Brand names: my index card

The power of brands

  • In the long-term, you want your brand name to be the shortest summary of your offering. Your brand name can be seen as the shortest Value Proposition you can have for your offering.

  • Just by hearing or seeing your brand, people should automatically associate your offering with it.

  • No need to explain what Domino's, Starbucks or Tesla offer to their customers. These brand names have become the simplest way to designate their offering.

  • The same goes with Google, that now can be used as a verb. If I tell you to google something, you know what to do.

Good brand names

  • In order for your brand name to encapsulate your offering, you have to come up with a good brand name. A good brand name is:
    • Easily memorable: simple, short (3 to 4 syllables maximum), easy to pronounce (in several languages ideally), easy to spell, easy to write, easy to remember.
    • Distinctive: it should be different from what already exists, otherwise people will mix up the names or won't remember what you do. Guy Kawasaki takes the example of similar brand names Clarins, Claritin and Claria. It can be hard to remember which company does what.
    • Not too specific. A very specific brand name is kind of a trap. You don't how your offering will evolve. It may change completely from your original plan or you may want to diversify. If you name your restaurant "Delicous Hot Dogs", you have to be sure that you will only be doing hot dogs, otherwise it won't make much sense.
    • Protectable. You should be able to legally protect your brand name, by registering it as a Trademark.

Some more useful and personal advice

  • Always use CamelCase or Proper Case for your brand name. Example: FedEx, Five Guys, MailChimp, Squarespace.

  • Don't add any domain name extension to your brand name. The brand should be Amazon, not Amazon.com.

  • Ideally, choose a brand name for which you can get the same domain name. If you can't, you still have the possiblily to use another domain name that includes your brand name. For example, for many years, DropBox used the domain name getdropbox.com, before acquiring the domain name dropbox.com.

  • If you're a freelancer or an independent worker, your brand name can be your first and last name. It is usally quite convenient: your face, your name, your brand.

Resources

  • How to Choose a Startup Name that Reduces Marketing Friction: Rand Fishkin gives 7 rules for a marketing-friendly new business/startup name. Most of these rules are stated above. I partially disagree with rule 4 and rule 5. You will easily be able to spot what's different from what I said.

  • The dangers of rebranding: a short video from Neil Patel and Eric Siu about the dangers of changing a brand name. This is always tricky to do, so make sure you do it because you don't have any other option: you radically want to change your product or you want people to forget a brand name associated with a scandal or bad reputation.

Initial publication date: 2018-12-28
Last updated: 2019-06-26


Get notified directly for the next updates

I publish or update articles only a few times a year. Let me send you a short e-mail to let you know when this happens.