Expert Tips on How to Come Up With a Business Name
Moving from a basic idea for a business name to a fully developed marketable name is tough. It’s even tougher starting from nothing.
Our expert tips are designed to help you find a stellar foundation for your name and then transform that into the perfect business name for you.
In this article, you’ll learn how to:
- Create a business name from scratch
- Customize your name ideas for an extra pop
- Ensure your name is available to use
Our Guide to Coming Up With Business Names
If you are trying to enter a competitive market, or if your business is exceptionally niche, or even if you’re just not that creatively minded, you may be struggling with how to brainstorm a business name.
Your business naming journey will include several stages of ideation, research, feedback, and revision. There’s no surefire method, so don’t rush the process. Quality of ideas will win out over quantity.
Since a name is so essential to branding a business, it’s easy to put off picking a name until you feel ready. That’s where our guide comes in handy—here are the best ways to get started and develop a name from any stage of the naming process!
1. Try a Name Generator
The easiest way to start picking out potential names is with a business name generator like ours. You might get lucky and find the perfect name straight away, or the process will at least help you get an idea of what feels right for your business. Looking through a long list of names can also help you pick out specific words or phrases you might like to play around with for your name.
2. Describe What You Do
At its core, your business name should tell customers a bit about what your business does, from what services or products you sell, what your values are, or how your company was founded. Taking these basic descriptors and turning them into a name can be a great starting place for your business name. A real-life example is Virgin Airlines, so named because its founders were totally new to the air transit industry.
3. Flip Through a Thesaurus
Many industrial or corporate terms might be descriptive but aren’t catchy. That’s where a thesaurus comes in. Finding synonyms for descriptors can give you business name ideas that still describe what you do while also bringing a twist. It’s worked wonderfully for brands like Twitter and Hotmail.
4. Name it After Yourself
From small businesses to law firms, this technique is used in all sorts of industries. It brings a personal touch to your business and helps put a face to an otherwise cold corporate entity. If you have a family business, naming it after your family can help build legitimacy and a reputation for expertise over several generations of business owners.
🖋️ Naming a Small Business
A small business won’t have the same kind of clout as a huge corporation, so it will rely on its name to attract new customers. Look for names that appeal to a very specific target audience, such as targeting local customers using nicknames for your city. You could also try to tell your company’s story in your name to pique your customers’ interest.
5. Use Real Places
An easy source of naming ideas is a good-old atlas (or Google Maps). Cities, mountains, lakes, forests, rivers, oceans, and more can serve as great inspiration for names. Brands such as Colombia and Patagonia have had success with this technique.
For extra reading, check out IKEA’s naming policy. Their founder Ingvar Kamprad had dyslexia and struggled with remembering item codes, so he opted to name his products after geographic locations in Scandinavia, helping them feel more familiar and memorable to customers.
6. Start With a Symbol
If you already have an idea of what logo you might like, or even just a symbol you want to associate with your brand, you could turn that into a name for your business. Omega Watches uses this method, pairing their brand name with the Greek letter “Ω” (omega) to reinforce their branding with a memorable visual symbol.
🖋️ The Silhouette Brand Revolution
Minimalism is the biggest trend in branding these days. This has led many brands to go wordless, instead relying on just their logo’s silhouette to brand their products. It can be tempting to focus on visuals alone when branding your business, but many of these silhouette brands already have a large following, so people know their name. Be sure to write out your business name until it becomes ubiquitous.
7. Borrow From Latin
Latin words are quite versatile—in the right context, they can sound clinical, artistic, esoteric, or even mythical. Many well-known brands use Latin words related to their brand identity as a name. Think how Volvo, a car company, translates to “I roll” in Latin. Choose a few words related to your brand and see if they translate into catchy business names in Latin.
🖋️ Creating a Unique Name
Standing out from your competition is key to grabbing a sizable market share. You can research how similar businesses have named themselves and actively avoid whatever trends you find. This will give you a unique name unlike any of your competitors. Another good trick is to find curated lists of business name ideas to find ideas you would never think of yourself.
