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What's in a (Brand) Name?

"What's in a name?" This one short line encapsulates the central struggle and tragedy of the Shakespearian play, Romeo and Juliet. Here Juliet tells Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, and that she loves the person who is called "Montague", not the Montague name and not the Montague family.

Lets extract the explanation of the quote: "A name is an artificial and meaningless convention."

When it comes to love, this may be the case, but when it comes to your brand, do not follow this philosophy or you will be doomed.

Whether you have an already established company, are in the process of creating a new product, or are just thinking about taking the entrepreneurial plunge, we wanted to share a few things that you should consider to ensure your brand name is the right fit, working hard for you now and in the future.

1. Meaningful

Your brand name may be the first and most important element of your company’s brand. It should be a short cut for customers – telling them about your brand personality. Nike, for example, is the Greek goddess for victory. It's simple and significant. If your brand name doesn’t have positive association for consumers, they’re not likely to choose your brand.

Ask Yourself...

Does it have some degree of meaning infused? Is it easily explained?

2. Memorable + Distinctive

If you spend lots of money advertising your brand, you’d like consumers to remember it by name. But what if it's forgettable?  Consumers who can’t pronounce your brand name also can’t recommend it to their friends. 5 Hour Energy, despite sounding a little dull,  is completely unique compared to Monster or Red Bull.

In the age of social network marketing, your brand name also needs to be easily spelled. If consumers can’t spell your name, they can’t post about it to their social network, they won’t be able to find your Facebook fan page or your Twitter feed, and they won’t be able to find your website.  Short names work better than long names.

Ask Yourself...

Is the name easy to remember? Is the name different enough from the competition? Brevity and alliteration are great devices to help ensure memorability and that you stand 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 not be available. You also want to buy up all the domains associated with your brand name, not just .com. Get .net, .org – everything available.  Otherwise someone might take advantage and create problems for your brand name. A famous example comes from the White House, where will take you, not to the home of the president of the US, but a porn site. The 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. home website is

Ask Yourself...

Is the name protectable? Is there a direct URL available?

4. Flexible

In developing marketing strategy, you need to look far into the future to try and determine where your brand will be in 50, even 100 years. Maybe there are opportunities for your brand to go beyond a regional product to a national or international brand. Then, think about the meaning of your brand in different cultures and languages.

Probably the most famous international branding mistake was when the Chevy Nova was introduced into spanish-speaking countries where the words mean “no go” — hardly an association you want with a car.

Ask Yourself...

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

5. Likeable

Finally, consider how the brand name sounds and if you and your partners like how it fits within the overall strategy of the company. If you all agree that you like it, test it to make sure it resonates with your audience as well. You want to have a brand name that you are proud of and that you can confidently speak to everyday and that your audience won't have issues being associated with.

Ask Yourself...

Do we actually like the name? Would the target audience respond to the name? Is it relevant to them?


Your brand name is a critical starting point in building a brand image for your product. There are 5 key elements in selecting a good brand name: 1) is it meaningful 2) is it memorable and does it stand out from the competition 3) is it ownable 4) can it grow alongside your business 5) does it resonate in a favorable manner with you and your audience.

Good luck and happy naming!