Remember the first time you heard about some of your favorite brands? It was the name that gave you the first taste of that brand. Some of the brands that I remember learning about for the first time include Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate, Sales Force, Dollar Shave Club, Squatty Potty, and Uber. Looking back, I can clearly see how unique these first impression where, from presigue to curiosity to an eye-rolling smile, each brand name can become the perfect gateway into a specific brand, and in so doing, support the success of that venture.
When coming up with a name for your startup, rebrand, product, or just about anything else, it may seem like the business name ideas are endless. However, despite the millions of great (and not so great) company names out there, the majority of great names can fit into one of five categories: classic, clever, pragmatic, modern, or emotional.
These categories are considered styles. The style of your business name controls the perception of your brand, which is important because your name is built on the gut perception of the audience. The immediate reaction that your name elicits will have a huge impact on your brand, and in the end, your business.
For example, consider how various shaving products are branded. The Art of Shaving is a business that offers a luxury approach, and their name conveys this through its classic style. On the other hand, Dollar Shave Club takes a more pragmatic approach conveying the brand’s affordability and practicality. Billie razors, however, have a more modern and fun approach, using a first-name to convey the brand’s approachability. Though these businesses all sell products in the same industry, through their name, they take different approaches to their branding, which as a massive business impact.
Each name style presents various advantages when it comes to naming your business. Let’s take a look at each category in more detail to help you decide which productive direction is right for you.
Classic Names are timeless and preeminent. They allow you to fit into an established industry by aligning your values with the values of similar companies. You can do this by selecting classic words or images to use in your name. Classic names can also help establish your brand as sophisticated, high-end, and premier.
Names like Barnes and Noble, Burberry, Blackstone, and Nordstrom are all considered classic because they align with the values of their industry and help them fit into their niches.
Here’s a list of strong Classic Names developed by the Squadhelp Creative Community:
- Terralink Transportation
- Stone Eagle Advisors
- Cherry Moon Bakery
- Academy of Sleep
- Zenith Capital
- Pitbull Motors
- Ellie Grey
Classic names can be great for consultants, law and accounting firms, health and medical businesses, realtors, banks, colleges and universities, national parks, and a variety of manufacturing and B2B companies. Classic names typically do not veer away from their industry purposes, values, and categories. Classic names will make you say, “Yes, of course, that sounds like a law firm I can trust” or “I hear that name and know it is a high-end women’s fashion brand.”
There are typically three reasons to use a classic name: to exude strength, to fit in, or to align with a high-end price point. Strong Classic Names transcend many industries (e.g. Inc 500 Company Blackstone or Squadhelp developed name Stone Eagle).
Alternatively, names like Cherry Moon, Pitbull, Ellie Grey, and Medway are industry-specific Classic Names. Finally, Classic Names like London Cotton Collective, Windsor Harlow, and Lydia & Park exude prestige.
Classic Names also have their opposite form, Outlier Names (names build to stand out). Squadhelp-Community-developed name Think Law Group is an excellent example of a name designed to stand far out from the industry. Probably, the most famous Outlier Name is Apple. In the 70s, entering an industry of acronyms and classic names, this innovative company chose to represent themselves with a bright, organic object – something that everyone has substantial first-hand experience of.
Clever Names appeal to a fun side of a business. They are memorable and frame the lighthearted approach of a brand.
Oftentimes, names that rhyme or use alliteration and other poetic devices are categorized as Clever Names. For example, the grocery chain Piggly Wiggly and the convenience store Seven Eleven use rhyme to come across as fun. The snack brand Inner Peas utilizes a pun, which is certainly what a clever name would do.
To give you a better idea of what a clever name is, here are some examples of Clever Names from the Squadhelp Creative Community:
- Love Bites (Chocolate product)
- Rentlemens (Mens clothing rental)
- Next Comes Love (Dating app)
- Once Upon a Robot (Robotics class for kids)
- Wiggle Bug (Kids clothing brand)
- Tiny Trends (Baby boutique)
- Moody Mango (Creative agency)
Clever names can be used in any industry. If you have a fun brand, you’ll want to consider a Clever Name. Clever Names are very powerful and appealing because they can be descriptive while still connecting deeply with your target audience. However, if a Clever Name would not align with the rest of your business and branding, don’t go this route.
Still, being bold with a clever name can work to your advantage. Successful tech company MailChimp has created a wonderfully playful brand around their playful name. The somewhat surprising success of the product Squatty Potty would assuredly not have come about if they did not communicate in a fun and lighthearted way.
Clever names are fun to create and fun to use. They can incorporate puns (Love Bites and Whey to Go), plays on words (Rentlemens and NakeBun), witty phrases (Next Comes Love), silly imagery (Wiggle Bug), and playful poetic sounds (Moody Mango and Tiny Trends).