8. Run Your Ideas Through a Translator
Nothing adds a note of exoticism to your name quite like a foreign language. Take a few words you’ve been trying to work into your name and translate them into different languages. The result might be catchy enough to be your new name. Just be wary of where you hope to market your business—your brand will sound a lot less exotic wherever the locals speak the foreign language you choose.
9. Work Off a Sound
The perfect business name also takes into account how the name sounds when said aloud. After all, word-of-mouth promotion and referrals are a big part of selling your business. You can choose how you want your name to sound and work backwards from there. Tough, rugged brands tend to use names with hard consonants, while airy, luxurious brands often string together vowels and silent letters.
Rolex is a good case study for this technique. Co-founder Hans Wilsdorf chose the name for a number of reasons: easy to pronounce in any language, fits nicely on a watch face. But he also picked it for its onomatopoeia—when you say the name Rolex, it sounds like a watch ticking. Try it!
10. Try Acronyms and Initials
Shortening a name into an acronym or a set of initials can turn a long, complex name into something short and punchy. Think NASA or BBB. To get started, you might use your founders’ names or some otherwise-too-dry descriptors. Try rearranging the words so the acronym or initials roll off the tongue (filler words like “and” or “of” help with this).
11. Use an Allusion
Literature and mythology have loads of great names that come with built-in associations. Alluding to one of these in your name can say something about your business while also sounding classy. Real-life examples such as Trojan or Nike illustrate this perfectly.
Do you know the story behind Ajax’s allusion? The warrior Ajax was stronger than anyone else in Ancient Greece (other than Achilles). Now his name is on a household cleaner. Greece… grease… get it? The cleaner cuts through grease like the warrior cuts through his enemies.
12. Change the Spelling
Even if you find one word that perfectly sums up your business, it might not sound unique enough to be your name. Tweaking the spelling can make a normal word sound fresh and evocative. Thanks to brands like Flickr and Tumblr, this technique is also quite trendy at the moment, particularly for an online business.
13. Evoke a Lifestyle
If you’re struggling to find a name strictly related to your product or service, consider what kind of lifestyle you hope to sell potential customers. Are you a luxury brand encouraging a cushy lifestyle, or maybe a down-to-earth practical brand? This approach can help you branch out and find tangentially related terms that might kick off naming ideas.
🖋️ Why Brand Positioning Matters
The context of your name can change its meaning, but with good brand positioning, you are in control of that context. Take the name Slack,which might make you think of laziness, but if the brand positioning frames the product as picking up the slack for extra productivity, then the name fits perfectly.
14. Lay Out an Experience
In a similar vein, there may be a particular experience you want to give your customers that could shine through in your business’ name. For example, if you pride yourself on personalized customer care, you might incorporate that into your name. The trick is to tell a story with your name so as to set up customer expectations.
A great example of this is the car garage brand Jiffy Lube. It lays everything out in the name—they provide oil changes in a hurry. The company focuses on providing a fast, efficient experience for customers. They also specialize in one main thing, oil changes, and promote it in their name.
15. Make Something Up from Scratch
When all other sources of creative inspiration fail, using a made-up word as your business name is still a great approach. It’s worked very well for brands like Sony and Kodak. A big advantage of this technique is that you won’t be competing with similar-sounding brands since you’ll have a totally unique business name!
Gauging if Your Name is Good
Now that you have a name, you have to put it to the test. There are plenty of potential names out there, but only the right one will align perfectly with your business goals and brand identity.
First, you should get a fresh set of eyes (or several) to inspect your name. These testers will tell you if your name is a good fit and if it’s practical.
Next, you should check for your business name availability, especially with regard to trademarks. This will be an essential part of setting up your business, and it will be prohibitively hard to build a successful brand if your name is taken.
One of the most crucial steps of a modern business is its website, so check availability for an online domain and think of a domain name that pairs well with your business name. A domain name generator is a great place to start.
