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How to Name Your Business (And Why You Might Want to Wait)

5 min.
A purple field with a green smiley face, a yellow indifferent face, and a red frowning face.

When you think of building your brand, you may be musing about color palettes and website functionality. However, one of the foundational elements of brand-building is simple, but often overlooked and undervalued: your company name.

I've found that many business owners choose their company name based on personal preference, a fond memory, or their individual name. However, a strategic approach to naming can lead to a more lucrative, memorable business your customers will love. Here's why your brand positioning should shape your company's name and why naming is a crucial aspect of your brand.

How Brand Positioning Influences A Brand Name

One of the key initial steps in brand-building is research. During this phase of branding, you'll learn a lot about your audience and the competitive landscape. You'll begin to see who your audience is beyond demographics, and start seeing the things they care about and the factors that drive their purchasing decisions. Additionally, you'll begin to recognize how your competitors meet those needs and build differentiation between you and the competitive landscape.

Once you understand your audience and the competitive landscape, you'll decide how to position your brand within the market. Do you want to be the affordable alternative? The high-tech option? The high-quality choice? Regardless of what your positioning is, it should shape your name.

A Tale of Two Chocolate Companies

Let's take, for example, two fictitious chocolate companies. The first (Chocolate Company A) is positioned as a luxury, high-quality chocolatier. Their product is hand-crafted in the Swiss Alps and sold in small, seasonal batches.

The second (Chocolate Company B) is a high-quality chocolate bar that uses ethically sourced ingredients to create fun, fusiony flavored chocolate bars you won't find anywhere else.

For demonstrative purposes, I asked ChatGPT to name these two companies based on these descriptions.

Based on Chocolate Company A's brand positioning, ChatGPT suggested Mountain Majesty Chocolatiers. The name has a strong, bold presence that exudes a higher-quality approach to crafting chocolate. The alliteration is almost poetic (purple mountain majesty, anyone?). The word mountain illustrates the idea of pinnacles and peaks, whereas Majesty exudes royalty and luxury. Rather than using the word "Chocolate" to describe the company, my favorite robot suggested "chocolatiers," reminding the consumer that these products are hand-crafted and concocted.

Based on Chocolate Company B's brand positioning, ChatGPT suggested Quirkolate. This fun, made-up word brings a sense of whimsy to the product, alluding to the brand's unique take on flavors. The word "quirk" immediately brings a bold, bright visual brand to mind and lets customers know they should expect the unexpected. The simple language makes the brand approachable and accessible, helping the brand land in a comfortable space between affordable and luxury pricing.

Now, take a moment to imagine if the names were switched.

Quirkolate is a luxury chocolatier hand-crafting high-quality, small-batch chocolate in the Swiss Alps.

Mountain Majesty Chocolatiers uses ethically sourced ingredients to create fun, fusiony flavored chocolate bars you won't find anywhere else.

Something doesn't sit right here. The words "Quirkolate" and "luxury" feel like opposites, competing for attention in the same sentence. The word chocolatier alludes to a classic, methodical approach that is counterintuitive to this funky, fusiony approach to chocolate-making.

Why You May Consider Re-Naming Your Business

Your name is more than a string of words—it's your flag in the ground. A well-crafted name signals to your customer the essence of your brand. When they hear it, they'll know what to expect when they interact with you online or purchase your product in stores. Your name speaks volumes about the experience you'll give your customers—will it be personalized and customized or fun and exciting? 

The unfortunate truth about building a business is things will inevitably change and evolve. Your product, your business, and your offer will likely shift and change as you begin to build and understand the product on a different level. You may get new demographic and market insights that open a new, more lucrative avenue for your business. So don't get married to your naming ideas before you explore these avenues.

Don't take my word for it! There are tons of big brands out there that have different names from when they started.

Let's look at a somewhat recent example in Dunkin. Formerly known as Dunkin' Donuts, the brand dropped the second half of its name in 2018 for a few reasons. The first was because the company was shifting its product emphasis away from donuts and instead to drinks. The second, was because the brand needed a shift into simplicity. They sought a new energy that would propel them forward and allow them to compete in a saturated, beverage-drenched market. 

Other notable name changes that may surprise you:

  • Google changed its name from BackRub, which referred to the internet term "backlinks" but let's be honest—the former name brings to mind a sense of skeeze.
  • Nike changed its name from Blue Ribbon Sports when it began to make its own shoes rather than distributing someone else's. 
  • Tinder was originally called Matchbox until the founders realized the name hadn't caught fire like they expected it would.

Why Work with A Professional to Rename Your Company

If you decide to change your business name (or you're struggling to come up with one from the get-go), consider working with a brand professional or brand agency to help you. A professional will examine your brand positioning, audience personas, competitive landscape, and more to craft a name that's uniquely you. As with any branding effort, working with a professional will bring new perspectives and insights to your business and help you reach possibilities you never imagined existed.

During a naming process, you can expect an in-depth discovery process that will equip you and your brand partner with the insights needed to effectively brainstorm new names. A brand professional will make name recommendations based on things like brand positioning, initial trademark search, and domain availability. Before you finalize your name, you should always work with a legal professional to ensure the name is usable. And remember, changing your name also means updating your visual identity, messaging, and more.

Whether you're considering renaming your business or starting from scratch, let your name be more than words. Let it be the first impression that pulls your audience in and makes them lifelong customers.

Hey, I'm Jamie!

I want to help you see your business differently.

I believe when we see our business holistically, we can make smart decisions in the name of growth. I believe when we bring more of ourselves to our business, we attract brand super fans. I believe founders should (and can!) have more fun.

Let's re-discover your passion and define your brand's purpose...and have some fun along the way!

Jamie R. Cox | Brand Strategist

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