The 5 characteristics of a good business name—and how to name yours so it’s successful, too
How important is a name, really? In the world of business, it’s absolutely everything.
Why? Because your brand name is what customers identify and connect with. It either sends positive or negative messages about who you are, what you do, the value you provide. So, as an entrepreneur, it’s critical that you know the difference between weak brand names and strong ones.
You can start by looking at some examples of strong brand names and how they came about:
- Amazon. While it has nothing to do with what they company does, the name Amazon is clever, concise and recognizable. Founder Jeff Bezos came up with the name when trying to brainstorm “exotic and different” names. He felt like Amazon encapsulated these two words and also represented his goal for the company: to be extremely large.
- Samsung. When researching how to name a business, Samsung’s founders considered the meaning of the word Samsung in Korean. The actual translation is “Three Stars,” which represents something strong and powerful. While the current logo is much different, all logos leading up to 1993 had three stars incorporated.
- Tumblr. The founders of Tumblr simply listened to their market when selecting a name. At the time, they noticed that people were shifting away from long-form content and toward shorter posts and mixed media—known as tumblelogs. Wanting something unique and concise, they went with Tumblr.
- Twitter. Did you know that Twitter was almost named Status, Jitter or Twitch? The founding team was considering a number of options before ultimately reading the definition for twitter—“short burst of inconsequential information, and chirps from birds.” As soon as they read those words, Twitter was the only option.
- WD-40. Everyone’s favorite home improvement product, WD-40, has a rather practical name. After 39 failed attempts to create the spray, the 40th try was successful. They came up with the name WD-40, which literally stands for water-displacing 40.
- Blackberry. Remember when Blackberry phones ruled the world? Well, the brand name wasn’t the result of some scientific experience or deep revelation. The founders simply chose the name after realizing that the keys closely resembled the drupelets on the fruit.
As you can see, it’s not the process of how you get to a brand name that matters, but rather what brand name you choose at the end of it. Entrepreneurs and their founding teams have all kind of funny strategies for brainstorming and creating names, but it’s the characteristics of the names they choose that are important. Here are the most important ones:
1. They are legal.
The first characteristic of a quality brand name is obviously legality. You have to make sure no other business currently owns the rights to the name you’re intending to use. It’s also a good idea to check available domain names to ensure you have flexibility on that front, too.
2. They are concise.
Good brand names are also concise. If you look at all of the examples above, most are a single word with two syllables. This makes them easy to recognize, pronounce and remember.
3. They are unique.
This should go without saying, but brand names need to be unique. If you use a name that’s too closely related to another company, you’ll have a hard time differentiating and protecting it.
4. They are natural.
Hard-to-pronounce brand names are never good. The name needs to flow off the tongue; it needs to sound, and look, natural. This theory is clearly proven by looking at a study in which 700 stocks were analyzed. Those with simple names earned an impressive 11 percent more than those with challenging names.
5. They are expandable.
Finally, good brand names aren’t restrictive. They’re able to expand and allow for future growth. In other words, a good brand name doesn’t limit your product offerings. It gives you the opportunity to pivot as market changes arise.
Ultimately, the process of selecting a brand name is time consuming and meticulous. Successful companies, like the ones above, don’t just happen upon names—the reality is that a lot of time, work and effort goes into their formation.
Be patient and have fun with the process.