The key to creating a brand name that summarizes your brand’s mission, values, and identity is taking a thoughtful approach. In this guide, we’ll explore what makes a great brand name and how to come up with something extraordinary for your company.
Why is a good brand name important?
A good brand name lends itself to a company’s identity. A famous person’s name, for example, represents an idea of who they are. When you pick up a book that has “Stephen King” on it, you know the genre even before reading the back cover.
Brand names work similarly. Take Apple, for instance. Before you look at an Apple product, you can predict the aesthetic.
Individual names or nicknames can be brands, too. Gary Vaynerchuck is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and internet personality better known as “Gary Vee.” He uses the name Gary Vee as his brand on social media, events, and various business ventures.
How to create an effective brand name
There’s no magic formula for creating a strong brand name, but you can take these steps to set yourself up for success:
Make it memorable
Repeating sounds with rhymes or using punchy, single-syllable terms will make your brand name stick. Coca-Cola is a brand that lives in people’s minds thanks to its snappy alliteration. The series of “c” sounds makes it easier to remember.
Some companies use acronyms to good effect because they’re short, sweet, and simple. AT&T stands for American Telephone and Telegraph Company, but the former is more popular. The repetition of the “T” in AT&T makes it easy to pronounce and even easier to remember. You don’t need to know what the acronym stands for to recognize the brand.
Use straightforward spelling and pronunciation
A good brand name should be easy to communicate — verbally or in writing. Clunky, complicated, or difficult to pronounce names aren’t easy to recall. A straightforward name is particularly important if you have global ambitions, because it must be pronounceable across different linguistic backgrounds and cultures.
Even the biggest brands can get it wrong. Let’s look at Coca-Cola again. As one of the world’s largest beverage companies, Coca-Cola has a sizable marketing budget. However, when they first started selling themselves in China in the 1920s, they didn’t realize that “Coca-Cola” phonetically translated to “Bite the wax tadpole.” The company tweaked the name to loosely translate to “mouth, happy, rejoice” instead — like the first sip of this drink.
Amazon is another brand name that’s easy to spell and pronounce. It’s three simple syllables that roll off the tongue — and most people are already familiar with the word because of the Amazon river. The brand Uber uses a short word synonymous with “outstanding” as a title and a promise. Uber has essentially replaced the word “cab” much like the brand Kleenex replaced the “facial tissue” — both are examples of excellent branding.
Powerful brand names are evocative. They stir up emotions associated with the brand’s culture through solid marketing and constant reinforcement. With time, people start to think or feel certain ways when they see or hear a brand’s name.
For example, Nike is one of the world’s largest sportswear brands. Its name and etymology are no secret: Nike is the Greek goddess of victory. For Nike, Greek mythology and everything it represents — glory, grandeur, games — stood out as inspiration.
The company has become synonymous with world-class athletes celebrating sporting achievements. Nike’s commercials often feature athletes achieving incredible feats, inspiring motivation, and hope in the viewer.
Think of something meaningful to you that’s also meaningful to your audience. Is it a name? A place? A symbol? Lean on that idea to tie emotion to your brand name.
Make it timeless
The best brand names are evergreen, meaning they remain relevant at any point in history, whether that’s 40 years ago or 20 years in the future.
Timeless brand names aren’t based on trends or pop culture. Naming your brand after a line from a viral TikTok audio might draw in customers now, but when the sound falls out of rotation many people will no longer understand the reference.
Instead, focus on your brand’s values and messaging. Tap into memorable concepts and human emotions like happiness, hope, and inspiration. Think of Nike again: Greek mythology and its inspiring qualities remain culturally relevant.
Starting the brainstorming process
It’s hard to think of a brand name from scratch. Here are a few essential questions to ask yourself when brainstorming:
1. What is your brand’s core?
Your brand’s “core” refers to its mission, vision, and philosophy. What’s your brand’s story? What values does your new business bring to the table? Nail down your vision from day one and stick with it.
Think about the elements that inspired you while creating your product or service. Your brand name should align with what you offer. For example, if you’re starting a sports podcast, you likely want a brand name that evokes feelings of motivation, inspiration, and perseverance. Alternatively, if you’re sticking to only one sport or league, you could choose a sport-specific pun or onomatopoeia, like “Swish” for a WNBA podcast.
2. What makes you unique?
Take a look at other brands in your niche and make a list of the things your brand does differently than its competitors. What sets the brand apart? Your unique factor should come through in the name.
Don’t copy someone else because they’re successful. Focus on your brand and what it offers, and think about how to channel those values through your brand name.
3. What do you want to say?
Always keep your target audience in mind. As a new brand, making a good first impression is key. Consider the previous questions and think about the message you want to convey.
Different brand voices work with different target markets, so ensure your name supports your message to avoid missing out on potential customers. Think about the meditation app “Calm.” The name alone tells the consumer what to expect from the app.
4. What’s your brand strategy?
Consider how and where you’ll use your brand name. Is it for a social media store? A tech startup? Your brand strategy sets a course that the name should follow. A name that’s too long won’t fly on Instagram, and a hard-to-spell tech pun won’t rank on Google.
Whatever the case, don’t rush to pick a name. Brainstorm multiple options and make sure the name you want is legally protectable and has a domain name available for immediate use.
5. Have you tried it out yet?
Before registering and formalizing the name, test it out. Share it with your friends and family, then ask acquaintances for an unbiased opinion. Take note of their reactions and ask for feedback on how to improve. Write it out and have people attempt to read and pronounce it.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t like what you hear. You can always tweak it again.
Feeling stuck? Try a brand name generator
If you aren’t sure how to pick a brand name, these tools use AI technology and data processing to filter out unavailable names and generate options based on your input.
- NameSnack: NameSnack combines machine learning with domain and keyword searches to generate various name styles for your business. This tool also includes a logo maker.
- Brandroot: Brandroot is a “premium business name generator” that searches the web for available names and domains in minutes.
- FreshBooks: FreshBooks asks simple questions about your industry and niche before giving you options to choose from.
- Namelix: Namelix claims to “generate short, brandable business names using AI.” It can also create a logo with your new brand name.
Keep in mind that software lacks a personal touch or misses key elements you might want to incorporate. However, these tools could be a source of inspiration if you’re stuck.
Keep working on your brand
Branding is a process of trial and error, especially for beginners. Your brand name is the first step towards creating a cohesive identity for your company. Once you have a name, the next step is to back it up with an online presence — including a stellar logo, cohesive color palette, and consistent typography across all platforms.
Yes, branding requires a lot of brainstorming, creative blocks, and mistakes. But it’s a worthwhile process to show the world what you stand for.