6 steps to naming your new business

Looking for the perfect brand name for your new startup?

There’s no doubt that choosing the perfect brand name is one of the most exciting and important elements of startup branding…

But it’s also one of the hardest.

Get it right, and you’re a household name, like Airbnb, Uber, or Pepsi.

But if you get it wrong, you could be the next “Tea Party Bookshop” (YIKES!), and be forced to rebrand or face embarrassment, failure or even aggression.

So, take your time with it and follow this simple 6-step process to quickly extract your a minimum viable brand name.

So… Let’s get to it.

1. Create your brand avatar…

perfect brand name

No not THAT Avatar!

Before you even begin to think about a name for your brand, it’s imperative to identify, as precisely as possible, the characteristics of the ideal customer for your brand’s products or services.

If you don’t know who you’re creating your brand for (and it’s not yourself, in case that’s what you were thinking), then you will never find a compelling name…

The creation of effective brand avatars is, to some extent, an intuitive and creative process, but it’s important to use hard data as well.

Web tools such as Alexa can provide significant demographic information about visitors to competitors’ websites, including, age, gender, location, education and ethnic origin.

Looking at competitors’ Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts can also provide some useful “soft” intelligence about their customer base and online following. From these sources, you should be able to easily construct a clear picture of the customer your brand is targeting.

But this is only the beginning…

Having created your brand avatar, it is also necessary to define a brand archetype.

Put simply, the goal is to understand as clearly as possible what your brand will mean or represent to the customer, which is an essential prerequisite for deciding upon the best brand name to attract potential customers.


2. Create your brand archetype

perfect brand name

The concept of the archetype is derived from Jungian psychology, but there is no need to go deep into that.

For the purpose of branding, it’s only necessary to understand that the avatar is the personification of your customer and the archetype is the personification of your company, along with its products or services.

Another helpful way to think of this is to ask yourself how your brand will create an emotional resonance with your intended customers.

There are 12 brand archetypes most easily identifiable. The Hero, The Innocent, and The Outlaw, to name a few…

And you can spend some time deciding which one fits your brand the best if you’d like…

Or… Even easier, take the “Discover Your Brand Archetype Quiz” and have it pump out the answer for you.

I also highly recommend you take some time with your team to think about the non-verbal meanings and emotional associations you want for your brand. When you’ve decided, make sure to write them down in a document called “Our Brand Style Guide.”

If you need some inspiration, this guide includes some great info on how to create your own branded style guide.

3. Generate brand name ideas

perfect brand name

The next task is to generate possible brand names, which both represent your brand archetype and appeal to your brand avatar. There are no hard and fast rules to this, but certain general principles are helpful.

Keep it simple

The perfect brand name for your startup will generally be short, simple and easy to say. Ideally, it will be a two syllable word, as these generally gain more traction with target audiences and are more easily remembered.

Building a successful brand will probably involve the development of a range of products, so your startup name should not be too specific. For example, although Footjoy is probably best known for making quality golf shoes, the brand is “Footjoy” not “Footjoy Golf Shoes”, as the company now also sells a wide range of golfing and outdoor gear.

With these broad guidelines in mind, start brainstorming for ideas.

Word association

Start with some simple word association games… writing down, saying or shouting out loud as many potential words as possible.

You want ideally to have dozens, or even hundreds, of contenders. These can then be honed down to a few which you or your team think are worth testing out.

If you’re working on your own, friends and family may be able to give you useful feedback.

To kickstart the process, you may try to invent a completely new word, or to combine two or more ordinary words to form a new one – Footjoy is a good example.

If you can’t get the creative juices flowing, consider flipping through an online thesaurus for a few minutes:

  1. Enter a possible name for your startup brand and the thesaurus will generate a list of related words.
  2. You can then enter some of these related words to gather even more ideas.
  3. Create a spreadsheet by splitting your results into their component syllables.
  4. Recombining them to create completely new and often nonsensical words.

Online tools

Once you’ve got the spreadsheet done, try going over to Name Mesh and throw some words into their brand name generator.

You can also take a look at these 7 popular types of brand names for even more thought-provoking ideas.

Try using foreign language words

For more options, you might also consider using non-English words. Those from the romance languages (like French, Spanish or Italian) are often very effective in naming luxury goods, particularly in markets such as clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, perfume, food, and wine.

But caution is needed… Secondary meanings in local slang may convey the opposite of what’s intended, or even cause serious offense. Use Google Translate or do a simple web and social media search to mitigate this risk of this happening.

4. Check the availability of your brand name

perfect brand name

Once you have a short list of possible brand names, it is important to check that they are not currently in use. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Do a domain name search with one of the main providers such as GoDaddy or Namecheap. This is a quick and effective way to do this, but it is probably wise also to back this up with a simple Google search.
  2. Look for Facebook pages and Twitter accounts using the same or a very similar name.
  3. Check that your potential startup names are not trademark protected. Search at the US Patent Office or use a service such as Namech_k to do this.

5. Test your brand name

perfect brand name

Before finally deciding on the perfect brand name for your company, it’s a good idea to test your shortlist first. This will let you discover how appealing and memorable your potential customers will find them.

If you have existing customers for other products, you could survey them via Facebook, email, or one of many other online survey tools.

If you are a brand new startup, the testing may form part of your more general market research, which may be conducted among family, friends, colleagues and on social media platforms.

But whatever the case, make sure you test your name thoroughly and objectively. If people are giving you negative responses or think you sell baseball bats when you are supposed to sell golf shoes, you know you are missing the mark.

Pay attention to not only what people say, but how they respond, and remain skeptical.

6. Select the perfect brand name
perfect brand name

You’ve properly vetted, tested, and acquired your brand name…

So go out there, capture all the domains, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and anything else necessary to finalize the process. Hire or build your logo, or have someone on 99 Designs do it for you.

Don’t spend too much money on your first version… Remember, a logo is easy to change, but the ethos of what your company is, and what it means to your customer is not.


Final thoughts

The perfect brand name for your startup will only be one part of the long-term development of your brand.

Consider the example of Apple, one of the world’s most powerful brands whose name bears no relation to its products at all.

This is a process, and many options along the journey to finding the perfect brand name will ultimately lead to one very important piece of your company’s identity.

Your brand is more than a name and a logo. It’s a mantra. So define your company and what you stand for, and share it with the world.