How to Name a Business [A Step-by-Step Guide]
How many times have you reached a dead-end while trying to find a perfect name for a brand or business? Looking at the world around you, so many names are flying by – and yet here you are feeling hopeless. It isn’t supposed to be this hard, isn’t it?
Well, it is! And you are not alone in your problem. Entrepreneurs are spending so much time just thinking about a successful and purposeful name for their business. You shouldn’t be at all surprised by the fact that the top businessmen spend a top dollar just to discover a perfect name.
That is exactly why we decided to write this piece in hope that it will reach our fellow name-crafters. Now, you might think business naming is an impossible task and the creative mind has dried. That’s simply not true.
This business naming hints and tips article that we as professional naming agency constructed will provide you with some friendly tips about how to approach the naming of your business. Even if you have experience in this area of creative work, but lack ideas, it will offer you some amazing advice.
If you follow these simple step-by-step guidelines and tips, even if you aren’t a creative genius, you will filter your mind of unnecessary information and in return open the wide imaginative world of symbols and names that can connect and merge to a perfect business name. So, buckle up!
First step: Preparing to name your business (Creative brief)
The name of your business is the base and the thing that keeps it all together. But, as is with building a house, before you lay the ground for your foundation, you are supposed to project the whole building first. You need a clear answer to every question.
What do you want your brand to be? Who are the people you are targeting? What do you produce? Are your aspirations local, domestic, continental, global or else? (Very important – some local word solutions don’t work out continentally or globally and vice-versa) Who do you compete within the market? What are their names?
]As you can see, you need to take a lot of questions into consideration much before you even start to think about your business name. These things require thorough research and can make or break your choice. It is very important to always be prepared so nothing can surprise you in your area of business.
1) Brief description
First of all, let’s talk briefly about what you want to accomplish with your brand. The best thing to do is to make a sketch. Like when you project a house – first you draw something that would resemble the end product.
We’ll call the first process ‘’In a nutshell’’: a brief description, a tweet-like sum of all main business points. It should be not more than 140 characters. This short depiction should include an on-point review of what you want to achieve with your brand and it will be the leading point from which you will develop a name.
2) Consumer insights and target group
Think about the key part of your business. Your potential customers. How do you imagine them? What is it about your brand that makes them your clients/customers? Think about how your customers would behave when consuming your product. Why is it special and unique? Even more important question is – who are your customers? This is called a target group.
Target group defines the way you present your product to the public. If your product targets serious people, you will try to avoid some inappropriate names that are maybe too silly. If you target kids, you will look to find some attractive and entertaining solutions. What is their spending power?
So, a particular type of people of a particular demographic structure who consumes a particular thing usually leaves us with a winning naming equation.
3) Brand position
This point is closely related to the previous.
Where do you want your brand to be positioned in the market? If you are a hotel owner, are you a luxury owner or a budget owner? What unique experience does coming to your hotel offer? If your hotel comes at a budget price, why is it the best?
If we take, e.g, a Hilton hotel compared to a local Hostel the demographic that is targeted is much different. Hilton hotel was named thanks to the personal reputation of luxury, high-class social status, expensive prices, top service etc.
Compared to that, a local hostel targets people who probably want to have a best possible quality for the least possible price. The tourists will probably use the service just for a sleep-over and they are looking for a bargain (low-cost, but not low-quality). The target group of these two is completely different.
4) Brand experience
You should also consider something called brand experience when you want to give a desirable name. What notion or sensation will a brand name cause in the mind and/or body of a consumer?
If your business is a local food store, you should think: When my customers read the name, there are certain things they need to feel. I feel I can trust this food store. I feel that the food is really tasty. I feel that inside this store is cozy and cool, etc.
The effective sensation that the symbol (that is your business name) can cause to your potential customer’s subconsciousness is essential.
5) Competitor’s names
So-called competition scouting is also a winning formula in a ruthless battle of the market. Now that you’ve defined your brand, its position, and consumer strategy, you can focus on the other similar businesses that you consider your competition. Depending on your brand’s position, you will define the scale of the competition – a local store, a national or a global giant.
