Insights from 19,000+ Naming and Branding Projects

The Ultimate Guide: How to Come Up With a Business Name

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You’ve got the best idea since sliced bread. Now you need the perfect brand name for your business, product, website, or whatever it is that is now nameless.

In other words, you need a cool business name that will sum up your emerging venture perfectly, catapulting it firmly towards the success you know it deserves.

You may have wound up here for a few reasons…

    • You’re nervous because you simply don’t know where to begin and you don’t have a process to follow.
    • You’re not that creative, and you don’t like any of the new business names you’ve come up with so far.
    • You’ve been “close” to finding the best brand name for days, weeks…even months.
    • You’ve created some cool business name ideas only to find matching URLs are not available or that the names are considered high-risk by your Trademark attorney (And maybe the USPTO has already rejected them!)
    • You like some of the new company names you’ve thought up, but you’re concerned they won’t excite your target audience.
  • Or perhaps you’re a serial entrepreneur. You’ve done this whole “naming a business” thing before; and this time, you want to do it better and faster.

If you nodded your head to any of the above or if you’re even a tiny bit unsure of how to name a business, brand, company, product, book or whatever else you’re trying to name, then you’re bound to benefit from our ultimate guide.

We have developed this guide on how to come up with a business name after working on over 20,000 naming projects. So let’s dive in and talk about naming!

Creative Business Names Matter

Great brand names are like magnets that people gravitate towards. You have a chance to carve out a unique brand identity when you choose a suitably great name.

Don’t forget, potential customers adopt certain expectations upon hearing your name. If their expectations don’t align with reality, they will quickly get the sense that something is awry.

But that’s not really why it’s so crucial to come up with the very best company name possible.

While names are certainly the cornerstone of your brand, there are actually much more concrete reasons to invest time in getting the best company names that you can find.

The Return on Investment of your Name

In this section, we will go over how a name directly impacts your monetary success. A great name is more than just frills–it can mean the difference between a sale and a loss! Here are a few ways that a name can bring tangible value to your business.


Get customers’ attention: 

A name can allow you to stand out from a sea of competing products to captivate your customer and drive sales. For example, look at the name of these tech companies, and decide which stands out to you most: IBM, DEC, HP, MassComp, Apple. The answer is clear, and Apple has succeeded because of this bold move.


Create a bond with your customers: 

Your company name can help you connect with your ideal customer because it creates a lasting bond. How will your customers feel connected to your name? They may choose it based on emotions, visual appeal, or curiosity. They may also like the idea conveyed by your name or love its elegant sound.


Build buzz: 

If you want to be the talk of the town, ensure people can easily recall and repeat your name. Ideally, you want your customers to be excited to share and discuss your name with family, friends, and online. A name that allows just a little more buzz is a name that helps you grow!


Drive sales: 

With the bottom line of your company depending partially on the ability of potential customers to remember your name, the importance of selecting a memorable name is clear. If people remember your name and are able to go back to it time and again, you will sell more to them. Even if it’s just a few more downloads or sales, these marginal advantages cannot be ignored.


Boost savings: 

A great business name will help boost your brand’s top of mind awareness, and will likely save you money and effort in the long run. A great name will reduce the budget you will have to dedicate to building repeat customers – simply put, a memorable name will do some of your work by helping them remember your from purchase to purchase.


Encourage referrals: 

When a customer is trying to recall the name of your products in a conversation with friends, you want them to remember your name immediately. Organic customer referrals are one of the most rewarding sources of revenue, and creating a remarkable name is an easy way to encourage referrals.


Attract talent: 

Capture something amazing in your name, and you’ll not only have far greater chances of succeeding and boosting your revenue, but you’ll also be creating something people are excited to join.


Are you still not buying the importance of a great business name? Google is a great example of a company that likely would not have grown to such enormous success with their original business name, Backrub. Learn more about the Backrub to Google rebrand here.

How to Name a Business–the right way!

When you are naming a business, you need to make sure you go about it the right way. We have created this process and these tips for choosing a business name to help you succeed. Here’s everything you should consider when you’re wondering how to come up with a business name.

Who Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

Everything has a name, a word we attach to it to give it some sort of meaning. Words and names are terms of reference for us when we communicate. 

Concrete, clear and well-defined ideas are much easier to name than hazy, vague ones.

If you’re planning to open a chocolate shop, you need to know more about it than the simple fact that you’ll be selling chocolates! So, let’s dive in. 