Pragmatic Names, especially of the descriptive style, are very popular, as many people believe that they help reduce marketing costs by explaining your Value Proposition right in the name. Pragmatic Names provide a brand experience and often describe to your audience what your brand stands for and offers.
You may recognize brands such as Dollar Shave Club, Poetry Magazine, and PayPal as pragmatic names because they describe their product or service as well as their values.
Here are some additional excellent examples of Pragmatic Names, some of which were created by the Squadhelp Creative Community:
- Tiny Moments (Baby book company)
- Playformance (Playground surfacing product)
- Radical Creation (Web design)
- LoanSpring (Online microlending)
- The Tea Shack (Tea ecommerce)
- Get Pet Ready (Pet supply guide)
- Flirt Perfect (Dating app)
- Bluntly (Medical marijuana)
- 8 Weeks to Amazing (Transformation program)
- DataMap (Big data consulting company)
- RainMate (Umbrella)
Pragmatic Names work great for businesses that have a very unique and pointed Value Proposition. PayPal approached the market as a payment solution that was easier and more user friendly. PayPal is an brilliant two-work statement of this VP. Dollar Shave Club is another example of an highly successful company that captured a unique Value Proposition expertly with a name.
Some Pragmatic Names like Tea Shack, Data Map, and LitMag are descriptive of the product, service, or features themselves. Other Pragmatic Names, such as 8 Weeks to Amazing, Get Pet Ready, and Flirt Perfect, portray benefits. Names like LoanSpring incorporate metaphor to create a powerful descriptive name. And names like RainMate, Radical Creations, and Playformance are a bit less obvious and lean toward the next category we will talk about, Intriguing Names.
Modern Names are great for companies that don’t want to be boxed in by a Pragmatic Name or who like the idea of having a blank slate to build on. Modern Names are often short and appealing, which supports recall. Modern Names are very popular with tech startups, as well as fashion brands.
This broad category includes abstract names as well as words that do not necessarily fit the industry. While earlier we mentioned that Cherry Moon was a classic name for a bakery, if it were the name of a tech company, it would be considered a modern name.
Names like Nike, Apple, and Amazon that take existing images and apply them to unrelated businesses to create a story are modern names. Spotify and Zappos are modern names because they transmute words, Spotify adjusting the word “spot” while Zappos is a play on the Spanish word for shoes. The possibilities for modern names are endless.
Here’s is a list of Modern Business Names developed by the Squadhelp Creative Community:
- Itorix (Software company)
- BackPorch (Brewing company)
- Vivo (Digital delivery company)
- Voya (Travel company)
- Beepz (Carwash)
- Rinsio (On-demand drycleaning service)
- Blue Cabin (Publishing company)
- Orange Yoyo (Product company)
Modern Names come in many forms. Abstract Names, like Vivo, are short, easy, and they sound great. Visual Names or Abstract Adjective + Noun Names, such as Blue Cabin and Back Porch, are popular, especially for those companies related to the art and creative professions.
Names like Itorix (IT without Risk) and Metaphoric Names like Mosaic and Pangea have relevant meaning that is not readily known when you first hear the name. And names like Voya, Beepz, and Rinsio are build from root words that are descriptive–making these names slightly pragmatic.
For companies that aren’t afraid to lead with emotion, Emotional Names can be a great way to connect and make a brand statement.
Oftentimes, nonprofits like Greenpeace are more likely to use emotional names than other businesses are. However, the iconic motorcycle brand Triumph also uses an emotional appeal in its name, as does the cosmetic company Benefit. Emotional names can be applied to a variety of industries to appeal to the desire of the customer.
Here are some examples of Emotional Names, developed by the Squadhelp Creative Community:
- Promise Hill (a nonprofit)
- Waverlust (a surfing apparel company)
- WorkJoy (a Human Resource company)
- Bold Move (a fitness company)
As you can see, these names are build on powerful, emotive words and phrase like Promise, Lust, Joy, and Bold Move.
Emotional Names are often category blends. For example, names like WorkJoy and SalesForce contain a level of descriptiveness. Names like Promise Hill and Bold Move are more intriguing. And a name like Moody Mango is quite playful.
What Resonates with You?
Now it’s time to make the big decision. Which one or two directions make the most sense for you? What would you like your name to do for your company? What would be most helpful for your success?
When you can say, “My project is all about … and it would be excellent if we could find a great name that …” you have made substantial progress toward finding an awesome, productive name – a name that will support your venture for years to come! And you will not longer be swatting about, frantically spraying out names, hoping that an awesome idea will magically appear.
You can now start your naming project with complete confidence and a focused direction. You have the knowledge you need to develop an awesome name for your new venture.
Let the Name-Creation Begin
Of course, there is still a lot more work to be done: the creative work of developing great names and the somewhat tedious work of validating your favorite names for domain availability, audience resonance, linguistic conflicts, and trademark risk. This is where Squadhelp’s unique crowdsourcing process can be of great help. Or, give our startup name generator a try!