Photo of an open thesaurus and magnifying glass as an example of one place to look for inspiration in how to choose a brand name

How To Choose A New Company Name (And Avoid Head Scratching)

How to choose a brand name or company name that’s catchy

Creating a new name for your new business, product or brand is one of the most important decisions you’ll take.

The name you choose has to have relevance. It has to make you stand out from the crowd. And it has to summarise your brand and your values in just one or two words, so that your potential customers ‘get it’ in an instance.

Not easy.

How much does it cost to come up with a new business or product name?

Thinking up a name can take minutes, but more likely days. In the early 90s at Wolff Olins, I worked on a brief for a new Hutchinson Telecom brand. Our team spent days, poring over dictionaries and the thesaurus (only Roget’s will do, BTW)…probing books…ploughing through magazines.

The name? Why, Orange. Seems pretty much par for the course now as we’re so used to it, but Orange was a head turner when it launched.

Yes, there are dedicated naming companies you can use. But at hefty prices.

What if you don’t have a big budget for your naming project?

A good starting point is to trawl through wordy sites like More Words, Word Hippo, The Phrase Finder and good old Roget’s (in hardback, of course).

But do you really have the time and energy to do this? If not, ask a freelance copywriter to help you with how to choose a brand name.

It’s rare that a client will decide on a name, plus its url, in the first round of suggestions so you need to allow for plenty of to-ing and fro-ing. Half a day isn’t enough. But two to three days of a copywriter’s time allows for research, mulling, revising and revamping.

The cost may be a little more than you’d anticipated. But the result should be priceless.

Don’t forget – your URL is as important as your new company name

Any naming project these days is a tricky one – mainly because just about every URL worth its salt has been snapped up. It’s been said that 99.9% of the dictionary is registered as a domain name.

Photo of an open thesaurus and magnifying glass as an example of one place to look for inspiration in how to choose a brand name

With generic top-level domains (gTLDs) are coming up for grabs on a regular basis, the pressure to find a unique domain name has eased. The registry Donuts Inc has plans for over 1,000 new appendages such as .agency, .boutique, .builders, and .cheap. Apple and Ford have already laid claim to registering their names as gTLDs, as protection from naughty cybersquatters.

But for start-ups who can’t afford to pay $185,000 to ICANN when applying – and $25,000 for each year the domain name is used – use a creative copywriter to work out a  great name and corresponding url.

They both need to be unforgettable. Not forgettable.

Ideally, get the suffix for the country you’re in (such as ‘.co.uk’), and grab the ‘.com’ too if you can. You can consider ‘.net’ and ‘.info’ but they don’t have the same weight and reassurance. Try seeing if you can tweak your name to get the suffix you really, really want. For example, by adding ‘The’ or an adjective or a colour or ending in something like ‘Services’.

Just make sure you check out closely sounding domain names as the last thing you want is to have a similar name to a near competitor. Nightmare.

How to choose the right name
Here are five key points to bear in mind/ask yourself in how to choose a brand name.

1. How creative do you want to be?

Have you heard of Rodial beauty products? It’s a remarkable brand, not just because of the turn-back-the-clock anti-wrinkle formulations, but also because the names are truly eye-popping. What copywriter wouldn’t want to pass up the chance of dreaming up Snake Serum, Dragon’s Blood and Bee Venom? Who couldn’t fail to be seduced by the promises of SUPER FIT boob job and SUPER FIT size zero?

Choosing a catchy product or company name increases your chances of standing out and being talked about.

2. How unique do you want to be?

It’s tempting to make up a name completely, like Google. With these types of company names, it’s advisable to check the word in other languages to avoid potential embarrassment.

Another huge tip in how to choose a brand name is to avoid odd spellings that can’t be pronounced. And be careful of acronyms that rely on explanation. Try to keep your new name short and simple.

3. How personal do you want to be?

Another option is to name your company after yourself. The downside is that you can sound like a one-man band, which is fine as a start-up but may not hold the same allure ten years down the line.

How can you be sure your new company name is the right name?

A client recently asked me to create new names for his luxury events service. He’d already had a naming company work on the project but felt what they’d provided was lacklustre. He’d then come up with a name himself but wasn’t 100% certain. I created variations based on this plus looked at other options that were closely related.

Photo of sign post showing lots of different directions to take as a metaphor for How to choose a brand nameWhat did he do? He went for the name he’d thought of. Which was absolutely fine. Sometimes, you just need to go around the block and explore other angles.

Like to know more about how to choose a brand name? Check out my page on namings and give me a call.

Written by Caroline Gibson, freelance copywriter who loves nothing more than looking at new products on the shelves at Boots

E: caroline@carolinegibson.co.uk. T: +44) (0) 7957 567766

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