A Proven Approach To Naming

Start with the big ideas, then go small

Start by narrowing your ideas down until you have distilled them the essentials of your brand. You’ll build your name from these key components.

how to come up with a business name

Naming a business is all about focusing your ideas. Like the graphic above states, start with your venture, then narrow your focus to your brand. Your brand is what really informs the naming process.

If you are trying to find the perfect name for your chocolate shop, you don’t want to focus so much on the broad operational details like the top-of-the-line equipment you use or the fact that you’re opening with adorable striped awnings over your windows. Instead, learn to narrow your focus on detail that make up your brand, like the fact that you are starting this shop so that people can enjoy the small things in life. These are the kinds of details that will help you find a name.

As you continue to narrow your focus, come up with a one sentence value proposition to focus your ideas even more.

From there, you can distill your ideas into just one to two words, which will become your new business name. Let’s explore how this is done.

Creating a brand name tone

The best way to ensure that a business name sets you up for success is to make sure you are choosing a business name that sets up the right brand tone.

Tone is a general term for a character or attitude of a place, story, song, business, and more. The tone of your business should speak to your audience while also appealing to your business aspirations.

The right tone will set a foundation of your brand and allow you to control how your brand is perceived. Think of the brands Gucci and Fossil. People who are shopping for purses or high-end products will gravitate towards Gucci, whereas Fossil makes a direct appeal to durability and lasting practical quality.

Some of our favorite brand tones:
  • Prestigious
  • Fun and Playful
  • Amiable and inviting
  • Pragmatic or practical
  • Modern and innovative
  • Intriguing
  • Emotionally impactful

See examples of our five brand name styles below:

Classic Names
Pragmatic Names
Modern & Intriguing Names
Clever Names
Emotional Names

You can select the right brand tone by considering who your customers are, what attracts them to you, and why they should be excited about your brand.

You may also want to consider your industry–what types of brands have your competition built, and how do you want to fit into the scene? This will help you build a unified and successful brand.

Returning to our chocolate shop example, because your focus is on improving people’s days and brightening moods, you will probably want an approachable, inviting name with an element of intrigue that draws people in. Consider your needs, and build your tone from them.

naming a business with tone

Secondary Branding Elements

While an overarching tone is critical to developing a great brand, and a brand name – the tone is not enough. Secondary branding elements are the building blocks that you’ll use to actually develop great name ideas. 

Naming a business

Take time to jot down ideas for each of the following bullet points. This is information your can start to use to piece together your brand name.

    • Big ideas: What are the large concepts behind your business plan?
    • Values: What personal business values or audience values drive your brand?
    • Stories: Is there a story behind your business that you should tie to?
    • Industry specifics: What values are specific to your industry that you want to align with?
    • Benefits: What specific benefits do you offer your customers?
  • Feelings: Are your trying to provoke any strong emotions from your audience?
  • Value Proposition: This is a specific statement that sums up your brand (mentioned above)

More about Value Propositions

Your idea is your pride and joy – you think about it all the time. You’ve spent countless hours determining all sorts of different stuff related to your business-to-be, from funding options to the launch event, even the color of your walls! You think you know your concept inside out and yet when asked, it can be difficult to sum it up succinctly in a way that demonstrates its benefits. You’re left scrambling for the right words, ones that correctly portray the original “eureka” moment that started you on this amazing journey.

Maybe your idea is to open up a chocolate shop where all of your chocolates are made by hand using the finest ingredients, but your chocolates are unique because they have magical properties that allow them to influence people’s moods. You will have an adorable storefront that displays the chocolates and tantalizes passerbys into stopping in your shop. You’ll also offer exotic flavors with unique spices, coffees, caramels, and floral influences. 

Invest time and effort into defining your idea and what you’re all about in a way others can easily understand, a way that points out the benefits of your idea. Put pen to paper or finger tips to keyboard and challenge yourself to sum up your business effectively, in as few words as possible. Your Statement of Purpose is not as broad as a mission statement, which details what the business aims to do now and in the future. Instead, when writing your Statement of Purpose think of what your venture offers customers, and how you plan to impact their lives.

There are many formulas and even elaborate strategies for developing your Statement of Purpose (sometimes also known as Value Proposition or Unique Selling Proposition).

Here’s an example you might be familiar with: “Hot, fresh pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.” -Domino’s Pizza

Here’s a simple formula, in case you’re new to the concept: [Great Business Name] helps [audience] [core benefits]. Now it’s your turn! What’s your purpose?

The above chocolate shop may have a value proposition that looks something like this:

  • High-quality artisan chocolate crafted to make your life magical. 

Your value proposition alone can be a great name development tool


Branding Elements Wrapped

Your secondary branding elements will inform how you construct your name. As you begin naming, you will use pieces of this information to form a list of name ideas. Not every name will appeal to every bit of information on this list, but that’s okay! Focus on capturing the core elements.

