Naming a product, service, or company is not an easy task—not only must you find a name that is appropriate, but you need to make sure that no one else is using it. It must be possible to get a website address (preferably a “.com”), that is as close to the brand name as possible, so that customers can find you online. Finally, it must be possible to legally protect the name and brand.
So how does one win the naming game? Following the five steps below will help:
- Avoid generic words, terms, or phrases.
Names that use generic words such as “elite,” “premier,” or “quality” are ubiquitous. Everybody says their product or service is the best, so customers are therefore skeptical of those claims. Likewise, patriotic terms used to stress the idea of your product or service being “made in America,” such as “United,” “Freedom,” or “American” are hard to protect legally.
- Be specific to the industry that you are in.
Names that give customers an idea of what type of product or service you provide, without being too literal, can be effective. Just like you wouldn’t want a pink or baby blue logo for a construction company, you want a name that is appropriate for customer expectations and perceptions of the industry.
- Do a quick online search to see if there are other names like it on the market
One of the fastest ways to find out if the brilliant name you have come up with is already being used is to perform a Google search. Simply type the name and see what comes up. If there are too many companies with that same name, or there is not a website address that is close to the name, try other ideas. Since most web browsers (and customers) will automatically add the suffix “.com” to any web search, avoid the temptation to use a “.biz,” “.org” or any other domain suffix.
- Contact an I.P. attorney to help you register the name.
Being able to protect your brand is important to running your business. You do not want other people in the same industry or geographic area using your name. Registering the name at a State and National level helps protect the name and brand.
According to Cheryl Burbach of Hovey Williams LP (as quoted in the August 14, 2015 Kansas City Business Journal, “The two most important aspects are whether the marks [and names] are similar in appearance and sound, and are the goods and services related. Because if they’re not related, there could be multiple trademark owners of the same trademark, but consumers won’t be confused because the goods are so different.”
- Keep it Simple.
Names that are short and with fewer syllables are easier to remember. It is possible to use a shortened name for your logo or brand mark (legally, all that is required is for the complete business name to appear somewhere on the letterhead or business cards; it could be in tiny print or off in the margins). If names are unusual (think “Indicia”), they also are more likely to be remembered. Finally, avoid the “law firm” approach to naming; either using all partners’ last names or abbreviating the name to an alphabet soup of letters is ineffective.
Following these five steps for choosing a brand name can help your product or service win the Name Game, as well as the hearts and minds of customers. Of course, we still recommend consulting with an I.P. attorney prior to doing any kind of marketing or creative work for the brand—at which time we would love the opportunity to work with you!
By: Ryan Hembree, Principal, Brand & Creative Strategy