How to Come Up With a World Class Brand Name

Nick Potts,

We've been here for 10 hours!

Brainstorming ideas for a new company name has us on the edge.

A wadded up pile of papers clutters the corner.

An empty pot of coffee sits on the table.

Seven coworkers stare bleary-eyed into the distance.

This morning, our trademark attorney called with some terrible news:

  • Our 1st choice brand name was deemed "high risk."
  • Our 2nd choice had an unfavorable meaning in Swahili.
  • And no one on the legal team liked our 3rd choice (we don't either).

Why Unfortunate Brand Names Occur

We now find ourselves in the midst of a classic branding dilemma. Our options are:

1. Move forward with the secondary choice (the target market doesn't speak Swahili, anyway).

2. Move forward with the tertiary choice (even though no one actually likes it).

3. Cultivate a completely new idea (and risk it being torn down again).

Being the perfectionists we are, we decided to start over. Knowing, this time, we have to get it right. Otherwise, we'll be out another $20,000 through the trademark clearance process with nothing to show for it...

The Problem Every Creative Agency Faces

Every agency loves a good challenge, but no one likes an impossible challenge.

But that's exactly what it feels like when your creativity is being constrained by a monetary number—the PRESSURE IS ON. The above scenario could have been written by any agency across the country.

And it's exactly how unfortunate brand names are born: Trademark candidates move from creative roundtable to clearance search, only to be found completely unusable. Each time this occurs, the agency must make a tough decision: Back to the drawing board (and pay a legacy provider several thousand dollars more) or settle on "a less preferred name" no one really loves.

For the remainder of this article, we'll review practices for generating the best brand names. Toward the end, we'll also reveal the new search option that is changing the way agencies do business.

How to Generate World Class Brand Names 

1. Brainstorm Without Limits

No idea is a bad idea—it's Brainstorming 101.

During the early stages, it's important not to dismiss any naming ideas. In order to "get the creative juices flowing," we sometimes have to get a few duds out of the way. Which is why it is so important that team members feel supported in saying whatever comes to mind.

Once you've generated a hefty list, review and rank your ideas as a team. You may even decide to combine the best of two completely different names. Regardless, do not limit yourself to just 3-5 final candidates.

As previously mentioned, some of these may not be liked by clients and others may not work from a trademarking perspective. Instead, aim for at least 10 solid options. If you're thinking that will cost a fortune, you would have been right... 2 years ago (more on that in a moment).

2. Play with All Categories

As you begin to narrow things down, ensure a variety of naming categories are represented. While brand names can be organized in a variety of ways, there are 7 basic types:

Evocative Brand Names: Employ suggestion or metaphor to bring to mind the positioning of a brand. Think Nike, Pandora, Amazon. Note: Evocative brand names are some of the easiest to trademark.

Descriptive Brand Names: Directly convey the service or product offered by a company. Think General Motors, Toys R Us, and YouSendIt.

Invented Brand Names: Often made up from Latin, Greek, and foreign root words. Think Exxon, Kodak, and Xerox.

Lexical Brand Names: Rely on clever wordplay for memorability. Think Dunkin’ Donuts or Krazy Glue.

Acronym Brand Names: Utilitarian names formed by strategic combinations of letters. Think IBM, AARP, and UPS.

Geographical Brand Names: Associate brands with cultural and historical associations namesakes. Think Portland Automotive, Miami Subs, Southwest Interiors.

Founder Brand Names: If your founder's name has a nice ring to it, why not play it up? Think Ben & Jerry’s, Martha Stewart, and Ralph Lauren.

3. Follow Best Naming Practices

As you evaluate your candidates, prioritize names that naturally follow best practices:

Rhythm: Upon early inspection, we're not sure why some names sound right – they just do. In most cases, that's because the name has good rhythm. Rhythm refers to your name's combination of syllables and sounds. The best brand names effortlessly roll off the tongue.

Ex. Coca-Cola

Alliteration: Another useful tool for creating pleasing brand names is alliteration. Human brains like patterns and repetition; alliteration provides it.

Ex. Bed Bath & Beyond

Memorability: Avoid names that are too strange or too long. While working on our World's Most Famous Brand Names article, we noticed the average brand name contained about 6 letters.

4. Conduct Unlimited Risk Analyses

Once you've identified a wide variety of candidates that follow best practices, you're ready to begin the trademark search process.

As we alluded to earlier, there is absolutely no reason modern executives should still feel pressured to pick the right name the first time. Creative agencies can now enjoy unlimited creativity with unlimited search for one flat rate.

How? With TrademarkNow's flagship program: NameCheck

Introducing NameCheck

Our technology-assisted program employs a sophisticated algorithm that essentially removes "the middleman" in order to deliver comprehensive risk assessments in as little as 15 seconds.

Developed by some of the brightest minds in the legal and trademark industries, NameCheck puts agency executives back where they belong—in control of the creative process.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE.


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