Now, let’s talk about creating that name!

Putting It All Together

Once you have thought through each of these aspects, it is time to form your name!

We know this is a lot of information, so let’s do a quick recap.

Above, we went through the various ways collect your brand thoughts and build your brand. Here, we will be going through some steps to help you turn a brand into a name.

Setting Up your Naming Criteria

A great business name is whittled down from a concise project statement comprised of all the elements we discussed above.

A successful brand name can serve many functions. Most brands that you know can be reverse-engineered to reveal how they work in the company’s favor.

For example, Urban Decay is a business name that helped the stand-out makeup brand break away from industry conventions, just like their products do. Urban Decay wanted to offer bold colors and urban trends for a younger crowd. Typical makeup brands at the time like Lancome and Maybeline offered safe, neutral colors. Urban Decay needed a name that showed how and why they were different, and as jarring of a name as it is, it stands out an intrigues an audience.

How to turn this all into naming criteria

Once you have gathered all of the above information about the brand you are building, you can create some clear project statements that help you and others understand exactly what you need out of a name.

If you are opening a chocolate shop that focuses on community, creativity, and great chocolates, your project statement might look like this:

  • I need an intriguing name for a chocolate shop that speaks to creativity, community, and great sweets. The name should be inviting and approachable, but also slightly mystical.
  • In this example, intriguing is the tone you want your brand to have, and your building your name one secondary elements include, creativity (big idea), community (big ideas), great chocolate (benefit), and inviting and approachable (feelings). 

Tying together key elements of your brand in a project statement will truly help focus your direction. It will also provide a point of reference that you can jump back to when you’re deciding on your final name.

Important note: Keep your target audience in mind!

Connecting with your Audience

Thinking about your Audience: The Imaginary Friend You’ll Never Be Too Old For

When designing your brand always keep the question – who cares? – in mind. The second step to finding a great name is envisioning the type of people who will be most interested in your idea (and in most cases, you want to think of someone who is willing and able to pay for it, too). This is called Persona or Avatar creation, and it’s an essential part of choosing a company name. 

In this step, you’re really asking yourself, “Who am I naming this for?” and “Who should this name appeal to?”

For example, depending on who you want to  bring into your chocolate shop, the name will be different. Is this candy for kids? Are the chocolates you produces meant to serve as high-end romantic gifts? Or are you trying to appeal to anyone who really enjoys treating themselves to simple pleasures? 

Being conscious of your audience can help you anticipate their needs and desires. Your name should appeal to them, not just you.

Let the Business Naming Begin

It is time to start generating unique brand name ideas. Be unique, be captivating, be bold. You can browse Squadhelp’s name ideas page for inspiration.

Whether you are crowdsourcing or coming up with names on your own, bring your team together and try out naming activity to start generating creative business names using our list of types.

Here are a few of our favorite business name types:

  • Real Word – Apple, Swoop, Slack
  • Misspelled – Lyft, nimbl, Mohawx
  • Compound – SnapChat, SplitWav
  • Phrases – StumpleUpon, Ready to Rise
  • Blends – Groupon, Yuconic, Winvested
  • Made Up/Abstract – Orizia, Itorix
  • Transmutations – Zappos, Zumba
  • Acronyms – IBM, HP
  • Play On Words – Deja Brew, EyeQ, Inner Peas
  • Metaphoric – Nike, Silverline, LoanSpring, RobinHood
  • Visual – Iron Flame, Blue Cabin
  • Foreign words – La Brosa, Nomi d’Italia
  • Latin, Greek, Anglo Roots – Rinsio, Bluntly, Omni Lend
  • Poetic – Dunkin Donuts, Lula Learn, Piggly Wiggly
  • This & That – Abercrombie & Fitch, Lydia & Park, Owl and Lark
  • Names and Surnames – Oskar, Windsor Harlow, Barnes and Noble

Create one name that fits your criteria (which you laid developed in the first part of this post) for every type on the list, and you’ll be on your way to a great name. Not all of them will be great ideas, but that is the beauty of brainstorming. Just get creative, and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.

As you continue to brainstorm ideas, Rhymezone is a tool you might also find helpful.

Name Brainstorming Tool

What is great about it is that it allows you to look at a single concept from rhymes to synonyms to Shakespeare, this tool is a powerhouse. You can even filter your results so you can use the best words in the best contexts. Awesome!

