syndrome”
Sounds like syndrome, is when two brand names sound alike.
That is the worst possible thing that could happen with your business name.
If you make tasty home-made jam, you don’t want to call your brand Jamazon. Why?
Because it’s easily confused with multi-zillion pound firm Amazon. People that try to Google search for Jamazon, will more than likely end up just seeing results for Amazon.
And Jamazon gets lost in the shuffle.
So, whatever you do, try to avoid rhyming with or sounding like an already established brand.
Check That You Can Secure The Domain Name
Being able to secure your chosen brand name as a domain name is a huge consideration.
And with TLDs (top level domains) in high demand and short supply, choices are becoming more and more limited.
That said, with new TLDs being introduced recently, you do have more options open to you in the past.
You can now have domains including, but not limited to; .shop, .tech, .learning, .training, and most importantly, .ninja
So if you’re in the business of shooting stars and nunchucks, then .ninja is best for you.
All jokes aside, the new top level domains open a range of possibilities, but it is important you secure something relevant and meaningful to your brand and the information you provide through your website.
The perfect domain name is;
- Easy to spell
- Unique and memorable
There was a trend with domain names not so long ago, where people were trying to cram keywords into their domain.
So for us, our domain would’ve become;
BrandingAgencyNewcastle.com or WebDesignNewcastle.com
With Google now preferring branded search queries, that’s not the type of domain name I’d advise buying.
If you’ve struck gold with a brand name, but you can’t find a relevant domain, try using modifiers.
For example, if you ran a pizza shop called Luigi’s, and luigispizza.com was unavailable you could try;
Using domain name modifiers can be a great way to secure your brand name as a domain.
Whatever you do, don’t go full steam ahead with your business brand name if you can’t get a domain even remotely related to it.
There’s likely a better option out there!
5 Business Naming Techniques to Create a Memorable Business Name
Now that we’ve covered off some of the most important considerations when it comes to naming a business, let’s dive into the nitty gritty.
These are the 5 business naming techniques we’ve either used ourselves, or seen used elsewhere;
The Post It Note Technique
The Post It Note technique involves, well, lots of Post It notes.
You want to grab a whole range of coloured sticky notes and marker pens, as well as a few large sheets of paper.
On the paper, start writing down the key themes and concepts around your business.
When we worked on the naming for MyDome, we were writing down words like; home, technology, innovation, security.
Then, you start brainstorming off of them.
So from innovation comes; invention, inventors, creation, inspiration, notebook, drawings.
From home comes; house, abode, den, space, personal, mine, my own space.
Once your sheets of paper are full of ideas, take a step back, and make a cup of coffee.
Then, get out your highlighters, and start circling interesting new words or themes that have potential to work as part of your name.
With the coloured post it notes, you’re looking to identify theme groups.
With MyDome, we had identified that “Home” and words associated with the concept of Home were going to be important.
So we had wrote down;
Home, House, Abode, Den, Space, Dome, Lair, Sanctuary, Pad, Quarters
They all went onto one colour of Post It.
Then, we had identified “possessions” as another theme. Being a home security and tech company, it was important the name signified “keeping your home and possessions safe with technology.”
Possessive words we wrote down included;
Mine, My, Ours, We
Again, they were on another coloured sticky note.
Finally, we had another set of coloured notes for technology related terms such as;
Auto, Automatic, Automated, Tech, Technology, Machine, Robo, Robotics
Once you’ve identified your main theme groups, you can start putting the sticky notes together and see if anything comes out of it.
In our initial suggestions for MyDome, we had names that included;
After stripping out what we liked from some of the names and combining them with others, we had our final shortlist of;
- Omi / Omee
We doubled back to the main problem we were trying to solve with a new company name which was; making the company more consumer accessible.
My and Dome combined to MyDome, brought both the possessive and personable nature to the name, as well as the house and home concept, by making it more technology focused.
A win win situation.
The Post It Note technique is all about identifying themes within the business, deciding what you want to achieve for your customers, and building your business name around that.
The Founder Pairing Technique
There’s nothing advanced about this technique at all.
It’s a popular “go to” naming technique in the legal space, and it used to be prevalent in the Mad Men style ad-agency days.
It’s pretty much as simple as it sounds. You take the names of the business’ founders, and put them together.
Traditionally, it’s the surname of the founders;
- Dolce & Gabanna
- Abercrombie & Fitch
- Barnes & Noble
- Ben & Jerry’s
- Black & Decker
There are plenty of examples out there.
But what if your business is a business of one? Well, you could take the John Deere approach;
- Deere & Company
A short while ago, I was working closely with another designer, also called Tony. For a while, we toyed with the idea of creating a new design agency called Tony & Tony.
A fun play on the agency days of old.
This technique isn’t the most imaginative, and when founders leave the company, it throws up the debate around the benefits of rebranding.
It is a very traditional naming method. It also carries a certain gravitas. And, you could almost end up sounding like a law firm by accident.
The Two Words Together Technique
This technique for naming a business can be a little bit random, and actually, it doesn’t appear all that different to the Post It Note Technique.
The idea being, is you take two words specific to your industry, and mash them together to create something new.
This could be two separate words, put together like;
“Bitter Lemon Cleaning” or “Blue Sky Accounting” or “Facebook”
Or more experimental, where you blend two different words together;
- Netscape is a blend of internet and landscape
- Microsoft is blend of microchip and software
- Skype is a blend of sky and peer-to-peer
You get the idea!