Scouting the names of the competition will give you a certain answer how not to name your brand. During this process, you will do a useful selection of ‘’negative’’ words which are used very often. E.g. most of the healthy food stores use the word BIO in their name. It would be best if you look to avoid it and try to evoke health somehow else than with BIO even if your products are BIO.
Your brand’s personality
Spare some time to list some personal traits of your business and brand. You should stop and for a moment think about your business as if it is a human being. Like you would write your own traits in your biography, you should write it for your business.
If you spend some time listing the qualities of your hotel as e.g. clean, easily approachable, cheap, kind (staff), you will get a good idea about what words you may consider related to the words that describe the perks of your business.
Second step: Brainstorming potential business names
You will most often hear the word ‘brainstorm’ when you ask a person what is the best way to come up with a name. Brainstorm is a cheeky expression and is not exactly defined as it doesn’t describe the process, just the meaning of the word.
How to brainstorm effectively? Should you call your friends and ask for help? Should you watch YouTube videos? Should you close your eyes, turn off the lights, lay on a bed and just think about it for a while?
From my own experience, and the experience of professional creative writers and name-crafters, there are some certainties you should be looking to avoid when you want to brainstorm:
a) Avoid brainstorming in groups
You have probably participated in a lot of brainstorming activities. Ever since your school days you are urged to work in groups and bring out your ideas together and in an effective manner. As with all creative processes in a human being, the brain best works by itself.
From our experience, the brainstorm meetings are ineffective. The corporate conference rooms have white walls, are crowded with people and mentally very unstimulating. Those meetings usually end up with uneven time for ideas. Extroverts will dominate, introverts will be afraid to contribute, even if they might have unbelievable naming solutions.
There is no objectivity, everyone would like to please the one on top of a hierarchy and in practice, there is no time nor will to thoroughly analyze every name. The name usually ends up being an average brand name that is selected because there was the least resistance, and very rarely it is potentially the best one the group could think of.
Even gathering with a couple of friends to try and brainstorm isn’t the best idea. The focus usually loosens after a couple of moments when the conversation leads astray to the more casual and less tiresome topics for the brain. You end up playing games, laughing and forgetting about why are you there in the first place.
b) You are your best brainstorm partner
Who is the best person you should ask for help when you brainstorm? You should ask yourself for the help of course! Only you will agree with yourself on all the important things regarding naming business. The best place you can be – anywhere where you can focus, and in front of your computer.
The internet is a creative chaos. Whenever you feel like you need a creative injection in your mind, you turn to the internet. All the necessary tools you need for this business are essentially in two places – your head and on the web.
If you find your inspiration on the internet, you will see a mosaic full of hyperlinks, pictures, symbols, they will take you to the amazing places of signs and words where you will feel like your mind can craft whatever you want.
When you brainstorm – which is essentially when you trigger an unstoppable tempest of naming chaos in your brain, there are some very useful things you should consider:
1) Write your ideas on paper
Wise people say that the writing down your ideas is an important creative discipline. The first time you think about it, the idea passes through your mind, the second time it passes through the pen, and at last, remains to be seen once more on the piece of paper. This guide will include a lot of pictures of written ideas since we find it essential for the naming process.
During the time you write down the ideas you come up with try to write even those that you are not sure are good enough. This is because you will get new ideas in the process and that is how the brain works – through symbolic links.
You divide your written ideas into categories. A category for the best ones, for the solid ones and those that you are unsure of. Even the third category can be good, and those are the best to share with other people so they can give you feedback. Usually, a lot of creative ideas come from the third category, since it inspires others to think in that direction.
2) Do not limit yourself
The common mistake a newbie can make when trying to think of the name is that he limits himself to the shackles of rationale! When you think about naming your business or a brand, you need to think outside of logic. The mind is based on logic, and that is a habit a creative writer or name-crafter has to unlearn.
Not all the brands’ names are related to the line of work they do. Even if it is logical thinking that a name has to be connected to the deed, in the world of business names and brands that is not the case. You have to think of your mind as a playground of words, signs, symbols, and sentences.
