How to name your company
Steps to help you through the naming process
Your name is your audience’s very first impression of your brand and the first chance they have to understand who you are and what you do. But if you follow a process and work through it in a calculated way, it's not so bad, even fun.
Where to start
Start with a simple list
My naming process starts the same way as my ideation process for a logo concept. I start with a list—a really basic one.
By sitting down to make one long list of all the words that come to mind when you think of your brand, you get to take a step back and focus on the basics. Think about words around what the company does, the service it provides, how it works, the character qualities, etc. It might seem like your words are too obvious or simple, but make sure you note all these simple ideas.
For example, say you’re creating a new line of sleepwear. Your list would likely start with some really simple things, like ‘sleep, pajamas, comfort, soft, bedtime, cozy’ etc. These really simple ideas can help you come to words that are both straightforward and memorable down the line.
Take your list deeper
Take your initial list of words and think of synonyms and ideas from these words. Try thinking about these words in context to your brand and product specifically. In the example of your sleepwear company, you probably won’t name your company from one of your original list words, like ‘Pajamas’, but here's your chance to think through what your company offers your audience in relation to this simple word. These things are probably a step more abstract and experiential, like a good night’s rest. Or the thought of one of those perfect, lazy Sundays in bed. Or the feeling of being refreshed and energized the morning after a good sleep. Now these are feelings that are worth drawing on, ideas that have an emotional impact for your audience that can help them connect with something deeper and more meaningful about your brand. ‘Pajamas’ is simple and relatable, which are good things... but ‘Lazy Sunday’ might evoke the kind of feeling you’re really looking for, a feeling that might make a consumer connect with and invest in your brand.
And like all creative processes, try not to get too set on one idea just yet. That example stemmed from one word in the list, so go through your list and take your promising words through this process.
Try thinking together
One activity that can be really helpful is to have a naming session with your team. Sit down at a table together and go through your individual lists (or start from zero and write one together on the spot) while someone takes notes on a whiteboard. See what words are coming up often and what words people are gravitating towards. Take a ‘no bad ideas’ approach here. This is a really great way to start getting out of your own head. Even if you don’t have a team, you could gather a couple friends or colleagues that you respect and understand your idea for this.
You'll still need to dive in deeper to this list, but with this approach you can sometimes attach onto a really good idea early, or rule out things you might miss on your own.
Grab a thesaurus
Okay, yes more like thesaurus.com. If you're getting stuck taking your list and making it more meaningful, try to broaden your ideas and vocabulary. You're not looking for bigger, more obscure words, but simply other words you hadn’t thought of yet. It can also take you a little further down an idea that you had. From the word ‘sleep’, it could lead you to some other interesting words like ‘slumber’ or ‘doze’ that are still simple, but a little more interesting.
After doing these things, you should have a handful of interesting ideas that you can now start to narrow down and figure out which fit your brand best. Next you'll think through which names are most fitting for your brand. If you haven't thought through the background of your company yet and put those ideas to paper, I'd recommend you take a look at another post, Questions to answer before you start a rebrand process to make sure you know the north stars of your brand.
Characteristics of a good name
Your name should build upon your brand goals
Is your sleepwear company a luxury brand for business women? Then anything too playful or casual in a name might not align well with your target demographic. You might want to focus on your ideas that are a bit more refined and luxe. Are you starting a kid’s sleepwear company? Then you have a lot more freedom to use fun and playful words, even abstract names. You should think about words and feelings that kids experience in a positive light in relation to sleep. Even if specific words or ideas don't resonate with you personally, a word that doesn't align with your companies core values and demographic could result in your company getting overlooked at first glance because the name or feeling just doesn't resonate with the right people.
Consider a combination of words
If the words on your list aren’t seemingly unique or interesting enough, try combining two words or ideas. Think of companies like ‘Headspace’, ‘Betterment’ or even ‘Instagram’. These names are a mashup of two simple words to create a more memorable, unique name from two simple ones.
Think about abstract names
Sometimes a really interesting name can come from an abstract idea. Think of companies like ‘Robinhood’ or ‘Lemonade’. Usually, these words aren’t random, but they draw upon a quality of the brand, or tell a story that the brand attaches to their own, then expand that into parallel idea that people can relate to. It could be a well-known character or an iconic story—like Robinhood; or a feeling, noun or name that has some meaningful tieback to the brand. The possibilities are endless here.
Take a simple word and manipulate it
You could just take a simple word and change the spelling of it, don't do that. This method alone usually isn’t impactful and can feel a little meaningless & trendy. Does it add to your brand to add an ‘e’ at the end of the word, or remove the vowels? Most likely no.
But consider doing this in a more interesting way. Change the tense of the word. Make it plural. Make a noun into an adjective. This can take a simple word and make it into something interesting.
Keep it short, simple and memorable
In most cases, simple is your friend for a brand name. But keep in mind that simple doesn't mean it's dumbed down or boring—it’s thoughtful and pointed, stripped down to what matters and not convoluted. Memorable goes hand in hand. Take your list of simple words and make them feel like your brand.
Did any of these steps help you? How else have you found luck in your naming process? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with thoughts or questions, or ideas about branding you want to hear more about.