Your brand name is the DNA of your business
Choosing a brand name for your brand is one of the first steps to starting the ball in motion to propelling your brand’s success. Your brand name can make or break your business. It sounds harsh, but it is fact.
Branding is one of the most important decisions a business owner makes. It is the overall experience a client has when interacting with your company. It helps people understand your company’s DNA, vision, voice, and mission while creating an authentic connection.
Clients understand branding in general, but they often wonder and inquire how much branding really matters to the success of a business. To learn more about that, listen to Rise Above Be Visible podcast episoded: Why Does Branding Really Matter?
While working with various clients looking at starting a business or passion project, this conversation comes up quite often. People come to me with names already in mind or completely set on which they are excited about.
One of the hardest parts of my partnership with them is knowing that almost always the names they have their heart set on have been taken and are already used by another company.
The letdown can be a bummer to both myself and the client, but this is where we get to bond together and work towards a brand name that is meaningful, future-proof, protectable, accessible, distinctive and communicates what their company stands for – mission and vision included.
Choosing a name while avoiding legal troubles
When choosing a business name, the idea is not only to create a memorable name that reflects your industry but to also be original. Plus, you do not want any legal trouble using a name that is already copyrighted or trademarked by another company.
Think of brands like Nike, Apple, or Verizon. The reason their brands worked to start with is that they were original. There are many other reasons for their success, like the use of brand archetypes. We will explore more on that later.
While breaking the news to my clients that all of the names they brought to the table that they had their hearts set for their small business that they are already taken, copyrighted, or trademarked, I explain to them here lies an opportunity. An opportunity to up their game and come up with the most epic brand that fits them perfectly. They often relax into the facts and start to rethink their name and brand. Not always, but most times.
Also, you have to be very careful how you create a logo after you choose a name. So many business are creating logos through Canva and it can be detrimental to your brand. Learn more about that here: Why Creating A Logo In Canva Is Hurting Your Business.
Some people want what they want, but it is not always great for the bottom line
Some clients brush off the idea of legal trouble and originality and still try to convince me to use the name they have their hearts set on. This is understandable and I get it.
As someone who believes in the mantra “do no harm”, I will then share how it’s not in the best interest of them or myself to move in that direction for branding. I would then encourage them to find a new branding expert because our goal is to create strong brands that can survive and help establish long-term success.
In the end, it’s more important for me as a business to lose business by being truthful. While working with any client our values and morals as a company are to have our client’s best interest in mind. In good faith, we will not support them moving in a direction that could hurt their brand legally, financially, emotionally, or otherwise.
Rise Visible’s embarrassing and widely successful rebranding story
Yes, we announced (Oops We Branded Again) with a rocket-powered penguin to express our excitement.
As branding experts, we believe strongly in authentic connections with our current, past, and future clients. Our company values and brand promise is being authentic, direct, and vulnerable. So, we share our rebranding story below to reflect those values. We also hope this helps provide some insight into our branding process as a company.
The story of our rebranding is like that of many other companies we have had the opportunity to rebrand. Our business has transformed and matured in unexpected and exciting ways in record time and the change affected our brand as a whole. We outgrew our old name, and business model and changed direction and redefined our target audience.
Outgrowing anything stirs up mixed feelings of excitement, curiosity, and often fear. Like the song “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”, by The Clash, as a brand, we can choose to stay where we have outgrown or exit left. It is not an easy decision but it had to be made.
The idea of exiting left and rebranding had us calculating the exorbitant amount of risks to our brand. As branding experts, why would we want to rebrand? Were we not experts anymore since our own brand did not fit us any longer? We knew questions like this would come up.
We knew there was a possibility of losing clients, brand visibility, and so much more. We also understood the truth of branding. Sometimes even the best brands go through changes and that is okay. As scary as it was, we knew without a fraction of a doubt – we were doing the right thing.
If we can’t level up…
If we won’t take calculated risks…
If we don’t step into our greatness, how can we help others level up and do the same? We can’t. So, we exited left with confidence.
Nothing is too soon to change. It could change your life
What we learned is that nothing is too soon to change, adapt, adjust or redefine in a business if it does not work for you and we could not be happier with the rebrand. We grew leaps and bounds in just the first 3 months.
We also gained the #1 spot in “Internet Marketing” and fluctuated between 4th and 1st place for “Digital Marketing“ locally in Google in 90 days of our rebrand. We chose a brand new name that was not even remotely similar to out and started a whole new website. So we built our visibility from the ground up.