Think beyond standard language structure. Think about connecting the unconnectable. Merging two words that are never merged before. Your mind is a name forgery and you have to consider all the words you’ve ever memorized.
Abbreviations and acronyms are just a tiny answer in the wide range of solutions. You can consider mixing up the slangs, terms from other languages, thinking of words as a melody that sounds poetic to the mind. You are a creative writer and you don’t know about un-namable things. You are the name-crafter, you master the art of words.
3) Make sure that Step 1 is complete
Before you start the fun game of business naming, you need to return back to the Step 1 and review all the points again. The step one (also known as Creative brief) essential if you want your brainstorm to succeed.
You will use all the written facts about your aspirations and necessary information as a guidepost. The info about what you want your company to be, target audience and competition will make naming your business an entertaining problem to solve.
Third step: Picking up the business naming tools
What is a smith without its hammer? In this step, we will focus on the utilities that will help you realize some of the potentials that internet as a medium has on your creativity. We will single out some of the tools that we regularly and eagerly use and we recommend you to try them out yourself.
Of course, one of the best things about the internet is that it is an unexplored field of riches, and while you grow you will find more and more useful pieces of stuff along the way, and maybe even share some of the findings with us! Every day we find something else that helps us to name businesses in the best possible way.
1) Glossaries and dictionaries
The Internet has a bunch of free glossaries and dictionaries in which you can find amazing inspiration. It is unbelievable how many definitions can just one ordinary word have – thanks to the metaphors, idioms, and other style figures. Some awesome internet slang and jargon sites like urbandictonary.com have proven to be unbelievably useful.
Finding a good business name can always start by connecting a word from your brainstorming process, even those from the ‘third category’, and other words and styles from the definition and usage of a word that you can read in these amazing online word books.
2) Peek into other medium
Where do filmmakers find inspiration other than other films? In books, in music, in art. All forms of art and mediums are the fuel that energizes the creative motors of one another. If you want to search for the full creative potential of name-crafting, you may want to take a glimpse into other mediums.
Movies – the names of the movies can be an amazing inspiration. Search for the movie databases such as imdb.com, or rottentomatoes.com typing the keywords that you brainstormed and you just might find something you’ve never thought you will.
Some movies have such unique names and wordplays that you might not need any further once you go into the vast database of cinematography.
Songs – Search iTunes, YouTube, Soundcloud and other platforms that are mostly music related. Band names are often a very good inspiration for names since they follow the similar symbolic pattern of business naming. It is not always driven by logic, but it’s unique and inspiring.
Song names can often be a very nice addition to name-crafting since they vary so much and rely on wordplay as much as branding.
Books – Book titles, poetry, short stories. You should look up to these creative writers and their play of words when naming books, collections, and poems. They are people who are natural name-crafters, and you could surely pick up a thing or two from them.
3) Look for brainstorming sites
There is a lot of brainstorming sites that can help you with naming a business as it helped us a lot of time in the past.
One of the best websites and probably the one that all the name-crafters will tell you to check and use is Thesaurus.com. This is a website where you can find various definitions and synonyms or related words to any words you want.
Myvocabulary.com is also amazing when it comes to relatable words and solutions. You can type any keyword and the website will list you all the words that come into any relation to it, so you can dig as much as you like.
These are, as you can guess, just a few websites that we use and have experience with. If you are a researcher, you will most certainly find many other very good websites that will help you on your path and we encourage you to do so!
4) The almighty Google!
When you’ve dried up all of the above suggestions, you can focus on the general thing – the Google. Of course, you might get lost since Google will not always filter the best possible answer, and that is precisely why we leave it as a last resort.
When the well dries up, when the tools break and you use the up to the max, you turn to always reliable Google for some final touches and inspiration.
Case study: Example of how to name a business
Okay, so you have read and maybe found some of the text insightful, but without an example, the theory doesn’t worth much. We will you a clear example of how our brain works in the process of naming a business.
Let’s say that you, for example, are starting a cat food business. You are bashing your head against a brick wall without any inspiration. The looming dark clouds are blocking your mind.
