When entrepreneur Sara Blakely launched her now-ubiquitous shapewear company, she also created a great brand name: Spanx. It’s a unique and memorable name that came to define the product category she revolutionized (shapewear)—and no accident on Blakely’s part.
A powerful brand name can help build brand recognition, which in turn helps you build connections with customers, improve loyalty, and make sales. A strong brand name can be an asset on its own when a positive perception of that name increases your product’s commercial value or brand equity.
Learn more about how to craft a memorable brand name of your own.
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What makes a good brand name?
A strong brand name is unique, memorable, easy to pronounce, and clearly correlates with what your brand aims to accomplish. You might choose a brand name because it elicits a positive emotion (think of the meditation app Calm) or piques the curiosity of potential customers. A solid name can also be straightforward and descriptive, implying your product’s function (like the shaker cup brand, BlenderBottle). Choosing a brand name that’s easy to spell and pronounce makes it accessible to a wide audience.
Good brand names also leverage appealing sounds—repeated syllables can make a name catchy, as can alliteration. According to David Crystal’s A Little Book of Language, sounds like “M” and “N” appear inviting and friendly, while “G” and “T” are less approachable. When Sara Blakely was looking for a name for her new shapewear company, she noticed brand names with “K” sounds, like Coca-Cola and Kodak, were recognizable. She chose the name “Spanks” with that in mind, later changing it to “Spanx” because it was easier to trademark.
How to come up with a brand name in 4 steps
If you’re ready to start the brand naming process, you’ve likely already done some of the groundwork of identifying your brand values (the key principles that guide company decisions) and brand identity (the features that make your brand uniquely appealing). Clearly define and think about your target market next, articulating what your value proposition is to your ideal customers. Then lay out what distinguishes your brand from others in your category. Once you know precisely what your brand aims to accomplish, you can start playing with words.
Brainstorming harnesses the power of collaborative creative thinking to generate ideas—though you can always use brainstorming techniques on your own. Brainstorming promotes spontaneity and minimizes inhibitions so team members can propose as many ideas as possible, reserving critiques for later. A few things to consider as you brainstorm ideas for your brand name:
- Play with words. Think of images your brand might evoke or even sounds that align with your brand—such as the clicking “K” sound in Kodak that evokes a camera shutter. Consider using a made-up word to convey your brand essence. Metaphorical brand name ideas compare your brand to a thing or person that represents your ethos, like the name Nike referencing the ancient Greek goddess of victory.
- Try a portmanteau. Names that combine two words can succinctly describe the purpose of your brand, as in the case of Facebook, PayPal, FedEx, Pinterest, and DoorDash.
- Use a name generator. Tools like Shopify’s business name generator allow you to select auto-generated name ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Once you’ve narrowed down some naming options, do some research to make sure they’re available—and confirm that they actually convey what you mean.
- Check to see if the name already exists. A quick Google search should turn up any dupes for the name you’ve chosen. If yours overlaps with another name or is so close it could be confused—or even violate a trademark—move on.
- Do a domain name search. Your website’s domain name should include your company name. Search for available domain names within Shopify’s domain name registration tool. You can also type domain names into sites like Google Domains and Name.com to find out which of your brand name ideas is available.
- Check for social media availability. Ensure your preferred account name isn’t already taken on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Check hashtags, too. If your name comes up as a hashtag and you don’t want to be associated with the tagged photos or tweets, consider a new brand name.
- Look up alternate meanings. Make sure your name doesn’t have an unfortunate translation in another language. Similarly, if it carries a negative word association, you might want to rethink it. For example, when the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a global health emergency, India’s Tata Motors renamed its new Zica car to Tiago to avoid an association with the disease.
- Check for trademarks. Check the trademark database of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to make sure your name isn’t already registered; this will help ensure that you can register it without legal complications.
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Once you’ve settled on a few unclaimed names you love, take them on a test drive and gather some feedback. There are a few ways to test whether your brand name evokes your intended message:
- Put together a focus group. Gather a representative sample of your target market into a focus group, and introduce them to your proposed names. Explain the product or service, then show them potential names in a slide deck to gauge their response. If their reaction doesn’t align with your product idea, you might want to reconsider.
- Test the name with trusted friends and colleagues. If the name resonates with your inner circle, ask them to elaborate. Colleagues in the same industry may spot complications or overlaps you may not have considered.
- Conduct a survey. You can conduct studies with anonymous members of your target market through a brand name testing platform and see if your results are similar to other groups you’ve canvassed.
Coming up with a brand name FAQ
How can I ensure that my brand name will resonate with my target audience?
Use language your audience would use to create a name that conveys your personality and message. Make it simple, easy to pronounce, and memorable.
Can I change my brand name later on if it’s not working for me?
Yes, you can change your brand name. While it’s not an ideal scenario, there can be good reasons for doing so. For example, you may need to distance yourself from a negative association or update a name that no longer represents your product or service.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when choosing a brand name?
Avoid using difficult spellings or pronunciations that people won’t want to say out loud. A brand name that isn’t spelled how it’s pronounced can be difficult to remember.
Can my brand name be a made-up word?
Yes! Made-up words can elicit emotions without being literal and set you apart from existing brands. As an added bonus, they’re typically easier to trademark.