Branding – What’s In A Name?
MARCH, 2016

When I hear a good idea for a business or product I immediately try and think of a name. I think it’s only natural. I’m having flashbacks to long road trips and spitballing brand names for quirky products my father and I would make up on the spot.

A fun game yes, but it can be quite serious for your business. Others view it more of a difficult task because there are quite literally hundreds of thousands of names that already exist, so the pickings are slim. This post will cover different techniques and examples of how to give your business a memorable name.

Your brand’s mission statement and vision should be the anchor for how you frame your brand name. It should be based off of this to help jog your audience’s memory about what you are and what you do. All packaged nice and neatly into a single name. A viral concept.

What story does your name tell? Saying more with less is a tough task, but I tend to follow a system or approach to brand naming that has helped me in the past.

Finding keywords is important and usually the first step. Make a list of these, they’ll come in handy as you grow your lexicon for suitable names.

After exhausting my vocabulary or if I haven’t had enough coffee I turn to the all so reliable Thesaurus. Remember that list you just made? Take all possible combinations of words from that list and enter them into a Thesaurus to expand your lexicon.

Some words will stand out more than others and it’s your job to whittle down and decide which ones are not going to be used. The most annoying is trying to find that right word but it doesn’t exist. I swear, the English language doesn’t have enough words sometimes.

Moving on, now that you’ve found relevant words that can potentially be your brand name, how do you go about picking the right one, or two, or three?

This post will go over not just where to find resources, tools, and inspiration for building a brand name, but also different techniques for naming your brand by yourself.

Ever wondered why companies like Apple, Uber, and Airbnb are so easily identified in a sea of advertising? Jonathan Bell gives step-by-step advice on how to create a lasting brand name.

In the talk, he mentions 7 different categories of names when you need to first select the type of name you want.

  1. Eponymous like Disney, Adidas, and Tesla.
  2. Descriptive like American Airlines and Home Depot.
  3. Acronymic like GE, KFC, HSBC, and BP
  4. Suggestive which has 3 subcategories Real like Uber and Slack, Composite like Facebook and Ray-Ban and Invented like Kleenex and Pinterest.
  5. Associative like Amazon, SiriusXM, and Red Bull.
  6. Non-English like Samsung, Lego, Zappos, and Hulu.
  7. Abstract like Rolex and Kodak.


So now that you know the 7 basic categories your company name could fall under, let’s go into the details about the methodology of creating a unique name. And about the URL naming, we’ll cover that too.

Turning your name into something special.

Letter changing. This includes switching letters with numbers, rearranging, swapping, omitting, sharing and even adding letters for added uniqueness.

There are many companies out there that have employed the letter changing, omission or addition technique into their brand name. For example Lyft changes 1 letter, Grabr omits letters and sites like Awwwards and Dribbble didn’t accidentally sit on their keyboard.

Uniqueness eventually trains familiarity. It is this difference that piques people’s curiosity and brand names become sticky over time. We as humans do not read entire words. We’re lazy. Instead, we tend to skip over the middle part of a word and look at the first and last letters. I’m sure you’ve seen this example floating around the ether before:

Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt!

Now, I’m not saying go out there and give your company a name that’s blatantly misspelled. Part of the reason we can decipher the message above is because of the surrounding words putting each word into context. Your name should focus on context and instilling new found meaning around your concept.

When I go to type in my favorite web design sites for inspiration I’m trained to add those extra “w’s” when typing I know there are exactly 3 and when I tell people about the site it is something that sticks out and warrants discussion. What does it mean? Oh ya, 3 w’s for www. , it’s a site about websites, clever. And I’m stretching here but what about the thunderous sound of “aaa!” When witnessing something amazing or receiving an award for a beautiful website. I’m not sure that was their intention but it does make users curious, and most importantly thinking or talking about said name.

When considering using fewer letters or swapping them for a similar sounding letter, the phonetic spelling of the word can add a different perspective and feel. For example, I wanted to create a travel-related brand but was having trouble coming up with other names separate from the cliche “wanderlust, traveller, nomad, jet-setter, voyager, etc.”. But when playing around with the spelling and phonetics, alternative forms of the words stuck out for added uniqueness. Voyage became Voyij, Traveller became Trvlr, Journey became Journi, and since I wanted to settle on a combination work and travel, WorkWanders seemed appropriate. The added layer of puns, purposeful word mixups and using more than 1 word can help describe your concept on a deeper, more in-depth level.