It gets depressing when you are blocked and you can’t-do anything about it, especially as the days go by, it pressures you more and more. You are indecisive and feeling hopeless. Don’t be. Play some relaxing music, take a look at the guide, and follow the instructions.
a) How do we prepare for the naming of the brand? With an in a nutshell brief description about your brand – At first, you give your business work-in-progress name that will help you sort out your information better. It should be first, a relatable thing that comes to your mind, e.g. Kitty Foods.
Then, we describe the key points.
In a nutshell: Kitty Foods is a cat food business that sells the healthiest, yummiest, vitamin-rich and affordable food for the cat lovers around the globe.
b) Think about what differs your business from others? Why will your business be unique? This will be
The brand position will be: Kitty Foods will offer the most diverse types of cat food on the market. It will focus on the food that is not regularly found on a pet store shelves and it will be first and outmost focused on cats. It will offer various types of tastes, nutritive food and a lot of vitamins for cat’s hair, looks, and health.
c) Now we focus on the customers. Who are they? What are they opinions? What is their demographic and spending power?
When we target pet-related things, the age group can vary from very young-aged to the eldest members of age group. Because of this, we can’t adjust our name to a certain age group, but we should focus on their mutual interest/passion.
Our target group is, of course, the passionate cat lovers who are treating their pet cats as the members of the family. They are ready to provide their pet cats with a wide range of different, yummy food and will not hesitate to spend what is needed for their cat to be happy and healthy.
d) What is the desired brand experience that you want for your cat food business? Of course, when the customers say or hear your name, the process in their head should think:
My cat will always be healthy with this brand and have a happy life.
I can provide amazing different taste sensations to my cat with the help of this brand.
My cat is getting the best and the most diverse food possible.
Visiting this business will equip me with all the necessities needed for my cat to live perfectly.
e) With some general info that we’ve written, we can finally focus on the competition.
Let’s list some of the most famous cat food brands out of our way, which we will analyze later.
Cat food brand names: Soulistic, Sheba, Purina, Temptations, Fancy Feast, Grreat Choice, Friskies, Whisker Lickin’s, Whiskas, Meow Mix, Kit-Cat, Garfield, Catit, 9Lives, Whisker City
There are some very good brand name choices here. You already know that Paw, Whisker, Meow, Cat, Kit, Garfield, 9 Lives, anything that related to the cat purr, etc. wouldn’t be the greatest choice since we already have it in all the famous brands. That will overshadow it in the short run. We need something fresh.
f) What are some adjectives that we can use to describe our brand? These might be keywords for our future name.
Brand personalities: pet-friendly, fresh, cat-loving, healthy, tasty, yummy, loving, sensitive, cute, irresistible.
Now that we have all the info and ideas we need, we can focus on our own sparks. Before we start to use our best friend – internet, and all the tools it brings, we should focus on our own mind.
a) Write down the words on paper
So, after thinking thoroughly about the words, you take a piece of paper and write down a set of around 15 words that are coming to your mind. The brief ideas we wrote in the previous step will help us a lot.
These are the first words that came to my mind:
Now we need to separate the names into categories.
Yarn -> Trademark toy of house cats
Prowl -> Most associated with cats
Senses -> The cat has great senses, and is related to the taste of course
Aristocats -> From the movie. Our customers probably treat cats like aristocracy. 😊
Queen -> The same as above. Usually, the cats are ‘’queens’’ of the house, regardless of gender, but might drive some male cat owners away, who knows.
Fresh -> Related to the food and the taste.
Tasty -> Related to the food and senses
Shiny -> Related to the fur
3rd: not so good
Meow -> Used up in existing brand names of the same type
Paw -> Same as above
Kitty -> Same
Healthy -> Need a little less used word
I wrote them down regardless because maybe we might associate some other words with these words.
b) List words and themes to avoid
Now that you know your competition and have a general idea of your own, you can separate the words that you would like to avoid. Look at the words you listed and think about it for a while.
