The best brand names are those that entertain customers and make them feel intelligent and happy. This simple fact is the foundation for the SMILE and SCRATCH name evaluation tests, which argue that a brand name should make people smile–not scratch their heads. Entrepreneurs can use the components of the SMILE acronym as guideposts to achieve the five essential qualities of great brand names:
- Suggestive. A name should say something about the brand. To accomplish this, entrepreneurs can combine two suggestive words, similar to Groupon, or select a name that is inspired by the brand’s personality. While the first half of the name may be creative or metaphorical, the second word should establish trust and credibility. Neato Robotics is an example of a suggestive name with a trustworthy modifier.
- Meaningful. Entrepreneurs must ensure that their names have some kind of meaning and do not require any explanation. Meaningful long name are more likely to be remembered than short, meaningless ones. Entrepreneurs should avoid using their own names, unless they lend themselves to clever wordplay.
- Imagery. Great names are visually evocative and therefore easier to remember. Names with imagery include Irish Spring, Range Rover, or Timberland.
- Legs. An effective name has “legs” in that it connects to a theme that the brand can be built around. Brand themes, after all, pave the way for ample wordplay and branding opportunities in everything from the company’s taglines to its job titles to its merchandise. By developing a theme early on, entrepreneurs make the later naming products and services easier. This is illustrated well by Apple’s iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
- Emotional. Research shows that 50 percent of every purchasing decision is driven by emotion. Consequently, entrepreneurs must create names that make customers feel something. Grandma’s Chicken Soup, for example, is an emotionally engaging name. Names that make us
Entrepreneurs often mistake uniquely spelled or nonsensical words for creative names. To avoid these common naming mistakes, entrepreneurs must understand what name qualities are disadvantageous. To know when to scratch names off their lists, entrepreneurs must keep in mind the seven deadly sins:
- Spelling Challenged. Entrepreneurs must avoid names that look like typos or are not spelled like they sound. Additionally, it is important not to use numbers in the place of words; for example, “Coast to Coast” is easier to find online than”Coast2Coast.”
- Copycat. When a name is too similar to a competitor’s name, customers are less likely to trust it. Copycat names also suggest laziness and a lack of originality, and they can even lead to costly trademark infringement cases. In order to prevent copying popular trends, entrepreneurs must avoid any names that begin with Apple’s distinct lowercase “i,” like iPod, or a lowercase “e,” similar to eHarmony. Another trend to steer clear of is the combination of a random color and a noun.
- Restrictive. Bad names restrict brands and limit their potential for growth. Therefore, entrepreneurs must not get locked into names they may outgrow in the future. Effective names do not paint themselves into a corner; they are wide enough to include new potential products.
- Annoying. Names must not cause customers frustration by appearing forced, random, or grammatically incorrect. If an entrepreneur combines two words it is important that the end result does not sound clunky or unnatural. To this end, entrepreneurs should not drop a vowel or two at the end of a real word, like “Innova,” or use trendy suffixes like -ology, -palooza, or -topia. Additionally, entrepreneurs must steer clear of random and meaningless names like Magoosh, grammatically challenged names like Toys “R” Us, and any names that include only initials.
- Tame. To stand out among competitors, brand names should be neither flat nor uninspired. More often than not, tame names are too descriptive of a product or service and therefore require little imagination. Descriptive names only make sense when customers will be trying to find information quickly and there are multiple choices, like FedEx Priority Overnight and FedEx Ground. Otherwise, entrepreneurs should aim for names that are mentally stimulating and demonstrate creativity.
- Curse of Knowledge. Names that only insiders understand exclude potential customers who may be unfamiliar with an industry. For this reason that entrepreneurs must avoid any alienating acronyms, internal shorthand, and insider jargon. Equally important is avoiding alphanumeric names as well as anything that might have a vulgar meaning in a foreign language.
- Hard to Pronounce. Customers do not like feeling foolish and subsequently will avoid companies or products they cannot pronounce the names of. Problematic names include anything that has two potential pronunciations, foreign words, names spelled with all capital letters, or acronyms.
Today many entrepreneurs and startups are forgoing perfectly good names because their corresponding URLs are unavailable. The truth is that URLs are simply not as important as many people believe. If customers land on the wrong website because a URL was not what they expected, they will simply Google the brand name and find the site they were originally looking for.
According to Watkins, entrepreneurs can easily buy excellent domain names by following three strategies:
- Add another word or two. By adding a modifier or two to brand names, there to explain it to entrepreneurs can find available domain names that can be easily located them through search engines. The skincare company Bliss, for example, uses the do main name BlissWorld.com.
- Use a creative phrase. Domain names can also include creative phrases that reinforce brands. For example, the domain name of Peanut Butter & Co. is ILovePeanutButter.com. It includes the brand name and uses a phrase that is fun and memorable.
- Get a .net or .biz extension. Domain names with these extensions are viewed as equally trustworthy as businesses with .com domains.
In addition to these strategies, entrepreneurs should adhere to the following five domain name secrets:
- Take time to really look; contrary to popular belief, not all domain names are taken.
- When a name is listed for sale, make a low offer and negotiate.
- Buy domains of the brand name that include commonly misspelled words and have them redirected to the correctly spelled domain.
- Since URLs no longer need keywords to be found, domain names and site content should be written primarily for customers and not just search engines.