If your name passes all these tests with flying colors, then you know you have a winner!
What to Test in a Name
Before committing to a name, have coworkers, friends, or family give feedback on it. You want to gather peoples’ first impressions since that will be the basis of your brand’s relationship with its customers.
Have your testers jot down what emotions or experiences your business name evokes. Be sure to both show them the name in writing and say it aloud to them.
Here are some traits to look for in your testers’ responses:
- Does your name make testers feel energized, or reassured, or curious?
- Are there negative responses, such as worries your business is cheap, or is trying to scam customers, or is run by amateurs?
- Does your name make your business seem upscale or pedestrian?
- Does your name sound friendly and approachable, or clinical and professional?
- Can testers pronounce your name without having heard it, or can they spell it without having seen it?
This last point is a big one. Word-of-mouth referrals are great for generating business, so you don’t want a name that people always say wrong. And in the digital age where web searches and social media are how many people will find your business, you don’t want customers struggling to spell your name correctly.
If your testers’ first impressions match what you were envisioning for your brand, then you know you’ve picked a strong name.
How to Navigate Trademarking
A trademark is a registered piece of intellectual property. The registration gives you exclusive use to whatever you have trademarked—typically a name or a symbol—and allows you to take legal action if anyone infringes on your trademark.
Throughout your business’ lifespan, you’ll probably register several trademarks. But the first time will be for the name of your business.
You should start by conducting a trademark search to check the availability of your name. If the trademark isn’t free for you to register, you’re out of luck. While you could try to run an untrademarked business, it will be comically easy for the competition to rip you off and you’ll have no grounds to follow up with legal action.
The government keeps a registry of all legal trademarks, so you can use a federal trademark search to check if your business name is available for you to register and use.
🖋️ Protecting Against Trademark Infringement
If you’re going through all the trouble of setting up a trademark, you want to be sure nobody is infringing on it. First, ensure you actively use your trademark so it doesn’t lapse. Second, use a trademark monitoring service that will search for other businesses infringing on your trademark. Third, follow up with litigation if your trademark is infringed upon to maintain sole use.
Assuming your business name is available, you can then submit an application for a trademark. It’s recommended you go to your attorney and have them complete this process to avoid any headaches or surprise fees.
And that’s it! Once your trademark is registered, it’s up to you to protect it however you see fit, but you now legally own the rights to your business’ name.
Shooting For Success Online
Your domain name will be what customers associate with your website, so choosing a strong domain name will help build your branding online.
The best domain name will be identical or very similar to your business’ name, to show that they are clearly linked. For example, if your business is named Foxglove Creative, some suitable domain options would be foxglove.com, fgcreative.com, or foxglovecreative.com.
If customers search for your business online they should be able to tell what search results are related to your business.
🖋️ Get Creative With Your Domain Extension
Your domain name doesn’t have to match your business name exactly. In fact, you could take advantage of the multitude of domain extensions to meld the extension into your name. Domain extensions like .se, .re, or .ph can be easily swapped for the last few letters of your name, such as turning a brand called Carshare into carsha.re.
When setting up a new business, you should check if your go-to domain name is available, or if you’ll need to explore alternative domain names.
A domain name checker lets you know if anyone owns the domain name you are considering. Sometimes this will be a rival business, but sometimes speculators buy up domain names to resell, and you might be able to purchase it from them.
Once you’ve established your name’s viability and availability, you are ready to register your new business under your chosen name. This helps protect your personal assets and makes bookkeeping easier down the line.
Next, buy up your trademark and domain name before someone else snaps them up.
You can then go forward with other ways to build your brand, like purchasing a logo, establishing your business’ tone and style, and setting up social media accounts. These will be heavily influenced by your name, so it’s good practice to save them for last.
With all these tips in mind, coming up with an outstanding business name will be a cinch. If you found this guide useful, be sure to share it with your friends! And share the best business names you’ve found with us in the comments below.