Skip to main content

Your brand name matters. Even if Romeo disagrees.

“What’s in a name?”

This one short line encapsulates the central struggle and tragedy of the Shakespearian play, Romeo and Juliet. Juliet has just told Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention and that she loves the person who is called “Montague,” not the Montague name or the Montague family.

If it’s been a minute since your high school English class, what Romeo’s reply is essentially getting at is that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention. And when it comes to love, this very well may be the case. But when it comes to your brand, following this advice could potentially create an outcome as tragic as the one that befalls these two lovers.

Whether you’re starting a new business, want to refresh your existing brand or need ideas for unique product names, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to find a brand name that’s not only the right fit but will also stand the test of time.

Why brand names matter

Like our own personal names, a brand's name is the first impression it makes on others. Not only does it communicate the brand’s overall aesthetic but it may also have an impact on how potential customers feel about what you have to offer even before they know what it is you sell.

Since brand names aren’t like other kinds of nouns that have a dictionary definition, our brains need to intake, process and store them differently. That means creating or connecting a new neural pathway — a far easier task when a brand name either aligns with the industry, is memorable for a target audience or stands out in some other way. That’s when emotion comes into play.

Your brand name will play a large role in how people feel (and, consequently, remember) your business or product. For example, many people will probably have a strong reaction to this brand name fail: A snack company named their product “Only Pukee.” This is exactly the wrong kind of emotional reaction to illicit with your brand or product name but still, you have to admit it’s pretty memorable!

What should be in a brand name?

Chances are you already have a list of brand names that you’ve brainstormed. And while most guides will outline each individual step you need to come up with additional ideas, we know that what business owners and marketers really need is a way to eliminate options, not tack more on! Here are 5 components every unique brand name should have along with the questions you need to ask yourself in order to narrow down your options.

1. Meaningful

Your brand name may be the first and most important element of your company’s overall brand. It’s a quick and easy way to share your brand’s personality so customers can gauge how appealing it is.

Nike, for example, is named after the Greek goddess of victory with the same moniker. It’s simple and significant. And for a sports brand, what athlete wouldn’t want to feel victorious while using their products?

On the other hand, if your brand name doesn’t have a positive association for consumers, they’re not likely to choose you over competitors. The infamous Chevy Nova incident comes to mind. The brand sold the car in Mexico and in Spanish “nova” translates to “it doesn’t go”. Not exactly a positive association for a vehicle!

Ask yourself...

Does it have some degree of meaning? Is it easily explained? And, perhaps most importantly, what will the name mean to your customers?

2. Memorable & Distinctive

If you spend lots of money advertising your brand, you’d like consumers to remember it by name. The problem? Most people have a hard time remembering names. And we can thank the Baker/Baker paradox for that.

In this video for Tech Insider, neurobiologist Dr. Dean Buonomano outlines why it’s far easier to remember that someone is a professional baker than it is to remember that someone’s last name is Baker.

In a nutshell: It’s all about context. To make your brand name as memorable as possible, you’ll want to make sure it can be tied to something your audience already knows.

Home Depot is a great example of this. Their target audience of homeowners who do DIY projects will be able to remember the brand because it’s partially named after the needs they are trying to fulfill.

Alternatively, you can use a unique business name that still follows the standard naming conventions of other companies in your industry. For example, B2B software brands often use all lowercase letters or a combination of two words into a single name without spaces. That way when audiences see a name like ByteDance for the first time they will be able to recognize that naming convention and have a better chance of remembering it as a result.

As a rule of thumb, brand names that are hard to pronounce, hard to spell, sound too generic or sound too obscure all make recommending your businesses to a friend that much more difficult.

Ask yourself...

Is the name easy to remember? Is the name different enough from the competition? Brevity, alliteration and an association with something familiar are great devices to help ensure that your brand name stands out from the crowd.

3. Ownable

Brand names are normally legally protected trademarks, and you can’t choose a brand name that is the same or too close to a brand name owned by another company. Companies protect their brand names fiercely, so you’ll face expensive lawsuits if you infringe on another company’s brand name. You also need to protect your brand by registering it in the US and foreign countries (in case your brand goes global).

