Choosing a brand name for your startup is going to be one of the first decisions that you make that will have long-term consequences. You can pivot on almost any point of your business, but changing the brand name of a company is something that you really, really don’t want to have to do.
A great brand name will be short, but not generic. It will be memorable, but not for the wrong reasons. It will be the brand name that you want to be front-of-mind in the heads of your users, potential investors, and the press.
Keep It Short, But Not Generic
First of all, the brand name needs to be as short as you can reasonably make it. However, be careful to keep generic dictionary words out of it. Gone are the days when new companies can be named something like General Motors or International Business Machines.
You also want people to be able to find you, so if the name is too generic, you will have a very tough time being found online via a search engine.
Lots of successful companies either make up words, use some sort of two words in combination, or use an uncommon word or words to use as their brand name. You can get away with using your own name for certain kinds of businesses, such as consulting or fashion brands.
Make It Memorable, But Not For The Wrong Reasons
Edgy can be good, but you don’t want your brand name to be the root of any animosity towards your company. However, since you don’t want to be too generic or bland, you do want to be memorable. Words that are pleasing to say or invoke a certain image can do well in company names.
Always Think About Connotations or Mistranslations
You won’t always be there to explain your company’s brand name. Either it shouldn’t mean anything or any meaning should be simple and to the point. Always take a look at any alternate meanings, as well as any potential misunderstandings in a different language.
Don’t Forget About Social Media and Domain Names
This is a huge matter and oftentimes one of the main considerations of your decision. You will highly prefer to have a brand name where you can simply get thenameyouwant.com, as well as @thenameyouwant on Instagram/Twitter, and thenameyouwant as a Facebook page. You’ll constantly see workarounds like badname-app.com or @badnamenyc or the like. Personally, I think this should be avoided as it adds unnecessary complexity to domain names and social media handles, which should be kept as short as possible.
Don’t Have a Trademark Issue
Another huge matter. You obviously do not want to have a trademark issue. Make sure you search on Google, on social media, and on the US Patent and Trademark Office before you decide on a name.
When you’ve determined your brand name, after you register your company it’s highly recommended to speak to a lawyer to register the trademark.
So How Do I Begin?
Try this exercise: take 5–10 companies that you admire, and try to take a look at where they got their names. Was it from mythology, or the streets they grew up on, or the founders’ last names put together?
From there, consider the vision you have for your brand. Are you looking to be a fashion brand with an emphasis on comfort, or a sporting goods startup, or a mobile app? The considerations are very different for each case, so make a mood board with images and words that are related to your vision.
Find about 5 names that you like, and check them against the points in this article. Ask friends, family, and colleagues. Before long, you’re bound to find a name that meets all of your criteria.