How to find a memorable name for a new business, product or project to stand out from the rest

I’ve named a few of my creative outputs. Some of the names I’ve come up with have stuck around and some haven’t. I’m quite good at reeling off a load of name ideas. However, I’ve found that the names that involve a bit more thought are the strongest.

What is in a name?

A memorable name will get associated with a need when people will have it. It signifies an object or action without having to explain it. It is half way between a word and an image.

It needs to be short and snappy and able to be reused, rewritten, reprinted over and over and maybe stand the test of time. A name will be used throughout any marketing materials, it will be on the front of your product and it needs to work in partnership with a logo. However, you can change your name if you want and choosing a name shouldn’t happen at the expense of getting started.

If your product exists in different countries the name needs be recognisable and make sense across languages. This will also help if you plan to expand a business that exists in one place. In some cases the name might be an invented word and it needs to be good enough to be naturally adopted.

You might use your own name or your initials or you might want to come up with something less personal that implies a community, organisation or even a space or place.

Some people use their own name for more artistic pieces and a business or brand name to create distance and more of an intermediary. you can be self-employed (using your own name) and run a limited company (using a business name) at the same time (1).

Know Thyself

You need to know where you are going to go in the future; your vision. What is important to you? What do you want to do with your business / project / life. What do you value the most?

For example, I value helping people to fulfil their potential, striving and challenging myself and others and supporting communities. What is really important to you in your work and how you work with others? Is it about cost-efficiency, innovative solutions, high-quality materials, playfulness, style, synergy, and / or process?

Write some key descriptive words about your vision, values and passion:

For example:

  • courage
  • innovative solutions
  • open access
  • leveraging technology
  • community, sharing
  • learning
  • observation
  • directness, honesty, truth

Map Uncharted Territory

The philosophy Alan Watts said ‘what would you do with your life if money was no object’. Take away all the barriers in your life and imagine everything that you would do, with who, where, what you would build, what goals you would make happen. Tell that story now.

If you leave a legacy behind after your life ends what would it be? What would people say about you? My dream is to create a space preferably with mountains where I can get into nature, enjoy trails and landscape with friends, live healthily and improve circumstances, support myself and others through work and events, and create an autonomous space.

Powerful Why

Simon Sinek said that most businesses try to communicate what they do without telling why they do it; focussing on the what and the how. The why part is the really powerful element because it tells the greater value for society that you bring.

Words to Images

If you were to take the essence of your vision and legacy and turn it into a picture or metaphor what would it be? For example, do you want to lift people up, guide people on a path, find the missing piece of a puzzle, or broaden horizons?

Is there an object that can be used to describe this. E.g. a screen projecting an image, a walk on a country path, a light in the darkness, mapping out a an area of land, cooking up a feast? "I am guide through new terrain and open up new perceptions of the world like putting on new glasses."

Write a 500 year plan

This exercise forces you to project far into the future. To write such a plan would need future trend research. What is likely to happen with the planet and how are things likely to change? What is needed to be able to survive in this environment? Could be: connection with land, food supply, community, essential tools, technologies and renewable support systems.

How Does Your Year Off Look?

If I had a year off maybe I would slow travel an area I’ve not visited and go surfing. Or perhaps I would buy some land and set up an agricultural project, network with interesting people doing cool work. If you had a year off what would you do?

Fly your Flag

There are many exercises to help you explore your vision out of which you can better understand how you will interact with the world and why people should work with you. This is the same for business or relationships in general. It helps to know yourself and have an idea of where you are going.

What do you do and for who?

You need to know your niche and your audience. Your main objective is to drive adoption of your product (or service) and that requires that you have a product that some market segment would like to use. Regardless of your name your focus should be testing that users would part with money (or time) for it.

What is your niche and will your business name reflect your niche and attract the clients you want? Niche marketing is a combination of you and your talents and what the market wants and needs.

You need to have a passion for your work and work with people who inspire you, who get you excited, who give you respect, and who will give you the energy to keep going and improve all the time.

What image does your business name create in their head about your business? For example: Creates the feeling of space and freedom to think outside the box- to entertain the possibilities of a new perspective and the possibilities of synergy and energy coming from holistic thinking to government and big business. Or cost-effective solutions that multiple the power of small businesses.

Naming Nitty Gritty

Focus on something you can get a website for - that means more than 5 letters (unless you're willing to buy a domain from someone else). Internic's whois (http://www.internic.net/whois.html) is a good place to test a domain name to see if it's available.

Wordplay

Fanciful names (rather than existing words) are much better to avoid trademark issues so avoid dictionary words. Portmanteau words can work but adjust them a bit to make them less obvious and more evocative than descriptive.

For instance, Apple could be very hard to get a trademark on (even if it weren't an existing company) if your business was related to the food industry. Instead just pick something pronounceable and reasonably short (but not too short).

There are several websites to generate brand names and you can easily find those sites through a Google search (try "brand name generator"). Most of the ones these sites generate are not particularly great names, but they can get you started. Just go with something reasonably useful, adjust it a bit if you like, make sure you can get the website, and move on.

It may help you to think of your first company or brand name as a temporary code word to use until you attract enough customers to make it worthwhile to re-look at it when you're ready to scale your marketing (say after a 100 or more customers).

A thesaurus can be helpful: http://www.thesaurus.com.

Naming a project, product or business can be an enjoyable process. It is a process that can go into great depth or be very whimsical and spontaneous. Please leave any further advice or comments you may have.

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