Words that contain: Whisker, Kitten, Paw, 9 Lives, Purr (already used by competition and a bit cliché)
Yummy (a bit child-like, not all cat lovers love to act immature)
Healthy (used up, cliché, everybody is using it from organic food to pet food)
Acronyms (not so good and understandable when your business is so tight-focused)
c) List the competition names you liked
To know how to best use up all of your ‘wordly’ resources, you should always take a little look at what makes other similar business names fun and entertaining. It is no crime to look up to successful names and take a tip or two.
Grreat choice – Very nice name. The two Rs resemble cat purring and the whole name is like the cat itself is telling you that you look no further. It’s the best choice you can take.
Whisker lickin’ – Although simple, it is really melodic to the tongue. It rolls off the tongue so well (try to say it yourself) and it describes one of things cat is recognizable for.
Garfield – This example is great as it is a pop culture reference to maybe the most famous cat and it’s used up as a brand name in itself. These things are sometimes great example how pop culture can make your brand successful. This is sometimes a two-edged sword, though, as sometimes these exact things can drive serious buyers away from you, and not to mention the copyright!
So now that you have words opening and buzzing through your mind, it’s time to ask for the help of naming tools which will definitely have their say in this process.
a) Dictionaries and glossaries
I think about all the words I listed, all that I liked and all that seemed interesting to me. I open urbandictionary.com to see if there are any slang or jargon words that I could maybe use.
catabrea – a really smart person
cat-a-flage – when your cat hides and blends with the environment (I like these kinds of wordplays, also cat-a-licious)
Oxford dictionary: feline -> origin from Latin word felinus, feles. meaning – cat.
I remember the word feline, something my brain forgot because of constant usage of the term ‘cat’.
Oxford dictionary -> phrases with cat:
The cat’s whiskers: Something amazing
Cat in the bag: Telling a secret
When the cat’s away the mice will play: Taking advantage of an absence of authority.
b) Asking other mediums for help
After getting some more ideas with urban wordplays and phrases, I continue digging through the movie databases. I type the ‘keyword’ cat and based on the previous wordplay with a word cat, I find a movie called Delicatessen by accident – which reminds me of a great wordplay – Deli-Cat. Unfortunately, after a short googling, I see the brand already exists, and I continue my quest.
Some famous books and pop-culture references can also help. I am a fan of the book Cat’s Cradle, Cat In The Hat, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof… They are all good books and their names are opening up new ideas for me.
Am I thinking about pop-culture references? Puss in The Boots. Tom the Cat, Cheshire Cat, Hello Kitty, Felix the Cat. Of course, the most obvious one – Garfield (since he likes to eat a lot!) Is already taken.
Nevertheless, I feel all the words and relations forming a pattern in my mind and I am getting closer to a solution.
FINAL STEP: ABSTRACTION
I take a good look at what I wrote and what I found. I think for a while, somehow the word feline sticks in my head. It is sophisticated, it is aristo-cating (pun), it is melodic, we should use it definitely. Of course, I am looking at the all the wordplay aforementioned, and something clicks.
The cat-a-licious, the deli-cat, already exists. But feline-icious? No! I say it a couple of times. I use the name in a sentence – Felinicious. Such a nice way to describe the royal life of your cat and the amazing food you will bring to her bowl.
One of the useful things we do is that we test the spelling and if voice-recognition is working on the software such as SIRI. If the AI can recognize the name and grasp the new word which is really important, the task is near-complete.
I use it in our brief description: Felinicious is a cat food brand that offers the most diverse types of cat food on the market. It will focus on the food that is not regularly found on a pet store shelves and it will be first and outmost focused on cats. It will offer various types of tastes, nutritive food and a lot of vitamins for cat’s hair, looks, and health.
I try it in a domain:
Add your own business naming ideas
After you came to the end you should have an idea in your head about what is the best way to go. These guidelines and tips aren’t strict and of course, you can deviate from this form. This guide is usually enough, but if you feel you can contribute with some of your own, interesting ideas, give it your best shot.
I hope that this little guide inspired you to think differently. I hope that you even had better creative ideas and solutions than we who wrote it. That is the point and that is what all the creative writers want. The creative flow to remain dynamic and forever evolving. There are so many ways that a brand or business can be named. It’s all up to you!
Good luck with your name-crafting!