With a solid brand name, great content, and some killer SEO it changed everything for us as a brand and helped us stand out among our competitors. We know you can do the same.
When in doubt, know there is a list a mile long of amazing behemoths of industry who took years to come up with the perfect name as well as taking the risk to rebrand. Believe in yourself. Believe in your brand. Nothing else matters.
With great branding comes great responsibility, Spiderman. Or something to that effect!
We share our slow but successful branding process
When coming up with our new name, we first created a list of words that aligned with our values, mission, target market, and services. You can also use a “name generator” or “company name generator” to help you come up with ideas.
We then researched other agencies and companies in our field to see if there were any words that might be inspiring that we could have missed. We grew our list to over 200 words.
We even tried to make up our own unique words, by mixing 2-3 words together creativity as company name ideas, but nothing felt right.
There were numerous times in the process that we felt like we had hit the jackpot. “Yes, this is it!” We got a little too excited too fast (we knew better). Much in the same way as the clients we work with who also had their hearts set on names, to also be let down when the URL and social media handles were taken.
Check name availability
A quick way, but not a fool-proof way to tell if a business name is already taken is to see if the URL is available, if there are social media pages using that name, and the good old Google search. When you finally find a name and those things are all clear, you are good to go. The next step is checking into copyrights and trademarks which we will talk about later.
We spent months trying to figure it out and finally after all that time, we hit it! In the end, we are Rise Visible, and the name stands for everything we believe in as a business.
We lift people up to help them gain grounding and visibility and remain advocates for disability inclusion. We all deserve to gain the visibility we wish to achieve.
We hope that this article will help you be able to reach the same goal with your brand whether you are just starting or planning to rebrand.
If you want to stand out among your competition, be unique, you want to avoid legal troubles, and are ready to scale your business here are a few tips for creating an unforgettable name.
Tip 1: your name needs to explain what you do
We all want to make a good first impression, and it’s no different for your brand. A good name will identify your company and help you stand out in the crowd. Think of it as an introduction. If someone has never heard of you before but they hear your name, they should be able to picture what kind of business you have based on your name.
For example, if your name was Veronika Miller and you are a bakery owner. Perhaps you could call yourself “Veronika’s Bakery” or “MIller’s Bakery” or “VM Bakery”. Sometimes simple names like this are available and other times and more often than not we will need to think a little deeper. Another example would be “Veronika’s Delectable Delights”.
Take the time to think of interesting ways to pair who you are with what you do. The idea, in the long run, is when someone hears your name, they can get a general idea of who you are and what you do.
Also, having a name that makes it easy to understand also helps your ability to manage your brand. Brand management is a big component in branding. Here are 10 Reasons Why Brand Reputation Management is a Must.
Tip 2: your name needs to be easy to pronounce
When it comes to choosing the right name for your brand, nothing is more important than making sure that your name is easy to pronounce. In fact, this may be the one of most important things you can do when selecting a brand name.
It is easier for people to remember a word or words if they can say them easily. Make sure it doesn’t sound like someone trying to swallow their tongue while saying something else entirely.
If you decide to use made-up words or words from another language or dialect in your company’s name (or anywhere else on your website), make sure they’re pronounced properly and clearly by native speakers of that language. However, we suggest that you avoid them altogether if there’s any question about how they’ll be spoken, if they are offensive, or can be misunderstood.
It’ll be hard for potential customers or clients to find you online when you have a difficult-to-remember domain name or hard-to-pronounce, confusingly similar company titles (like “The Company”), or misspelled versions of words (“Organizize”) can make your business feel like it’s drowning in its own obscurity.
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. – Warren Buffett
Tip 3: be sure your name is not already trademarked or copyrighted
Once you have a solid list of potential names, the next step is to check for any conflicts. You want to make sure that your name isn’t already taken by another company. This can be a cumbersome process, but it’s essential to the success of your brand and business. There are several ways you can go about this.
For starters, you can Google the name, and often times that is enough to see it has been taken. If so, move on and try something else. If not taken, next check the URL and search social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter under multiple variations of potential names.
Next, check with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO database has all current trademarked names for businesses across various industries as well as common law trademarks in use by local businesses.
They also provide an option where users can search by partial matches. If you find something similar but not exactly what you’re looking for, they will proceed with further research at no charge if done within six months after the filing date or before payment is due if later than six months after the filing date.
You can also use Google Keyword Planner’s search tool to see how many people are searching for relevant terms on Google Search Engine Results pages (SERPs).
