Starting a new business is an exciting time. Yet too often when we’re approached with a startup B2B brand, the name of the company comes as an afterthought. It’s understandable that service delivery and sales is what keeps a business going—but taking the time to establish the foundation of your brand is critical in the long run.
When deciding what to name your business, it’s easy to fall back on safe, non-differentiating ideas. For example, many marketing agencies and CPA firms fall back on using the names of their principals. Not only is it uninspiring, you risk creating a Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce fiasco that in the end doesn’t differentiate your firm in any way.
In this post we’ll outline why you should push the boundaries of your brand name, in addition to inspiration of where you can find new ideas.
First, before naming your brand, think about your long-term business goals. As a startup it can be difficult to think 10 years ahead when you’re just trying to make it through the first month, but even having a general idea of where you want your business to be can make a difference. Ask yourself the following:
- Do I plan to sell my business?
- Will this company eventually grow nationwide? Worldwide?
- Will my family inherit the business?
- Do I plan to expand to other industries, complimentary products or services?
If any of these answers are “yes”—it’s best to keep your name (first or last) out of it. Names based around an individual place too much weight on the personal brand and risk losing value if that person were to ever leave, retire or sell the company.
Instead, build a brand name that will hold value over time—throughout the evolution of your business. Here are some important principles to a sustainable brand name:
- Create a unique name (more on that below)
- Create a “trademarkable” name (very important!)
- Don’t try to say everything in one name
- Don’t pigeonhole your business and its potential
- Don’t be afraid to be “playful” or creative with language (think Twitter, Pinterest, etc.)
Still struggling to figure out that brand name? It can be an arduous process to build something that resonates with your prospective clients. Here are some places you can find inspiration (and examples of who has done it well):
The culture of your business. SEO software provider Moz was originally named “SEOMoz,” since “Moz” used to be a general term describing open source websites and forums (think before Wikipedia). When that word went by way of other Internet terminology, Moz adopted it to express their values in transparency and customer participation.
Beyond generic service offering. It’s great if your brand name conveys your service delivery, but be careful with word choice so that it’s not too literal. For example, social media software provider Buffer’s name explains the action of scheduling tweets and posts with ease.
Foreign language. Is the leader from an immigrant family? Started overseas? Even if your brand isn’t operating in that country, creative play on words can help inspire unique names. Most popular among clothing lines and bakeries (think Le Tigre or Au Bon Pain), B2B brands can take note.
Shorten it. While there are brands out there to debunk this way of thinking, typically successful brands are three syllables or less. Sony, Target, Chevy, Apple—all of these iconic brands are simple to say.
Evoking emotion. Consider the experience you want your customer to have with your business. For example, thermostat company Nest isn’t just play on the word “home.” A mother bird carefully constructs its nest, therefore the brand conveys a sense of protection and comfort.