The best advice I ever heard on the topic of naming a business was:
Pick something that’s not offensive and be done with it.
The business I worked with at the time was launching a new brand. The team in charge of naming the brand was struggling. And I learned that it had happened before on a few projects.
And I get it. The name seems like it’s everything. The brand of the company. Everything.
But on this project there was a consultant for the merchandise side of things. And in one meeting he chimed in with that quote above. He had been part of numerous naming projects too and realized that the name itself isn’t important.
The brand becomes what you make it. Your actions. What people think when they see or hear a business name has nothing or very little to do with the letters. It has everything or mostly everything to do with how the company acts.
That said, it’s still important to not offend anybody. And I think it’s still important to make the name easy to say, search for, type, write, etc.
Here are a few ways to do that with a little competitive research…
1. Identify Your True Market
This is surprisingly a difficult thing to do.
For example, maybe you’re a craft brewery. Are you competing against all beers in the world? Or just the beers in your local area? Or maybe it’s not just beer in your local area, but the share of mouth in your local area…
Expand your market. Then contract it. Really hone in on what you’re doing. It’s competitive research, but really it’s getting to know yourself. It’s self awareness and most businesses that fail don’t really know themselves as well as they should.
2. Identify The Top Players
Once you get a handle on your market, list out the top players. Those that are winning. Not just in the moment, but that have been around for some time. You don’t want to worry about the flash in the pans. Lists like the Inc. 500 and others have made it cool to grow fast. But it’s not always the fast growers that win. In fact, that’s usually not the case.
3. Analyze The Names
Once you have the top players, look at their names. Figure out similarities. Just start creating a list.
In another industry, Will Smith did this early in his movie career. At some point around 1995 he sat down with his agent and they listed out the most popular movies of all time. They realized that the majority involved a hero doing something heroic. They involved special effects. They also usually had larger than average budgets. By going through their list and finding similarities they identify traits to look for in movie projects for Will and in the next decade plus he would star in some of the biggest movies of all time.
That’s what you’re doing with names in your market. Does the name make the business? No, but a bad name can get in the way of a good business. What you’re going to find is that names are usually generic. They don’t mean anything. They don’t offend anyone. They’re easy to say, write, etc.
Now comes the contradiction.
You want to follow the same formula as the successful businesses in your market while also standing out. By being different.
In 1995, Will Smith starred in Bad Boys. The film followed successful buddy cop films and tv shows. But it was splashy with lots of special effects and close-ups shots. And also plenty of humor and heroism.
In 1996, Will Smith starred in Independence Day. Action movie. Alien movie. A proven formula, but with modern day effects and a different storyline.
As you look at your competition you might find that their names are shorter than 7 letters. That’s your formula. Maybe you notice that most start with letters in the middle and end of the alphabet.
That’s an opportunity to be different. Chose a short name that’s in the early portion of the alphabet.
5. Brainstorm What’s Available
The final tip to naming your company is to find something that’s available. It can be short, simple and easy to write and all those things. It doesn’t have to be an actual word.
I like to search Go Daddy for names. If it’s available as a domain it’s probably available as a trademark and all that business. Maybe it’s even your last name or first name.
This is a pretty quick process. Don’t overthink the name of your business. It will become what you make it. The name should just not stand in the way. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years about naming a business.