Tip 4: consider brand archetypes
When it comes to branding, attitude and personality are more powerful than product information. Consumers want to be able to read your brand and catch a feeling about what you do and who you serve. Understanding your brand’s archetype can help you achieve that.
Brand Archetypes derived from Jungian Archetypes. According to Wikipedia “are defined as universal, primal symbols and images that derive from the collective unconscious, as proposed by Carl Jung. They are the psychic counterpart of instinct. It is described as a kind of innate unspecific knowledge, derived from the sum total of human history, which prefigures and directs conscious behavior. They are underlying base forms, or the archetypes-as-such, from which emerge images and motifs such as the mother, the child, the trickster, and the flood among others.”
There are 12 brand archetypes
Freedom Archetypes: Innocent, Sage & Explorer
Ego Archetypes: Hero, Magician, Rebel
Social Archetypes: Citizen, Jester, Lover
Order Archetypes: Ruler, Caregiver Creator
A great example of a brand archetype used well is Nike. Nike the ancient Greek Goddess personified victory. When we think about Nike and what it stands for we can see the powerful meaning beyond the brand’s archetype to achieve that in its messaging and visuals.
Discovered your brand personality! More who have taken this quiz have been shocked by their results.
Tip 5: get the (.Com) if not reconsider your brand name
This is not always the easiest step since so many .coms have been taken by other companies to purchase (which is often super expensive) to be resold because they were good names and they snatched them up.
A .com will give you the best opportunity to showcase your seriousness as a business owner. Plus, holding a .com can help you rank better on Google and other search engines.
We suggest when choosing a name, that a .com is your best bet, but something we have to consider other options. If you’re unable to secure a .com, consider using an alternative extension. The most popular alternatives are .org and .net (for networks, followed by .co (for startups), then .info.
However, with nearly half of all domain names registered with a .com extension, .net has risen as the number one go-to alternative for unavailable web addresses.
If you can get the .com, it is also wise to secure the other extensions so no one takes them. Domains’ names are anywhere from $8-20 a year through hosting companies like Green Geeks. This is an easy way to secure that no one takes a domain that is close to yours and tries to steal your business.
Still among the most popular types of top-level domains used today are .com .net, and .org. At the end of 2021, the top 5 domain extensions were:
Tip 6: don’t use unconventional spellings if you can avoid it
The unconventional spelling of a name often sounds like the next step when unable to secure a traditional spelling, but it is not always a good idea. This can also give your competitors a window into stealing clients and customers.
A good example we see often are companies that use unconventional spellings of their name but did not purchase the conventional spelling as well due to aesthetics or preference, not lack of availability. This leaves the opportunity for a competitor to snag it and forward it to their website.
Example: BrickHouseBaking.com (not a real company) but they spell it BryckHouseBaking.com. When we hear this URL spoken, no one is automatically assuming it is spelled with the “y”.
So when a consumer types your name in a search engine online, they are more than likely going to type it in as a traditional spelling.
And unless your brand is extremely well known for its unique spelling, your unconventional name is not going to show up in the search. And if you have a savvy competitor they might redirect that traffic to their site.
If they don’t also purchase the conventional spelling of the domain that is available, then their competitor can take it. If nonconventional spelling is based on the fact that the conventional spelling was taken, then it would be a really good idea to reconsider your company’s name.
Tip7: use made-up words sparingly & cautiously
There are a lot of startups that use made-up words or combine two words to make a new one. It’s fine to do this, but make sure you’re not using a word that people will have trouble pronouncing or spelling.
If they’re guessing how to say or spell something, they might also be confused about what it means. So choose wisely and thoughtfully.
While thinking about made-up names we often use portmanteau words, which is a great way to combine two words and create one that is
memorable and easy to pronounce. Portmanteau does not combine both words in totality like “firefighter”, they blend parts of two distinct words.
However, they don’t always work but sometimes they are perfect.
They are a unique way to consider a unique brand name, even author Lewis Carroll describes portmanteaus in his book Through the Looking-Glass:
“Well, ‘SLITHY’ means ‘lithe and slimy.’ ‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active.’ You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”
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Tip 8: try to keep it under three words, two words is better and one is the best but almost impossible
People often choose short, one-word names. There’s something about them that is powerful and memorable, however, this is not often possible unless you are creating a brand new word or using portmanteaus.
So most of us have to start considering 2-3 word names. It is advised to not go beyond 3 words and to try your best to get a 2-word brand name. Also consider not going over 15 characters because places like Twitter will only allow 15-character handles.
It’s much easier to infer meaning from a two or three-word name than a longer one. As much as using single words names is the most sought-after option, the languages used in two- or three-word names can say a lot more about the brand.