In the internet age, you also need to make sure domains for your chosen name are available. People buy up domains they think might make good brand names, so even if there’s no company using your brand name, the domain might cost you. You also want to secure the domains associated with your brand name and not just .com. Make sure to acquire the .net and .org versions and any other relevant URL ending you wouldn’t want to see get scooped up by someone else.

A famous example comes from the White House. Whitehouse dot com will take you, not to the home of the president of the US, but an adult website. The 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. home website is whitehouse dot gov.

Finally, social media is now a critical component of nearly every brand’s marketing and communications strategy. Check out Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other top networks to see whether your brand’s name is already in use before making the decision to move forward.

Ask yourself...

Is the name protectable? Is there a direct URL available? What about social media handles?

4. Flexible

In developing a marketing strategy, you need to look far into the future to try and determine where your brand will be further down the road. You may expand from a single product to multiple, go beyond your current geographic location or even add a second or third niche to your offerings. If your brand name pigeonholes your business now it will be harder to adapt smoothly later on.

Ideally your brand name should have the ability to grow with you. For example, Alphabet, the owner of Google, has always positioned itself as a multinational company with interests in a variety of niches. The name gives them room to bring other types of companies together under one cohesive umbrella while still remaining memorable.

Ask yourself...

What meanings are associated with your brand name in other cultures, languages and countries? Will this name inhibit the business in the future? Is it too limiting? Is it modular?

5. Likable

Finally, consider how the brand name sounds. If you and your partners like how it fits within the overall strategy of the company, great. If you and your partners like it in general, even better. Just make sure you test it to see if it resonates with your audience, too.

You should also test it out in the variety of ways you’ll eventually use it. Say it out loud in conversation, type it into an email header, size it way up and way down to see how it’ll look on printed material. Running small diagnostics like these will help you consider any practical challenges you’ll face if you do choose this name.

Ask yourself...

Do you actually like the name? Does it roll off the tongue? Would the target audience respond to the name? Is it relevant to them?

Winning brand name examples

There are tons of great brand names and product names out there. Here are a few household ones we love and why we love them. Each of these good company names offers its own unique strategy, spelling choices and vibe, and can be used to kickstart your next brainstorm session!

1. Swiffer

Logo Swiffer Source: Wikipedia

This made up word offers a pleasing sound when spoken out loud that can even be used as a verb to describe what the product does.

2. Apple

Logo Apple Source: Wikimedia

An apple’s associations with great inventors and religion already makes it stand out in our mind as significant. It’s short, sweet and memorable.

3. Yum! Brands

Logo Yum Source: BizJournals

If you aren’t already familiar with this fast food corporation you could probably guess they served this industry. The exclamation point adds some fun and personality to their new name — they were formerly known as Tricon Global Restaurants.

4. Amazon

Logo Amazon Source: The Economic Times

Another word we’re familiar with plus the symbolism of being based on the largest river in the world. Not to mention the clever “A-Z” tagline!

5. Ticketmaster

Logo Ticketmaster Source: Live Nation

Regardless of whether you were able to get your Taylor Swift concert tickets recently or not, you can’t deny that the brand name makes sense and is unique yet easy to remember.

Turns out there really is a lot in a name!

Your brand name is a critical starting point in building a brand image for your product. Not only does it create a first impression but it will foster an emotional connection with your audience that makes it easier (or harder) to remember.

It can be tough to figure out what name to choose, especially when you have so many options in front of you. Remember to keep these 5 questions in mind as you narrow down your list:

  • Is it meaningful?
  • Is it memorable in a positive way?
  • Is it available?
  • Can it grow alongside your business?
  • Do you and your audience love it?

Don’t be afraid to look around you for inspiration. There are plenty of everyday examples of great brand names you can use to help you choose your own. And don’t forget to tie your brand name back into your brand identity using our helpful guide.

Good luck and happy naming!