Enlist Help

Coming up with a great business name on your own is frustrating for most people – sadly, for some, it may even be impossible. When you consult with others, you are much more likely to find the perfect name and (importantly) feel more confident in your decision. After all, the more brains you have working for you, generating ideas, the more fantastic options you’ll have to consider.

Considering there have been more than 6.7 million trademark applications, and there are only 171,476 words in the English language, choosing a new business name that is both cool AND available requires massive creative energy. A great way to start generating ideas is to collaborate. Here are some tips on how to come up with a business name with a group.

If, however, you think you’ve got access to enough creative brainpower already, ensure you do the following to get the best ideas out of your creative naming team:


Assemble Your Team: recruit your naming team and decide how you will communicate (e.g. email/ a collaboration tool like Basecamp/ in person)


Share Your Naming Brief: provide a copy of key information about your idea, i.e. all the hard work you undertook during Steps 1 through 3, to your team


Keep a Running List: take note of all name suggestions as they come in, with notes about each one


Consider every idea: one by one, go through EVERY name submitted carefully


Provide Feedback: respond to ideas with your opinion and any ideas of your own about how the focus or style of the name could be modified to better fit your aims


Not only is the above great for the creative process, you will also learn a lot about your business and what sort of naming ideas you like. 

Validate

If you’re following the process, you should by now have found at least one, and perhaps even two or three names you really love.

It’s tempting to stop at this point, ecstatic that you’ve got results. But whatever you do, don’t drop out now!

Take the final steps. These steps will give you that added confidence you need to know for sure you’ve made a smart choice that won’t backfire on you down the road.

Throw out a bunch of names

By now, all that preparation and brainstorming should have resulted in a long list of potential names for your awesome project. Now it’s time to whittle the list down, until you have only the most appealing, catchy, suitable, and of course, available new business names to choose from.

Choosing a Name with a Domain

If you’re launching a new business in today’s world, you will likely need a domain. However, so many domains have been registered that it is no longer as simple as visiting a registrar and claiming the appropriate available domain.

While you may now understand how to name a business, picking a domain is a different matter. In today’s very competitive world of business, most short, real English words are taken or very expensive.

Domain Budgeting for your project

Here is what you can expect to get with various domain budget levels:


$0: 

If you have no domain budget, you have to get creative. Look at unique, longer names or domain add-ons. You can also consider non-.com domain extensions like .co, .io, and more. A fun way to get around premium domain costs if they are not in your budget is to come up with a fun domain phrase like CallRuby.com or TryMagicChocolate.com


$1,000-3,000

This kind of domain budget will get you far with various styles such as intentional misspellings, compounds, transmutations, or made up words. Being creative with a domain name and not relying on one-word names will help you find an domain at this price point.


$3,000-30,000

This is where creative, short domains fit in these days. Anything that is short, trendy, and similar to a real word but not quite there could fit in here.


$60,000-150,000+

Highly coveted English words usually fit into this category, and sometimes they sell for almost half a million dollars.


When choosing a name for your business, considering your domain and domain budget will help you strengthen your business plan. Also consider how your domain will impact your business, and budget accordingly.

Passing the Basic Name tests

You need your business name to pass these basic name tests. If it doesn’t, it might not be the best name.

The Crowded Bar Test

A good business name is easy to say and hear, even in a crowded bar. This is the Crowded Bar Theory. The basic principle is that your name should still be understood, even if it’s said in a crowded bar.

If it cannot pass the crowded bar test, it probably will not hold up in the real world. It will be too difficult for people to share with each other.

You should also start narrowing your list of new company names by these two simple checklists we have created:

Use this checklist if you want people to CARE

  • Contextual – name makes sense for your brand positioning
  • Appealing – name is pleasant to say and hear
  • Remarkable – name sticks in the mind and gets people talking
  • Evocative – name is emotional, intriguing, experiential, or impressively clever=

Use this one if you DON’T

  • Difficult – to spell or pronounce
  • Obscure – only a few people “get it”
  • Neutral – too safe, too boring, doesn’t excite to your audience
  • Taken – the legal implications aren’t good and the domain isn’t available

Read more about our checklist for creating a business name here.

Avoid Legal Issues

Just like other aspects of your business, choosing a name has legal implications you must consider. This is why coming up with a unique name is so important.

Many of our clients, prior to deciding to use Squadhelp’s simple, effective platform went through legal nightmares when trying to name projects.

We feel the need to warn you in particular about Trademark issues. Just about every word in the dictionary is trademarked to a certain degree. Before you decide on a name, do your due diligence and get it checked out by legal professionals. If it’s high-risk, change it. A cease-and-desist letter can be a real show stopper.

