The need to name your creative brand is a task that comes up whether you’re starting a new business, brand or blog, or going through a rebrand with an existing endeavor. A name is only one small part of your brand, but the right name can help you connect with your customers, clients and followers more easily and the wrong name could potentially hurt your business by driving away customers, clients or followers.
With all of the things that go into opening a new business, starting a brand, or creating a blog it can be hard to meet the expectations of choosing the right name. This step-by-step guide will help take you through the process of discovering the perfect name. This guide can be used for a business, brand or blog – I’ve named all three using these steps. From this point on, I’ll use “brand” for all three scenarios, as well as “customers” in place of customers/clients/followers/readers.
I’ve gone through this process countless times in naming each of my brands. I’ll share insight and lessons learned from all of them throughout this post! One thing I have learned is that a bad name can be made up for with solid products, skillful selling of the idea and people behind the idea and consistent persistence. A bad name can also bomb so hard you hope that no one will ever connect that failed brand to you! If you start something with the wrong name, rebranding is not the end of the world and can be fun for your followers and/or customers if you take them along on the journey of finding the right name.
- 1 :: Define Your Vision
The name you choose needs to reflect your vision, values and passions in the type of language you choose, the verbage, etc.
A few questions you can ask yourself during this step are ::
What do you want to be known for, or what do you want your brand to be known for?
What is the legacy you want to leave behind? If you were to sell your brand, what name would be indicative of what you stood for?
What are your values?
What do you do that you think is important to your customers about what you’re doing? Think about your experiences, materials you are working with, maturity (or playfulness), affordability, exclusivity, ethics, working conditions, etc.
What are your passions? What inspires you?
Write down descriptive words about your vision, values and passions. Make sure the words you write down are on-brand, or descriptive in a way that fits your ideas and customers. Use the thesaurus to find other options for words and ways to describe your vision. Don’t rule anything out at this point. The more ideas you have to work with and hone, the better.
A brand you can directly see this part of the brainstorming process is Inthefrow. Inthefrow stands for “in the front row” to Victoria, the blogger behind the brand. It’s clear her vision was to eventually be in the front row at fashion week. She started her blog with this in mind and has worked hard towards that goal, achieving it with some of the most well-known fashion brands in the world!
- 2 :: Research and Evaluate
Scope out your competition. Ideally, this will be someone with a similar branding or aesthetic, location, or vision. If you’re naming your travel blog, and your focus is on #vanlife, check out the blogs of people traveling the States in a van. What words are they using? What does their name evoke? Who has a good name, and who is having to make up for their name with even better branding and content? Similarly, if you’re starting a jewelry brand, what names are standing out to you in that space? As a fashion blogger, find someone with similar style and see what images their name evokes. Is it edgy, preppy, relaxed or high-fashion?
A good brand name reflects who you are and which customers you want to attract.
Your name will be the introduction people have to your brand. People will see your brand name before they meet you in person.
A few questions to think about during this phase are ::
What do you do and for whom?
Who do you want to attract?
What image does your brand name evoke?
Will your vision be clear to your customers? Do you want it to be straightforward? Or more of an intriguing introduction that invites them to dig deeper into what you’re doing?
Identify what your niche market is. Define your services and define your customer. Identify what you really want to be known for and who you want to serve.
My own brand, Diamonds Are Evil, is a good example to use here. My boyfriend actually came up with the name based on my terrible brainstorming! I was stuck on the materials we were using and the process. My genius idea – “wood is good” – led to him flipping the words and using the opposite. His approach was to think of a material that we were never going to use (diamonds) and use that to create a name that made people want to find out more about us. It was hard to find our customer in the beginning, but over time people really started to love the brand, love the name and love what we stood for (or against, really).
- 3 :: Get Inspired
Grab a sheet of blank paper and use it to think of all the ideas that might work as a business name. Don’t evaluate them at this stage. You’re brainstorming. Just pour them out all over the paper, and come back to consider them later. These can just be words, and you don’t need to think about full business names yet. What words match your brand’s personality? What words would your perfect customer relate to? What words stand out to you as being right or close to right for your brand? What words don’t work at all, and are in a direction you don’t want to go? As you think of these, it’s helpful to pinpoint why they don’t work.
Brainstorm loads of names that surround your values, vision, passions, specialties and idea clients. Write these words down, but also use images. Create a mood board. Start to piece these brainstormed words together and see how different combinations sound. Work towards having 10 potential words or combinations of words to name your creative brand.
- 4 :: Marinate and Re-Evaluate
Step away for awhile. Sleep on this list. This will give you a fresh perspective on the words you’ve written down.
When you do come back to the list of names, you can evaluate them with these questions ::
Is the name easy to spell? This is super important now as people want to be able to find you quickly online. If you’re using an ‘and’ in the name how it that spelled? and, & or +?
Is the name easy to remember? My personal anecdote here is the name of my first brick and mortar store. I wanted to use my blog name ‘No Basis In Reality’ but people quickly shortened it to just ‘No Basis’ or forgot the name completely. The best form of advertising in our small town is word of mouth, but how could we expect people to talk about us if they couldn’t even remember our name! A rebrand was a must for us.
If you work internationally, make certain that your name doesn’t mean something offensive or ridiculous in another language.
Make your business name future proof. Your vision, values and passions are unlikely to change dramatically over the years.
Are there any restrictions on the business name? Certain words are not allowed or are protected. Check at both the state and national levels.
Has anybody got a registered trademark under this business name?
Is the name still available? Check to see if anybody else is using the name through a google search. Check if *your* business name is still available for a web address and social media accounts. With millions of people on each social media platform, it’s likely that your name is taken if it’s fairly simple, but make sure you can create an account that makes sense and isn’t too confusing with underscores, dashes, periods, etc. Our new brick and mortar store name is ‘Fool’s Gold’, but our website is shopfoolsgold.com, and all of our social media handles are @wearefoolsgold because the name was too common. We could’ve stayed consistent and had everything as ‘shopfoolsgold’, but we wanted to keep our social media social, rather than sales-y with the word ‘shop’.
- 5 :: Claim It!
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a name that satisfies your needs, don’t waste any time at all. Buy the domain name and register for the username on every social media platform you possibly can. Now you can begin investing in your branding and spreading the word about your new business!
You should also register your business. Make sure that nobody else is using your proposed business name (check the start.biz website, where you can check business names, trademarks and web domain names that have already been taken). If you want legal protection against other people using your business name, you’ll need to trademark your name.
In the end it is far more important how you use your business name consistently over time, the way your logo and identity works, your branding, images and packaging, etc. Is is all those elements together with your work and behavior that will make your business name recognized and remembered by the right people.