- Long, descriptive domain names are more memorable than short and meaningless ones. Finally, entrepreneurs must consider the following five silly ideas to steer clear of:
Spelling the domain “creatively” or not how it is usually spelled.
- Using obscure domain extensions, like Libya’s .ly instead of .com, in the domain name.
- Using .org when the company is for profit.
- Not checking that a domain name is similar to an existing trademark or service mark before buying it.
- Not checking that the words that compose the URL spell something offensive when there are no spaces between them.
Before an entrepreneur can begin brainstorming names, he or she must first complete a creative brief, a detailed outline of all the elements necessary to create the perfect name. Not only do creative briefs help entrepreneurs define exactly what their brands are and what they want to communicate, but they also help prevent entrepreneurs from straying away from the wrong names altogether. An effective creative brief should include the following:
* Goal of assignment: What the entrepreneur wants to accomplish. When people can
* In a nutshell: A summary of what the company will do in 140 characters or visualize your name less
* Brand positioning: How the entrepreneur wants his or her brand to be po- much easier for them sitioned in the marketplace.
* Consumer insights: Insights regarding people’s behaviors rather than their unfamiliar word or preferences. These behaviors will affect their purchasing decisions.
* Target audience: The customers that a company wants to reach in specific give their mind anydemographic terms.
* Competition: Similar organizations that a company is up against in the market.
* Desired brand experience: Positive brand experiences that foster strong emotional engagement.
* Brand personality: Five to twelve adjectives that effectively capture the brand’s tone and personality.
* Words to explore: Words an entrepreneur wants in his or her brand name.
* Words to avoid: Any words an entrepreneur does not want in his or her brand name.
* Themes/ideas to avoid: Any related concepts that will not be appealing to customers or have been overdone by competitors.
* Domain name modifiers: Potential modifier words that will help a company secure a domain.
* Name style likes and dislikes: A list of five brand names that entrepreneurs like and five they dislike along with the reasons why.
* Acid test: A test to see how brand names would be used in a sentence.
* Also good to know: Any other information that could be helpful in name development.
When entrepreneurs brainstorm online, they often end up clicking on unexpected links and going down various, inspirational rabbit holes. In order to brainstorm effectively, entrepreneurs must be sure to:
* Keep an open mind.
* Write down all name ideas–even the bad ones.
* Have their creative briefs readily available as a reference.
To warm up before brainstorming, entrepreneurs can use the following word association exercise. First, they should write down a dozen words related to their brands or brand experiences. These words are not intended to become potential names, but instead are fuel for the creative process. Next, they should select one of these words and plug it into the following online brainstorming tools:
* A thesaurus. Interesting synonyms and related words can be great name fodder.
* An image search. Entering the selected word into an image search brings up pictures of relevant information the entrepreneur may not have even thought of.
* Glossaries. Entrepreneurs can use online glossaries like Urban Dictionary to find slang that is connected to their selected words.
* Dictionaries. Dictionaries can provide related definitions and phrases.
* Clichés. Inspiration can be found in related idioms and expressions.
* Search engines. Googlestorming is the process of using the selected word in a longer search query. If the selected word is “cold,” for example, the entrepreneur could type the keywords “coldest places on earth” into Google. This could result in engaging articles and relevant information that could spark an idea for a sticky brand name.
* Movie titles, book titles, and song names. By searching for popular movies, books, and songs with specific words in their titles, entrepreneurs can stumble upon new ways to use their selected words as well as find new phraseology and associated terms to consider.
Before distributing a list of potential brand names among colleagues, an entrepreneur should write a sentence next to each name that describes its rationale and how it would be used in a sentence. Beyond this, there are 12 rules at entrepreneurs must use when conducting a group review of potential names:
- Have participants review the list independently so they can express to come up with great which names they like without any group presentation anxiety. This also pre., vents participants from echoing their superiors’ opinions.
- Ensure that participants discern that it is the right name–not just a name they like.
- Avoid negative comments and instead focus on what is working. This helps build consensus.
- Clarify that the job of the brand is not to say everything, but rather to hint at what the brand does.
- Provide tangible copies of the list that can be read multiple times over a few days.
- Do not let outsiders, like focus groups, weigh in until later on in the process.
- Remember that the name will be seen in the context of the logo or alongside marketing materials. Try to imagine the name on a sign or business card.
- Do not fear a name that is different.
- Do not check to see if domain names are available too early in the process.
- Allow participants to select at least 10 names they like from the list.
- Refrain from falling in love with any of the names until after confirming that the desired names are available and do not pose any trademark conflicts.
- Make the process fun. After determining that there is a consensus, reflect on the attributes of the top contenders, rank the top five picks, and then begin the trademark screening process.
While every company’s situation is different, a brand name change is worth considering when the name in question requires explanations or lacks dynamism. To make the right decisions, entrepreneurs must consider the pros and cons of changing their brands’ names. For example:
* A name change can refresh a brand.
* Not having to explain the previous confusing brand name will save time.
* It will give the company an excuse to get in touch with customers.
* There are thousands of future customers who do not know the current name and will only know the new name.
* There is an emotional attachment to the name.
* It will be difficult to get the whole company to agree to the change.
* The person who developed the original name will be hurt.
* It will be expensive to print new promotional materials and signs.
* It may require facing the difficult truth that the original name was bad.
Trademarking is an essential part of the brand naming process. Entrepreneurs must not only check that the names they want are legally available, but also make sure to trademark them immediately so no one else can steal them. Professional trademark screening services are available at affordable prices