For those in the U.S., remember, it’s important to complete a name search with the appropriate state agency, generally the office of the Secretary of State. In cases where the name you’ve chosen is NOT in use, you can reserve it for 120 days with the Secretary of State’s office. Make sure to undertake the right sort of due diligence so as to comply with local laws in your country of operation. (And please note that this is not legal advice.)

Know the Trademark danger zones

With so many trademarks, the chance of being able to use a single English word is becoming very slim. The common danger zones are:

  • Single English words
  • Power words – like Force, United, Omni and Icon
  • Symbolic words – like Bridge, Spring, Sage, Rocket

But just because you can’t use one stand alone word, doesn’t mean you can’t integrate these words into something more original. Some of the most successful brand names out there use an interesting mix of real words and phrases to convey powerful messages.

Types of names that allow you to integrate more common English words include:

  • Transmutations – Zappos, Zumba
  • This & That – Lily and Moon, Crate & Barrel
  • Compounds – SnapChat, WordPress
  • Phrases – Mechanical Turk, Pliny the Elder
  • Visual Story – Ice Mountain, Red Bull
  • Blends – Groupon, Instagram

 

Audience Validation

Now, for the final step! Get some audience validation. Make sure your target audience – real people who aren’t in your inner circle – react well to the name. Over the years, we’ve discovered that for those starting a new venture, getting audience validation is satisfying and encouraging.

Because your business name needs to resonate with your audience, you should choose a company name with its performance with targeted audiences in mind.

Once you know it’s not just you who likes your choice of name, you’ll be able to truly relax, knowing you’ve picked the perfect moniker, one that will help your brand grow and prosper.

At the end of the day, a great name must align with your target audience. Naming is relative in this way. There are really no universally great business names, because people’s preferences are subjective.

After ensuring your right to use a name, Audience Testing may be the most important — and often overlooked — step in the naming process. Only when your name choice is backed by the right potential customers can you deem your naming hunt over

Choosing a Name with  confidence

After jumping down the rabbit hole of naming, you may find that you’re losing focus. How do you know that the names you’re looking at are actually okay?  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

No brand name is perfect

The truth is that you can poke holes in every brand name, even the best ones. Doesn’t Amazon associate the eCommerce giant with deforestation? Is Nike too hard to pronounce because people will think it should rhyme with Mike or Bike? Regardless of these slight weaknesses, these brand names are still great.

Don’t overthink your brand name. In the end, as long as it fulfills your naming criteria and is not cringey or embarrassing, your brand name is probably strong.

Choosing a Company Name as a group

Choosing a Company Name as a Group

If you have more than one decision maker in your group when you are naming a business or re-branding a company, selecting a name can be even more challenging. Everyone might have different ideas as to what makes a great name.

Focus on creating unity in your brand by establishing your naming criteria that we discussed earlier. Then, as you go through your brainstormed list of potential names, keep or eliminate name ideas based on how well they fulfill the outlined criteria.

For example, if you know that you know that you want your chocolate shop name to have an intriguing, mystical edge to it, a punny or witty name, no matter how clever, may not be the best way to go.

If you pay attention to logical name criteria rather than subjective emotional resonance, your group will have a much more productive time naming.

Don’t be afraid to be bold when picking a name

Here’s what these successful companies probably heard when choosing their company name:

  • Apple – You can’t name a B2B computer company after a fruit!
  • e.l.f. Cosmetics – What are you thinking? An elf is just a silly mythic creature!
  • Hulu – Don’t ever use that name! It’s means nothing. No one will remember Hulu.
  • Mechanical Turk – You have to avoid long names. Your name’s gotta be short!
Taglines and Logos

Picking Taglines and Logos

Your name is just the beginning. Once you have your name as a jumping off point for your brand, you can start working on your tagline and your logo.

Your tagline should support your brand and explain what sets your business apart in just a few words.

Your logo should reinforce the tone of your brand and help people attach an image to your business.

 

Naming Demystified

Cease and Desist Letters. Brands that flop. Lost revenue. Wasted time and missed opportunities. “Namers remorse” (which feels like buyers remorse and can nag at you for years and years).

These are the real-world consequences of misinformed name choices, and we’ve written this to help you avoid all of them and realize the long-term benefits of building your brand upon a great name.

If you were wondering how to name a business, we hope that you now have everything you need. This info-graphic below summarizes the steps we covered:

How to name a business
How to name a business, step by step.

You should now have everything that need to successfully overcome creative block and choose the perfect name – with confidence!

About the author

Meghan O'Toole
Insights from 19,000+ Naming and Branding Projects

The World’s Largest Naming Platform


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