They are also easier to remember and they get better marks when screened for obvious trademark issues.
Names that are easy to remember yet unique sounding (and not too long) help ensure some level of Google-ability and helps your company rank better.
Tip 9: avoid local language in names
When considering a brand name, many of our clients to gain an original name will incorporate local words. For example, calling your company “bakingcompany-cityname” or “bakingcompany-state” will limit you to just your state or city.
There is nothing wrong with using local language in your name or your URL, however, one thing to consider is it doesn’t allow you to expand to other cities or states with ease. So take into consideration how to plan to grow over the next few years.
Do you have high hopes to become a nationwide company?
Do you plan to stay in your city or state forever and you are sure?
If you are 100% sure that you plan to stay right where you are, this direction is something to consider. However, sure whatever name you choose gives you the ability to grow and expand into your long-term goals.
Defining those long-term goals can also help you see the bigger picture for your brand. You want to make sure you have a quality brand name that lasts the lifetime of your brand.
Tip 10: brainstorm with a partner, colleague or your whole team
A great exercise in the brand naming process is to figure out what name would work best for your brand is by brainstorming with others. It is always good practice to get others’ input and points of view when making such a big decision.
This exercise can help find blind spots or errors in ideas as well as promotes really great inspiration by the people working together towards a common goal. Even if it is just 2 of you, that is better than one.
Brainstorming together can help generate more ideas faster and help you get to the finish line quicker. Plus you never know when putting great minds together what kind of amazing things can emerge.
Tip 11: feel 100% confident in your brand name
When choosing a name, if you’re not 100% confident then you won’t be 100% confident in your brand. It is not easy to choose a name, and settling on a final name can cause a lot of anxiety.
It’s best to take some time and sit on the name that you finally came up with that was available for a while before jumping into registering your business or re-branding yourself. Sure, snag that URL since it is only a few bucks, but take some time to really be confident in your decision.
As a person with a Type-A Personality, as well as a calculated risk taker, it is hard for me to not want to just take a leap even if I’m only 80% sure. And with most things, for me, this is the way to go. Because if we wait until we are 100% of something, we might never do it.
However, choosing a name is something that is paramount. You have to be 100% behind your name and feel confident that it is perfect for you and your brand.
Understand that this decision is long-term, although you can rebrand and change your name over time you don’t wanna make decisions based on having that as an exit plan.
Choosing a name is going to be one of the most important things you will do for your brand, so take the time to really consider all options, weigh viewpoints from other people, explore your industry and find what is best for you long-term.
Tip 12: you can always rebrand. Nothing is forever
It is true, you can always re-brand. As we explained earlier in this article, after numerous years we went through a very large and extensive rebranding. Once you set yourself in motion as a business and choose your name, rebranding is a very intense and exhausting process.
It is in your best interest to try to avoid that by taking a brand name that you can build on for years to come.
If you end up in a place where you need to rebrand, I understand that you will need to change your business name through your state, all your banking, your website, social media, all your copy, all your marketing collateral, and every link you’ve built through other websites or connections you’ve made on social media will all be broken.
If you acquired any positive ranking for SEO through Google or other search engines, all of that will be lost as well. Rebranding is not something to take lightly, so we encourage our clients when choosing names to be really conscious about their choices.
In essence, you’ll have to start over again.
You got this and your brand will be epic
A brand name is one of the most important decisions you can make for your business. When choosing a name, it’s important to remember that the name should be unique but also easy to pronounce and spell. Remember that other people will have to use this word as well, so avoid making things too complicated.
It will take time and if you take these 12 tips into consideration, you will create a brand that is meaningful, future-proof, protectable, accessible, distinctive, and communicates exactly your business vibe.
Aunia Kahn, Rise Visible CEO
Aunia Kahn is the CEO of Rise Visible. With 24 years in the field, she is a highly sought after digital marketer, strategist, public speaker and digital influencer. Rise Visible has been named Top-Ranking Woman-Owned Digital Agency by Clutch, Best SEO Agency in Eugene 2022 by Expertise, and is a certified disabled and woman-owned business. She is also an internationally recognized and awarded visual artist, photographer, author who has shown in over 300 exhibitions in over 10 countries; at places such as San Diego Art Institute, iMOCA, and the St. Louis Art Museum. She founded Create for Healing. Aunia also identifies as a disabled business owner surviving and thriving with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Type 3), Mast Cell Disease, Dysautonomia, and POTS, PTSD, etc.