It’s not a complicated technique, and when this technique works, it can produce some really unique outcomes.
Skype is a great name.
The drawback with this naming technique, is if you get it wrong, it can produce some truly awkward names.
The “Do The Opposite” Technique
This is an interesting one, and it depends on the sector you’re in, to whether this will work.
The idea here, is to look at what you peers and other companies in your space are doing, then doing something that is the complete opposite approach.
In the design space, there are too many random names for this to work.
But again, going back to legal and professional services, this would work a treat.
Everyone else is called “Green & White” or “Zane Spectre Litt” (yes, that’s a Suits reference!) then what can you do to stand out?
You could go extreme;
“Spotty Zebra Law Specialists” but that would undermine your professionalism.
You could use first names instead of last names.
Or, you could still go in for the abstract, but something more subdued.
One of our clients, The Neutral Corner, are a mediation specialist. They chose their name because it’s very conceptual, something that’s not seen in their sector very often.
And because of that, when they’re at networking events and conferences, they stand out a mile.
You can “do the opposite” without getting stupid, and it’s a good way to differentiate yourself among other businesses in your network.
The Misspelling Technique
Because domains are getting harder to secure, people are taking a business naming approach that involves deliberately misspelling a word.
Think Flickr, or Digg.
For this to work effectively, you have to have an idea for a pretty straightforward name. Misspelling a complicated name is only going to lead to further complications.
A while back, Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income started a niche website focused on helping food truck owners.
He wanted the domain name FoodTrucker.com but unfortunately it was unavailable. So he bought FoodTruckr.com, dropping the E from the word trucker.
This technique isn’t as easy to pull off as it looks.
Simplifying a word, or spelling it phonetically, can actually lead to a more complex spelling that makes no sense.
So be cautious when trying to apply this technique to your business name.
Bonus: The “It Really Doesn’t Matter, So Let’s Make It Memorable” Technique
As I explained at the beginning of this post, there’s a whole school of thought that says that the name of a business doesn’t matter.
That it’s all about the brand.
And if that’s the case, people tend to throw out convention and other naming techniques, and go for one thing, and one thing only;
So in the law world, maybe they would be called Spotty Zebra Law Specialists.
In dentistry, they’d probably be called Pulling Teeth, or Yankems.
Something that really sticks in people’s mind, and allows them to build a brand around the name.
A good business name is just like a good domain name;
- Short and snappy
- Easy to remember
- Connects with your audience
If you prioritise these 3 things over everything when naming a business, you won’t go far wrong.
Combine a strong name with strong branding, and you’ll get your business off to the right start.
If you’re looking for more business naming tips, Entrepreneur have you covered.
Useful Business Naming Resources
There are a few useful resources to have on hand when it comes to business naming.
They can help you break outside of your comfort zone, and shed light on your thoughts and ideas.
You don’t need a physical thesaurus, but thesaurus.com is a great resource to have on hand, especially at the brainstorming phase.
You can use a thesaurus to find synonyms, antonyms, and all sorts of other nyms that make coming up with interesting words easy.
So rather than technology, you might use robotics, mechanics, machines or high tech. Then your word cloud gets even more interesting!
I’m sure you don’t need to be told how to use a dictionary. Again, dictionary.com is the place to be here.
Finding out the meanings behind certain words, or where words come from could shed some light on new ideas.
Also, translating words into Latin, or other languages could help you come up with a unique twist on your business name.
Business Name Generators
I’m sure there are a bunch of brand naming agencies out there, now screaming aloud when reading this post.
Business name generators do exist, and forall they come up with the most generic suggestions, they might just spark a thought.
I’m not recommending you use a name directly off the back of a business name generator.
But, here’s a list of half decent business name generators that might give you the creative spark you’ve been lacking.
And speaking of using an agency to come up with your business name…
You Could Use a Business Naming Agency
There are professional business naming agencies out there, that specialise in naming, and naming only.
If your budget allows, then this might be an option for you.
We’ve worked on names as part of branding projects here at Canny, but only when a client has wanted to be actively involved in the process. It’s not our core skill set.
There are some big name players in the field of business naming.
However, as we’ve not worked with them personally, I’m hesitant to make a recommendation. Google is your friend if you’re looking to work with a specific business naming agency.
The advantages of working with an agency are the same as working with a branding agency.
- They do this every day, so can bring a level of professionalism to the process
- They have great connections that you can tap into
- You can use them as a sounding board for other thoughts and ideas.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Working with professionals will do your business wonders.
A professional business naming agency can help you extract the ideas in your head, and put out a professional name to build your brand around.
If you’re not sure how to select an agency to work wit, the things we shared in our post How to Choose a Graphic Design Agency will still apply.
Conclusion: How to Name a Business: 5 Techniques To Make It Simple
Learning how to name a business isn’t the easiest technique to cover in a blog post. It’s also not the easiest thing to do, even once you’ve got the basics down.
It takes a level of creativity and critical thinking to get the perfect name for your business.
Or, it takes a moment of genius from you or someone close to you.
“Canny Creative” happened because my wife said it out loud, and being a proud Geordie, having heard it, there was no other choice.
And we’ve never looked back.
When you have the right name, you know it. You can feel it. It’s like a new pair of shoes, the fit is right.
What do you think? How did you go about choosing your business name? Let us know in the comments below.